How selling old stuff gave me a sense of community during coronavirus
I didn’t expect to feel a kinship with my fellow Facebook Marketplace customers. But during a pandemic, desperate times call for desperate measures.
A listing for a shed that the writer sold on Facebook Marketplace.
A listing for a shed that the writer sold on Facebook Marketplace. [ Provided by Elizabeth Djinis ]
Published Sept. 18, 2020

It all started with a couple of sheds.

When I first moved in to the older house I recently bought in St. Petersburg, the garage looked like someone still lived there. And from the beginning, I knew the sheds would be a problem. These sheds had seen better days, and to make matters worse, there were four of them. One shed is an asset to a home, but four?

Unfortunately, getting rid of them posed a problem. The city would charge me a fee to dispose of them, and a junker would cost even more. I settled on breaking even: I would list the sheds for free — with honest pictures — on Nextdoor and Facebook Marketplace.

The first response to my listing came seconds after posting. “I can come now with a truck.” My phone started to blow up with inquiries. “I can come this afternoon." “I’ll pay you for it,” another woman wrote. All told, I received almost 30 messages in as many minutes. I was immediately overwhelmed, but felt that same dopamine rush as when a friend wished me ‘Happy Birthday’ online or liked my Instagram post.

Thus began my eccentric adventures into the wonders of selling used goods online and the people who buy them. The second woman who came to pick up the shed — the one who had offered me money on my free listing — came by with her two golden doodles in tow.

Her dogs, groomed to look like lions and almost as big, ran around my front yard as she and my boyfriend struggled to get the shed into her truck. After nearly 20 minutes, she called a friend for help. It turned out that she didn’t even want the shed for herself. She was hoping to barter it for a smaller shed in her neighborhood. I was struck by the absurdity of it all.

That first dip into the online marketplace only made me want more. Suddenly, everything left over in my house was an opportunity. I was fascinated by the lengths people would go to buy an object that they either felt was a) rare, b) a great deal or c) both. One man drove from Manatee County, across the Sunshine Skyway, to buy a home security system. As we met outside on the street, he handed me $20, only to do some quick Googling to realize that the machinery was not compatible with his cameras. So after a more than 30-minute drive, he gave the system back to me and went on his way.

One of the last things I tried to sell was a used shower mat. I listed it online for $15, thinking there was no way someone would want it. But there really is someone for everything. About a day later, I got a message from a man in Clearwater. His buddy was building an outdoor shower and this would be perfect. Would I deliver? He’d pay me $5 extra.

By that point, the isolation of coronavirus had gotten to me. While my boyfriend, a video producer, was masked up and going to shoots, I was working from home. A drive to Clearwater to deliver a shower mat I had thought unsellable sounded like my idea of a grand adventure.

That night, my boyfriend and I got in the car, me insisting joyfully that I would drive. We noticed the house by the giant RV in its driveway before we noticed the house itself.

Spend your days with Hayes

Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter

Columnist Stephanie Hayes will share thoughts, feelings and funny business with you every Monday.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

It turns out that the same man buying my shower mat was an avid Marketplace watcher. He purchased multiple RVs for low prices and restored them to their former glory, all the while making a steep profit. With masks on, we toured the inside of the RV in shock. I do not consider myself an RV person, but the meticulous decor and kitchen design made me want to move in.

Standing in his driveway, I felt a pang, a familiar feeling buried so deep within me after months of not feeling it anymore. Was this community I felt, a sense of unity with others over a common goal, a wonder that two people from two totally different places could still feel that what we shared was more important than where we diverged?

I shook my head. Eh, probably not.