Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The De-Graying of Suburbia

Yard sales by their nature are an unpredictable lot.  You never know what you'll find.  You can't really trust the ads and listings, so you just kind of throw yourself out there and hope for the best.  The thrill of the hunt is part of the game, after all.

One of the ways that you try to offset the uncertainty is careful planning, especially if you have a lot of experience saling.  Steering yourself towards sales that have been particularly worthwhile in the past can often pay off.  At least for a while.

One thing I have noticed about going to the same neighborhood or small citywide sales is how quickly the character of those areas can change.  One of the great things about suburban area sales is the potential to find cooler, vintage stuff.  In some of the original 'burbs, the population is getting older, many are retiring, and quite a few are downsizing.  That means getting rid of stuff that they have been holding onto, often times for years.  And they usually just want it gone, which means fab prices.  At a recent city sale, I was picking up vintage Fisher-Price and Playskool stuff for a buck or less.

However, those sales can be precursors to moving on--to a smaller house, to Florida, to a retirement community.  And when older residents leave, newer residents come in.  And, typically, they're young families, either just married or with a couple of small children.  And slowly, the character of the sales starts to change.  Fewer cool old pieces.  More baby clothes.  More dated decor trend leftovers.  More action figures without legs.

Eventually, that neighborhood that was a treasure chest and always worth the stop becomes, well, not worth the effort.  I'm starting to see that switchover in some of the neighborhood sales we go to every year.  Most are still pretty worthwhile.  You never want to discount the thrill of finding an expensive item new in the box for a steal, after all.  But, within a year or two, the things that originally attracted us to those areas will be pretty much gone and it will be time to reassess the value of spending an afternoon circling those particular streets.

Not that this is a bad thing, mind you.  I think it's a good idea to take a look at those things you've "always done" ad seeing if they're still worthwhile or if you can improve them.  I'm not a big fan of change just for the sake of change, but change, in and of itself, is nothing to be afraid of.

Still, I'm going to miss some of those older families and their wonderful treasures.  They've given me several really good years of hunting and more than a few really good buys that then turned into really good re-sells.  I hope that wherever those folks ended up, that they're happy and contentedly downsized.


Roger Owen Green said...

you ought to be a demographer.

EM said...

Thanks, Rog, but that would take all the fun out of being a casual observer of the human condition!