The End of the Garage Sale Era?

yard saleTurn on the TV, open any lifestyle magazine, and chances are America’s new thriftiness has grabbed your attention. From “Storage Wars” and “Pawn Stars”, to Flea Market Style Weddings, the new-to-you market just keeps growing. And while secondhand may never be sexy (unless there’s a Goodwill Gone Wild in the offing), it’s a sizzling hot industry with sales in the billions.

But an article in the weekend paper made me pause, and wonder if my favorite weekend hobby of garage sale shopping might be coming to an end before long. Enter The Garage Hunters.  Hosting a garage sale takes days out of the seller’s life with pricing, nailing up signs, selling, and then later hauling the leftovers to a donation site… so why not sell everything in one lot to the highest bidder?

According to Yazen Haddad, founder of Garage Hunters, the average household makes about $1500 for their cleanout effort. The buyers, who own thrift stores and similar outlets, will resell the goods for a profit. Everybody wins.

Except the true shoppers, people like me, who love the multi-generational tradition of shopping yard sales. It’s a pastime, a treasure hunt, and a way to save money. Sure, I could switch gears and go to Goodwill, but I don’t like the Goodwill politics, their prices for basic products seem pretty high, and anything of real quality is auctioned online for even more money.  Plus big box secondhand stores smell funny, and I’m more of a fresh-air-and-exercise thrift shopper.

Garage Hunters already features hundreds of garage auctions per week.  They’ve partnered with the auctioneers from Storage Wars and their enterprise seems to be growing rapidly. How long before they start auctioning off garage sales here in my state?  And when they do (it’s probably inevitable), what will I do with my Saturday mornings?

Quite possibly, one of those Saturdays might be spent putting together a few boxes of my no-longer-in-use items and giving Garage Hunters a call. Offers, anyone?



Random Monday: What the heck have I been up to anyway?

America’s first Samurai was a teenage girl.

Happy first of July everyone! Thinking about June makes me exhausted.  So here’s a random recap of, well, everything:

America's first Samurai was a teenage girl.

America’s first Samurai was a teenage girl.

Fashion: The heat wave has touched down on Portland, Oregon, and I’m living in my strapless maxi-dress.  I might as well not own anything else! Maxi-dresses are a funny thing because while they’re cool and comfy, and lots of women wear them while running errands, I won’t leave the house in mine.  Because, for me, a bra and a maxi dress don’t quite seem to go together (besides, my Bloodhound ate my only bra that would work with this dress).  Maybe if the temps slip into triple digits I’ll venture out in my maxi-dress?

To garden or not to garden?  This is marvelous tomato weather, except we didn’t plant anything this year… for the first time in 13 years.  We’re buying tomatoes.  Decided the all the extra water just wasn’t worth it. Besides, after last week’s downpours, we’ve lost about 80% of our raspberries to mold and vine breakage.

Just yesterday, Sunday, my husband pressure washed the patio and outdoor furniture!  YAY, we have an outdoor living space again.

Which brings me to my favorite outdoor summer activity: READING. For me, the essence of summer is sitting on the patio in the evenings with an alcoholic beverage and a book.

In recent weeks, the Universe has showered me with books I’ve been waiting to read.  They just started turning up (friends, garage sales, online), including one book that took years to find.  From The Blue Cliff Records to Retail Hell: Confessions of a Tortured Sales Associate, BLISS has been achieved.

Re the latter book: HOW COMES ALL THE BEST HANDBAG MEMOIRS ARE WRITTEN BY MEN?  (Devoured Retail Hell in under 24 hours, ditto for Bringing Home the Birkin!)

And finally… (insert drum roll here)… The Commdore’s Daughter was released last week.  The story of Jennifer Perry, the daughter of Commodore Perry, is my first release with Windtree Press.  The novel took years to research and write (as in five years!) and I hope you will check it out!



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Common Sense Garage Sale Advice for Buyers and Sellers

I am so bad at recycling these photos!  Taken in 2012 during annual sale.

I am so bad at recycling these photos! Taken in 2012 during annual sale.

Informational how-to posts just aren’t my thing, but if you read my blog with any regularity, you know I often abandon my post at the keys every weekend and morph from writer into garage sale warrior. I love shopping yard sales!  But the treasure hunt can be fraught with peril. For buyers and sellers.For buyers all I need to say is, use your common sense. If you’re unsure about something, use the old adage of, when it doubt, leave it out.  This one simple phrase could save you hundreds of dollars and buyer’s remorse … like recalled/expired products, mold, bedbugs, broken electronics, replica items being sold as “authentic”, and anything that makes you suspicious.

For sellers: while I personally believe that 99% of all people are honest, law-abiding citizens, there are, unfortunately, some bad apples out there.  So be vigilant. Last week’s 60 Minutes segment on historical document thieves made this point, too.  Seems some the most diabolical folks arrive with cupcakes.  That said, here are my top three tips:

  1. Money: keep the cash on your person at all times!  Use a cross body pouch with zippered compartments to keep dollar bills and change separate from larger bills.  Furthermore, never put your six-year old in charge of a shoebox full of cash.
  2. Higher value items: jewelry and designer purses need to be strategically located. Or they might disappear. Again, your six-year old is not a fulltime security guard for a collection of Coach bags you are offloading.
  3. Early birds: if they have cash in their pockets let them shop. BUT if you’re a woman having a sale by herself, or  maybe you feel a little uncomfortable with the person asking to shop  early, SAY NO. Tell them to return at the time you’ve set.

