Bargain city weekend

Winnipeggers — actually all Manitobans — are notorious for going to great lengths to find a “great” bargain. 
On Boxing Day, hundreds of people line up well before dawn on bitterly cold days to rush into stores the moment the doors open to take advantage of the “specials” offered. 
Everyone has a friend or relative who eagerly patrols city streets on weekends to seek out garage sales, after which they proudly show off the “bargain” items they purchased to clutter their homes or give away to family members and friends. 
It’s not uncommon to have a friend show up at your door and announce, “You wouldn’t believe what I found at the garage sale for you!” With that enthusiastic pronouncement, the friend then invites you to his or her vehicle so that you can gaze upon the “treasure” uncovered, and assist in unloading it and bringing into your home — whether wanted or not.
Actually, garage sales have evolved into a long and respected tradition in Manitoba. On Mondays, people excitedly tell fellow workers how they fared on the weekend garage sale circuit.
It’s debatable as to whether, seeking out garage sales is a more pleasurable experience than actually holding one. It is perhaps a result of Manitobans’ ingrained appreciation of garage sales that, whether hosting or buying, it is considered a success whatever the outcome.
Winnipeggers now have the opportunity to whet their appetite by participating in one gigantic garage sale. And get this — everything is free. 
It will be a garage sale enthusiast’s dream come true when the city hosts its third curbside giveaway weekend on Saturday, September 11 and Sunday, September 12. The first giveaway weekend last September 2009 proved to be such a success that the city held another this year in May. For the third giveaway weekend, the city is encouraging residents to place their “unwanteds” at the curb and write on them the word “free,” so that others can pick through them and discover their own “treasures.” 
Not only are Winnipeggers participating in the curbside treasure hunt, but giveaway weekends were held in Winkler in June and Altona in March. 
Giveaway weekends spread to Manitoba from the Ottawa area, which hosted its first such event in 1990 at the urging of Diana Pilsworth. She was the driving force behind the Residential Goods Exchange Day with participation from the municipalities of Ottawa, Kanata, Cumberland, Glouster and Nepean. Over the years, the weekends grew sporadic and eventually lost municipal support. However, when the great giveaway weekends were reinstated in Ottawa in 2007, they have been a rousing success ever since. Actually, Ottawa abandoned the first stage of giveaway weekends due to liability issues when a bicycle that was not offered at curbside was taken.
But to “curb” such enthusiasm, a list of giveaway weekend etiquette has been drawn up. At the top of the list is respect for other people’s property. Specifically, no one should take the word “free” to its extreme and walk onto someone else’s property to liberate a treasure. It’s a curbside front-street program and items on someone’s property are not up for grabs — that’s theft.
When recycling household items, ensure they are in good condition. The items up for consideration in the city-wide free garage sale include books, CDs, DVDs, furniture, electronics, small appliances, yard and garden tools (lawn mowers, snow throwers, rakes, shovels, etc.), kitchen gadgets, dishes, cutlery, pots and pans, sports equipment and toys. When selecting the items to place at the curb, keep safety in mind. It’s not an opportunity to get rid of unwanted lawn darts.
What adds to the allure of the giveaway weekends is that participants are helping to keep their communities “green” at the same time. Any items that find a new home are not being taken to the landfill, which makes environmentally-friendly sense.
Pilsworth told the Ottawa Citizen some “nifty things” were put at the curb during past giveaway weekend, including a canoe. One journalist touring Ottawa was able to pick up enough items to furnish her apartment — including lamps, candle holders, a coffee table and a bed frame — all for “free.”
The city of Winnipeg’s press release announcing the curbside giveaway said: “This is a great opportunity to find a new owner for those unwanted items taking up space in your home or browse the curbs for some great finds.”
Some Winnipeggers have complained that “greed” was a motivating force for some who trolled neighbours during past giveaway weekends looking to fill up their trucks with “stuff” — perhaps for their own garage sale? But there is only so much that a single truck can carry and most seeking a “bargain” are out to find specific items they need. Besides, the items are at curbside because they are “unwanted” by a homeowner, so it doesn’t really matter who picks them up for whatever undisclosed purpose.
No one is forced to participate in the giveaway weekend. If someone believes their “treasures” are too valuable and require some monetary value to be attached to them, then feel free to hold a garage sale. And no one is preventing  you from donating your items to a deserving charity.
Still, there should be a measure of satisfaction for anyone participating to know they are keeping clutter away from the Brady Landfill and putting a smile on the face of someone who considers your castoffs their treasure.
In the end, the giveaway weekend will be good for the environment while satisfying the appetites of local bargain hunters.
And, it’s “free!”
More information on Winnipeg’s curbside giveaway weekend can be found at the city’s website or by calling the city’s 311 line, which is open 24 hours every day. 
For details on items that aren't safe to give away (e.g., baby walkers, lawn darts) visit the Consumer Product Safety Bureau at pubs/cons/garage-eng.php