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Garage Sale Junkies Are the New Hunter-Gatherers

Updated on February 21, 2020
Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank wrote humorous bits for her college newspaper many years ago. Her funny observations have continued in print and online.

Placing merchandise on tables makes it easy to see and touch-- much better than spreading it on the ground.
Placing merchandise on tables makes it easy to see and touch-- much better than spreading it on the ground. | Source

Hunters and Gatherers

Hunting and gathering is still practiced in the foothills where I live, but these days the objective is rarely wild game and edible roots. Today's searchers are looking for sterling-silver fish forks, claw footed piano stools and collectible tumeric tins.

Warming weather of early summer brings a secondary wave of wildflowers as well as the prolific blooming of yard sale signs in mountain areas.

Hand lettered placards replete with colorful balloons and directional arrows, show up along well traveled roads and point toward to smaller roads, which frequently lead to unpaved, single lane, steep, rutted, winding, boulder-strewn byways which have been specially constructed for the filming SUV commercials.

Every few miles on these rough routes, just as I become convinced that I am desperately lost, another enticing arrow appears, perhaps pointing to the last remaining unexplored region on earth.

I begin to wonder if the directional signs have been placed by rodent activists who are trying to lure local residents out of populated areas, get them hopelessly and permanently disoriented, in order to return the land to the squirrels.

The Arrival

When I finally reach one of the sequestered sales, I'm always amazed at how much stuff the yard merchants have. What did take to get it all to this stuff to such a remote location in the first place?

The second fact of wonder is at why so many people are already here, when I didn't see one other vehicle on the SUV road.

Folks are actively grubbing around in the improvised and precariously balanced accumulations of kitchenware, books and tools with an air of professional appraisership.

They are holding up glassware to the light, checking the insides of containers and telling other browsers that their mom had one just like it. Many of them are finding things they will never use at a prices they cannot resist as the sale organizer shuffles handfuls of currency.

Small children and good-natured dogs frolicking through the chaos are generally not for sale even if they have price stickers affixed.

Some women will consider reasonable offers for their husbands, however.

A Special Season

In this seasonal economic ritual, everyone tries to sell old stuff they don't want to people who do not really need it, but see the possibility of making it into birdhouses or planters.

Of course, the buyers will not actually make the stuff into birdhouses and planters but will eventually sell it to other people in their own yard sales.

It may be possible to trace individual items -- ones you always see at each sale-- from one event to another. It is rumored that "The Original Fruitcake" which circulated for years as a holiday gift, is now in the yard sale circuit as a doorstop.

A genuine yard sale is required to offer certain items. They must include several decades worth of National Geographic magazines, coffee mugs with naughty sayings on them, jigsaw puzzles with at least one piece missing, odd numbers of matching glasses and one or more pieces of gently used exercise equipment.

The omnipresence of exercise equipment at garage sales indicates that there is no need to produce any more stair steppers or pectoral inflection incline weight machines. Also, I don't mean to sound unkind, but the people selling the treadmills and rowers and ab-benders do not necessarily look like "after" testimonialists.

Sadly, relatively few of the workout items have possibilities for conversion into bird feeders and planters. As humans we have not only the inclination to acquire stuff, we have an innate curiosity about what possessions other people have acquired.

Yard sales give us all a chance to satisfy both proclivities. Foraging, acquisitive humans can never have too many books or woodworking tools. Rust on either is not a problem. Dust is expected. The faint odor of freshly-frightened skunk which may linger in barns and storage sheds is not a deterrent to those seeking real treasure.

Among everyday items, you may also find things you have never seen before like a book of crossword puzzles in Lithuanian and volumes of Lithuanian humor which no one, not even the Lithuanians, understands.

Most of us are hoping that that one special particular article of rare and exquisite value will suddenly present itself to our discerning eyes even though hundreds of prospective buyers have passed it by in the preceding hour.

With dreams of finding an autographed first edition of Shakespeare's collected works, an original Buck Rogers Intergalactic decoding ring, or a functioning lava lamp in the shape of Shakespeare or Buck Rogers, some of us cannot drive past a yard sale poster without at least slowing the car.

