Friday, July 13, 2012

Garage Sale Sifting Tips

Garage Sale Tips
Garage Sale

The following is a guest post from our online content editor, Weegee Manlove.

For me, warmer temperatures and sunny skies has always signaled garage sale season.

As a child, I spent my summers in Petaluma, California with my grandmother -- who was a notorious garage sale fanatic.

I remember seeing her hunched over newspapers at the dining room table on Friday nights, scouring the upcoming weekend garage sale announcements with her next door neighbor. The two of them would debate the benefits of each sale before adding it to the list of "must hits" for the following morning. They would then outline their thrifting adventure on photocopied maps of the area based upon the times of the garage sale and the items listed for the sale. This was obviously before Craigslist was invented but I think modern technology would have taken out some of the fun for them.


While she wasn't really shopping for anything in particular, she would sift through racks of clothing, piles of dishes, tables of knick knacks and boxes of bedding for the perfect bargain.  This ideal item was something that was being sold for less than it was worth and one that she felt she couldn't pass up.

Tips for Going to Garage Sales
Sushi Set for 2 & Noodle Spoons - $6
For Christmas every year, she would box up a vast array of these unique items to give away to family members for Christmas.  The family lovingly called these the "Garage Sale Specials".  For the most part, these gifts were just my grandmother's way of clearing the clutter for the next sale season.

It was this yearly summer tradition that sparked my love for thrifting, or as I call it -- sifting.   From garage to rummage sales to local thrift stores, I enjoy sifting through gently used goods to find the ideal bargain item. The one thing I can't leave without.

I'm a firm believer in "One man's clutter is another man's treasure" or in the recycle, reuse and reclaim mentality.  I would rather spend less for something more unique than invest in something mass-produced. I want something with character, charm and a bit of use to add to my collection.  Plus, it is usually a fraction of the cost and there are some interesting pieces of home decor to be found.

I will admit that thrift store and garage sale shopping can be overwhelming.  The budget deals are usually under-organized, lacking in sizes or selection and there is a bit of a musty smell as most things have been pulled out of storage recently. Personally, I think of it as being given an all-access pass to my grandma's storage closet.

Here are six sifting tips for the next time you see a garage sale sign or visit a local thrift store:

1) Go prepared: Measures & Samples
Vintage Dining Table Bought While Thrifting
A friend of mine never leaves home without her measuring tape tucked into her purse and I think this is sound advice for hitting garage sales.   Before you head out, measure the room and other items in your space to determine what will fit into your home.  Take the measuring tape with you and size up potential pieces. Whether it is a rug, table, chair or shelves, know whether or not it is going to fit in your space and with the other items in the room.  If you are looking for a specific color or look, take a picture or a sample of the color with you to the garage sale.  There is nothing more disheartening than buying a dining table to learn that the bottom is only two inches higher than your current chairs or purchasing a light yellow throw pillow that is no where near the cream-color scheme of your living room.

2) Go with a Purpose, Be Open to the Splurge
Like many experts suggest for grocery stores, go to garage sales with a shopping list of items you would like to find. This helps focus your search and will reduce the amount of unnecessary items purchased on a whim.  However, be open to the idea that you may find something amazing that you would like to incorporate into your home or wardrobe. When you arrive, look for the items you have listed but take a few moments to dig through the stack of shower curtains, vases or serving platters.  You never know what you may find that will add charm or character to your home.

Vintage Door from a  University Library
Reclaimed for Bathroom Door
3) Be Creative and Think Outside of the Box
A recent article I read talked about finding your own style or items that speak to you personally when it comes to decorating your home.  Items offered in a store only make your home look like everyone else who has purchased from that store.

The writer went on to say that "I have also seen headboards made from old iron gates and a dining table created from an old church door. These kinds of items make your space unlike any other and they make a comment about who you are and what interests you."

While sifting, think about how an object can be used and not the purpose for which it was created.  If you are looking for a headboard but stumble upon old window shutters or a gate, think how that could be sanded, painted and reused to add a bit of unique texture to your bedroom ensemble.

4) The Big Three Questions
For each item I am thinking about purchasing, I usually ask myself three important questions:

  •  Do I like it? It's easy to lose this judgement when the price is an absolute steal.
  • Will I use it? Although the doilies are five for a dollar, have I ever really used a doily?
  • Does it fit? This includes size (clothes), dimensions (furniture) and style (both) (see number 1 above). 

5) 360-Degree Inspection
After you found the dream item, make sure you inspect it from every angle.  For clothes, check the seams, under the arm, along the neckline and the edges for fraying, discoloration or stains. For furniture or home items, give it a once over for chips, dings, stains or weak extensions (such as the legs or chair arms).  Inspect it for flaws that could be fixed easily with a touch of paint or a little bit of sanding but also the more serious imperfections that could be costly to restore.

6) Don't Get Discouraged
So, you hit three garage sales and didn't find the side table you were looking for -- don't get discouraged. Finding the perfect item for your home takes time and it increases the sense of accomplishment when you do find your bargain buy.  It may take a couple of weekends but you will find something that fits your needs, style and will add a dash of uniqueness to your collection.

Garage sales are the ideal way of introducing unique items into your lifestyle and a fun way to kick start your Saturday morning.  So, next time you are running errands or headed to brunch, take a moment to stop at a yard sale, you never know what you will find.

Do you have a garage sale tip? Did you find something amazing at a yard sale or thrift store? We would love to hear it!

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posted by Jennifer Adams Design Group Blog @ 3:00 AM 

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