Great bargain 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 when 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 announce 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 proudly 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 unwanted.

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 garage sale circuit.

But, seeking out garage sales is a more pleasurable experience than actually holding one. I’ve been involved in holding just one garage sale and it was far from a pleasant experience. 

Preparing for the sale took days. Thankfully, I only contributed to assisting in the actual sale day, but that was an excruciatingly painful undertaking. Up at the crack of dawn, I was assigned to place signs at strategic street corners. And since it has been a relatively  poor summer this year weatherwise, I helped to hastily move all the items that had been carefully placed on outdoor tables into a real garage when the sky opened up and rain came tumbling down. When the rain and sale ended to mixed results, I then helped to put away the unsold items and return the tables to the local church.

Hosting a garage sale and determining what one considers “junk” that can be converted into another person’s “treasure” requires a skillful imagination, which I sorely lack. Yet, those involved seemed cheerful enough by the sale’s end and congratulated themselves on a job well done.

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 first-ever giveaway weekend on September 26 and 27. 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 “treasures.” 

Not only will Winnipeggers participate in the curbside treasure hunt, but the  giveaway weekend will also be held in Winkler.

Giveaway weekends have 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 became sporadic and eventually lost municipal support. The great giveaway weekends were reinstated in Ottawa in 2007 and have since been a rousing success.

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.” 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 Ottawa’s last 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.”

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 first-ever giveaway weekend can be found at the website: giveawayWeekend.stm; or by calling the city’s 311 line, which is open 24 hours every day.)