Friday, July 25, 2008

Yard Sales, Flea Markets and Second Hand or Consignment Stores

I must confess, I became hooked on yard sales, flea markets and consignment stores years ago when I was a single mom and pretty broke. Buying new anything was simply not an option in my budget.   It took me a while to get used to it, because I came from an affluent home where new was taken for granted, but once I did become used to it, I find it very hard to shop retail now.  Especially because I still like very nice things, even designer items, and find that I don't care much for the designer price tags that go along with them.   I am building resistance to consumerism in the form of cheap, disposable fashion and goods, in favor of well-made, durable and quality items.  Inevitably, that drives me back to yard sales, flea markets and second hand or consignment stores!

Now, even when I can buy new I look for used first, unless the new item is dramatically reduced in price. The impact on the environment from used items is minimal, and something that was formerly shuttled off to no-man's land gets a new lease on life. I've even found most of these items are better than their more disposable, more modern and more more plastic counterparts.

Garage sales aren't for everyone. I realize that, but even those who are retail-a-holics may find it pays to buy tools or baby items second hand.  It helps to have both an open mind and an iron-clad idea of what you're looking for. I can't tell you the number of times I went out in search of something and found another thing I didn't at all expect.  Or just went out, looking for nothing specific, and found something I had been needing for a long time, like a 30 foot locking ladder for $20.   (A fantastic investment and used quite often!)

There are some who object to second hand consignment items, and even I have my limits. Generally, I avoid shoes and intimate items of any kind. No bathing suits, either. The only shoes I've bought 'second hand' or consignment were some still in the box, never worn by the owner to my knowledge. I have bought unused shoes off of Ebay, too.  I have bought a lot of 'gently used' vintage designer clothes, and handbags, though.  But since I have started working towards minimalism, I have kept a light variety (3-4) of handbags of the highest quality and donated the rest to charity and/or hosted a clothing swap.

Flea markets are fun, but the flea markets in Florida around here hold a lot of miscellaneous junk. A lot of old movies, dusty books and things. However, I did buy my best vaccuum cleaner ever for $25 at a flea market; it was an old Eureka upright, all metal parts. It still ran, and I took it to an vaccuum-repair place and the guy reworked it for me top to bottom for $30. That thing ran like a dream for 7 years. When it finally died, I was sad - because all the new one are made entirely of plastic and are of much poorer overall quality. I just wish I'd found that old vaccuum cleaner earlier!

I'm planning on holding a garage sale at the end of August. Having them can be a good way of getting rid of unnecessary items, making a little money and putting items out there to be recycled by others. It takes a bit of work, but if you know what you're doing, you can make a tidy profit.  Hosting a garage sale is easy.  There is a lot of free adversiting available in local newspapers and Craigslist, or Freecycle.  Putting clear, bright and well-written signs out in strategic places also helps.  Make sure to get enough change (I start with $50 in change in a cash box, small bills and coins), so you don't have to continually leave the sale in someone's care to go to the bank or nearest grocery store to get more.   Label things clearly with price, but be flexible.  Also, make your sale easy to navigate and tidily set up.  Borrow folding tables, like card tables, and hang more valuable items of clothing.   Try not to make your buyers work too hard or dig through piles.  At my last garage sale, I netted a $200 profit in 4 hours. That's $50/hr (more than I make at my full time job!)


Sean said...

I love "old movies, dusty books and things." Absolutely love going to fleamarkets!!!

This is a great blog Xysea, keep up the good work...

All the best with preparing your garage sale!

Sean R.

xysea said...

Thanks, Sean!

It's so great to see you here! I hope you'll come back some time!


Tammie said...

I love yard sales and flea markets! I used to go quite frequently but haven't in quite a while.

I just had a garage sale and made a couple of hundred dollars. A charity organization came and picked up the rest. It was great to get de-junked and make a few buck in the process. :-)

xysea said...

Hi Tammie,

Did you have a process for doing it? I'm looking to get 'more bang for my buck'. :)

I'd be interested in tips...

purpledogstar said...

