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The Art of Garage Sale-ing: Six tips to make the most of the sale season

It’s almost garage sale season: the weather has just started getting to that sweet spot of 60s-70s, school is winding down as summer break swiftly approaches and most suburban moms are still fresh off their Marie Kondo binges, stoked for spring cleaning.

As a self-proclaimed, avid garage sailor of many years, I’ve learned that shopping around sales requires patience, technique and strategy — it’s an artform. Before you set sale, here are some quick tips you need to know:

1. Have a goal in mind
To keep yourself from accidentally coming back with six ugly and oversized sweaters, three broken CRT televisions, a 50-piece set of plastic champagne glasses (because you thought your mother would enjoy that?) and an empty wallet on your first day of streetside shopping, do yourself a favor: make a list of what you’re looking for. If you have a goal in mind, you won’t get sidetracked by every random knickknack.

My personal shortlist of focused finds typically includes items like:

  • Music equipment/records
  • Old video games Vintage Adidas
  • Nike clothing

2. Research your local sales
One of the greatest parts of garage sale-ing is the unexpected: who knows what sign you’ll see on the side of the road or surprise sale you’ll stumble across while driving around? But to make sure you aren’t stuck wasting gas all day without a single destination, research garages sales advertised in your area online. This not only gives you a safe backup plan in case your spontaneous sale search is unsuccessful, but it also provides a sneak peak at whether any items from your list are getting ready to be sold. Some of the best places to start your digital search are:

  • Craigslist
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • YardSaleSearch.com (or Google, of course)
  • Nextdoor

3. Start your day early
Since the start of the Stone Age, hunters and gatherers alike have been rising well before the morning sun to set out for the early morning hunt and get a head-start on their day.

Garage sale-ing is no different. It’s not exactly “kill or be killed” here, but the garage sale golden rule is just as straightforward: the very best goes before the rest. Ten minutes could cost you that coveted record player and speaker set and leave you with nothing but a weird assortment of holiday napkins and silverware, so make sure you’re setting out right as the first sale on your list is starting.

4. Know the lay of your land
The avid garage sailor doesn’t just know where and when his or her next shopping quest is, but they know the neighborhood and people around it — you can gauge the type of items to expect at a sale entirely based on the family hosting or the area they are located in. For example, that 100-year-old house where the elderly couple just moved out and into a retirement home might not be pawning off the most exciting items for your future college dorm at their estate sale (unless you’re into dusty furniture and antique desk lamps, I guess).

If you’re pressed for time or not ready to waste your time at a few unfulfilling sales, be cognizant of where and to whose home you’ll be venturing.

5. Be packed and prepared
As any sailor would surely state, there’s nothing worse than discovering your “grail” and getting ready for the purchase only to find you have nothing but a debit card and 60 cents in loose change left in your wallet. Even though you may get lucky and meet some friendly folk with a fancy iPhone card reader, you need to make sure that you cover all your bases and are prepared for your day.

Here’s a quick list of things of think about and have at the ready:

  • A full tank of gas
  • Good walking shoes
  • Lots of one-dollar bills (as many items are just between $1 and $5)

6. Don’t get discouraged
The hunt is hard, and that’s literally the name of the game — it’s not called “the get.” There’s no guarantee that you’ll get lucky or even find a single item that you want by the end of a full day of looking for finds. Don’t let that get you down or keep you from setting back out for another day of shopping, though. Following these rules will help you make the most of either your first or 50th garage sale-ing experiences.

2 responses to “The Art of Garage Sale-ing: Six tips to make the most of the sale season”

  1. whatever happened to our podcast?

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Will Tulp

Will Tulp
Will Tulp is the Harbinger's Online Editor-in-Chief this year. In his four years working for the publication, he has produced content for print, online and multimedia, winning awards at NSPA/JEA National Conventions and becoming a member of Quill and Scroll along the way. Outside of the Harbinger, Will is in IB, on the varsity soccer team and plays a few instruments. »

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