Get ready to haggle at garage sales all over the country.
THREE years ago, Andrew Valder was helping organise a community festival in Bondi Beach.
“We had things like surfing, music, film and arts,” he says. “But we also had a garage sale trail component.”
Around Bondi, he says, abandoned furniture is as common as bikinis and board shorts. The suburb has a transient population and people often ditch their belongings when they skip town. While some of the goods are scavenged, most wind up in landfill.
“We gave people the opportunity to register a sale on a website, give it a name, and list what they were selling,” Mr Valder says. “It went bonkers. We hoped to have 30 garage sales on the day and we got 130.”
Spurred on by their surprise success, Valder and his team decided to take the Garage Sale Trail national last year. It went bonkers again. There were over 3000 sales on the day, attended by about 80,000 shoppers. On average, each seller earned $330.
This year’s Garage Sale Trail will be held next Saturday, May 5. To be part of it, you can list your event online and post pictures and prices for items. Bargain-hunters can search the sales and map out your route for the day.
Rachel Botsman, author of What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, says the Garage Sale Trail is a perfect example of the way technology can help to redistribute goods from people who don’t want them to people who do.
In her book, she summarises the costs of our hyper-consumption society, from environmental disasters such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the straightjacket of an earn-spend-store lifestyle. Then she explains how the internet is enabling a different approach altogether by efficiently matching people who want to share, barter, lend, trade, rent, gift and swap.
She argues that the rise of this ‘collaborative consumption’ draws on a realisation that we can’t solve our problems by buying more “greener goods”.
“A hybrid car is fantastic, but it still sits there for 23 hours of the day – that’s an efficiency problem,” she says. “In creating environmentally better products, we still create more of them. That isn’t a long-term, sustainable solution in itself.”
Instead, she sees the start of a deep shift in the value we place on ownership. “People are getting used to accessing the benefits of things, rather than needing to own them outright.”
Ms Botsman says another benefit of the Garage Sale Trail, and other tech-fuelled initiatives like it, lies in getting people together face-to-face, away from their screens.
“We’re just starting to see how technology is enabling us to forge very local connections and that’s the next wave of change – it will help bring us back to our neighbourhoods,” she says.
In surveys from last year’s trail, participants reported they’d met an average of six neighbours for the first time. “It’s really about building community and giving people an opportunity to do what they want to do, which is to connect with one another,” Mr Valder says.
And they have fun in the process. “You see such interesting things for sale – someone has listed a horse and cart this year,” he says. “Last year someone listed a whole house. They also listed a flatmate, but I’m not sure how serious that was.”