Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sundays with Steve - Husband's Guide to Garage Sale

These Sunday's segments are written by my husband, Mr. Jenny.


Garage sales in the town where I grew up, and in the towns I spent the next 30 years or so of adult life, were almost non-existant: They were so rare that the sale hosts had to put a notice in the local newspaper or shopping guide to attract attention. Signs along the street pointing to a sale didn’t exist. I don’t recall going to a garage sale until I was maybe 30 years old.

How times have changed: Virtually every week for one or two mornings, Mrs Steve (Mrs. Jenny to most of you) and I drive around our town looking for garage sales, and we find them -- in abundance. Here in metro-Arizona they are everywhere at the end of each week. The signs litter most every corner on main roads. Sometimes we buy a little bit, sometimes we don’t. But we do spend hours every week looking through other people’s discards. I never thought in my wildest imagination of my future life, that I would be spending hours looking through junk.

I have hated garage sales for decades. I’ve never been comfortable pawing through used junk, with the owners eyeing your every move. I hate spending money on stuff I know will never be used or appreicated. I know that when Mrs. Steve finds “nicknacks”, more junk is going to be transferred from the current owner into our house that is already filled with “nicknacks”. I know that a lot of the stuff (some call them treasures) acquired through the weekly garage sales will be recycled in the twice-a-year sale Mrs. Steve, along with her mother, sisters, and daughters, hold at our house. She’s often, in advertantly, building inventory for the next sale or two. My whinning over the pending purchase of garage sale stuff never ceases, and rarely does it have any effect.

Now I must confess that my harsh views of garage sales may be a bit unfair, or maybe have just changed.

Recently Mrs. Steve has been focusing on certain types of furniture to which she applies her artistry, and produces really amazing new products. I’m impressed and proud of the work she does on those. We are builidng an inventory secured at garage sales, but now the inventory has changed, changed into many items that will be transformed over the coming year into very amazing works of art.

Well, ok, maybe garage sales might be interesting. Maybe I did make an offer on a sixty-year old Super-8 movie camera this morning, that I thought I could re-sell on E-Bay or maybe just hold as a collectable (Collectable?!, is that the same thing as junk?). Alright, I confess, at a minimum I come home with numerous paperback books every week, and the g-kids’ library of movies has grown fairly dramatically in the last year or so. I forgot to mention that my office chair, a sturdy leather affair claimed at a garage sale, is the only desk chair that I have had in 20 years that correctly supports my chronically aching back. Okeh, and I’ll confess, Mrs. Steve picked up some god-awful ugly ceramics a few weeks ago that she moved on the internet for a very impressive profit -- very impressive!

So maybe garage saling isn’t so bad, after all.

If your husband (most readers of Mrs. Steve’s blog are female) are like me, unsure of garage sales and maybe not really comfortable in digging into them, I’ve developed some guidelines and hints, that might make garage saling with you a bit more pleasant:

• Prepare to die. Our city has many artieral roads of six, eight or ten lanes. And invariably I hear, ‘Turn left right here, there’s a sign!” Of course we are in the far right lane when that instruction comes. Highly developed driving skills are a must, and keep safety in mind at all times. Check your side and rear mirrows often. When you are driving 25 mph in a 55 zone, looking for a garage sale, the insane drivers flying by you at the speed limit may not understand.

• Send your spouse into the sale first, while you keep the car running on the curb or in the middle of the street where you have stopped. If she see’s anything of interest, then you can join in.

• Take a large travel mug of coffee and the morning newspaper for the waiting time.

• Stay in your car unless you see tools, fishing gear, auto parts, sporting goods, or other “manly” goods, then you can jump out to view the sale, too.

• If the sale has a lot of clothes, see above about coffee and newspaper. If the sale has a lot of items but no tools, fishing gear or sporting goods, see the same item above and hold on to your wallet, that stop may take a while.

• Signage. Beware; many garage sale sponsors are clueless when they put out signs. I hate the ones who put sign at a major intersection, pointing across the intersection to the opposite side. Cross eight lanes of busy traffic to attend your crappy little sale, no thank you.

