Winnipeg’s gigantic garage sale


Winnipeggers — actually all Manitobans — are notorious for going to great lengths to find a “great” bargain. 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. 
In the spirit of bargain hunting, Winnipeggers now have the opportunity to participate in a big garage sale. And get this — everything is free. 
It will be a garage sale enthusiast’s dream come true when the city hosts its  annual fall curbside giveaway weekend on Saturday, September 7, and Sunday, September 8. The media has fittingly dubbed the twice-annual event as “Winnipeg’s Gigantic Garage Sale.”
The first giveaway weekend in September 2009 proved to be such a success that the city has being holding them ever since in the spring and fall. 
For this year’s “Fall Curbside Giveaway Weekend,” Winnipeg residents are encouraged 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 are held in other Manitoba communities such as Winkler and Altona. 
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. But over the years, the weekends grew sporadic and eventually lost municipal support, leading to their eventual demise. Actually, Ottawa abandoned the initial giveaway weekends due to liability issues when a bicycle that was not offered at curbside was taken.
However, when the great giveaway weekends were reinstated in Ottawa in 2007, they have been a rousing success ever since. 
To “curb” such enthusiasm, a list of giveaway weekend etiquette has been drawn up by the city of Winnipeg. 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 not specifically marked as “free”are not up for grabs — that’s theft.
And it’s not an opportunity to get rid of unwanted items by tossing them on a neighbour’s front lawn.
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 (bug free), electronics, small appliances, yard and garden tools (lawn mowers, snow throwers, rakes, shovels, etc.), kitchen gadgets, dishes, cutlery, pots and pans, unwanted gifts, construction material (nails, paint, wood, etc.) and clothing. 
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.
The city also doesn’t want items that could be infested with bedbugs — a growing pest problem in the city and across North America — such as mattresses, furniture and bedding.
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 a 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 or agenda.
No one is forced to participate in the giveaway weekend. If someone believes their “treasures” are too valuable and require some monetary value be attached to them, then feel free to hold a garage sale. But remember that the city has specific rules governing garage sales, including allowing homeowners to only hold two a year (one day each). Apartment dwellers and condo owners may be prohibited from holding garage sales under the terms of their lease and condominium agreements.
As in the case of garage sales, “shoppers” during the curbside giveaways must obey the rules of the road. Don’t block traffic when you suddenly sight something you want to pick-up. Don’t park illegally or block someone’s driveway with your vehicle. Also, watch out for children when driving around neighbourhoods, as little tots can dart out into traffic at any time.
If you don’t want to participate in the giveaway weekend, 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 as treasures.
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. 
The My Waste app can be downloaded at
For information on items that aren't safe to give away (e.g., baby walkers, lawn darts) visit the Consumer Product Safety Bureau at Health Canada — Facts for Garage Sale Vendors at the website