It all started because of an
bookshelf that finally started to give out. It was time to go through all the books and games and knick-knacks that had accumulated in my daughter Jade's room, for fear that if we didn't lighten the load, she would end up under a dangerous pile one night. I told her we'd need to pare down and reduce, and fast.
It was Jade's idea to have a stoop sale. When I asked her what made her think of that she said, "I do not like that I have too much toys. Because it gets messy each time I take a toy out and then I have to clean it up. It's easier to go through and get rid of some toys. And then we can sell some stuff. I just want poor people to have things and money, and it's not fair to the poor people not to have money and not to have things."
It was a thoughtful sentiment. We've certainly tried to introduce the concept of charity and helping others who may be in need into Jade's life. But with a five year-old, it's still surprising to see what they grasp. "What charity do you want to give it to?" I asked. "Well, it depends. The person who really needs charity can take it. We could give it to that man we always see on the corner by Layla Jones
(her favorite pizza joint)." I explained that probably wasn't the best way to make sure her money was well-spent. We talked further, and together, decided that we'd donate any proceeds from the stoop sale to St. Jude Children's Hospital.
Then we weeded through her books and toys, putting aside bags in our apartment hallway marked with different destinations including cousins and friends. Other piles were designated for the stoop sale. By the time we were done, the hall was lined from one end to the other with things. No wonder those shelves were coming apart! A couple of weeks passed with mostly lousy weather, and Jade asked when we would have the sale. "Mama, you just need to decide to do it on the weekend, maybe a Saturday or a Monday or a Wednesday. But we should do it soon. I can't walk so good down the hallway with all this stuff here."
Finally, we had a Saturday with some decent weather, and when I got up that morning I asked if she was up for the sale. She was. When I asked her how long she thought the sale should go on, she said, "Well how long would you think it should go? Maybe ten minutes?"
"Honey, how much money do you think we could make in ten minutes?" I asked.
"Nine. Teen. (pause) Nineteen dollars in ten minutes, and we'll give it all to charity."
"How about we plan on a couple of hours and we'll see how it goes." I said.
"Sounds great!" she said.
My husband helped us carry the loot outside to our stoop, and we tried to arrange it in a way that would hopefully attract some customers. We hadn't even gotten to put everything out when we had our first group of customers.
They started asking us how much things were, and Jade's first response was, "Free!"
"Um," I said, "how 'bout you make us an offer? Proceeds today go to charity. I pointed to a sign that Jade had made saying that very thing." And we were off to a great start. Within ten minutes we HAD made about nineteen dollars.
Jade decided she should take care of the money because the stoop sale was her idea. Of course, she also said that she would give people who came up to buy stuff the money if they told her they needed it.
"That's very important to learn that lesson," she said.
"What's the lesson that you've learned?" I asked.
"I don't know. You should ask yourself," she replied. Zen and the art of stoop sales.
The customers were brisk within the first forty minutes or so, and Jade gave temporary tattoos to kids and a few adults that came by to browse. Then the sun came out in full force, beaming down on us. And then some of the kids who live upstairs in our building came down. They looked at our stuff a bit, and then asked Jade if she'd like to come upstairs and play with them.
"Sounds good. 'Cuz anyway, it's getting too hot out here," she replied, running inside.
"Hey! Aren't you going to stay here and finish the stoop sale?" I asked. "Mama, it's not often I get to see what Lucia's got in her room."
And then, it was just me. Sitting there feeling silly because I was surrounded by a bunch of kid's stuff, but there was no kid of mine in sight. My husband came out and mentioned that I looked pretty ridiculous sitting there on my own.
"But I told Jade we'd stick around selling things until 2:00pm," I said.
"Why don't you put out a big sign that says, 'Free' and go inside and do other stuff that you need to get done?" he asked.
"Because I agreed with Jade that we'd stay here until 2:00pm, and the money goes to charity. I might get some more customers," I replied stubbornly. My husband said he had some errands to run, and that when he got back, I'd better not still be sitting here by myself as I was wasting my time over what would likely amount to a few dollars.
"We'll see," I said.
But he was right. This was silly. It was my daughter's idea, and here she was upstairs playing with friends. But then again, the money was for charity so I decided to give it a bit more time. As people walked down the street, I could swear they were giving me odd looks. Pretty soon, I felt obligated to explain to anyone who would listen, that really, this was my daughter's idea, but that she'd gone inside and would be out soon, I was sure. After another thirty minutes, I decided to call it a day. I started packing certain items up and took them inside.
Our local dry cleaner happened by, and left with an arm's-load of things, free of charge. Maybe now they'll remember to stop pressing pleats into all of my pants.
When Jade came down from playing with friends, she was perplexed to see that they stoop sale had ended already.
"How much money do you think we made?" I asked her.
"Eighteen dollars. Probably. That's my guess. My guesses are good," she said.
"Want me to tell you how much we actually made?"
"How much?" she asked.
"Ninety! What do you think about that?"
"She shrugged her shoulders and said, 'yeah.'" And then she went back to playing.
When Eden is not sitting outside on her stoop trying to get rid of her kid's toys, she's Executive Producer at CNN's New York Bureau. This is an original NYC Moms Blog post.