One warning: do not take personal items into the yard sale area. It is best to lock all your own stuff, except for the car keys, in the car. People have actually been known to buy their own jackets and tote bags, after setting them down to look at another item.



Hard to Resist

It is hard to resist buying things you have previously seen priced much higher at antique stores. You can almost convince yourself that you need a 700 lb. anvil, three chipped demitasse cups and a firkin.

A firkin, for those who may not know, is a small barrel dating back to colonial times, whose primary use is undetermined. Some believe it was created to be the original yard sale item back in the 1700's, as it can be converted into either a bird house or a planter with relative ease.

You know you are becoming a yard sale junkie when your thinking starts to evolve through the following steps:

1. "Why would anyone ever buy one of those?"

2. "Though you could never find it at a store at that price. "

3. "I'll bet it could be fixed up as a planter or a bird house."

4. "My sister likes odd things. Maybe if I made it into a planter or a bird house and told her it was originally a genuine firkin...."

and finally...

5. "Is that your best price?"


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    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      9 years ago from California Gold Country

      Wow!-- all of you. This is a well-aged hub and I'm delighted to see it spring to life again.

      @ mary615-- I recently found a good quality wood table , 3' x 4', with four sturdy chairs that fits perfectly in the center of my kitchen and matches the cabinetry. It was $100-- but you couldn't get it today for less than 4 times the price. Happy me.

      @ rebeccamealey-- I haven't had one since we moved from our previous home-- but I really need to. Unneeded things tend to accumulate after 10 or 12 years.

      @ Sherry Hewins-- Yes, I have a lot of yard sale stuff that is very good. In fact, a lot of "older" merchandise is of better quality than what you can now find 'new'. My husband loves old tools, which are almost always better quality --made of better steel--than new ones.

      @ TripleAMom --Living in a small town/rural area, we are a bit "shopping deprived". It is entertainment, a way to meet the neighbors, and often a great deal when you make a purchase.

      Thank you all, for your kind comments, votes and shares.

    • TripleAMom profile image


      9 years ago from Florida

      I love going to yard sales. This is a great hub about them. You definitely captured the essence!! Voted up.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 

      9 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      90% of everything I have in my house, from furniture to clothing to knick knacks came from either a yardsale or a junk shop. Plenty of it has gone to the thrift store, and undoubtedly some of it will end up in a yard sale of my own. Thanks for an entertaining look at yard sales. Up and shared.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      9 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      VERY cute. I am a yard sale junkie BTW, love going and giving them too. Voted awesome and shared!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      9 years ago from Florida

      Oh, Rochelle, I am a yardsale junkie! I have found the most fabulous things. It amazes me that people would want to get rid of some of these treasures. I greatest find are two lamps that were old leather lace up boots that belonged to a lady and someone had electrified them. I don't know the age of these, but I just love them!

      I voted this UP, and will share.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      9 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks, Peggy. I appreciate your ability to find some of my old ones and bring them to light again. It's almost like recycling something into a birdhouse.

      Some of the new TV series, like "pickers" and "pawn shop" are rekindling some interest in finding old treasures.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      9 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I'm laughing as per your hub almost anything can be made into a birdhouse. I've been in the mode of culling things and getting rid of have not gone to a garage nor an estate sale in quite some time. Just THINK of all the bargains that I have missed purchasing! :))

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      10 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thank you, Janie. Exercise equipment (also known as clothes racks) are almost always a bargain.

      And thank you, Paola. Sounds like it might be time for you to open your own shop.

    • profile image

      Paola Levi 

      10 years ago

      i had such a good laugh at this post as i am a junk shop stalker, we dont do yard sales or boot sales or curb sales in SA but junk shops aplenty. I have found items that i have put into the store room with the intention of remodeling/ painting etc, and when i cleaned out recenlty i had no idea where said items came from.

      Love reading your blog



    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      10 years ago from California Gold Country

      Yes, it's probably a good idea to get rid of some item you already have before adding more stuff. It can happen easily.

