So this related video is worth a watch: Homestar Runner – Garage Sale
If you happened to watch that… wow. If not, you might as well know that the topic of this blog is one that has recently become very near and dear to my heart. A phenomenon has taken over Saturday mornings in the Stoker household: garage sales.
We have lived here for almost four months now and my house is finally getting some liveliness. I now have pictures up on the wall, little kitschy things that I’ve collected here and there from different driveways throughout Utah County, and I’m feeling pretty pleased.
In Ogden, yard sales were confusing. We drove around some Saturday mornings looking at all the people who had apparently just thrown the contents of their grungy houses out onto the lawn and were asking people to pay to throw this stuff away for them. I know people who have had a lot of success with garage sales in Weber County, I just don’t know what the trick is.
At any rate, the previous paragraph is laid out just to illustrate that before moving here, I didn’t really “get” yard sales. They were kind of grungy and stuff smelled. But I repent. I get it now. I have something to do on Saturday mornings. It’s my alone time. And it’s caused me to notice some things. There are personalities. And then there are yard sale personalities. I’ll explain.
The Kicking and Screaming Yard Sale. Some people have yard sales and you wonder whether someone dragged them outside at the crack of dawn to sell their stuff. These people usually are asking $75 for a wooden coat rack, although I paid 75 cents for one identical to it last week. I wonder if these people were forced at gun point to sell their trinkets, because it’s clear they really don’t want to part with anything.
The People Who Get It Yard Sale. And these are my favorite kind. These people get it. They will sell me two good sturdy chairs, a pack of super cute trays, and a pretty glass vase (who knows what I’ll ever use it for?) for $5 just because I asked. They know what’s going down. They know they’re having a garage sale, they aren’t trying to hide it. And they want to sell you their stuff. You want to give them a quarter for an adorable magazine rack that they bought at Pier One last week for $40? Sounds good!
The Brand New 80-Year-Old Stuff Yard Sale. You will find that at many garage sales, people will justify what they’re asking for something because “That retails for $50 bucks at the store!” or some such nonsense. Right. But I’m not buying it at the store. I’m buying it off your lawn–the same lawn that your dog poops on. And I feel like that might say something about its actual value.
This Stuff Will Stay Outside All Day if It Has to Yard Sale. These yard sales never actually end, because people are asking exorbitant amounts for what is essentially their garbage. There is never good stuff at these sales. Usually tables full of clothes, a box of VHS tapes, maybe a basket or a collection of cups that you can get for free when you buy stuff from the kids menu at restaurants.
These are a few of the different types of yard sales that you can go to. Now you need to be armed with some kind of strategy when you go out. Here are some of the things that I do that I have found to be immensely helpful.
Have a plan ahead of time. I use Driving Route Planner to outline my plan of attack. I go out at 8 and eliminate any 7 am starters, because I like to sleep and if you’re an hour late to a yard sale, most of the good stuff is gone.
No drive-bys. I don’t do drive-bys. This is pretty unsafe anyway, since people going to yard sales are usually in a rush to get to the next lawn and don’t drive very carefully. This is truth. I have seen many people get rear ended or have their doors torn off by passing drivers who just weren’t paying attention because they were doing a drive-by. Take an extra two seconds to get out of your car and take a look at the Olive Garden cups, the recorded-from-TV Lifetime movies, and the clothes that haven’t seen daylight in 10 years. You might be surprised.
Know how much stuff costs. You should not pay more than $1 per article of clothing, $2 per DVD, 50 cents per book, I would say pay no more than 75 cents per home decor item (such as signs, baskets, picture frames, etc.) $5 per kids toy, $10 per furniture item, or more than $0 and that’s super disgusting for anything that has touched another person’s hair or privates. This has made the process a lot smoother for me as I have gone out looking for treasures. If someone is selling a picture frame and they’re asking $10, there usually is no way you’re going to get them to haggle with you down to 75 cents, and you can be on your merry way.
Be just a little dishonest. My experience has been that most yard sale hosts (see how glamorous I made it sound there?) don’t actually put prices on those items that they actually do want to sell. If someone has the prices of their stuff listed online ahead of time, or has stickers on their items, I can promise you that those stickers are going to be demanding $10 for a Dora the Explorer Vanity with most of the stickers missing (don’t get me started). I look around, and I tell the host or hostess, “Dang, I have just enough cash to pay $4 for this.” (Don’t open your wallet or be carrying an expensive designer wallet or fancy smart phone if you’re going to claim poverty drove you to your offer!) If they are sticker salers, they usually won’t do it. But if they’re make an offer salers, you might have better chances.
Try to steal something. I like to combine my purchases to equal $5 increments. I’ll ask about a $5 item that I want to get for $2, get them to agree to take $2 for it, and then find one or two more things to sweeten the deal. “Okay, you’ll take $2 for this worthless vase? So will you take $5 for this worthless vase and these other two items that should sell for $5 a piece?” Once again, if people want to sell their stuff, they’ll usually do it. And then sometimes you’ll get a really nice framed print of the temple for $3 and ask her to thrown in a kiddie pool that is riddled with holes and earwigs for $5, and she’ll demand $15. So you might want to figure out the yard sale’s personality (above) before doing this.
Look poor. This is easy to do on Saturday mornings when you would rather be sleeping. But one effective approach I have taken to yard saling is to go in my pajama bottoms (leave the nice Level II yoga pants at home!), sans makeup, hair disheveled in a crap ponytail, and I never carry my phone with me to the sale itself. It sounds ridiculous (and it is) but I feel like people are more prone to believe me when I say I don’t have more than $10 to spend on the sofa table that I really, really want if it’s clear that I have no money to brush some makeup on over my face in the morning.
So there you go. If you got this far, please tell me what some of your favorite yard sale tips are and maybe we can go be cheap, poor, disgusting retched individuals together next week!