Sell ... Your trash may be another's treasure. Photo: Supplied
Is one person's trash really another's treasure? Canberra is about to put the age-old adage to its biggest test yet as the city gears up for the Garage Sale Trail.
A grassroots community activity-turned-national movement, the idea is to organise people across Australia to host various garage sales on the same day.
Ask yourself: how long has it been since I've used this? Will I use it again? Is it worth the valuable space it takes up in my house?
But you would think the humble garage sale has no place in a world of rampant consumerism. In this world, shopping malls resemble mega structures, online shopping is a multibillion-dollar industry and anything contrary to prevailing retail orthodoxy is considered ''hipster''.
Garage Sale Trail founders Darryl Nichols and Andrew Valder. Photo: Adrian Lander
But the Garage Sale Trail has proved a remarkable success story in the age where consumer is king. Over three years, a small idea hatched in the streets of Bondi, NSW has turned the event's co-founder, Darryl Nichols, into an international ''greenie''.
The first Garage Sale Trail began in 2010 in Bondi. Back then, the event was designed to create awareness about an illegal dumping problem there.
Nichols and his partner, Andrew Valder, set up a simple website whereby Bondi residents could register information about their sale and plot it on an online map so shoppers could go from sale-to-sale.
United front ... Church garage sales are good venues.
On that day, nearly 8000 people were shopping at Bondi garage sales. Nichols points to social technologies as the reason for the initial success.
''Garage sales happen on any given weekend in communities across the country,'' he says. ''But as a movement they have never before been organised like this. We thought we should have the good old Aussie crack at bringing it to life on a bigger scale.''
A year later, Garage Sale Trail worked with 14 councils resulting in about 1600 garage sales and 60,000 people participating on the day.
Clear profit ... Even old bottles can have value.
Later that year, Nichols received a phone call from the Britain-based International Green Awards - the Oscars of sustainability - he thought it was a prank.
''We hung up on them two or three times,'' he says. ''As it ends up, they are quite legitimate.''
As an awards finalist, Nichols was encouraged to make the trip to London.
''Trips to the UK aren't really in the budget for a small social enterprise,'' he says. ''But I was fortunate enough to go and we won the award. It opened up all these doors in places you would never think you'd find yourself. Like No.10 Downing Street - or St James's Palace - talking about garage sales.''
It's all part of a push to improve sustainability and reduce waste at a local level.
This year, the ACT government has jumped on board to activate the program across the territory - building on the more than 150,000 people who participated in last year's Garage Sale Trail.
Nichols says sustainability is at its best when it's fun and social, and when you don't know you're being sustainable. A by-product of the Garage Sale Trail is the opportunity to say hello to your neighbour.
''Year-on-year we've found that the average seller makes between 55 and 60 neighbourly connections throughout the day,'' he says.
''When you put all your stuff outside your house you're kind of saying, 'This is who I am'. It provides this fantastic forum for conversation; it really is an old-school approach. A woman wrote to us after last year's campaign and said 'I had a wonderful day - now I can stop to say g'day to my neighbour when I see her walking down the street in my old set of jeans!'''
The idea has drawn the attention of not only households, but a growing number of community organisations as well.
''We just love all the different interpretations that people make,'' he says.
At its heart, Garage Sale Trail is an incredibly simple idea. But come the close of business Nichols says, ''it's a pretty decent day's earning''.
''In the first campaign, the average amount of money made was around the $500-$600 mark per sale. Every year there is just such a deep array of items that get sold. It was, and still very much is, a super grassroots community activity.''
The North Belconnen Baptist Church has held a community garage sale every year since 2010. This year, the church is thrilled to be linking up with Garage Sale Trail.
The church uses its sale to raise money for charity, and raised almost $4000 last year for various organisations.
The church's events organiser, who is also the pastor's wife, Roslyn Pengilly, says the best part about a community garage sale is the vibrant atmosphere.
''The feeling of community is probably one of the best parts about it,'' she says. ''We want people to feel our church property is part of the community. Some people say 'I didn't sell much but gee I had a good day'.''
Pengilly says she is hoping to have about 50 stalls on the day, declaring ''people will sell anything''.
''I love getting things second hand because often you can get fabulous things for a much better price,'' she says. ''I'm opposed to the idea of throwing things out that are really useful.''
UNCLUTTER YOUR LIFE
The Almost Deceased Estate Sale was one of the more interesting garage sales in recent times, held by an old couple on the Gold Coast doing a declutter before they downsized.
''Decluttering'' expert and professional organiser Holly Whale is encouraging people to follow the elderly duo's lead and use the Garage Sale Trail as an opportunity to unburden.
''Our home should be a peaceful haven, which only contains what is useful or beautiful - everything else can go,'' she says. ''Ask yourself: how long has it been since I've used this? Will I use it again? Is it worth the valuable space it takes up in my house?''
Whale has 15 years of recruitment consultancy under her belt, but turned her back on that and retrained as a life coach. In that time, she learnt the discipline of uncluttering as she travelled the globe. She operates an uncluttering business and dedicates herself to providing hands-on support for clients who want better-organised lives.
''There is a formula to de-cluttering,'' she says. ''It isn't rocket science but it takes commitment, decisiveness and a clear head. This is why a neutral organiser is a great solution.''
Whale lives by the 80:20 rule - the notion that we wear 20 per cent of our clothing 80 per cent of the time. ''Think about it and you will find that this rule applies to many of our possessions,'' she says. ''One of the easiest tasks to tackle, but which many people put off, is the children's wardrobes.
''If your child is 10 years old, he no longer needs the size-three clothing.''
As the Garage Sale Trail draws closer, Whale says to start with the ''big stuff''.
''If you live in a small unit, selling a cumbersome piece of furniture could double your living room space,'' she says.
''Your great aunt Marge might have given it to you but if it isn't right for you, it is time to say goodbye!''
The formula is schedule, stage, purge, sort and replace.
First, schedule a time to declutter. Tell your friends and family that this is what you are going to do. This will make you less likely to put it off. Choose the area you want to tackle. Break the job down into bite-size chunks i.e. your side of the wardrobe, one cupboard or bookshelf at a time.
Set a ''staging area'' where you have some space and mark designated areas: ''Rubbish and Recycling (can it really not be reused by anyone else?)'', ''Donate'' and ''Keep''. Take all the items out of the cupboard or off the shelf and place them into these three piles. This is purging your home of unwanted and unused items ready for the garage sale. Sort your ''Keep'' items into ''like'' piles - for example, all your belts together, all your scarves together and so on.
Return the items you wish to keep to the cupboards and shelves. Keep like items together and store them neatly.
■ This year's Garage Trail Sale is on October 26. More than 5000 sales are expected Australia-wide.