As a kid, I always liked yard sales from the community sale in our church parking lot to the humungous annual event in Maple Shade, New Jersey. Of course, the prices are good, but more than that, there’s something about the friendly vendors, the assortment of items, the potential of what you might find.
While I am nowhere near the level of being a “yard sale junkie,” they have become a mainstay in my life. Here’s why.
Finding Unique Treasures
Like this Indian tapestry, which had I seen it in a store or magazine, I may have admired but never would have bought it. We got it for $25 at a yard sale. An Indian friend saw it hanging in our living room and said it would likely sell for $200 new. It gets tons of compliments and I never tire of looking at its kaleidoscope of colors and texture. I see an elephant in it. Sofie sees a bird. What do you see?
When I was a teenager, we bought a pre-owned stuffed bear for my little sister. We named him “Sleepy,” and I created a personality and a voice for him that sent her into fits of giggles. Sleepy lasted throughout my sister’s childhood, into my marriage (luckily I married a man not averse to talking animals) and into my daughter’s life. All that joy for a quarter.
Yes, yard sales offer cheap stuff but they also offer good stuff cheap. My husband found a brand new stainless steel set of grilling utensils for $5. Twelve bucks got us a small but good condition Step 2 kitchen set for Sofie. Several years ago we bought a Specialized mountain bike for $65 (a bicycle valued at several hundred dollars), and we made back most of the money when we recently resold it. Sofie has scored free toys, apparently, just by looking cute.
Keeping Stuff Out of the Landfills
Especially baby gear. Considering that most baby gear is made of plastic and plastics hog precious space in our landfills for more than five hundred years, giving them a second (and third or fourth) life makes perfect sense. Babies use stuff for such a short period of time, picking up items from yard sales is a great way to find gently used gear. This is not to say you won’t come across crappy stuff from families apparently averse to cleaning. But you can find the good stuff too. When I found out I was pregnant with Sofie in winter, I couldn’t wait until spring to hit the yard sales. Besides clothes, we acquired her baby bathtub, a wooden rocking horse, a bed rail, safety gates and cabinet locks, various toys and a jogger stroller… all from yard sales.
Meeting Your Neighbors
This one works especially well when you host a yard sale as we did a few weekends ago. It was our second “multi-family neighborhood yard sale and breakfast” in three years. Several new neighbors have moved to our block recently, and this was a great chance to finally converse with all of them. A neighborhood yard sale is such a fun way to clean house and clear out the clutter. People made some trades while getting to know one another over a potluck of homemade waffles, frittata, fruit and coffee. It’s the perfect event to engage kids as well. Sofie and two friends had a grand time operating a lemonade stand, which seemed to sell more than anyone else. They decided how much to charge, figured out how to make change and attracted more traffic by singing a “we’ve got lemonade” song.
I think this is one of the bigger appeals for me. I hate malls and indoor shopping plazas. Stale air, noise and crowds—yuck. But, somehow, you put the crowds and the price tags outside, and it changes everything. It’s casual, it’s fun and more connecting, the way a farmers market is more connecting than a supermarket. Large neighborhood yard sales are especially fun when you can wander on foot from house to house, passing people with coffee and a smile. It’s definitely better for the kids who love to skip around, “test” the merchandise and pet friendly dogs. What better way to spend a Saturday morning?