June 15, 2011

How to Shop Garage Sales

So you're an expert on how to have a garage sale. What you need to know now is how to expertly shop garage sales and come home with treasures. I always know the people who aren't garage sales shoppers. They're the ones who are at your home and say, "I love that [fill in the blank]." And I say, "I found it at a garage sale." And then they say, "REALLY?!" as though it's earth shattering news that you could actually find something of value at a garage sale. It's true, my friend. If I'm looking for furniture, artwork, and accessories for my home, I look to garage sales and thrift stores first. For one, it's definitely the more inexpensive route, and two, I'm more likely to find something that's one-of-a-kind. So yeah, I found that at a garage sale and paid $14 for it. You wanna make something of it?

Here are some DOs and DON'Ts to finding your own treasures.

DO find out where the sales are. Scope out your local newspaper for ads and check out Craigslist for listings. Pay attention to what people are selling and note the start time of the sales. Sometimes towns and cities hold annual community garage sales and even print directories pointing you right to the sales. When you're cruising around looking for sales, pay attention to signs. If someone has taken the time to make attractive signs, chances are they've taken the time to sell decent stuff, too.

DO get there early. The good stuff goes quickly. When I have a sale, I can look out the window before it's time to open and see at least three or four cars driving by slowly.... waiting.... If a sale starts at 8:00, be there at 7:45. Note that I did not say to knock on anyone's door and ask them to open their sale early. Sellers don't like that. But occasionally sellers will open their sales early; if you're eager to get to a particular one, find a nearby parking spot and take a peek to see if they've started their sale. If not, stay in your car, enjoy a cup of coffee, and plan your attack, which brings me to....

DO know what you're looking for and come prepared. Are you pining for a nightstand? Frames? Chairs? Have a goal in mind and stick to it. It's awesome if you find something absolutely amazing while you're trying to find your prize, but it's not an absolutely amazing find if you don't need it and can't use it. I'm serious, you probably don't need an air popper that's still new in the box. If you're looking for something of a certain size, know the dimensions that will work for your home and bring a tape measure to measure potential winners. Have cash, especially lots of ones and fives. Sellers don't like it when you pay for your fifty cent item with a twenty dollar bill.

DO know how to see the potential in something. Wooden furniture can be painted. Upholstered items can be recovered in a different fabric. Frames and metal decor can be spray painted to suit your style. Sometimes an item needs a little love, but that's what's great about garage sales. You get to find things, pay next to nothing for them, and make them your own!

DO have a way to get your treasures home. Believe me, a seller wants you to pay for something and take it now. It's great to bring a truck or empty out the back of your van or SUV.

A recent garage sale trip with lots of good stuff.

DON'T offend the seller by asking if she'd take a lot less than what an item is priced. I'm all about asking for a deal, but if an item is marked at $25, don't offer $8. Be reasonable.

DON'T disclose strange information. Do you plan to paint orange and green stripes on that antique table? It might be best to keep mum about it. Sometimes sellers are parting with items that still hold meaning to them, and they'd rather think you'll be loving something just how it is. A few years ago I had a sale while there was a carnival in town. A few men shopped the sale and cleaned out all of the stuffed animals we were selling. Great! And then they told me they worked with the carnival and invited me to "C'mon down and win them all back." I've never felt the same about winning a prize at a carnival.

DON'T pull up to a stranger's garage sale with a truckload of stuff you want to sell and ask if they'd mind selling it for you. Should I really have to tell you that? I know that none of you, dear readers, could even fathom doing something so strange, but it's a true story.

DON'T get discouraged if you don't find something awesome right away. Finding great stuff takes dedication. I shop a lot of garage sales and rarely find something that makes me giddy. But when I find something, great, it's amazing!

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