How to Garage Sale Like Experts (Or Maniacs)

Warning: this post is long and makes us look crazy. I warn you, this list is intense and not for everyone. We’re normal, mostly.

All three of us have been to a ridiculous amount of garage sales. It’s not unusual for us to go to twenty in a day, forty in a week. Garage sales are where we find some of our best treasures at the cheapest prices, meet fun and quirky people, and get our daily amounts of vitamin D after a long cold winter. While there is a fair amount of luck involved, we have things down to a fine art that increases our chances of finding quality vintage items.

These signs are our favorite things to see Saturday morning!

These signs are our favorite things to see on a Saturday morning!

1. Prepare before. There’s not a week during the season when Tammy doesn’t shoot us an email of a sale she’s found on Craigslist. I’m signed up for so many tag sales I can’t remember, and we also rely on the good ol’ newspaper. Before we set out on Saturday, we frantically text/email back and forth to decide the best plan of action. We print maps for citywide sales (a favorite), write down addresses and decide a meeting time.

Because we almost fainted at the sight of this. Until we realized the crystals you use to decorate them weren't included. Drat!

Found at a city-wide a few weeks ago. We almost fainted at the sight of this—until we realized the crystals you use to decorate them weren’t included. Drat!

2. Narrow down your search. On Thursdays and Fridays I look for toddler things, on Saturday I’m out for vintage blood. There are certain clues we look for in finding the good sales. Here’s a roundup of our favorite tactics.

• Sale listing: The best sales aren’t the ones that scream “ANTIQUES!” a million times. No, the best ones are sales that discretely whisper “antiques” so only a few people catch on. Look for listings that mention whole-house sales, estate sales, retirement sales, and items that imply grandparents downsizing.

• Neighborhood sales: Some neighborhoods offer a bounty of vintage treasures. Look for older neighborhoods. If you’re in a small town, the local library and Main Street typically have better vintage sales. Sure, there are some great pockets of sales in newer developments, but it will be a lot harder to find them. Our favorites are developments built in the 1900s through 1960s. Sometimes you even get lucky and hit sales of the original home owners.

• Individual sales: Not going to lie, we’ve all looked on the County Assessor’s website to see what age the house is and clues about the person who lives there. If checking saves a half hour of driving time it’s worth it. I’m telling you, we’re hardcore.

• Citywide sales: YES. Jackpot. In our area, there are these glorious events called city-wide sales. All the garage sales in a small town are organized to be on one day. These are great because there are so many sales starting at different times, all the bargain hunters are dispersed across an entire city rather than a few sales.


Because I’m inappropriate at times and this post is getting a little dry.

3. Decide on a plan of action. So you’ve prepped the day before and know where you want to go. Now what?

• Start early. If we said we walked out of our house around 10am, we’d be lying. Yes, you can find things at this time. No, you probably won’t find the best things at this time. We’ve already been there. Maybe twice. Typically sales start in our region at about 8am, so we’re at our location at 7am and sometimes earlier. Be nice and ask if it’s ok to browse earlier than their startup time, most times we get in, and be appreciative of their kindness.

• Pack for a full morning. If you’re planning a long day of garagin’, bring a big vehicle with packing supplies. And remember, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Some of us (me mainly) get a bit snarky when we haven’t had enough to eat.

Make a list. Have a list either written down or committed to memory of things you need to find. This isn’t so necessary, but I have dimensions of picture frames I need to find, lamps that need shades, and some volumes of Ford Times that are eluding me (more on that later). Having everything fresh in your mind is a good idea.

• Bring money. As Tammy’s grandma says, “Have a pocket full of change!” Don’t bring a $100 bill and expect change, rather, bring ones and fives.

We’ll delve into some finer points of garage-saling soon and will cover in detail a day of us going garagin’. This post would be unwieldy if we covered everything. Are there some general questions you have but don’t see answers to so far? Let us know! In the meantime, enjoy this midcentury house we found while driving around to sales.

Midcentury House

So darn cute.

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