the method to my madness.

Whenever I share photos of the haul from a Saturday spent garage saling I get lots of comments from people who say they wish they could find such great stuff themselves.

So I thought I’d share some garage saling tips with you guys today.  Because there definitely is a method to my madness.

Tip no. 1 – shop neighborhood sales.

This is a biggie.  It’s my number one tip because it’s definitely the most important one.

I like to focus on neighborhood sales for the simple reason that it’s efficient.  My sister and I can often hit 50 – 60 sales in one morning at a neighborhood sale because they are all close together.  The more sales you visit, the greater your chances of finding something good.  I’d say there is about one good sale for every 10 or so lame ones.  You know, the ones where you wonder why the people didn’t just rent a dumpster.

If you don’t know whether or not there are any neighborhood sales in your area, try checking the Craigslist garage sale postings frequently.  Some of our neighborhoods are still really old school and post ads in the newspaper too.  Once you find them, be sure to keep track of when they are held.  Most neighborhoods stick with the same weekend (like the 3rd weekend in August for example) every year.

There are two distinct neighborhood garage sale seasons here in the Twin Cities.  The spring season starts the last weekend in April and runs until the end of June.  The sales totally dry up by the 4th of July and tend to not resume again until late August and then run through the end of September.  I’m trying to wait patiently for them to kick in again this year.

Tip no. 2 – the early bird gets the worm.

I can’t stress this one enough.  The good stuff goes fast.  You have to get out there as soon as the sales open.  In general we usually find our best buys before 10 a.m.  After that the finds are hit or miss.

Tip no. 3 – shop the first day.

Everything I said above also applies to shopping the first day of a sale.  As you all know, I have a day job.  Every once in a while I can take a Thursday or Friday off work to get to one of the sales that starts on those days, but for the most part I stick with ‘Saturday only’ sales.

Tip no. 4 – going back for something.

At the Linden Hills sales earlier this year I purchased three large pieces of furniture plus two chairs at the very first sale we stopped at that morning.  Clearly all of that would have filled up my sister’s SUV and we would have been done for the day, which was not an option.  So instead I asked the proprietor if I could come back for everything later in the day.  I’ve done this quite a few times and I have yet to have anyone refuse to allow it.

However, if you’re worried about whether or not your stuff will still be there when you come back I have a great tip for you.  Take just one drawer (or shelf) with you.

Brilliant, right?  I learned that tip from my garage sale mentor’s sister.

If you take a drawer there is no chance the person can sell the piece out from under you.

Also, be sure to make note of the address and get the proprietor’s phone number.

Tip no. 5 – study the map ahead of time.

Most of the neighborhood sales around here provide a map and a listing of the sales.  Oftentimes they also include either a little blurb from the seller about what they have, or a chart of some kind indicating whether they have kid’s clothes, baby stuff, furniture, antiques, etc.  In most cases (although not always) the map and listing is available online in advance of the sale, usually at the neighborhood’s website.

For an example, check out this link to see the map and listing from the Linden Hills sales last May.  The sale we went to first was the one that listed “Vintage furniture, linens & books. Some small antiques.”  And that’s where I scored all of that furniture!

So if possible, study the map ahead of time.  Find the sales that have the sort of items you are looking for and be sure to head to those first.

Tip no. 6 – when all else fails.

When all else fails, money is no object, and you just can’t find any neighborhood sales, it’s time to head to your favorite outdoor antique market instead.  We have quite a few of these in our area and next weekend is one of the best, Oronoco Gold Rush.

My sister and I plan to head there again this year.  We don’t usually buy a lot because the prices are definitely higher than garage sale prices, but we do enjoy checking it all out.

And if nothing else, we’ll definitely come home with some homemade fudge.

I hope some of these tips were useful to you.  Do you have a favorite neighborhood sale in your area?  Or maybe an outdoor antique market that you always like to visit?  Anybody else going to Gold Rush this year?  If so, I’d love to hear from you in a comment.

14 thoughts on “the method to my madness.

  1. Great tips for sales! Did us know that there is an app for your phone called Yard Sale and it pulls in listings from Craigslist and shows them two ways, by map and by listing. I use it when I list my estate sales I’m going to on Saturday, sometimes there is a family run estate sale listed!. And one thing for all of us folks that live in cities where there are a lot of new burbs, and transferees, get to know the names of the older neighborhoods in the city, in Dallas there are ‘subcities’ in, for instance, east Dallas the neighborhoods are known to long time residents such as Casa Linda or Little Forest Hills. Once you know the older neighborhoods you will find the treasures!


  2. Unless the weather is 90ish degrees with unbearable humidity, I plan on heading down to Oronoco! We always pack a cooler full of water and cut fruit just in case we need some quick hydration and energy.


  3. We go to a flea market (antiques and collectables only), the third Sunday every month starting in April ending in October. We find some good deals but we go and pay the early bird admission price and get there right before the sun comes up! Some shop by flashlight, but we wait for daylight. We have to leave home at 3:00 am to get there, but we usually find good stuff. If you wait until 8:00 am to show up you will not find much! Some folks do a quick run the first time through to try to snag the deals. It’s a good time!!


  4. Wow, thank you fr all these helpful tips. However, I got to ask, is everyone in your neighborhood having garage sale? Getting in 60 sales just in the neighborhood, wow! I love the great finds you have posted here. Thanks again for sharing such great tips.


    1. Well, not my neighborhood, but the neighborhoods that hold garage sales frequently have even as many as 80 -100 homes participating. If you check that link that I posted, the Linden Hills neighborhood had about 75 homes participating this year. Garage saling is a very popular sport here in the Twin Cities!


  5. Thanks for the tip on taking a drawer and leaving the rest of the dresser! We lived near the Twin Cities for a few years and the garage sales were awesome! We’re now in the Black Hills and we have ‘city-wide’ sales that are fun. The best is spending the day with a good friend!


  6. I so wish I lived in the US. Here in the U.K. we don’t have garage sales organised like this. In fact we don’t have garage sales full stop. And that’s a real shame as it sounds like a lot of fun and an opportunity to locate some great finds. Craigslist is really poor here in the U.K. too. I have to search charity (thrift) stores although some charities do now have large warehouses where they sell stuff but pricing can be high. There are antique markets too but again, pricing is high although they are open to negotiation. We do have ‘car boot’ (read ‘car trunk’) sales but usually it’s a lot of junk that’s for sale and you rarely find any good stuff! The hunting for stuff is still fun though! I’d love to try and arrange a garage sale in my neighbourhood…….I may just do that 😬


    1. Oh bummer. It would be very hard to do what I do without garage sales and Craigslist. Do you have estate sales in the UK? Technically an estate sale here is held when someone dies and all of the stuff that family members didn’t want is being sold. Although the meaning has stretched to include selling off a household of stuff when the owners are moving into senior housing of some kind too.


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