Irvington Neighborhood Yard Sale 2014

unofficial garage sale sign, Irvington neighborhood

This weekend was the 11th Annual Irvington Neighborhood Yard Sale, a Saturday-only sale with 34 official homes participating—meaning those families had paid a small fee in support of the Irvington School PTA—and also a few nonofficial participants who weren't included on the map but held piggyback sales. The sale ran from 9-4, with maps available at the local Peet's and Starbuck's, as well as at most of the houses themselves.

Bus 17 dropped me off a block away from Peet's around 8:45 AM, a little early, so I walked into the coffee shop, snagged a map, and treated myself to a large cup of decaf, taking the huge mug outside to sit on a wooden bench, plan our route, and wait for my friend Jeff. I kept watching people jumping out of their cars and running into Peet's, coming back out with their maps, and speeding off, as if it were a race.

Irvington butterfly bush

Because there were only 34 listings, the Irvington sale seemed much more manageable than Eastmoreland's, which is over four times larger. Sipping coffee on my bench, I circled words in the descriptions like bikes, art, antiques, vintage, and furniture, ignoring toys and kids; and on the map I colored in the bubbles of those sales that seemed especially promising. The thing about garage sales, though, is that no matter how much planning you do based on sale descriptions, you just never know—you might find something great at a sale you least expect, or vice versa. That's the joy of the hunt.

Jeff called and said he was on his way, so I used the café's restroom (no Porta Potties at Irvington, just restrooms at Peet's and Starbuck's or other nearby retailers) and then headed up NE 15th Avenue on foot.

cat on gray porch, Irvington neighborhood

At my first house of the day, I spotted a black short-sleeved summer blouse in a rack of clothes, unlabeled and so possibly handmade but well sewn, most likely from raw silk, maybe blended with linen. There were no prices or signs on the clothes, so I asked the twenty-something guy manning the driveway (for his mother, he said) for the price. He said to make an offer, suggesting their bathroom if I wanted to try something on. I handed over two dollars for the blouse and we chatted briefly about the World Cup Brazil game he was watching sheepishly on his phone.

sample Irvington yard sale tents, with parked Vespa

Jeff met up with me after only a couple of houses, and at his first house we walked straight into a moving sale and followed signs right up the front stairs and on into the house, finding a woman sitting on a sofa, saying, "Everything in these two front rooms is for sale"—even the couch she was sitting on and the coffee table she was selling gluten-free cookies from. Now that her children were grown, she and her husband were downsizing, having just sold the house, and soon would be moving into an apartment a few blocks away as renters. "But we're debt-free," she said, raising her arms above her head in victory. Across from her was a long pristine mid-century modular teak desk/bookcase with moveable shelving that they were currently using as a flat-screen TV stand, and which had been her parents'. She was asking $3,000 for it (!), claiming that was its worth online, though she was open to offers. Jeff and I kept giving each other eyebrows because though it was indeed a beautiful vintage piece, it was nowhere near worth that much at local retail, especially at a garage sale where people expect cheap deals. So instead Jeff bought a set of three MCM teak nesting tables at a much saner price, post-bargaining; he'll need to refinish them, but they have great lines. He carried them out to his Jeep, and we started walking north and west.

Irvington garage sale sign, reused

LEGO collection, Irvington Neighborhood Yard Sale 2014

vintage air-mail letter paper, Irvington Yard Sale 2014

On the west side of Irvington on NE 7th Avenue, Jeff found a vintage green-upholstered office chair in great shape for a low price to resell at his shop space at Hawthorne Vintage. Giddy, he treated me to a yummy 25-cent chocolate-chip cookie sold by yet more cute kids. We arranged to pick up the chair later and kept walking.

tiny-house yard decor, with marigolds, Irvington

Nearby at a different house, I discovered a silver diamond-patterned cuff bracelet lying by itself on a table with assorted other things, small enough to fit my child-sized wrists, and stamped .925 (meaning real sterling silver) on the inside of the bracelet, though the price was only 50 cents. Shocked, I didn't even plan to haggle for so little. But as I was pulling out my change purse, Jeff handed over a 50-cent piece from the 1970's to the woman, who said, "Wow, I feel lucky." I thanked them both for the gift, pulled off the price sticker, and slid the cuff onto my wrist, wearing it the rest of the day, feeling rather lucky myself.

rusty antique bike, Irvington Yard Sale 2014

At one house, I considered a Finnish women's bike, but it wasn't what I was looking for. (I'm seeking a vintage 54 cm men's 10-speed road bike with a dropped handlebar, preferably by Univega or Peugeot, if anyone local has one to sell.)

