Bringing you the issues since 1986

View Online Print Edition


Frequently asked questions about garage sale-ing

When are the best times to go to garage sales?

Many of us wait not-so-patiently for garage sale season to begin in May. May and June are good months – as long as they’re not too rainy – as is September. The best time is Saturdays from 8:30 am to noon. There are bargains to be had in the rain as well, as we discovered last Saturday. Our finds? Costume jewellery (new) and a London Fog red, lined jacket with the $69 price tag still on it – for $5. When it’s raining, you’ll mostly get moving and estate sales, which are usually pricier and run by garage sale agents, who can sometimes be rough and unpleasant to deal with. Sunday’s a good day for sales advertised as Sunday only. For the two-day sales, the good stuff might be gone by the second day.

Albert, my garage sale companion and graphic designer for The Senior Times, shows off our purchases with me in Hampstead. Albert initially didn’t want the ed jacket, but I got him to try it on and he fell in love with it. He also found a beige Gap jacket. I picked up Parasuco jeans for $5, a Miss Sixty skirt for one of my girls in Havana, and several designer T-shirts. All of the above came to $20.

Which areas are best?

Hampstead, Westmount, Côte St. Luc, NDG, Montreal West. Hampstead especially has good prices and loads of clothes and toys, sometimes new from manufacturers and importers.

Should I bargain?

That depends on the price and how much you want the item. If the prices are low, say $1 to $5 for clothing and toys, it’s not cool to bargain, especially if the garage sale is for charity. But if you’re buying in quantity, you can always put ever ything you want aside and then ask that an amount be taken off the total. Usually the seller will do this without you asking. And the price ends up being much lower per item.

Is it better to go alone, with family, or with a friend?

Definitely go with a friend who loves garage sales as much as you do. My friend Albert Cormier, graphic designer for The Senior Times, and I have a system: We keep a small map of the areas we don’t know well, like Hampstead, and we get off to an early start Saturday mornings. We are fast and respectful of each other’s time, and we help each other find things we’re looking for. I’m always looking for toys and clothes for my Cuban friends. Often Albert will call me over when he’s found a box of small toys and help me pick out the best things. We even buy each other birthday presents at garage sales!

How will I stop myself and my family from buying things we don’t need?

The short answer is, “Don’t bring the grandkids.” The long answer: I have never regretted buying something at a garage sale. I have been garage sailing since my kids were babies and I firmly believe some of the best purchases I’ve ever made have been at garage sales. I outfitted my daughters when they were 2 and 4 from a garage sale run by a mother whose daughters were 4 and 6. It’s amazing how many gifts, still wrapped, people sell at garage sales. As for children’s clothes and toys, most of them look new or are new. I remember buying seven Barbies still in their boxes for children in Cuba – at $3 each.

At the Hampstead Sisters’ Blowout, held once a year in May or June, Albert and I purchased dozens of Indian blouses and scarves for his seven sisters as well as tablecloths and costume jewellery, all new and all for $1 or $2. New goods are perfect for birthday and Christmas presents.

I wanted to buy Charly, but, alas, he wasn’t for sale. I did buy a Chihuahua wardrobe ($5), for when Irwin lets me have another dog.

What’s the difference between garage sales, estate sales and moving sales?

Estate sales and moving sales usually offer more furniture and higher-priced items, such as antique knick knacks and costume jewellery. They have a more formal feel to them and prices are often marked. The best deals at estate sales and moving sales are towels and sheets – if it doesn’t bother you to sleep on someone else’s sheets. We have found new linens as well!

Will I find what I’m looking for?

If you’re looking for a particular item, you probably won’t find it. I remember we searched everywhere for a bicycle for Emily, the daughter of our Cuban friend Dr. Martin, who visited us for three weeks in June. We kept missing the bikes and couldn’t find anything to fit his daughter’s size. What we did find was a huge box full of Barbie furniture and accessories, all for $5. One week we found a lot of naked Barbies. The next week we found nothing but clothes. We spent the afternoon dressing them to send back to Cuba for every girl in Emily’s class. We also found a cap with “Emily” on it! The rule is, if you stop looking for it, you’ll find it. Dr. Martin sent us a picture of Emily playing with her Barbies and reported that she liked the new bike, but was in love with the dolls.

Barbara Moser has 30 years experience in garage sale shopping in west-end Montreal.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment