Last week I shared the first key to finding awesome stuff at yard sales – making a plan. On to the next step – know what you are looking for.
Shopping at yard sales isn’t exactly the same as running down to Target for laundry detergent. You never know what you are going to find so it might seem a little silly to make a list. But if you have been to many yard sales, you probably know how overwhelming it can be at times.
You are surrounded by mounds and mounds of old, rejected stuff. If you don’t know what you are looking for, it’s pretty easy to do one of two things. Either buy way too many things because they are cheap and there is a tiny chance you just might need them one day. Or leave empty-handed because you are having a hard time separating the awesome-junk-with-potential from the everyday run-of-the-mill junk.
That is why it helps to have an idea of what kind of things you are looking for. So you can look past all the excess and find the gems.
I know that everyone is different but to help you get started, here is a list of the things I look for at yard sales.
Of course we would all love to find solid wood furniture with beautiful vintage lines and dove-tailed drawers in perfect condition. But I am cheap and you just aren’t going to find that for ten bucks. Plus I love to save neglected stuff. This is how a lot of the furniture I bring home starts out looking.
I’m clearly not holding out for perfection, but I also don’t want to end up with something beyond help. So these are the standards I go by when buying furniture –
- Real wood furniture only – no laminate.
- If there is veneer – it should be in pretty good shape or be barely hanging on so that it will be easy to remove
- The furniture piece needs to have a nice shape. This is pretty subjective. My favorites are pieces with nice vintage curves and details. But I also like very simple clean lines that can handle a more interesting paint treatment.
- I can usually deal with a little wobbling but I do make sure that all the drawers open and close smoothly.
- And don’t forget to look for super steals that can be used for parts – maybe the legs from a wonky table or the drawers from an old cabinet.
- old frames and mirrors
- old books
- vintage sheet music
- vintage suitcases and trunks
- wire baskets
- candleholders, lamps, lampshades, light fixtures
- old windows, shutters, doors
- old cabinet doors or other random wood pieces to make signs
- old silver or silver plated pieces
- little kid chairs
- old ladders, crates, tool caddies
- old hardware – door knobs, drawer pulls, hooks, pulleys etc.
- vintage Christmas ornaments
- old maps
- vintage cameras, fans, typewriters, globes, clocks
- other interesting vintage stuff
- curtains to use for the fabric
- letters and numbers made out of pretty much anything
- craft supplies
That’s what I look for but yard sales are great places to find all kinds of great stuff for cheap – toys, baby stuff, kids clothes, even plants. Whatever it is you may be looking for, just be sure to have some idea what it is beforehand.
What about you – what do you love to see at yard sales or thrift stores? Is there one special thing you really want to find this summer?
Be sure you don’t miss the rest of the series:
Shop Yard Sales Like a Pro
Have a Plan
The Nice Girl’s Guide to Haggling
See the Potential
Awesome tips! You are so right on the overwhelming part. Sometimes, it’s hard to see beyond the junk!
[email protected] says
Stopping by from Coastal Charm. Loved your “list” for what one should look for at a garage sale. Really great tips, thanks.
[email protected] says
Yep! This is pretty much what I look for too! I have just found that I need to stock up in ths summer, because the winter months are lean for thrifting :)
Great tips, thanks for your thoughts!
Congratulations on your feature at Coastal Charm… These are great tips!
storage Tulsa OK says
These are wonderful tips for buying various items at yard sales. A lot of yard sale enthusiasts are surely grateful to note these. Thanks for sharing.
Love your list and totally agree – all great items to be on the watch for! One major thing I’ve used garage sales for is holiday decorating! I have found so many new garlands and swags, tags still on – artificial berries, swags, picks and sprays – if they are like new I’ll snap them up. If you need/want a large amount of artificial greenery you can use an artificial Christmas tree if the branches are the kind that hook into the trunk. All those branches can be stuck in among other garlands you have, behind items on shelves, and even into other artificial trees to help them look less sparse before you start to decorate.
Mini trees show up all the time too! I like having multiple trees at Christmas time and have picked up a few little trees this way.
Candleholders, new candles, ornaments – vintage or new – sleighs! If I’ve seen one wicker or wooden sleigh I’ve seen a million! I cut myself after buying 3 of various sizes! I consistently come across wired ribbon new in package for pennies! I put that in my wrapping stash! I always keep a look out for wrapping supplies, period – curling ribbon is another one I often find, people use a small amount or none! I find light sets new in the box – I just ask to test them before buying.
Wreath forms! I see the grapevine kind most often and if the price is right I snap it up to add to craft supplies stash for making my own wreaths for various different holidays.
I also find metal cookie tins all the time – if they are not scratched up I’ll buy them, wash them and use them for holiday gifting. Baskets of all shapes and sizes get turned into holiday gift baskets, and so on.
Basically I shop garage sales with the holidays always in the back of my mind! I’ve also found nice outdoor light up decorations for Halloween! For pennies on the dollar compared to what I would pay for new in the store! Faux pumpkins are all over the place too – and if you’ve priced a “funkin” lately you’ll know why I did the happy dance when I found one for $1
I’ll stop now! Sorry for the book!
Yes! Using yard sales for holiday decor is such a great idea! Almost any yard sale has piles of Christmas decorations and you are right, some are really nice. I have had to be careful about this though. I used to grab grapevine wreaths and other wreath forms whenever I found them – and then I realized I had piled up at least a dozen wreath forms in our basement. Way more than I had time to use, so they ended up in my own yard sale!