It's garage sale season. Here's how to safely sell your stuff during the pandemic

·2 min read
Garage sales are currently allowed under Alberta's health restrictions, as long as organizers and shoppers follow COVID-19 precautions. (Terri Trembath/CBC - image credit)
Garage sales are currently allowed under Alberta's health restrictions, as long as organizers and shoppers follow COVID-19 precautions. (Terri Trembath/CBC - image credit)

With a year stuck inside to contemplate home improvements and de-cluttering, many are ready to shed their old stuff by hosting a garage sale.

For Mike Burton, the annual tradition is a return to some form of normalcy. He has helped organize McKenzie Towne's parade of garage sales for 15 years, with the exception of 2020.

"We know that there's a thirst for community connection … people really want to get out there and feel that they're part of something," he said.

"We're just going to need to rely on the residents of these communities to be responsible."

Alberta Health says there are no special restrictions in place relating to garage sales, although it does encourage cashless transactions.

Outdoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of five attendees in areas with high active case counts, and 10 attendees in areas with lower case counts. Everyone is asked to physically distance, and wear a mask in public spaces.

Dos and don'ts

Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Alberta, said it feels odd to consider the normal spring ritual of hosting a garage sale after such a tumultuous year.

But she said in theory, yard sales can be reasonably safe.

"They're mostly outdoors and they theoretically can be set up so that they're quite spread out so people don't have to cluster. But I also know that I have seen garage sales where people end up clustered tightly. Even though you're outside, that's not a zero risk scenario," she said.

Signs at these Calgary garage sales on Saturday asked shoppers to follow COVID-19 safety precautions while browsing.
Signs at these Calgary garage sales on Saturday asked shoppers to follow COVID-19 safety precautions while browsing.(Terri Trembath/CBC)

"Given that we still have quite a lot of active transmission in the community, I would just want people to be keeping all of their good habits in place, both when they're setting up a garage sale and also if they're attending it."

Burton said he expects around 100 homes to participate in the community parade of sales. But they're taking a long list of precautions this year, including:

  • Offering only a digital map of all the sales — no paper guides.

  • Asking each home to put up posters outlining health measures.

  • Trying to reduce cash transactions, or asking people to bring small denominations of money so change isn't required.

  • Asking each home to restrict traffic by asking people to wait outside their garage or nearby once it reaches capacity.

  • Encouraging homes to set up directional traffic flow, to minimize crowding.

  • Asking each home to set up sanitization stations so people can cleanse their hands before and after handling items.

Jasmine Van Loon is an avid garage-saler. She describes it as a great way to meet your neighbours, and said she's looking forward to the spring ritual's return.

"It's nice to have it back," she said.