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Eugene Has the Best Yard Sales

July 6th, 2019 by dk

Everyone keeps a private list of features that keep them in love with this place. It might be the view out of one particular window, or the smell of pine needles after a rain, or the four-way stop that marks the middle of our downtown. It could be how a 10-minute commuting delay becomes a front-page story, or that people can get so lost in the woods that they can disappear completely.

My list may be longer than some, because it includes all those, and more.

I marvel at our thrift stores.Does any town in America sell more second-hand stuff? And then there are times when $1.50 seems too much to pay for a pillow case. Thank goodness — especially this time of year — for the thrift stores’ little cousin, the yard sale.

We’re a town that loves recycling, and so there are hoards who set out every Saturday morning to find stuff that others no longer want. It brings out the hunter and gatherer among and inside us. Primal urges prevail.

Almost every town has yard sales — there are a few towns that forbid such things — but ours are better. We have graduating seniors who won’t need any of their stuff where they’re going — whether it’s to a new job in a big city, or a gap year of backpacking, or returning to their parents’ house. “Everything Must Go” is a special type of yard sale, and we have plenty of them.

There are a few ways to identify the EMG of yard sales. They often have no price stickers. Every item needs a new home. Price barely matters — in fact, the bigger the item, the lower the price. There’s almost always a bed for sale. Or, if you arrive later, a free mattress for the taking.

College towns have plenty of graduating seniors, but our EMG sales cover every age group. There’s the adjunct professor who can no longer survive on the stipends being offered. There is the divorcing couple who have decided they need a gap year to find themselves. There is the Peace Corps volunteer who will be living without electricity or running water. And there’s the couple who is hurriedly downsizing, so their graduating senior can’t move back in.

There are even some yard sales that become EMG sales after they’ve begun. As item after item leaves the yard in the loving arms of its new owner, that spark of joy motivates the seller to shed more stuff. Soon the calculator used for sales tallies finds a new home, then the table beneath the calculator, and eventually the lawn chair.

The “FREE” box at the curb gets bigger and bigger. Conversations with shoppers shift over the span of a weekend. “Thanks for stopping” gives way to “Make an offer” which then becomes “What are you looking for?” Our thrift stores will gladly accept most of what doesn’t sell.

If John Bunyan’s pilgrim had wanted to make real progress, he would have started his journey by having an EMG yard sale in Eugene. I picked up a paperback copy of his story here for a dime.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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