    • profile image

      Portable garage 

      10 years ago

      The key to being a garage sale junkie is to know where to place items when you get home with them. If you don't, your garage will become extremely cluttered over time. Keeping things portable is very key.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      10 years ago from California Gold Country

      Sounds like you are a pro at this. Yes, there are bargains to be had. Colder weather cuts down on the opportunities here. Thanks for commenting, Jim Ervin.

    • profile image

      Jim Ervin 

      10 years ago

      I've been a garage sale regular for years around here. You really have to plan ahead to cover a given area, especially when you're competing with other guys for certain items. That means checking Craig's List more than once on Fridays, as well as checking the neighborhood for garage sale signs. Those unadvertised (on Craig's List) sales can be the best ones. Starting times are usually 9 A.M. but that means be there by 8:30 unless the seller says N.O.B. (no early birds). Even then, there will be early birds if the seller isn't strict about the rule. The trouble is, you can only be early to one or two sales as you have to keep travelling further away for the rest of them.

      Usually I travel on my old Raleigh 3 speed bike (which I sometimes have to remind people is not for sale) or on a nice day, I may drive my old 1930 Model A Ford to sales further away.

      One of my favourite finds is a genuine sheepskin jacket, brand new, complete with inner vest for 20 bucks.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      11 years ago from California Gold Country

      Around here it is usually early Spring and early Fall. In Southern California there was no 'season'-- we didn't have seasons down there.

      Sounds like you are in a nice area of this great state. I'll be interested in hearing your impressions.

      Thanks, Jane@CM.

    • Jane@CM profile image


      11 years ago

      Rochelle, this is so funny. Back in Minnesota, garage sale season started in May and ended in mid June. When I moved to CA my neighbors invited me on one of their garage sale expeditions. Seriously, we left at 6:30 a.m. SHARP. All the garage sales had been preplanned & two vehicles to carry things. One vehicle led the way with the GPS. There is a city near us called Granite Bay - I was in garage sale heaven. The prices for brand new stuff left my mouth hanging open. My deal of the day, 6 wool sweaters - $6!

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      11 years ago from California Gold Country

      Well, it was mostly just for fun-- and, to tell the truth, I don't know what a garage sales tracker is.

    • profile image

      yard sales 

      11 years ago

      Great hub page but why no mention of garage sales tracker?

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      Debris-- glad you enjoyed it. Some years ago I found a really nice designer brand ladies shirt for a couple of dollars in one of those shops.

      The fabric is exceptional in quality, it always looks great even right out of the dryer. I never would have paid what it cost originally and it is still one of my favorite things. Yes, there are bargains to be had.

    • debris profile image

      Dennis Ebris 

      12 years ago from Florida

      I enjoy the satire that you can extrapolate from such an ordinary tradition. This was a very fun read. I also enjoyed your "how to know you're becoming a junkie" progression. And the exercise equipment! How True! And I must agree, most often they do not look like after testimonials and I dare not ask if they're getting rid of the item because they've replaced it. I try not to incite looks of shame from the hosts :).

      On a more serious note, I've seen more Salvation Army, and Goodwill stores popping up and they are always busy! This makes me smile because, while I'm apart of the newest adult generation, my parents have instilled aa thrifty quality. Many Americans feel like they are too good to be seen in this type of store. But I enjoy seeing a full parking lot, maybe the negative connotation is being rethought. I love seeing Americans return to reusing.

      So much perfectly good clothing gets thrown out everyday because they are "no longer in style." I hope to see us avert from this type of waste. Thank you for the good read, it was very enjoyable.


    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      I haven't been to one in awhile... maybe because I already have too much 'stuff'. i should havemy own. Thank you, Disturbia.

    • Disturbia profile image


      12 years ago

      OH Rachelle, I am sooooooooooooooooooo a yard sale junkie. Loved your hub. Thank you.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks for the read, RGraf. This one has been sitting unread for awhile.

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 

      12 years ago from Wisconsin

      Thank you for the laugh and the memories. I used to go with my mother every Saturday morning. So many things we bought were a few years ago in her own sale.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      13 years ago from California Gold Country

      Actually, as a buyer, I think it is brillient.

      As a seller, I would probably fall for it-- since I'm more interested in getting rid of something, than in making a profit.

