Pay with your dignity at a Toronto garage sale near you

The concept of 'garage sale' excites the shopper in all (or most) of us. But when we show up do any of us realize we're purchasing items we ourselves just threw out in our own garage sale the week before?
The concept of “garage sale” excites the shopper in all (or most) of us. But the fact still remains, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

What do you think the worst words are in real estate?

Recession? Correction? Interest rate increase? Bully offer? Nope!

While these chill-inducing real estate phrases may instill fear into the average home owner, they are far from the most frightening.

What about basement flooding? Nah. Backyard wasp nest? Sorry. Neighbourhood crack house? Doesn’t even make me nervous.

No. In fact, the two scariest words in the GTA real estate market are, quite obviously, “garage” and “sale”.

Well, more accurately it’s the term “garage sale” that makes me break out in both sweat and chills simultaneously. And, frankly, it doesn’t matter whether you’re the vendor or the customer, garage sales are the worst thing about the Toronto real estate market since property taxes.

You know what I mean, even if you won’t admit it.

Let’s face it, while we might wish for a society blind to racial differences, unnoticing of gender distinctions, or oblivious to economic divisions between us, the one prejudice worth protecting is the one that separates Torontonians by their views on front-yard flea markets.

Despite the fact our homes are filled with enough of our own clutter, a lot of us decide to only make matters worse for ourselves by choosing to purchase other people's junk. That creepy doll isn't worth the $7.00 — trust us.
Our homes are filled with enough of our own clutter. Really, that creepy doll isn’t worth the $7 (and might end up frightening your children).

There are people in this city who willingly abandon sense, reason and their children’s soccer practices, to suddenly stop the car and spontaneously peruse a collection of slightly used goods spread out on a stranger’s driveway.

There are other garage sale connoisseurs who take a less impulsive approach. These are consumers who, while otherwise smart, savvy and sophisticated shoppers normally unmotivated by marketing slogans and ad copy, feel compelled to stop, read and add into their iPhones the details of a photocopied flyer taped to a lamppost.

While these handwritten garage sale notices inspire an almost Pavlovian response in some Torontonians, add the words “content sale” or, dare I say it, add the uber luxe mention of an “estate sale”, and these aficionados are consumed with thoughts of “discovering” a collection of slightly scratched Dionne Warwick albums, a stack of Playboys from the 1980s, an incomplete set of dinner plates, or baby furniture with a dubious safety record.

Of course, as the politically incorrect expression goes, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

But let’s face it, if you’re willing to stand in the rain, in the middle of someone’s driveway, haggling over a $1.50 Farrah Fawcett poster, we both know it’s junk.

Nevertheless, in the status-conscious ecosystem of garage sale culture, being a consumer is a far better fate than those willing to stand as the vendor.

The mere act of trudging ancient artifacts from the basement to your front lawn in the veiled attempt to rid yourself of decades of accumulated clutter is a humiliation without parallel. The indignity of having strangers pick through your things and evaluate them — and you — in the process is a shame no one should have to endure.

Whoever tries to sell home decor mistakes from 1975 needs to rethink how desperate people are for cheap furniture. Don't pawn this stuff on the rest of us.
Are we this desperate for cheap furniture? Don’t pawn this stuff off on the rest of us.

While the tragic souls willing to stand as garage sale “merchants” may wish to convince themselves that the humiliation of discarding years of bad decisions, home decor mistakes, and Ms. Pac-Man board games is cathartic and psychologically healthy, who are you kidding?

You’re just hoping that the neighbourhood is filled with a collection of desperate souls, with worse taste than yours.

As the City of Toronto licensing department competes with our police force to shut down my local “medical” pot shop, scours Chinatown for rodent infestations, or debates the therapeutic value of the “spa” at the end of my street, why is no one paying attention to the unregulated scourge of driveway-based flea markets around every residential corner.

Officials show no concern for these cash-only home businesses, or the traffic chaos that results when one of the city’s millionaires in Forest Hill, Rosedale or Oakville decides that rather than donating their gently used goods to a worthy cause, they would rather spend their weekend bickering with their neighbours over a dollar.

Frankly, it’s enough to make me want to stay home on the weekend and curl up on the couch with a good book … if only I could find my book amongst the crap in my house.

Maybe I should hold an estate sale.

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