• Signage. Some will put a brown lettering on a brown cardboard box on the side the road. You don’t know if it is a sale sign until you have gone past it 20 or 50 yards. Others will put “sale” in pencil on a while sheet of paper, and tape it to a stop sign. Those can be confused with lost animal and other signage, or just blow off the pole in an hour or so. Those sales typically aren’t very good, anyway.

• Signage. Some inconsiderale boobs will not take their garage signs down at the sale, leaving you to scour their neighorhood for the non-existant sale in the following days.

• The best signs are floressence orange or green that you can see from several blocks away, and placed with some thought to the traffic flow.

• Beware of signs that lead you for miles. Those sales wil generate a lot of lookers, but typically don’t have much good junk to pursue.

• If you find yourself sucked into the garage sale, remember some of the rules from American Pickers: Offer 50% of the asking price, and if the seller says no (often they will say yes, sometimes they will hit you in the nose, sometime they will just walk insulted) then combine your wanted item with something else, and offer then a package price.

• Go early. Most sales in our area start at 7 a.m., sometimes 6 a.m. The best sales are usually on Thursday, followed by Friday. The left-overs are on Saturday. We usually hit the streets about 7, and are home by 8:30 or so, or end up at our favorite breakfast joint about then.

• Focus on middle income neighborhoods. Higher income areas typically don’t have sales, and if they do, they are over-priced. Lower income neighborhoods are filled with garage sale left-overs that they bought from you last year. Middle income neighborhoods are best, older neighborhoods can be gold mines. Avoid retirement areas, they have sold most of their goods before moving into the retirement communities. Here in Arizona and other “sun” states, avoid snow-bird neighborhoods, they don’t bring their “good” stuff with them for the winter.

There you have it, my “husband’s survivors guide to garage sales”. Good luck out there. Just remember, whatever your spouse buys, you can sell in your next garage sale.

(c) 2010 Stephen J. Matlock
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JDaniel4's Mom said...

This is filled with such wonderful tips. I hit only one garage sale a year in an upper middle case neighborhood. Last year I got metal Tonka trucks for $4 each.

Bossy Betty said...

We just had a garage sale last week! People could have used this advice!

Frog Hollow Farm Girl said...

Hi, a funny but surprisingly helpful post on garage sales and how to make the most of them. You are so right about buying things to stock your own garage sale! I'll have to pass this one along to FHFB! Ciao, bella!

Ames said...

Hold on Steve....I just have to..... pull myself up... off... the... floor... after fainting.

Are you really encouraging other Misters to participate in gargae saling??? :D You are too funny. Just too Funny!

After the death of my parents, and having to clean out my childhood home,I have been on a purging binge of my own. I don't ever want my daughter to deal with a mess like that. And If I do go to a garage it's to buy my grandlittles the junk and not me. It by-passes my house and clutters theirs! Hee hee!

I have to say, you are a good sport to go with Mrs. Steve. She is so creative and her finished products bring a sweet profit.


Sue said...

She does make some amazing things out of nothing, doesn't she? And you are so much fun to go with her.

I hope my husband will do the same once he's retired. There's no way he would do it now because he is too jealous of his time.


Pondside said...

This could have been written for the Great Dane and for me - except I'm the one with the coffee and paper and he's the one that likes to hop out to see what's what.
Now, if he could just take up a lucrative hobby with the stuff, as Mrs Jenny has.........

Ms. A said...

I can't allow myself to shop anymore, too much clutter. If I could just get hubby to stop bringing stuff in!

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Great advice! Back when we had garage sales, we learned to put out fishing stuff or tools so the guys would be willing to spend a little time. This enabled the women to shop more, and buy more.

beckyp said...

I usually do not go to garage sales but my hubby and son do. Yesterday Hubby came home with about 17 Boyds bears he thought I could sell on ebay. Perhaps but the market is so flooded with them, they will probably sit for awhile. He really had no clue what to buy for resell and I usually end up donating it to the thrifts