Betting on the (Yard Sale) Bubbly

If a woman’s instinct for gambling is satisfied by marriage (Gloria Stienem), then my instinct to roll the dice comes around every Saturday. Garage sale day. Which is to say that not everything I purchase is a wise investment… like buying alcohol at yard sales.


Garage sale booze is not an everyday household thing like, y’know, baby clothes and strollers, but on the other hand, it’s not exactly rare. I’ve purchased wine and liquor more times than I can remember. Sealed, of course. I didn’t need to say that but I just wanted to be clear anyway. But seriously, WHO would sell spirits at a yard sale?

1. Disgruntled giftees. Boxed holiday sets have found their way into the back of my car many times. Usually for about one-third to half of what they’d sell for retail. I find these in upscale neighborhoods, and they’re often something that doesn’t tend to mix easily with anything other than milk or coffee.

2. Soured wine enthusiasts. Wine is more common than liquor. With the vcadvent of wine clubs, the excess has spilled over to yard sales. Such as the refined lady who lived on a very steep hill and bought pinots by the case in an effort to develop her palette and win favor with a prospective mate. But the relationship went south and she discovered she really didn’t like wine at all. (On a side note, excess wedding champagne is another item cycled out regularly.)

This past weekend the best of both worlds came together. A moving sale with a Christmastime bottle of VC Champagne for only $2.!!! But here’s the gamble: It’s from Christmas 2007.

Did I buy a bubble-less bottle of bubbly? Or is this the buy of the year? Next week my hubby and I have our 10th anniversary and I’ll find out.

Garage Sale Gold (Digging)

This past weekend was pretty much a bust as far as any serious sale-ing goes. Two days of rain made for soggy shopping, cancellations, and my mother-in-law wasn’t really into the ride along. Still, I managed to get out to a couple sales in the early morning hours.

Not that I spent much. I did however come across two treasures – although calling the second a “treasure” might be questionable.

bootsThe first was a pair of Steve Madden cowboy boots. “Like, literally never worn,” crowed the seller.

I turned over the boots, skeptical, and pointed out the slightly scuffed heels. “Literally?”

Well, okay, like I literally only wore them once. To a basketball game.”

She then went on to tell me how she “literally” paid $175 for them, and “literally” couldn’t take less than her $25 asking price.

In the end, we settled on $18 and I have pair of boots for fall – with heavy-brass zippers on the outside. Already thinking of fun outfits to pair these up with.

My other find, a book: Smart Girls Marry Money. Not a title I’d actually pay more than a quarter for, but the back cover promised hilarity.

Did I laugh? YES. sgmm

The part where the authors discuss how in some countries it’s legal for a woman to marry the family pet was a hoot. As for the how to land a monied spouse bit… well… SGMM is more like a tag-team manifesto on dating, sleeping with, and marrying short men.

Short men everywhere should rejoice. But are they really wealthier than tall(er) guys? Like, literally wealthier? Quick, someone needs to do a study on this!

In the meantime, if you’re seeking a quick fictional read in the monied circles of the San prince-charming-inc- contemporary-romance-novel-humor-fullsizecoverFrancisco elite, along with an Episcopal rummage-sale Hermes handbag carried by the matchmaker heroine, check out my novel Prince Charming, Inc. You will definitely get a laugh here!

Have a happy and safe 4th of July long weekend, and I hope you’ll be back next week for more garage sales adventures.


Garage Sale Treasures… and Pecky the Chicken

When I was a kid I used to spend Saturday morning watching cartoons. As an adult, my weekend entertainment involves racing around suburban streets, donuts, and “Mom” riding shotgun. I love garage sales.

In the last week there have been two MAJOR neighborhood sales. Oh the thrill of treasures to be found, seeing a slow-speed car accident, BAG SALES… and one chicken!  I’ll get to the chicken in a bit.  Here are last weekend’s highlights – both good and bad:

1. A paper grocery sack of excellent condition DVDs for $5, plus I threw a pair of tap shoes in there for my niece.tap

2. A designer dog handbag for  a quarter!lulu

3. My cholesterol, and waistline, took a big hit: Krispy Kreme, McDonalds, and pizza in one day. I’ve been paying for that on the scale this week. (What is it about sales that makes me lose all nutritional sense?)

4. Above calories offset by hiking some steep driveway terrain.

roaster5. Massive electric turkey roast, only $5… only to realize we do not have a cupboard large enough to put it in. As in can’t-close-cabinet-doors it’s so big.

6. I’m still seeking that elusive yard sale deal on a couscousaria (y’know, for making couscous. My hubby really wants one, like he always wanted an electric turkey roaster). Someday :)

hutch7. But the biggest find of all was a china hutch for $10!!! I rarely buy furniture, and this one almost didn’t fit in the wagon. Well, actually, it didn’t. I had to tie down the back door.

8. Still, deals aside, the BEST part of sale-ing was meeting a budding young entrepreneur who corralled his pet chickens and set peckyup a petting zoo.  Five cents a pet. The star of his “zoo” was Pecky, his pet chicken.

So that’s all for now. This summer I’ve decided to blog about my weekend yard sale adventures, share a few treasures, and maybe even do a victory dance of exotic kitchen appliances purchased cheap!  In the meantime, please consider buying one of my very reasonably priced books so I can continue to fund my weekend garage sale expeditions.






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!