Thursday, September 15, 2016

Yard saling with a plan (great things to look for)

(This advice also applies to thrift shops and rummage sales.)

Do you brake for yard sales?

Do church basements filled with tables get you excited?

Is the best part of dropping things off at the thrift store the chance to go inside?

If you answered no to all those questions, congratulations. You have no hunting-gathering tendencies, and that's good. You probably also have a clean house, unless your shopaholic tendencies manifest themselves elsewhere, like at the mall. Besides, yard saling and its relatives take time, and that's not something in large supply, for some of us. It's not a required activity.

But it's also a less pointless one than some would have us believe. Yard saling doesn't have to be about packrattiness, excess and coming home with other people's silly rejects. It can be part of a reasonable plan for living on less, re-using, re-cycling, re-sponsibling.

Some people come home from yard sales with trunkfuls of good finds. Others are lucky if they find an occasional CD they like. If you go to yard sales but don't find much, here are a few things to watch for.
This stacking rack folds flat--good for small spaces.

1. Kitchen stuff for your changing seasons of life. There's always a push to define the most essential kitchen items (like the best books and the ten-item classic French wardrobe). But the cooking needs of a single person are not the same as those of someone who cooks for a mob every day. And mobs have a way of, eventually, dwindling.
I used to have more large-sized casserole dishes, but a couple of years ago I started picking up small-to-mini sized pieces when I saw them at yard sales. I now use those much more often than I do the big ones. We also have a half-sized slow cooker (yard-saled) that is just the right size for a two-to-three-person meal.
2. Knives. People get knives given to them, and then they don't want them. We have knives too, but when I saw a brand-new set of them last year at a yard sale, I happily picked them up to replace some of our worn ones. (If you're lucky, you might get a cutting board too.)

3. Baskets and boxes. I know, that's not exactly news, but when people put baskets out at a yard sale, they want them to sell. If you do basket gifts, or like using baskets in your bathroom or kitchen or bedroom or office, look for used ones first.
4. Other kinds of organizers. Until recently, I had never been in one of those stores that sell nothing but things to put things in. But I get it: they're there to make you feel organized. Having been not only a homemaker but a homeschooling parent for all those years, I understand the need to corral stuff. And I've been to a few plastic-kitchenware parties in my time too (although the sticker shock meant I hardly ever bought anything). These are my thoughts (the yard sale part is coming):

a) A lot of smart people point out that if you have fewer things in the first place, you will need fewer thing-holders. Instead of a whole closet organizer system, for instance, you may be able to get away with a rod and a shelf.

b) You can improvise a lot of thing-holders, when you do need them. I've used all kinds of cardboard boxes as drawer organizers, magazine files, and so on.
c) The reason that a lot of thing-holders end up at yard sales (or rummage sales, or thrift shops) is that someone bought them for a purpose, they didn't work well for that purpose or for that person, and so they are discarded. The multiple uses of pocket shoe bags and plastic shoe boxes are legendary, but the same applies to other kinds of bags, racks, keepers, and sorters.. After I bought two Kangaroo Keepers earlier this year, I agreed that the advertising was overblown on the supposed usefulness of all those little pockets. But as I said in that post, I ended up using the large one as a cosmetics and hairbrush holder in a drawer (practical for me because I don't have a lot of that stuff), and the small one  in my pocket-lacking purse (without stuffing anything in the pockets).
As another example, two years ago (how can it be that long ago?), I bought a whole lot of brand-new little jars at a yard sale. I never liked those traditional tall thin spice jars, so even when I had some, I never remembered to put anything into them. It was easier to keep herbs and spices in their plastic bags, or in the Ziploc system I tried for awhile. But since I had an available drawer, and because these squatty little jars were easier to fill than the tall ones, I figured that they would work in our kitchen, and they do. I even manage to keep them alphabetized, more or less.
5. Fancy stuff from stationery aisles. Things I hardly ever buy new: themed sticky notes, note cards, gift wrap, gift tags. (Anything that's outdated but otherwise pretty, like an artistic address book, usually gets cut into gift tags.)

6. Less-fancy office supplies My three-ring Daytimer came from a fill-a-bag rummage sale. I haven't been looking for binders lately, but there are lots of them out there. If you hit the right sale, you can even find packages of things like binder dividers or page protectors, because somebody bought too many of them.

7. Small fashion accessories.  Some people shuck their least-favourites at the thrift store, others go to the trouble of putting them out for a yard sale. Scarves are what I usually look for (because they don't get worn hard, or they might just need hand-washing); but you can also do well on purses (depending on condition), wallets, belts, and so on. .
8. Things you can spray paint, or otherwise-paint. This can apply, these days, to just about anything. (Can you say Pinterest?) From the worst and ugliest yard sale kitsch, to just something that needs a little freshening, everything seems to look better when it's another colour. When Mr. Fixit restores vintage radios, he usually tries to keep the original finish or colour intact; but sometimes older plastic cases are just too discoloured, and then he gives them a few coats of  fun colour. (Those ones usually get snapped right up.) (The photo above was a father-daughter project.)

9. Mr. Fixit's contribution:  Golf clubs. And other sports and exercise gear.

10. You were waiting for me to say books, weren't you? Well, of course. But it helps if you can narrow down what you want. Like cookbooks, or guitar music books, or how-to-fix-things books. When you find a book in your area, it's even better than something completely random.

A little random is fine; it's the spice of yard saling. But having a plan makes it make more sense.

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