The Art of Garage Sales

I feel like my personalities change with the seasons.

Like, in the spring, Andy knows it’s time for Self-Reflective Brittany who wants to do things like try out a new religion or host an exchange student. I’m pretty sure Jesus was reborn during this time, so I’m like, let’s start meditating and opening our home to foreign teenagers to show them how awesome America is!

When summer rolls around, Self-Reflective Brittany is replaced with Bitter Cynical Brittany who feels sweaty and bloated all the time, hates her thighs and wishes Ohio would die in a fire. Ohio annoys everything, like my hair and elections, why do we even live here?

Thankfully, just as I am running out of thigh deodorant and four seconds from Miley Cyrus’ing my hair, fall rushes in like a giant Xanax. I feel aired out and slightly less suicidal, and suddenly Jillian Michaels Brittany shows up. Not like, the work-out kind of Jillian Michaels, but like, if Jillian Michaels was just super passionate about eating cold weather food, sweaters and decorating her house like the Martha Stewart Halloween magazine that you roll your eyes paying $10 for. Look at all these amazing ideas on Pinterest, my house is going to look amazing and not at all like three kids live here and everything is sticky!

Oh yeah, and Winter Brittany is kinda a blur, it’s mostly just me, driving around in my car singing Christmas Carols, drinking McDonald’s hot chocolate and eating frosting from the tub. It’s magical.

But for now, we’ll focus on Fall Brittany. Fall Brittany has recently become intrigued with the concept of garage sales. Which sounds like a fairly benign discovery, but for me, it’s a big deal. My anxiety is often triggered by feeling overwhelmed. Add to that my general distaste for having to dig through items lots of people touch, and yeah…. I can barely even shop at Kohls.

I own lots of quirky art, but I’m dying to get some really cool furniture pieces to fill my house, and also fit with my I’m mostly broke budget. But, if you go to the store, all the shelves and tables and credenzas and hutches are made of this weird cheapo wood substitute that lasts exactly three hours in my house until someone scuffs up the fake realistic finish and it’s ruined for life.


I mean, there are some crazy gorgeous real wood options at places like Pottery Barn or Anthropology or Crate & Barrel, and I would love to buy them all, just let me dip into this here ice bath for a good old fashioned organ harvesting.

So my options seem to be, 1. Wait for someone old to die and leave me all their furniture, or 2. Find some cool pre-owned pieces at garage sales.

The last few weeks I’ve been trolling around in my truck, listening to NPR and looking for the perfect deal. I feel like what separates me from those weirdos who go to garage sales to sift through people’s personal belongings and haggle over old VHS tapes, is that I do it listening to NPR, wearing hipster glasses, and making that face Edward makes when he’s reading Jacob’s mind when he’s a werewolf and can’t use words. So you, know, like pensive and probably troubled but also really chill and mysterious.

Regardless, I’ve learned a lot of things on my garage sale journey.

1. Clothing garage sales suck. No offense, but it’s super disappointing to GPS my ass out to your BIG MASSIVE MULTI-FAMILY OMG SALE EXTRAVAGANZA only to find it’s tables and tables of clothes. So if you see a silver truck driving by real slow and creepy-like, it’s me, scoping out your sale, making sure I’m not being Rick-Rolled by garment racks of your old prom dresses.

2. People sell gross shit at garage sales. Potty chairs, lingerie, boxers, jock straps, Avon, tooth brushes, half used bottles of lotions and/or massage oils. If you have these things and are wondering if maybe you could sell them to the general public, the answer is VOMIT.

3. Some people have garage sales not in garages. Like, I show up and I’m all, where’s the garage sale, and they’re all, it’s in the house help yourself? That’s a problem. It feels both rapey and like a robbery. I would love for your garage sale to be either in your open, well lit garage, or better yet, in your yard so we can avoid the awkward is this for sale or not dance.

Is this for sale?

No, sorry, it’s not for sale.

But it’s in the garage with all these other things for sale?

Right, I mean, it’s still my garage, so I store things in here, but it’s not for sale.

I’m just saying, it’s rude to tease people with better things in here that aren’t for sale, next to all the crap that is for sale.

4. People try to make eye contact with you while you judge their personal belongings. It feels uncomfortable and it’s how you get bullied into shame-purchasing their grandmother’s wedding night sheets. Honestly, I would prefer no personal contact at all. Like, it’d be awesome if you could just watch me through a series of webcams from your house, and I could pay you through one of those rad Zoltar machines from the movie Big.

5. Related: There is nothing more awkward than buying something legitimately for sale, then having to stand there like an asshole while I watch you pry said item from your screaming kid’s hands, and I walk away with it while your child runs after me scream-crying like Bernice chasing after her daddy in Hope Floats.

But, it wasn’t all used make-up and dirty coffee mugs. Three weeks and $105 later, I’ve been able to find some actual wood pieces I’m really excited to refinish.

