Sunday, May 20, 2012

Article: 'Sailing for Trash' for Run Rabbit Magazine

The second issue of Run, Rabbit magazine is coming together a treat. Here's a post I wrote for the blog since I can't reveal any of the main event yet. I am thrilled by the talent of all the contributors on board for this one, and I can't wait to share it with the world.

I come from a thrifty family. Our motto was always ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ – it may as well have been inscribed on our family crest. Growing up, Saturday morning meant trawling the Weekend Shopper for garage sale listings within an hour’s distance from our house. We’d each take a few dollars and high hopes of what we might uncover in a stranger’s carport.
When I was eight or nine, I found toys others had outgrown for only fifty cents. They were always cherished more because I felt I’d rescued them from a mess of unwanted junk. Later, as a self-conscious teen, I’d be scared to get out of the car in case I saw someone I knew from school. I was quickly lured out with the promise of cheap vintage finds my mother’s hawk eye often spotted. Some weekends were more lucrative than others, but it didn’t matter if we came home empty handed. It was the nature of the hunt.

Now, some five years since I last garage sailed with my family, the seas seem to have dried up. Driving through the Brisbane suburbs neighbouring my own, there’s a distinct lack of tatty cardboard signs advertising ‘MEGA BARGAINS’ and sausage sizzles. Is it because we can now list any unwanted bits and bobs on Gumtree or eBay without much hassle? Are we less inclined to invite strangers into our personal space – even if it’s just the front lawn or garage?

For her part, my mum is clinging to her pricing guns. We weren’t just prolific garage sailors in the buying sense; we’ve hosted our fair share, too. After each of them, we’d collapse on the living room floor and swear them off for life. As we hauled our left over goods to the local Salvos, we’d curse the insensitive bastards who inevitably showed up at five in the morning demanding to be let in. There would also be amazing stories to share.

My mum’s last garage sale was just over a week ago. She met far-flung neighbours with hushed tales of the Man Who Once Lived at This House and his various exploits. Apparently, the place is most definitely a candidate for an exorcism. They shook hands with the owner of the local corner store and joked about the crafty person who took the entire giveaway box in one fell swoop.

It might be easier to hock your sofa online and pretend your neighbours don’t exist, but it’s nowhere near as satisfying as helping carry it to the van of lady who tells you she’s been looking for “just that colour” to match her decor.

If you’re a collector of anything from vintage gloves to Dr Who memorabilia, you know how readily you can source your fix with nothing but an internet connection and a credit card. But finding something unique – something you simply must have – while the previous owner regales you with the story of how it came to be here, in this garage, on this plastic chair, marked as five dollars? No online buying experience comes close to that. Even op shopping doesn’t have provide the same connection on a community level as this form of impromptu micro-enterprise.

Just as I was lamenting the loss of this bargain hunting tradition, in rides a knight in slightly battered, but good working condition armour. Garage Sale Trail is a nationwide initiative connecting garage sailors and buyers that’s focused on sustainability and community. The trail takes place on May 5, with home sales and community fundraising markets across the country.

Check out the listings for your area at If you see me at a sale counting my silver coins this weekend, please forgive any scratches or evil eyes I might give you over cheap Tupperware. Old bargain hunting habits die hard.

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