I’ve decided I need one of those “I brake for garage sales” bumper stickers. And I’m blaming my husband. He made it his mission this past spring to find bicycles for our grandkids to ride when they come to visit Papa and Mimi. And he dragged me along to the garage sales and estate sales and flea markets as he searched for those treasures. He found them too! And not just bicycles, but golf clubs and Lego blocks and Tinker Toys (remember those?) and all kinds of other fun things for the kids, at prices we could easily afford.
Tagging along with Ken, I rediscovered why I used to love garage sales so much: you could redecorate your entire house with a few well-timed garage sale trips! Here are just a few of the treasures I collected for our home this spring and summer.
My biggest bargain of the summer, this little wooden box, was only ten cents! For a few extra pennies, I painted the formerly dark-brown drawers a soft aqua with paint I already had, then added pretty paper drawer liners. The Ocean Queen coffee tin in the photos was a fifty cent bargain at the same sale. Just my colors, too!
This plate stand (I added my own plates) has been on my wish list for years! I nabbed it for only $2 and it’s perfect for holding my makeup and brushes…or in the kitchen for ripening fruits and veggies.
These wicker chairs were my biggest purchase by far—but still a steal at $20 each! And like the seller said, “the cushions alone cost $30 each,” and they were like new! (If you look closely, you can see that one chair has some damage on an armrest, but it doesn’t keep the chair from being comfy and providing needed seating in a shady spot under our deck.
The most fun is when a garage sale find complements an existing collection, like the wooden box of gameboards ($3!!) that fits perfectly in our game-loving family’s collection on display in our kitchen. (Not to mention it matches my rooster!) And the P&H cigar tin that has a new home atop our refrigerator—beside the red castor oil and coffee tins my sisters nabbed for me at our dad’s farm auction.
If you’ve never caught the garage sale bug, give it a try! You may discover, as we have, that one man’s trash, truly is another man’s treasure!
Here are some tips for making the most of your excursions:
• Find out what day of the week sales in your area begin, and go as early on the first day as possible.
• Check the local newspaper for garage sale listings—especially neighborhood sales where many homes participate on one street—but be prepared to brake for the many unadvertised sales along the way. Just follow the homemade signs. And drive carefully.
• Come prepared with a list of things you actually need. But don’t be afraid to suddenly “need” something that wasn’t on your list if it’s a real “steal.” You can always resell a “mistake” in your own garage sale later.
• Stick to your budget. Decide ahead of time how much you will spend and take only that amount in cash with you. It’s fun to brag about your best bargains.
• Carry paint and fabric swatches with you, along with a list of measurements, to determine if an item will truly match your decor or fit in that empty spot.
• Don’t be afraid to bargain. It’s fine to ask, “will you take $6 for this instead of $10?” But be prepared for a “no” (especially if you’re an early bird), and be willing to compromise at $7 or $8. Or be willing to walk away without the item.
• If you’re unsure about an item, write down the address where you found it so you can come back later. You may think you’ll remember which sale your treasure was at, but you likely won’t.
• If furniture or larger items are on your wish list, empty your trunk or hatch before you set out. Or bring a pickup or trailer.
• Wear comfortable shoes and clothes, and bring along your morning coffee or bottled water and a quick snack for the car.
• Practice the golden rule. You will be “shopping” in someone else’s garage or home. Treat their property the way you’d want others to treat yours. Be thoughtful of neighbors, too.
• There’s nothing wrong with coming home empty-handed. Sometimes the joy is in the search. Garage sale-ing can be good exercise, and a great way to get to know the neighborhoods of your city.
Are you a second-hand bargain hunter? What’s the best treasure you ever found at a garage sale, flea market, estate sale, or farm auction?