Last night after the kids fell asleep, we settled in for a PawnPickersStorageHoardersWars marathon. We had just gotten to my favorite part of Hoarders, when the professional enters the hoard for the first time and is like, the fuck?! And then the homeowner is all, I don’t know what happened, I just bought a few things at a couple garage sales?

You hear that?

Maybe they just got overwhelmed by their Pinterest boards?

We’re one box of free kittens away from being on this show.

Chill out Andy, Fall Brittany thinks you need to embrace her frugal burst of creativity that’s saving you thousands of Non-Pottery Barn dollars and making our house super cute.

Sure, he acts annoyed, but I think he’s secretly psyched about my finds, I mean, look at the way his nostrils flare when he realizes he can’t fit his car in the garage anymore!

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  1. Tawny says

    Great pieces. All the garage sales in DE seem to be either clothing sales or someone that bought stuff at other sales, cleaned them up and is now selling them at PB prices. I did discover a great Flea Market type deal and they have a furniture barn full of treasures. Best part, the Amish make all the food. Homemade donuts and a table, yes please!

    • Brittany says

      I would love to find a flea market or something, but I just can’t seem to locate that in my area.

      Especially magical ones run by Amish donut makers.

  2. says

    Dude wtf! Do NOT go into someone’s house for a garage sale. That’s how you end up in a pit rubbing lotion on your skin so you make a nice jacket. Just say no.

    Look for estate sale ads in the newspaper. That’s where the money is. Granted, there’s a lot of crap in there, too. But with garage sales, you have, you know, *living* people who are keeping their good stuff for themselves and trying to pawn all their crap off on you. With estate sales, they’re dead, so it’s all on the block. The good, the bad & the ugly.

  3. says

    Ok so I am having a yardsale/garage sale tomorrow. I have put all the stuff under the parking awning…so that they dont have to actually come into my personal space. I have ocd…so getting ready for this shit has been agony… like agony. I am actually selling some big furniture pieces and my husband is all…just take pictures and show it to them and then if they want to buy it bring them in the house…because he is lazy and doesnt want to take them outside. I am like listen.. I am going to be home alone doing this shit..because suprise suprise he has to work tomorrow and if I bring a stranger into this house to look at furniture I will be killed murdered and no one will know tilll you come home and find my body in the house with no skin on it and the kids outside playing in the yard unsupervised on the trampoline. Im thinking of cancelling.. seriously… lol.

  4. Melissa says

    Seriously try Estate Sales. Usually you can get things super reasonably priced and GREAT antiques. My family is all in Ohio and my aunts are always going to estate sales and getting the coolest stuff.

  5. claire says

    Oh Ohio.. Since you have corn fields yonder in your part of the state & we do too (, I am assuming you have a Tractor Supply store somewhere? Go grab their tractor people newspaper. It is FULL of listings for sales & auctions plus they list items, so you can look for a listing of real wood before you head out.
    And always avoid eye contact. Always.

  6. Jen Smith says

    Amen. I would like to try out garage sales, but I hate being hounded by the people yelling at me to buy their crap. Leave me alone and let me pick through your stuff and judge your bad taste on my own time. Plus, I hate haggling, which makes me especially vunerable. I really should work on my people skills, I feel like I’m missing out.

  7. Kel says

    I have never bought ‘used’ things..never gone to Goodwill..or the like. I have had Garage sales…and it amazes me the things the Mr and I thought “NO one is gonna buy those boots that your Gma bought you 16 years ago..brand new shape but totally not my style..but were in style..back in the aqua net 80’s days. they were the first thing to go! …I love hearing from the few ‘garage sale’going friends I have..what they find..and what they paid! (maybe you could make that a part of your’s interesting…) For ex: what did you pay for the furniture pieces (which thanks 2 Lara on GMA…has shown even anti garage sale me that you can find good junk and make some great, unique pieces from them…I vision that from the stands you found…prices? Maybe this freaked out of used stuff girl may look for some good pieces of I have a super crafty mom in law..who loves refinishing..painting..and is a total Martha Stewart minus the jail term…:)

  8. says

    You lost me at refinishing. I have a hard enough time finishing something, let alone refinishing.
    That being said, I loved this because:
    1) I, too, and very seasonal mood person. My favorite color even changes with the season.
    2) Garage sales kind of freak me out.
    3) Oh, Bernice!

  9. Mary says

    LOVE the idea of garage sales, HATE going to them.

    You got some really cute pieces. What are you going to do with them? There is a blog called hue-ol-ogy that does awesome distressing paint techniques. And this lady named Annie Sloane makes chalk paints and waxes that make distressing easier and GORGEOUS. I can see those nesting tables in lime green. *LOVE* a lime green punch in a house!

  10. says

    I love the nightstand and dresser! Totally worth the garage sale creepiness. If you want to ratchet up your finding awesome crap for cheap head to Craig’s List. We have found so much stuff there but it definitely adds to the “are we going to get murdered while we look at a coffee table for $12?” feeling.

  11. Louisiana Meredith says

    This is where I spewed Diet Coke everywhere: “IT’S LIKE WE LIVE IN LORAX TIMES. WHERE ARE THE FUCKING TREES, DUDE!?”

