Lum: Garage sales and thrift shops

Many years ago, I vowed never to hold another garage sale, and I’ve been true to my word. If you reap a sizeable sum from your sale, it means you’ve probably underpriced everything and would have done better with the classified ads or a consignment store; if your haul is pitiful (the usual case), it would have been a lot easier to call the Salvation Army or Habitat for Humanity.

Anything is better than going through closets and storage areas and then getting the fever, dragging out your pots and pans and appliances, staying up half the night putting price stickers on them so you’re dead on your feet when you get up at 8 to haul everything into the yard for the sale advertised for 9 and find an eager crowd already at the gate.

A dickering bedlam ensues for the next hour, and then, poof, you’re lucky to get one lookie loo every 45 minutes before you give up and drag all your crap back inside (did the sale even make a dent?) and end up taking it to the thrift shop.

On the other hand, I used to love going to garage sales, joining the throngs who were pissed off when they weren’t allowed in early. One of the best parts was getting to look at other people’s houses and other people’s stuff, meeting up with friends who were regular salers and going out to lunch afterward at the original Ute City Banque or down to El Jebel to Wiegner’s.

Barbie and I would plan our route with the Friday paper, based on the assumed quality of the sale, the time and the location, with sales in the West End heading the list — I still have Pussy Paepcke’s $2 toaster and Joyce Semple’s rabbit planter. Remo would bring his jeweler’s loupe, while Bruce kept an eye out for skulls. Barbie sought antique clothes, and I collected jigsaw puzzles and comic books.

In Grand Junction, I found a complete collection of Life magazines and am still kicking myself for buying only a small stack. Cheap Shots was originally a big barn of a place, I think where Mason and Morse is now, where you could browse for hours.

The big shock of this sort of activity is finding out that items you grew up with are now considered collectible if not downright antique. My daughter Hillery and her husband, Bruce, own Western Antiques in Leadville, a store you could happily drown in.

Over the years, I got too old for garage sales. I didn’t want to get up that early in the morning, I already had too much stuff, and a successful garage-sale morning became one where I resisted everything and returned home empty-handed.

Now that Les and Ellen Holst sadly have moved away, there’s little point in it. The Holsts had the best garage sales ever, and I still have the spoils to prove it: A scowling Mexican cat with hinged legs sits on the bookshelf above me, arms crossed, reflecting a frequent mood, while a large, smiling frog sits in my living room, reflecting another.

Su Lum is a longtime local who is aiming for fewer rather than more. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at