Readers of this column know that we have occasionally written about the popular and highly profitable commercial activity known here in Maine as yard sales. Yard sales come about when people realize their house is so stuffed with junk that they could barely move around in it. That condition eventually leads to storing this junk, first in the attic, then on the front porch, then in orderly piles in their classic Maine dooryard. Once in the dooryard a yard sale is the only logical step.
I was reminded of Maine’s unique yard sales the other day when I read that the town of West Paris was actually considering trying to regulate their yard sales. The idea of regulating these powerful, completely unregulated and untaxed economic engines has been discussed in towns from time to time, but most proposals go nowhere. The board of Selectmen in West Paris considered a host of proposed regulations for yard sales but eventually decided to pass the whole question on to the town meeting.
The proposed ordinance pt before the town meeting would have required that a permit be acquired before a yard sale could be held. There would be no fee for the permit, at least initially.
Yard sales could not last more than four days and all signs advertising the yard sale would have to be taken down and properly disposed of within six hours after the yard sale ended. It also said that a person could only have so many yard sales per year.
After discussing the proposed ordinance for a while, the 75 citizens at the West Paris town meeting voted. What was the result? The vote was 75 to 0 against the ordinance . So there will be no yard sale regulating going on in West Paris for a while – if ever. A Maine icon is safe for now.
And it really doesn’t matter what you call them – yard sales, lawn sales, barn sales, attic sales or tag sales. All are part of the same industry and are all based on the same idea: Get out in your dooryard and sell something – anything.
Years ago, town dumps were major suppliers to yard sales and when dumps were closed, some thought yard sales were doomed. But because of their sheer size and power the yard sale industry took the hit, adjusted to the changing times, retooled, reopened and became stronger than ever.
Economic advisors say the yard sale sector is still the driving force in Maine’s untaxed, unregulated underground economy.
If you’re thinking of getting involved in yard sale retail it is easy to get a piece of the action. There is no capital investment required and no training necessary. You won’t even need an 800 number.
Just put up some posters, drag some junk out onto your lawn, start selling and watch the money pour into your coffers.
But be vigilant. Someday when you least expect it, someone may come along and try to sneak some yard sale regulations onto the books in your town. Just remember how the informed citizens of West Paris voted when asked if they wanted to regulate their yard sales. The nays were seventy-five, the yays were zero.