    Super finds, though….don’t forget to share the restoration pics!

  12. says

    I think you are more likely to find a full set of matching furniture by going to garage sales than buying it at Pottery Barn. They NEVER have everything you need to complete a set. Assholes.

  13. says

    I just love this. You had me at “opening your home to foreign teens”. I was laughing straight through “no, that’s not for sale”…but THEN you throw out a “Hope Floats” reference!! I thought I was the only one who saw that movie. I tip my hat. That was awesome!

    Oh, and I hate garage sales. I’m afraid I’ll get bedbugs…even from a wooden table. I have issues.

  14. Shelly says

    I’ve been reading your goodness for just about a week. I’m not even sure exactly how I stumbled on this little gem….BUT, I love this blog. I’ve read through lots of your older posts and I thoroughly enjoy it every time. Thanks for being you and know that you now have your newest fan, at attention! :)

  15. says

    I have similar seasonal personalities. I’m getting into the fall one right now, which is the calm after the bitch storm of summer. Summer in the South is not fun for a curvy girl.

    I, too, feel the same way about clothing sales. I’m a big girl, so I can never find any clothes to fit me at garage sales and if that’s all they have I’m a little pissed that I had to park my effing car a mile up the street, on the side of a busy road, and trek down a hill (and back up) to find tables full of giveaway t-shirts and baby clothes. Thanks, but no thanks!

  16. says

    Funny- I have been in the same mood- since we moved, I decided it would be fun to go around to charity shops and thrift stores looking for character furniture pieces and I decided to get a new set of dishes by collecting random pieces of cast off china sets. I thought it would be all quirky. But, now that I am living in a whole other country- a really really old one, I find that they also have a few fabulous items amongst a bunch of crap. Except that their crap is even older than our crap in the US was…. and, I dare say, even nastier. It’s an adventure….

  17. Heather says

    The weirdest thing I’ve seen for sale at a garage sale? Like 500 expired condoms. She claimed she used to be a distributor or something. Wonder if they sold…

  18. says

    So, as the great Texas pop/rock/indie band says “Come Back to Texas” after a girl left for Ohio. Seriously. Twice the sweat factor, some places don’t have humidity (Hello West Texas) and our garage sales are 3x creeper.

    And by creeper, I mean the garage sales that I throw in the driveway of my best friends house, selling crap that no one, I mean, no one should actually buy. My mom was a hoarder (yay! childhood underwear FTW) so I just emptied out a room and decided to sell.

    People by some funky shit. Most memorable sale: cabbage patch doll HEAD (just the head to the doll, not like an actual doll. it was still in the box… maybe the lady had fantasies…). We even packed up her purchase in an odd canvas bag that had a creepy clown with a big red bow painted on it. She was actually pleased.

    For more deals check facebook. People in my community set up a county wide buy-sell-trade group where people sell their own crap… some of it will make you go WTF, but there are good deals. I scored a bunch of stuff for my classroom that way.

    Oh and you owe me a glass of wine since I spit out most of my glass while reading this. Cheap, moscato will work. Oh and a 18 inch straw please (which are real; my grocery store sells them and I totally save a glass and just put one in the bottle). WINNNG!

    • says

      and as I read this, I realized that I’ve had too much wine and not enough sleep to be posting on here, but you can get it translated on google. or wait for me to be sober enough to fix it…

  19. says

    Hi Brittany – met you at the Ohio-Mi Blogger meet-up this summer and am now a daily reader. Love your writing style and hope to one day find my writing niche as well. Great stuff (and I can totally relate to the garage sale story). The pieces you bought are great – have fun refinishing!

  20. Lisa says

    You just laid out all the reasons exactly why I will never go to a garage sale in explicit detail. My skin crawls at the thought. Other people’s junk just skeeves me out.

    My mother, however, is a lover of the crap sale. Goes out three days a week buying shit she doesn’t need which she then tries to pawn off on me. One time? Used Solo cups. She paid ten cents a piece. I was like “Ma? Have you been to a real store?”

  21. jen says

    If you change your mind on that credenza thingy (currently in white) let me know and I’ll take it off your hands…

    Seriously, great finds. I’ve scored some awesome shit at GoodWill and thrift stores too. The paint dept is my best friend and if you’re looking to glam up anything, try the Martha Stewart metallics paint at Home Depot…Thundercloud – serious awesomeness in a jar.

  22. says

    I just discovered ebay, which is one giant on-line garage sale. Today I stumbled across a guy trying to sell back issues of “Parade” magazine (uh huh, the one that comes for free in your Sunday paper). I would not have been surprised if he also invited me to bid on a half-eaten package of baloney.

    My husband refinishes furniture as a hobby. He uses a heat gun to strip the original finish. It is much safer and less noxious than the chemicals. Here’s a bonus fact- he got the heat gun at a pawn shop. Turns out the pawn shop is an excellent place to buy tools, should you need any on your refinishing journey.


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