Still works for Dummies

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

If you go to enough garage sales, you gain an understanding of what people have too much of: everything.

But some items in particular seem to show up at every sale. I call them Guaranteed Garage Sale Items. They are the impulse purchases, silly trinkets and it-seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time stuff that might as well come from the factory with a 25-cent sticker attached.

Here's my list of things that never fail to end up on a folding table marked "2 for $1":

Overly specific appliances: Waffle-makers, tortilla presses, cooking gadgets pushed by Ron Popeil: These devices turn up regularly at garage sales, suspiciously clean and sometimes in their original packaging. You just know that someone with insomnia purchased them after watching an infomercial while hungry at 3 a.m.

Coffee mugs: I'm guessing that it would take 10 years for the world to absorb the current excess of coffee mugs. There must be at least five for every human on the planet. No wonder they sell for a nickel each at garage sales.

Picture frames: Evidently, Americans like to keep an emergency supply of frames on hand, just in case someone unexpectedly hands them an 8-by-10 of a youth soccer team. An enduring mystery is why we have so many unused frames at the same time we have so many unframed photos in shoeboxes.

Books other people thought you should read: Newt Gingrich's prescription for a better America? An 800-page biography of the Dalai Lama? "The Golden Treasury of Inspirational Sayings"? I see those kinds of books, still pristine in their dust jackets, at lots of garage sales. They just scream "underappreciated Christmas gift."

Sports equipment: If the country is ever invaded, gun-owners will defend themselves with firearms, and the rest of us will seize the tennis racquets, golf clubs and ski poles we haven't used since 1987. Why do we hang onto these things? Because they remind us of younger days, when we could look at a soccer ball and think "fun." Now, we think "Advil."

Outdated electronic devices: State law requires that every garage sale offer at least one 12-inch black-and-white TV or a VCR from the Reagan administration. Often, they come with a hand-lettered sign saying "still works."

Well, yes, and so do washboards, hay rakes and typewriters.

(Speaking of outdated electronic devices, I could fill a garage with their cables, connectors, adapters and converters alone. I didn't why I keep them. I didn't even know what they were for when they were new.)

Unfulfilled ambitions: This is a catch-all category for the items that speak of goals unrealized and plans postponed. Among the items that fit there are unused sewing patterns, 5,000-piece jigsaw puzzles still sealed in their boxes, clarinets untooted since high school marching band, wine-making kits and any book whose title ends in "...for Dummies."

Don't ever buy these things new because I guarantee that next weekend they'll be on sale cheap in a garage near you.

Joe Blundo's column So to Speak appears in the Life section of The Columbus Dispatch. Visit his blog at