I worked in a second-hand bookshop for several years. It had it's fun moments. The downsides of the profession were expressed v well by George Orwell when he wrote an essay on them.

mary(Crone) said...

I raised my kids by yard sales and flea markets. Not all of their things were from there, but I'd say most.
I took advantage of all those folks who wouldn't pick up a needle and thread to make something gorgeous new again. But I had a system. I'd go first to look for whatever I needed for the kitchen and eventually had a fine set of cast iron that I use to this day. I can't stress enough to my young daughters in law the benefits of cooking iron into your food. I don't believe I bought a new coffeemaker until I was 50. Appliances same thing. Sheets too, although these days fine sheets are available to buy and now I'm more likely to sell instead of buy. It's a guilty indulgence.
Getting out of the culture of consumption is a struggle, but if you garage sale, you have a better chance of finding something that was made in the days when things were made to last.
I'm pretty bad about selling--by the time I get it all together, I just want it gone, so once a year I have the the DOLLAH SALE. Every single thing is one dollar. Last year it was all gone by 5pm and I didn't open until noon. Even a stereo went for a dollar. I figure it gives folks who are where I once was a chance to have.

xysea said...

Hi Mary,

You and I might be cut from a similar bolt of cloth. Most of our stuff comes from yard sales - and I totally agree with sewing a button or hemming a pair of pants. I've gotten designer clothes at yard sales that needed only minor fixing!

My guilty indulgence is high thread count cotton sheets, too! (Oh, okay and nice, plush pillows! lol) Although I can buy them new at a discounter like Ross for $30 or so these days...But I remember when we would get these old, soft sheets second hand. There was something special about those, too.

A dollar sale sounds fun, though. I might message you privately. My partner in this sale, Shannon, and I decided what we couldn't sell would get donated to Goodwill. We're aiming to sell most of it, though!

Tammie said...

I don't really have any tips, except to price low. It was hard for me to let go of some things that I knew were worth something. I had to remind myself that the bottom line is that I want it out of my house, and having someone carry it away for me was doing me a favor. I love Mary's idea of a dollar sale. Perfect. However, I did find a charity that did pickups so I ended up not having to haul off my leftovers...

copaceticntx said...

Someone's junk is someone else's treasure bargain. I love coming across retro stuff at garage sales. You can really find some pretty neat bargains, especially if know what you're looking for.

If you're having a garage sale, consider partnering with a couple friends. They'll be glad to unload their junk and you'll laugh (at what junk of yours people will buy)and cry (at reluctantly parting with some of the junk) all the way to the bank. Have fun!

xysea said...

Thanks, everyone, for your tips! I'm looking forward to having my own to unload stuff I've probably bought at others! :)

Felicia said...

We used to have a basement full of "big pieces o plastic" from garage picnic tables, playhouses, play washer/dryer, kitchen, etc. My husband went garage sale crazy in Illinois. Our home in CT can't hold as much and so we had to purge a lot. Not with a garage sale, but with a "FREE!" sign out at the curb. Pretty much anything will disappear if it's free, and then someone else gets some use out of it. (for some reason though, our plastic wagon didn't move, even though it's in really good condition)

xysea said...

Hi Felicia!

It's good to see you!

Yes, I've done that before, too. I've just put out boxes of childrens' clothes with the word 'free' taped to the outside and they do just disappear!

Sometimes, it takes a lot of time to organize a garage sale. And trying to figure out pricing, etc, can be a pain.

I just like a good purge every now and again, you know? :)

David Swinson said...

I am a flea market, garage sale junkie. I actually have some real finds. Great blog. Also great to find you here.

I will add you to my blog site friends.

xysea said...

Hi David,


Yes, we've shopped secondhand so long I blanch at retail! lol And usually no one can tell because the clothes are in good shape.

I've also bought furniture, appliances, books and other items. In fact, that's usually where I go shop first.


David Swinson said...

I love garage sales and thrift stores because you never know what you'll find. There are hidden treasures, sometimes.

xysea said...

Hi David,

I know! Isn't that the greatest? There are so many unusual pieces, from obscure household items to heirloom jewelry...I think there is an element of uniqueness missing from many traditional retail stores.