There is something almost sacred about your home after the kids are grown and gone. Over the years the little kid paraphernalia has been broken, worn out, or given away, and, if you're lucky, your offspring haven't left a whole lot of their junk behind. It is nice to finally stick your little flag of ownership into your home turf and reclaim it for yourself.
Thus things go until you get the happy, life-changing news that you are going to be grandparents. Then, suddenly, you may wish you hadn't set the old highchair out for curbside pickup and gotten rid of all those expensive toys. You have only a matter of months to make your house kid-ready again, and for some reason, it is a lot more fun to think about this time around.
This is where you are saved by the humble, all-American phenomenon we call garage sales. These little slices of heaven, I firmly believe, exist just for googies who want to indulge their grandkids at a fraction of the cost it took them to raise and humor their children. As it turns out, kids' clothes, toys, and equipment are a durable lot; they are much more often outgrown than worn out. But they zap a growing family's living space with clutter, so these folks are often willing to send such goods on for little or nothing in order to make room for the collective apparati of their children's next developmental stage.
As a garage sale convert, I am about as devoted as they come. My grandkids' room, which was my daughter's bedroom in a former life, boasts a $5 bookcase full of 25-cent books, a $20 like-new toddler bed adorned with a lovely $1 quilt, and a window-seat-storage-turned-toybox of quality, brand-name toys that have formed an impressive collection for what essentially amounts to pocket change. For example, I bought the Leap Frog Fridge DJ for a quarter and the Mattel See-'n-Say for only a dime. I have resurrected a great deal of play value from a whole slew of toys that needed only a fresh set of batteries or a little soap and water.
Under the toddler bed are three wooden drawers (minus the hardware) that I got for 50 cents each. Those drawers contain seasonal clothes for the kids in their current sizes. I have learned it is handy to have for each one a light jacket, a pair of jammies, some underwear, and a couple spare sets of playclothes. The kids, especially Sooby, love to pull out their drawers and see what's new, and sometimes they would rather wear these clothes than the ones their mom has sent along. An added benefit is that we don't worry so much about clothes getting stained, torn, and messed up when the investment is so low.
My $10 Graco Pack-and-Play has been Pooh's bed at my house for nearly two years, and a second one, obtained for only $5, is ready for Baby Bootsie. The two older kids have made great use of my $15 Fisher-Price highchair and my $1 umbrella stroller. With the exception of the toddler bed, I have tried to limit my purchases to things that fold up and store away easily when the kids aren't here.
I generally have a yearly garage sale of my own to recycle the kids' outgrown or unwanted toys and clothes, usually getting as much as or more out of them than I originally paid. Doing this keeps the supply current and interesting, and prevents kid stuff from once again monopolizing my house.
Here in the Midwest, April is the month that heralds in earnest the beginning of a new garage sale season. I consider it my mission to scout the sales most weekends, and I do so in a state of near-religious zeal. The truth is, garage saling can be positively inspirational and a whole lot of fun to boot.