    • profile image


      13 years ago

      OK, I'll confess. I think I've hit bottom as a yard sale junkie.

      I sent my adorable, snow-white haired, smile from ear to ear 5 year old grandson up with a piece I wanted to try and get the owner to lower the price on. Have I sunk to an all-time low? Worse, it worked!! Now, I'll probably think about using this tactic again. I think I may need professional help!

    • Constant Walker profile image

      Constant Walker 

      13 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

      You know, I would actually have a genuine use for a "firkin." The small barrel, right? How small we talking here?

      What fun it would be to tell people, "Hey, that's a firkin."

      And then MY friends would reply, "A firkin what?"

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      13 years ago from California Gold Country

      Congratulations! That is the first step to recovery. :-)

    • profile image


      13 years ago

      Great Hub!

      Hi, my name is Carol and I am a yard sale

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      13 years ago from California Gold Country

      Wow! I really dropped the ball on this one-- replying to comments. Thanks to you all-- I appreciate all the responses and suggestions.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      13 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      The Lithuanian crossword puzzle books will be next to the fruitcake-cum-doorstop, both of which might be balanced precariously on top of the firkin. If not, then in one of those $1 Catch-all Cartons that contain a little bit of everything, none of which is worthy of being tagged separately. The $1 cartons wrapped in your best holiday paper make great Christmas gifts for whiny, ungrateful relatives. They never like anything you give them anyway, and since you only spent $1 (plus the paper and bow), you can take the rest of what you would've forked out for a regular gift and buy yourself something REALLY nice!

      btw, anyone who comes across the issues of National Geographic with photos by the photographer in "The Bridges of Madison County", please email me. =)

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 

      13 years ago from Central North Carolina

      I just love starting my morning reading your hubs, Shell! This one also made me laugh out loud! Thanks.

    • trish1048 profile image


      13 years ago

      LOL LOL LOL,,,,hello again Rochelle,

      I just finished reading your 'humor' hub, and now this!  I still can't stop laughing, as I am a 'true-blue' yard sale/garage sale/fleamarket junkie!  I find things at these places that I just 'have to have!'  Months later, I'll trip over it because I never found a place or use for it in my home, pick up the item, and ask myself what was I thinking?  Therein lies the answer, I WASN'T.  In fact, as I sit here now writing, I have in the back of my mind a yard sale I'm planning to have probably after Labor Day, when the weather is not so ungodly hot.  It has been my experience that sales in the heat of summer do not draw hordes of people, as most sane people are doing 'normal' things, like going on vacations, enjoying the beach or whatever.

      My old boyfriend and I worked the fleamarket for one whole summer, and even though there were times we came home with more than we went with, we had a lot of fun doing it.  You got to see the 'regulars', people who we believed really lived in the woods next to the market.  We often would arrive before the sun came up thinking, we'll find a wonderful spot, only to find out people actually had slept in the lot overnight.  We saw people walking around with flashlights (who we nick-named the 'others') running to tables whose owners had started putting out their wares.  My guess is they were looking for the Hope diamond or something,,

      I too wrote a hub on yard sales, and I may just have to start a new one, or perk up the old one. 

      This was great, thanks for sharing!

      PS:  CJStone, too funny!  :)


    • CJStone profile image

      Christopher James Stone 

      13 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Next time you go to a yard sale (what we in the UK call boot sales or garage sales or, occasionally, garden sales) can you get me one of those Lithuanian crossoword puzzle books as I am starting a collection. Thank you.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      13 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Thanks for a tribute to a wonderful rite of summer! Not that I'm a YS but on weekend road trips, I'll stop at yard sales in small towns along the way. It's a nice break, I meet some really nice people, and more often than not, I'll buy at least one "unique" item as a souvenir of the trip, something I wouldn't find in my own area.

      It's not so odd that WE love to poke around in other people's cast-offs, but that those having the sale LET us!

      Personally, I wouldn't want the neighbors OR total strangers to know I'd been gullible (or dumb) enough to spend good money for certain items I've seen at yard sales. Far better to drop them off anonymously at Goodwill instead of sitting next to the cash box looking sheepish...and desperate!...while WE paw and cluck, and then leave without buying *anything*.


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