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The Office's Garage Sale Episode Was Inspired By An Odd True Story About A Paper Clip

"Garage Sale" is one of the most memorable episodes of the long-running NBC sitcom "The Office," though ironically not for the plot-line referenced in its title. The titular garage sale featured in the 19th episode of the series' seventh season is merely a backdrop to the episode's real main story — Michael Scott's (Steve Carell) marriage proposal to Holly Flax (Amy Ryan). The event is such a momentous development in Michael's character arc (ultimately taking him away from Dunder Mifflin Scranton entirely) that it understandably overshadows the B-plot of "Garage Sale" — even though this plot was inspired by one man's bizarre real-life story.

Sandwiched between Michael and Holly's love story and Kevin's (Brian Baumgartner) attempts to run a half-way decent game of "Dallas," Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) aims to manipulate the garage sale by turning his thumbtack into the most valuable item at the market through a series of trades. Though Dwight is initially successful in trading up to a telescope valued at $150, Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) is able to convince him to trade it for a small bag of "magical" beans.

Something that even "The Office" superfans might not know is that Dwight's quest is actually based on the "One Red Paperclip," a true story that took place in the early 2000s.

The story of Kyle McDonald and the One Red Paperclip

As discussed on Jenna Fischer's (Pam Beesly) and Angela Kinsey's (Angela Martin) "Office Ladies" podcast, Dwight's mission was inspired by a Canadian blogger named Kyle McDonald, who was able to trade his single red paperclip up to a small house in Saskatchewan. McDonald's journey was far stranger than Dwight's, however, and saw him trading not just household objects, but experiences and jobs.

After a few months, his red paperclip had become an "instant party," which was a neon beer sign, an empty keg, and a written promise to fill said keg with any beer of the recipient's choice. Having made further trades to turn that "instant party" into a box truck, McDonald traded that truck for a recording contract with the studio Metalworks. Further trades included an afternoon with legendary rock star Alice Cooper and a speaking role in a feature film. Nearly a year after the start of his journey, McDonald avoided Dwight's magic bean folly by finally trading his cinematic debut for a house (via the BBC and CBS News).

McDonald chronicled his journey on a blog titled "One Red Paperclip," which he then adapted into a book. In 2015, he gave a TED Talk on the subject, which can be found on the TEDx YouTube channel.