Picking up a compact vintage bathroom scale at another house, I was about to make an offer but quickly put it down and got out the hand sanitizer after Jeff said it was probably all rusty from sitting next to a toilet and getting urinated on for decades. Yuck. (I sometimes forget how gross men's bathrooms are from them standing up to pee because in my home growing up and when I was married, the males of the house sat down. Bathrooms stay much cleaner that way.)

old stove and trunk, Irvington Yard Sale 2014

In any case, the Irvington sale map was a good one, a large street grid with numbered bubbles on one page and accompanying numbered descriptions on the other. I did find later in the day during use that the bubble placements were slightly confusing compared to the more precise, hand-drawn dots on Eastmoreland's map, but that's a minor quibble from user error where I somehow got turned around and mixed up on a couple of east-side streets I was less familiar with.

But unlike last weekend at Eastmoreland, this time I remembered to cross off houses we'd seen. We ended up tracing an almost circular route shaped like Pac-Man, now that I think about it. We hit all but two of the mapped sales, including a few extras, skipping the last two houses in the southeast corner of the map only because we both really needed a toilet after six hours.

On the way back to Peet's, we ran across a woman standing in her garage by the sidewalk, announcing she was tired after selling all day and just about ready to make a Goodwill run. Three teachers, we chatted a while about the profession, and then Jeff bought her parents' partial set of vintage Dansk dinner and bread plates for half the asking price, plates he'll keep for himself to replace some lesser quality dinnerware. (I collect Heath Ceramics, while he collects Dansk.) So that was a mutual win since he got new plates and she got rid of another box of unwanted stuff.

unknown flower, Irvington

Feet tired, we headed home at three o'clock, after Jeff picked up the office chair. Prices overall were lower at the Irvington sale than at Laurelhurst's or Eastmoreland's. One of the Irvington sellers even brought that up herself, saying Laurelhurst's prices this year were much too high and not real garage-sale pricing.

But what most surprised me at this sale, compared to Eastmoreland's and Laurelhurst's, were how few people were actually walking the sale. Aside from a few groups of walkers like us, most everyone else was screeching up to a location and pouring out of the car. Though they did their shopping much faster—all done and disappeared by lunchtime—they also used up a lot of gas (even those in Priuses) and avoided the excuse for hours of fresh air, strolling around one of the loveliest neighborhoods in Portland, whose large old trees shade fancy historic houses with trimmed yards full of flowers and greenery. I much prefer yard sale-ing on foot, even if less efficient, because you see and feel more that way—and walking is the best exercise, what human legs are meant for.

Little Free Library box, Irvington

Oh, and for the record, like Eastmoreland, Irvington has its own Little Free Library, though according to the Post-it note on the door, it's lately been the object of wholesale theft: "Somebody has decided to empty out the LFL on a regular basis—kindly stop." Tsk-tsk. Maybe that's why a long time ago citizens formed public libraries stocked with librarians, anti-theft devices, and (downtown, at least) uniformed guards. But people can dream, right?

Mediterranean-style apartment building with potted red geraniums, Irvington

old columned Irvington house

vintage car in lush Irvington driveway

Irvington was my favorite neighborhood sale so far this year, even though I didn't buy much—only a shirt and a cup of Peet's coffee. It wasn't a hot day. The six hours of walking were unhurried, the views lush, the neighborhood quiet, traffic scarce on most streets, conversation pleasant, the day relaxing and full of the kind of small, unexpected, in-the-moment pleasures that make me feel most happy and glad to be alive. And though vendors had prepared themselves with tents and tarps at hand, it didn't even rain much (the forecast had been 50-50), except for a little afternoon mist and one short cloudburst. Plus, the overcast sky was actually better for photography. Visually, Irvington is one of the most romantic neighborhoods in Portland—old, lush, green, and secretive.

Positively No Trespassing sign, with roses, Irvington, Portland

I lived near Irvington when I first moved here six-and-a-half years ago and walked through the neighborhood often, to and from the Lloyd Center. Back then I never knew about its group garage sale—or any other neighborhood garage sales, for that matter. And that's something I love about Portland: small as the city is, it keeps surprising me, opening up new adventures like packages just when I'm ready for them.

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