Finally, sellers, I’d be remiss not to relay this experience from last summer. A first-time-ever seller advertised her moving sale for 11 am.  I got there at 10 because I happened to be in the neighborhood… and there was a lady loading up her vehicle.  The seller was helping her cram in several small pieces of furniture as well as bags of household stuff.  They’d negotiated a price of $150 for everything. So you can imagine my surprise when the buyer closes the door of her SUV, hands the seller a fifty dollar bill at the curb, and announces she’ll be back with the rest of the money as soon as she hits the bank machine.

I didn’t stick around to find out if she returned. I truly want to believe that 99% of all people are honest.  Still, it doesn’t hurt to be a little wary.

So, got any garage and yard sale tips to share? Are you pro-”early bird”, or do you stick to the time you’ve set?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!


Dave Ramsey said what!?! (3 Garage Sales to AVOID)

I’ve shopped and loved garage sale for decades now.  I’m a self-styled expert in the new-to-me treasure hunt. And I also know there are there are three types of sales to avoid at all cost… plus, I’ve got a beef with author and radio show host Dave Ramsey, who, in my opinion, is not doing his fans any favors when it comes to selling their stuff.

The three types of yard sales to avoid:

The first is the dead person sale.  Meaning the body of the deceased has been in the house a long, long time before it was removed.  Last June I happened upon one of these sales. A gal I know was there first… and went in.  She exited with a plastic Fred Meyer bag full of jewelry – much of it gold – for a couple Andrew Jackson’s.  Her face was flush with excitement.  Mine was barely holding back a gag reflex as corpse-stench stench wafted out the front door.  I have my limits.  Even for a bag of gold I wouldn’t cross that threshold. (Would you?)

The second sale to avoid is the nicotine-stained nursery sale. Cigarette-yellowed cribs, playpens and clothes all cigarette-yellowed.  I’m not offended by this.  I’m heartbroken.

Finally, the third and final sale to steer clear of (again, in my opinion) is the Dave Ramsey sale.yard sale

Dave… financial whiz and garage sale guru?  I have nothing against his genuinely helping people to get out of debt, but seriously, based on my real-life garage sale experiences, Dave Ramsey might as well be the Queen of England when it comes to nailing a few signs to telephone poles and hawking cast-offs on the front lawn.

I’ve been to many “Dave-says-sell” and “Dave-says-trim-the-fat” -sales.  (Why why why do sellers brandish the Dave Ramsey name in their ads? It’s not like he’s actually there at the sale! Furthermore, by using his name in their ads it almost seems like the sellers are not taking personal responsibility for selling their stuff!!! “Dave told me to do this! It’s not me, really!” Sheesh, that was a long rant!!!) These days I only accidentally stumble upon “Dave” sales.  When I read the sale ads I usually make a note to AVOID those addresses if I’m in the neighborhood.

Without exception, the Ramsey-ites overprice their stuff. Really overprice their stuff. It seems that, collectively, they have never set foot in a Big Lots, Marshall’s, or even a Harbor Freight.  Discount merchandise?  Really? Or maybe the sellers are just super-attached and conflicted about selling their stuff?

Either way, they are wasting my time and gas.  And they are racking up more debt… debt of a different kind…   the karmic debt of every shopper who walks away pissed off that these sellers wasted their time and gas on stuff they could buy for less at discount retailers.

Though it may sound like I’m coming down on the formerly-prolific-credit-card-spenders, I’m not. I’m taking issue with their leader, who seems to have forgotten to add in lessons on fair market value! Because who really needs an old DVD player priced at 50% of its original value, or $5 garage sale DVDs you can find for $3 each at Walmart?

Sure, I could make an offer. But when the starting price is so high I just shake my head and leave.

C’mon Dave, steer your garage sale sellers to reality this summer!      


Happy Earth Day…Recycle the Dream

Dreams come and go. I’ve cleaved to a dream of hiking the Mount St. Helen’s rim for a few years.   I’d also like to hikeMt.Fuji and Diamond Head, but the travel logistics are a little more complicated with the latter two.  But Mt.St. Helens seems do-able.

On Saturday night I chatted with two women who hike MSH every August.  They gave me some great tips, and dispelled any notions that I wasn’t fit enough to handle the rigors of the mountain.  They also gave me some great advice on obtaining a permit and finding a hiking group.

What they couldn’t do is help me break in my hiking

Yeah, I’ve had a brand new pair of hiking boots sitting in my closet for a couple years now.  I bought them at a garage sale from a woman who wanted to hike the Gorge, but never quite got around to lacing up her dream.

I was absolutely positive I would… lace up those boots.

So yesterday I did.  And I walked my dog in those boots.  And I did the same thing today.  While the boots are a great fit, they still feel brand new. Stiff, with crispy laces.  I’m nowhere near ready to give up on this dream of hiking MSH, but before I go on any serious hikes those hard soles and suede uppers will need some serious workouts of their own.  Because my dream means I’ll be spending 12 hours in those boots!

So how about you? Do you have a dream you’ve been holding off on?  If you do, are you ready to be done with it, or take the next step?