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Summer is Here. Everything Must Go.

June 11th, 2021 by dk

Summer is officially underway when the mower doesn’t have to be used twice a day to beat back the jungle that our lawns want to become. Our temperate rain forest brings brutal fecundity. Neighbors mow in the rain because the growth won’t slow. Soon those same neighbors will be watering their lawns to refute the late summer drought. 

For those of us who are less horticulturally inclined, something else sprouts up reliably this time of year, adding bright colors and excitement to street corners everywhere. Like that mound of grass clippings in corners of yards, neon placards point to sites of organic recycling, cultural compost, if you like — or even if you don’t.

The season of yard sales has begun. Driveways are suddenly filled with spare toaster ovens, outgrown clothing, and keepsakes that need new keepers. Neighbors often meet for the first time over spare change purchases, even if they have lived on the same street for years. Commerce continually creates community, if you like — and I don’t.

It’s not often said (or admitted in some circles) but we do yard sales better than almost any place I know. The key to a healthy resale ecosystem is a fertile mix of diversity and desperation. If yard sales are too much alike, the hunt for “something special” peters out quickly. Bargains are to yard-salers what white truffles are to mushroom hunters.

College towns always have a leg up in the yard sale world. Whether it’s college kids, grad students, or instructors denied tenure, many will leave Eugene for good this month. “Everything Must Go” precedes them going themselves. All the versions of midlife crisis add to the mix — marriages ending, Peace Corps calling, downsizing for sanity’s sake.

This year offers extra bounty, but also a reason to be wary. Like morels flourishing in the burned forests upriver, our ecosystem has been disrupted. People have been cooped up for over a year, staring incessantly at their coop. We all want to say what Oscar Wilde did on his deathbed: “This wallpaper is dreadful, one of us will have to go.”

One caution merits our attention this year. Desperation may be in fuller bloom than in other years. We have among us those who couldn’t work, or couldn’t work enough, or who didn’t navigate the pandemic relief options. People facing eviction or foreclosure may not be in the mood to haggle prices. If Barbie doll legs are priced at three-for-a-dollar, show some respect. Paying full price might keep somebody in their home.

Apart from that caveat, enjoy the season and relish the hunt. You never know what you might find. When my boys were young, we always did our Saturday yard-saling by bicycle. It slowed us down, we got good exercise, we learned new neighborhoods, and we limited our purchases to what we could carry home.

For memorable weekend adventures, you need only Bill Sullivan’s hiking guidebooks or a willingness to follow hand-drawn arrows stapled to telephone poles. In both cases you’ll see things you never knew existed. And so nearby!


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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