The accumulated clutter of one's life is jammed into boxes, tagged like melancholy museum specimens awaiting permanent storage on dark, dusty shelves. Outside, the bargainers and the dealers have gathered in the pre-dawn. Clutching steaming cups, they linger like predators, stalking the curb, aware of every rustle of the curtains and waiting, coiled to pounce. They close their eyes and imagine finding that collector's version of the Holy Grail. Some fan themselves in the building humidity with this weekend's classified ads marked up to plot their early-morning route, like a yard sale treasure map.
Finally, the rattle of a garage door announces the beginning of the game. The sellers shuffle out, with mugs of their own brimming with strong coffee, to help fortify them for what lies ahead. Tables are set up, prices checked and double-checked. Strangers nonchalantly peruse once-cherished keepsakes and tchotchkes. They pick over terrible gifts received with grace out of a sense of obligation. Someone loved that scruffy, worn teddy bear once. Now its "shabby chic" value is weighed, measured...and found wanting. Calls of “What’s the best you can do on this?” echo through the cul-de-sac.
Items are appraised at lightning speed, and the art of the deal is employed with consummate care. After the professionals - those second-hand snipers in the war on paying full retail - come the casual browsers and early-rising up-cyclers. You will know them by their fanny packs and the covetous looks they give the elliptical machine parked on the lawn. The neighborhood rubber-neckers wander in; drawn by the herding instinct that general milling provokes, they ponder the mystery of why someone would have collected a cardboard box full of porcelain doll heads.
The sellers gamely endure a barrage of probing personal questions and offhand comments demeaning their taste or dismissing their pricing system as unreasonable. They smile and say "Two dollars for a glass dish that was the only possession my grandmother secreted away with her when she fled the Warsaw ghetto is too high, you're right. I'll give it to you for half. Take this George Forman Grill, too. Like new, only been used once. What a bargain!"
By late morning most of the paperback books sit scattered across the driveway. As the sun reaches its apex and begins to bake asphalt and the backs of necks that are bent as no stoneware is left unturned, the number of potential buyers thins like caffeine in the bloodstream. The sellers sigh with relief, assess the damage and take stock. The remainders will be packed back up and sent on to the no-man's-land of the second-hand bargain shops and the not-for-profit thrift stores already stocked with countless cast-offs and design aesthetic misfits, where the cycle will begin again.