By Maraley McMichael
Senior Voice Correspondent 

The garage sale to end them all


May 1, 2024 | View PDF

Courtesy Maraley McMichael

Maraley's son and friend getting ready to load the Roto-Hoe onto the trailer of the new owner.

For three days in mid May 2022, I held my seventh and final garage sale. (The first was in 1975 in Fairbanks, before we moved to California.) My husband, Gary, and I conducted all the previous ones together, but this time, he had been living in the Palmer Pioneer Home for two and a half months.

Our son Patrick and his girlfriend, Brandi, flew up from Denver a few days prior to help and Patrick's long time local friends, Gary and Kim, provided help beginning in early April. Gary and Kim were moving out of state, so I couldn't put it off another year if I wanted their help, and I certainly did. They maneuvered numerous boxes down from the upper loft and shelves in the shop, set up sawhorse and plywood tables, borrowed and delivered several six-foot tables, hung tarps to hide the not-for-sale items.

Brandi was invaluable with help pricing items with her phone app that could "look" at an item and not just identify, but give current values (some of Gary's shop items were unknown). Her expertise in organizing, creating display signs, and advertising on Craigslist and Facebook were also put to good use. Patrick set out the directional road sign boxes Friday at noon and the three of us had a "soft opening" for friends and my subdivision. Gary and Kim also helped "man" the sale all day Saturday and Sunday.

With those four doing all the actual selling, I took care of details, visited with a few buyers, and disappeared to my bedroom both Saturday and Sunday for an hour rest, knowing everything was in good hands. We didn't have time to get every last item priced, so I told them to use their own judgment and I would be fine with whatever they decided.

Prior to the sale though, I spent every spare moment for two months going through 49 years of possessions, examining and making decisions about the contents of the whole house, as well as numerous boxes in both the garage and the shop. (I could ignore all the boxes of multiple generations of family history and mementos.) I knew this would be a huge and exhausting project and I was correct. Both Gary and I were collectors of various things-not hoarders, but we definitely had accumulated too much. Gary had many boxes of electrical, plumbing, and other home construction supplies from our years of living in Slana where the nearest store was an hour and a half hour away. I had a lifelong collection of fabric and books.

As I sorted, I set aside things I knew Gary's sisters, my sisters, and our children would like. Before the sale, I took two carloads of household items (mostly kitchen) to Catholic Services in Anchorage for newly arrived Afghanistan refugees. These good quality things were from our travel trailer/snowbird years, which we kept to outfit a condo in Fort Collins, Colo. (a dream that never happened). I gave a couple of boxes of fabric to the Valley Quilters Guild and shared some things with my sister who lives in Glennallen.

Even so, space was an issue. Thankfully, we had nice weather and we could bring the bigger items out into the driveway and also use the large front deck. Things were organized into categories: household, linens, small appliances, canning jars, clothing, furniture, animal traps, gold panning, home construction, all kinds of guy stuff, grillers and smokers, gardening, fabric, crafts, books, games, puzzles, and more.

We even had an area on the front lawn with boxes of free stuff as well as larger free items, including framed windows, a rototiller, and a sleep comfort (number) bed. Gary bought a Roto-Hoe tiller new in 1974 (with attachments) and he used it to break ground in five different home locations. It was too much for me to operate and I was tired of weed whacking around it, so was adamant a new home be found for it. Each time a likely-looking possibility walked up the driveway, Patrick would call it to their attention. If they asked if it ran, he would start the tiller engine. One guy knew fairly quickly that he wanted it, but had to go get a trailer and return. He took it to his father in Talkeetna, who had a similar one and could use it for parts if nothing else. The guy who took the sleep comfort bed system only wanted part of it, but when my crew told him it was all or nothing, he took it all and left a tip.

Many delighted shoppers left with new treasures. One guy was very happy to find fasteners for commercial type tents in the free pile, because his fasteners had been damaged in the previous winter wind storm. A lady asked if the tires on the vintage bicycle held air. Then she immediately said, "Never mind. You had me at banana seat!"

With balloons here and there, music playing in the background, Brandi's sales enthusiasm, and the whole crew's lighthearted joking manner, the sale had a party atmosphere at times. Family friends came out from Anchorage and after "shopping" stayed for half an hour visiting in the driveway. The husband went home with Gary's Clive Cussler book collection-I wouldn't take his money, but was willing to trade for the delicious homemade brownies in their picnic lunch. My sister who lives in Soldotna arrived late the second day of the sale and spent the night, shopped the third day, and took a carload home. Various mini family reunions were enjoyed.

Although we used tarps to hide and placed strategic "not-for-sale" signs, a few items accidently escaped, but nothing really important. I was standing near the check-out table when I saw my favorite garden tool in one lady's pile and quickly retrieved it.

Courtesy Maraley McMichael

Maraley's hardworking crew during a lull in the sale.

The sale was very successful (more than $2,000) but of course there were leftovers, which I had plenty of time to sort into piles for upcoming garage sales for both a local charter school and the Pioneers of Alaska, Title Wave books, the Bright Light Book Project, three different Valley thrift stores, and Mat-Su Rebuild. I do still have a few more valuable items that need homes. Ten years ago, Gary and I would sell these things on Craigslist, but it seems Facebook Market Place is now the more popular venue. Since I have yet to set up a Facebook account, I will need my kids' help with these items.

Ever since my sale to end all sales, I take any unwanted items to local thrift stores. No more garage sales for me. My home décor is certainly not "minimalist" nowadays, but at least I've weeded out a huge quantity of belongings my kids won't have to deal with after I'm gone. Goal accomplished.

Maraley McMichael is a lifelong Alaskan currently residing in Palmer. Email her at

Author Bio

Maraley McMichael is a lifelong Alaskan now residing in Palmer.

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