Hobbies: Garage Sales

Hooked on Garage Sales? DeClutter and Be Free!

Garage Sales -- interesting concept on two levels for retirees:

(1) You can HAVE a garage sale and begin to simplify life a bit. You'd also make a few extra dollars for yourself, and its fun!

(2) You can Go To Garage Sales to find bargains for your own home, as Jean (below) does. You can find high quality items, that the current owner no longer wants or needs, but fits your needs perfect (and for a great price too!)

By Jean Davidson, Oakland, ME

Just when we think we can't stand one more sub-zero day and cabin fever has us on the brink of insanity, the snow melts and spring arrives, stirring within our hearts the primal urge to indulge once again in a certain Saturday morning ritual.

We turn to the newspaper's classified section and scan the pages for a particular column. There it is--the first garage sale listing of the season. Not many, so early in the spring, but as the weeks go by more and more will be added to the list.

I grab a pen and begin circling the sales that appeal to us, tear out the page, grab a street map of the city, and head for the truck. Yes, we'd better take the truck in case we buy something large!

You see, my husband Jim and I are garage sale fanatics. We are not  alone--there are others like us--many others. We see their vehicles parked up and down the street, often on both sides, nearly blocking traffic.

Whatever you call them--garage, lawn or yard sales--most of them offer a bounty of odds and ends at low prices. And don't forget rummage sales at various churches and organizations, where they often let their wares go for a dollar or two a bag on the last day of the sale.

You know what they say about one man's junk being another man's treasure. That is so true, but our house can only hold so many treasures, and after forty-odd years of marriage, it behooves us to practice strict self-control. Our rule is, if we don't really need it, don't buy it.

Suffice it to say, even though we come home empty handed on a few rare Saturday mornings, most sales yield at least one or two goodies. Sometime we hit a sale so fantastic we can hardly believe our luck, like the time we bought a picnic table for $5.00. Sure, it needed a minor repair, but my handyman husband took care of it in a jiffy.

We've found so many bargains it would take many pages to list them all, and I figure we've saved thousands of dollars on everything from clothes to furniture. We've also found brand new items and collectibles that eventually find their way under someone's Christmas tree.

Not all our purchases have been wise ones, but over the years we've learned from our mistakes. For example:

  • See something you like? Pick it up first thing. I've gone back to an item that caught my eye and, lo and behold, it was gone.
  • Inspect an item closely before paying for it. I didn't discover until I was home that the nice looking pair of ski gloves I bought were both left-handed. 
  • Ask the seller to plug in anything electrical that you are thinking of buying, even if he or she insists it is in good working order. We would have been stuck with a nonfunctioning electric typewriter if we hadn't asked to check it out. If a piece of equipment, such as a VCR, cannot be tested easily at the sale, ask the seller if you can return it for a refund if it doesn't work, and get their name and phone number. If they don't agree, walk away. 
  • Don't sweat the small stuff.
  • So you wasted a quarter on something such as a shirt that doesn't fit or a game with a missing piece. Donate it, recycle it, or toss it out. Don't waste the gasoline driving back to the sale.

Now here's some advice for those who plan on holding a sale:

  • Please, please mark your street and your house with large, bold signs, and please, please remove those signs when your sale is over. 
  • Place price stickers on all items or, at least, place them in separate groups that are designated as "50 cent table" or "all clothes for $1.00." We who haunt the sales hate to ask. 
  • Please don't sell things that don't work, are incomplete, or broken. You know who you are, you who put two left gloves together. I know--buyer beware, but I say, seller be honest.
  • An item will sell quicker if it is out in the open, set up, and on display, instead of hidden in a box. That goes for kids' stuff, tents, lawn furniture, sports equipment. 
  • Finally, if customers are walking away empty handed, tight-lipped and shaking their heads, perhaps your prices are too steep. People go to sales to find bargains. Unless you want to haul all that stuff back inside, mark your prices lower.

There is a network among garage sale attendees: they tell each other where the best sales are and the ones to stay away from.

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