How I Became A Garage Sale Junkie
How I Became A Garage Sale Junkie
By Barb Tobias
NABBW’s Thrifting Expert
It wasn\’t a planned event. I was simply curious after spotting a lopsided Garage Sale sign dangling from a post on the side of a road. At the time I was a single mom struggling to eke out a living for my son and myself, so I yielded to my nosy nature and the prospect of finding a few treasures.
Following the arrow with heady anticipation, my hopes were dashed as I pulled up to the house, scarred by piles of clutter strewn across the lawn. After jockeying my car into a spot across from the sale, I hesitated, realizing that I was uneasy. Garage sales were haunts that other people went to…poor people. Sitting there I realized that I viewed these secondhand sales as fairly seedy affairs.
Then I began to question whether there was a protocol or etiquette attached to these amateur events. It occurred to me that I didn\’t know how to navigate a yard sale. Hmm, do people bargain? Pay the asking price. Low-ball everything?
Retail shopping I got. It was a pleasurable affair; an efficient process involving the selection of freshly displayed merchandise, well-lit, comfortable dressing rooms and vigilant salesladies. Once an item was chosen, I\’d pay the sticker price and leave … with new, tissue wrapped merchandise. Neat. Easy. Familiar.
As I sat in my hot car with sweat trickling down my brow, I contemplated this secondhand escapade I was about to enter into. I recalled how many times my sister had amused me with her thrift shopping stories as she spread her cache across my lap. I still cringe at the snooty way I dismissed the thrill of owning a stranger\’s hand-me-downs.
“Well,” I thought, “Times have definitely changed.” I ripped open the car door and stepped into the heat of the morning sun. Putting on a brave face, I boldly strutted across the street.
Winding my way toward the garage, I found myself avoiding the heaps of castoffs scattered across the yard, piled on tables or thrown over boxes. Household items, sports equipment and picture frames leaned in haphazard disarray, offering little to pique my interest.
Entering the dank garage, I spotted a young gal listlessly arranging pieces of costume jewelry on a card table which leaned precariously in far corner. A quick scan of the interior told me all I needed to know. I was preparing to leave when I spotted a darkly tarnished butter server peeking from behind a collection of grimy glassware
Pulling out the ornate piece, I pulled back the etched top to see if the original glass dish was still nestled within. It was. Nonchalantly, I turned it over to look for the telltale silver mark I would be there. Yes…the sign I was searching for peeked back at me through the thick tarnish.
“I have to have this piece.” I thought, quickly assessing my meager budget.
Turning toward the seller who was now shoving plastic bags into a box, I asked politely, “Excuse me. How much is this old butter dish?” She looked up and eyed the item indifferently. Turning away she continued stuffing the plastic into the container, mumbling something about having to deal with her grandmother\’s old stuff.
“Oh whatever.” she shrugged, “How about five dollars?”
I was stunned. Almost dropping the dish from my hands, I raced to whip out the cash, terrified she might reconsider. Although I had no garage sale experience, I knew instinctively that this piece was a worthy find.
“There you go.” I said as I paid her. “Ah, I think I\’ll look around just a bit longer.”
Before I knew it I was rummaging through her battered boxes and bins like a pro.
Digging behind some filthy containers I experienced one of those unrealized moments that changes the course of one\’s life. As I picked up an aging, cobweb infested picture, I discovered a woman dressed in an eighteenth-century masquerade costume peering at me. It was set in a splendidly battered frame, and I knew I had to have this piece. Praying that my luck would hold, I asked my serious companion, “And, what do you want for this old picture?”
“Oh”, she mumbled, “That was my grandmothers too. It\’s been hanging around in this garage for years. I\’ll take five bucks for it.”
I quickly paid the lady my last five dollars, thanked her effusively and made a fast exit cradling my precious cargo in my arms.
With my treasures safely stowed in my car, I literally shook with excitement.
As I pulled away from that dismal yet wonderful sale, there was one thing on my mind … finding the next one. I was hooked.
Barb Tobias is a professional speaker and inspiring coach who renovates lives, homes and wardrobes by sticking her curious little nose into other people’s “thrifty business.” After a lifetime of transforming trash into treasure, this savvy mistress of thrift shares her secrets to finding deals, repurposing before tossing, reconstructing the tattered and renewing things others view as passé in her recent release…Tossed & Found; Where Frugal is Chic. Her “tell all” book is not simply a journey of personal transformation, but teaches a newly frugal nation how to purchase, purge and profit from thrift.