Cathy Free: Free Lunch: Zero, nada, zilch on every price tag at Orem mom's annual 'free' sale
OREM — Anyone who has risen before dawn on a Saturday morning to organize a yard sale, then spent hours bartering over the price of a pea-green macramé planter or a boat-sized recliner, could certainly learn a thing or two from Sarah Bateman.
Don’t waste your breath, she says. Don’t waste your time. Give it away.
That’s right. Hold a “free” yard sale. That is what Bateman, a 37-year-old Orem mother of three, has done for eight years. Is it really worth it, she says, to haggle for pennies over something you no longer want, when there is somebody who will happily take the item off your hands, no questions asked?
“We live with such abundance in this country, and there are people who could really use this stuff — the clothes, dishes, furniture and books that end up at yard sales,” says Bateman. “A lot of people can’t afford to buy these things, either at a thrift store or in somebody’s front yard. That’s why I decided, ‘Why not give it away?’”
This Saturday, when Bateman hosts her annual “Everything Is Free” sale, she’s hoping that others with good-quality items to donate will join her and her neighbors from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Orem City Center Park Rotary Pavilion on Center Street between State Street and 400 East.
“You’ll leave feeling it was time well spent,” says Bateman, who wanted to get together for a Free Lunch of chicken-and-mushroom crepes at Mimi’s Cafe in the hope of inspiring others to copy her idea.
“Once you’ve experienced the feeling of good will that comes from making so many people happy,” she says, “you won’t want to go back to doing things the old way.”
From college kids looking to furnish their first apartments to single parents and unemployed people with no money for extras such as toys, DVDs and books, Bateman has seen hundreds benefit from her neighborhood’s annual basement clean-out.
“The first year, the very first thing I gave away was a set of suitcases,” she recalls, “and they went to a woman who hadn’t seen her family in years and had finally saved enough to travel to Samoa. She couldn’t afford to buy luggage and I was hoping to get rid of mine. So it was a perfect fit.”
Another year, at the end of the morning, she spotted a young father sorting through what was left of the kids’ clothing.
“He had a toddler with him, dressed only in a shirt and a diaper,” she says. “There was one pair of boys’ pants left and they were two sizes too big. But he rolled up the legs and put them on his son. It was a touching moment that reminded me of why this is so worthwhile.”
Over the years, people have picked up everything from kitchen tables to the kitchen sink at the annual giveaway, even loading their cars with hard-to-find items like lawnmowers and ski equipment.
“I’ve had people tell me, ‘Why are you doing this? Aren’t you worried that somebody will turn around and sell this stuff?’” says Bateman. “And yes, that probably does happen, but to make this work, there can’t be any strings attached. Honestly, if somebody really does need the money and selling something that I don’t need anymore can improve their standing, what’s wrong with that?”
A self-described “green mom” who has recycling down to such a science that she only puts out her family’s garbage can five times a year, Bateman collects items all year long for the “free sale,” storing them in her garage.
“We don’t have room for a car, we don’t have room for anything new, but that’s OK,” she says. “Passing it along instead of making a quick buck or throwing it out is what this is all about.”
For more information or to volunteer, contact Sarah Bateman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a story? You do the talking, I'll buy the lunch. Email your name, phone number and what you'd like to talk about to email@example.com.
Cathy Free has written her Free Lunch column since 1999, believing that everyone has a story worth telling. A longtime western correspondent for People Magazine, she has also worked as a contributing editor for Reader's Digest.
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