Garage-sale-ing on the Garden Isle

Location is often said to be the key to doing good business. When does the exception occur? My thought is with local garage sales. We have just weathered the experience of staging such a sale and finalizing the last donations and clean-up, so my thoughts are still dusting off, along with my hands.

Most of us have visited and shopped garage sales, either methodically plotting our quests from ads or following at whim the odd sign seen posted at a street corner. Some of us have found just what we needed, just what we didn’t know we needed, and probably more of what we didn’t need to add to our “stuff.” Or we may have just browsed, a corollary of actual shopping. Usually it’s fun to meet and chat with neighbors, friends and strangers at these varied clean-out-the-hale (house) events. And, to be honest, to just be niele (curious, “nosy”) about what’s being cleared out of a household.

Our garage sale was precipitated by three things: my love of organization and aesthetics/fear of clutter (excluding paper clutter or glut, hopefully forgivable for a writer and lifetime journal keeper); my realization that we were about to exceed storage space (and refusal to think of renting storage); and my husband’s announcement that his regular Saturday morning golf game had been canceled for two weeks due to various tournaments.

Aha! I immediately recruited a helper — although not an immediately enthusiastic helper.

As all the kitchen cupboards were emptied, shelves washed and re-lined and arranged with dishes, pots and pans and kitchen appliances and tools, we had fun rediscovering a once trendy fondue pot, complete with an array of dipping forks. This was taken out of the It Goes box and put into service. We tried out a shrimp-and-vegetables tempura dish on the porch one hot and steamy July night. Success. And then, the French fries we cooked in it a few nights later were superior. This fondue pot was not offered for sale. We plan to share the tempura success with friends. Then there’s always cheese fondue, and melted dipping chocolate — maybe a treat for upcoming holidays.

The hall closet yielded the “retro” treasure of a home movie splicing machine, and my husband’s first wife’s father’s (!) tool box complete with extra tools. The first is still with us, waiting for someone to love it/display it in their video studio (maybe), and the second was found by someone who needed a set of everyday tools.

While finishing our major clean-out, we found many doodads and white elephants, a few knick-knacks, odds-and-ends, duffel bags and a prayer rug. You name it. These went into the It Goes boxes.

On the first “free” (from golf) Saturday morning, I joined my husband in the big delve into our carport closets, and there we found excessive tools, fishing gear, abandoned golf clubs and cart, craft materials and camping equipment. One find was the old sleeps-four canvas tent that had weathered many happy July 4th family friends’ camp-outs when the Kawahara kids were young.

The afternoon before our sale, I watched Dee erect the tent out of the corner of my eye as I priced and arranged other things. The process verged on a ceremony of sorts. I understood that what was going on was much more, as a letting go of experiences that would be held in the treasure of memory. A new mom and pop with kids should put this bargain to use now. Likewise, the extra picnic plates, cooler and retro-lantern, grill racks and campfire cookware. Someone else should have fun roughing it, as we used to before entering the kupuna (grandparent) generation and began seeking more of a “Holiday Inn” comfort experience.

We were bushed come nightfall. Saturday morning found Dee up at first light, getting ready to hammer in the board signs he’d painted to attract customers driving up and down Kuamoo Road. I had this feeling that absolutely no one — no one at all — would come, and the whole, blazingly hot and uncomfortable afternoon of setting up would go to waste.

But I was wrong. The ad in The Garden Island and networking hooks we had cast created the proverbial hanapaa (“hook-up”). Some garage sale enthusiasts arrived a tad early, but were polite enough to observe our published request of No Early Birds. We could at least get our coffee and breakfast behind us before the fun began. And it was fun.

Watching people survey our humble offerings and sometimes find reminded me of Stephen King’s “Needful Things,” where a seller with an extra-sensory gift could match something in his shop to a customer’s wishes or desires. Here, it was the items themselves that made the connection.

So, mahalo to the young man who beamed while carrying off the tool box and old radio, the fisherwoman who found bargain reels and bait hook, the sailor who is passing on brass oar-lock fittings to a friend building a canoe, the gal who’s decorating with the indigo hammock and the lady who’ll repurpose the bamboo remnants, the friend who claimed the miniature tea set, our builder who’ll use the old shelf supports and the cargo net we dug out of the beach, the kids whose nana let them pick out toys and books, the friends who came to check in/help and supply us with extra shopping bags, and a slew more of our customers and/or browsers. We heard some great stories, and were reminded of how explorative and “outdoorsy,” how clever and crafty, and how truly nice our fellow Kauaians actually continue to be.

While packing the remaining items to donate, we realized through the fog of continued heat and humidity how lucky we were: the threat of Hurricane Kilo was dissipating; our sale had not been rained out; the sale proceeds will translate to some dorm needs for our grandson, just off to college; plus we’ve done ourselves (and our grownup kids) a favor by disposing of more of the accumulation of years.

Now, the antique loom … it’s still with us, waiting for a weaver in the tradition of “Needful Things.” Maybe I’ll take up weaving. Some day.


Dawn Fraser Kawahara, author and poet, regularly instructs on the topics of history and Hawaiian culture for visitors to Kauai through Hawaii Pacific University’s “Road Scholar” program through Pacific Islands Institute. The writer is completing her second memoir following up the success of memoir I, “Jackal’s Wedding.” She continues as principal/owner of TropicBird Press and TropicBird Weddings & Celebrations-Kauai under DAWN Enterprises.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.