MAN OF THE HOUSE: CHRIS ERSKINE

It's a yard sale economy

Parting with some cherished (and not so much) items can free up space, put green in your pocket and romance in your heart.

Every household should have its own economic stimulus package. In our case, it's a yard sale -- the ultimate in recycling.

Memo to White House:

Out here in the hinterlands, where dogs run free and children frolic safe and worry-free in the warm sunshine, we have discovered a sure cure to our nation's economic doldrums. If everyone could get together and hold one gigantic yard sale, we could raise enough money to bail out the banks, the automakers and my wife, Posh's, Visa account. Yard sales are like free money. They may replace income taxes. Just don't let that Paulson guy near the cash box.

Sincerely, Posh's husband

(future Secretary of Yard Sales)

For us, the yard sale could not have come at a better time. First, we are broke. Second, we are gridlocked in our own home, all four kids back under one roof. We could not fit one more sweater into our overstuffed closets, which probably contain unworn clothes from last year's Christmas.

In fact, Posh scolded me for selling a Bill Blass tie she bought me as a gift, whereupon I had to explain to her that women buy neckties for color, and men buy neckties for the way the fabric falls nicely against the shirt. It's one of the fundamental differences between the sexes. That and facial hair.

Anyway, we have this yard sale, during which we unload a lot of junk: bad books, broken toys, garden supplies, old love letters, half-smoked cigars, a deck of cards (with only 30 cards), chipped vases, a baby hamster, pieces from a Yahtzee set, a Kenny Rogers shot glass, the shoelace from a snowboard boot, a big box of pine cones, a Hula-Hoop and some sort of drinking game I never really understood.

"You sold the drinking game?" asks Posh, near tears for the first time since our wedding night.

"Around here, all games are drinking games," I remind her.

One guy even tries to buy my car, the Little German, which doesn't have a "For Sale" sign on it. He offers 3 grand more than I'm hoping to eventually get, which I take as some sort of trick, or an indication that he is crazy nuts. Trust me, I deal with enough crazy nuts in my life already.

"Dad, you're always selling stuff too cheap," growls the lovely and patient older daughter, who sits near the cash box, looking uncharacteristically glum.

"First rule of business," I say. "Smile at the customers."

"I'm going back to bed," she says, and so she does.

She is replaced by the little girl, or as I've taken to referring to her, Mini-Posh. Mini-Posh turns out to be more bored than even her lovely sister. She yawns a few times, then inquires about lunch.

"Whatever you're fixing will be fine with me," I tell her, after which she yawns again and goes back to bed too.

Aside from those little hiccups -- heck, even the Dow Jones has a bad day once in a while -- this yard sale is capitalism at its very finest. We find loving homes for a bunch of crud we no longer want. It was so easy. Posh posted the time and place on Craigslist, then the little guy and I went around town nailing up some bright orange signs, giving our village an eerie Halloween glow just in time for Christmas.

And by the hundreds they came, all types of people, all sizes, all flavors, a lovely cross-section of Los Angeles: Latinos, Armenians, Koreans, Eskimos, a smattering of Jews.

Gypsies were there, as were a couple of folk singers, and every gun nut on the planet. Old, white men in beards always want three things: tools, tools or guns. We have precious few guns in our inventory, though Posh does sell a Makita drill I no longer need, for $2.

With that drill, I rewired and re-plumbed an entire house, renovated 14 rooms, built a 1,500-square-foot deck, hung about a dozen ceiling fans, and bored holes in kids' toys where the factory forgot to. It had plenty of life still in it, that old drill. Someone got a good deal for $2. A drill with a sense of accomplishment.

A few minutes later, the little guy sells his very first tricycle, which he's outgrown, for $2 more. Emboldened, he then tries to sell the shoes off his feet for a buck apiece. Generally, the consensus is we're underpricing.

"You should ask $20 for those mountain bikes," suggests one customer, who goes on to tell Posh that for 27 years he and his wife have spent Saturday mornings grabbing coffee together, then cruising the yard sales.

"That's sooooo romantic," Posh says.

"Beats having kids," I mumble.

"There are only three yard sales in this area today," the stranger tells me. "You should do well."

In fact, we do do very well. A bunch of strangers pay me hundreds of dollars to clean out the house. I discover what romance really is (visiting yard sales), not to mention the going market rate for a big bag of old tube socks (50 cents).

You know, this economy might be turning around after all.

For more "Man of the House" columns, go to latimes.com/erskine.

chris.erskine@latimes.com
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