Saturday, May 2, 2009


“Bring boxes and gloves,” said the ad for an estate sale on Craigslist. “Be sure to come every day. New stuff will be unearthed from the bottom of the piles each day.”

How could we resist such an enticement? I checked the address—about two miles from home. We made our list of errands to run on Friday, with “Estate Sale” in the number one position.

I've been to a lot of sales. A LOT of sales! And I have never seen anything like this. The company running the sale posted a bunch o’ pictures here. It wasn’t just the thousands of items inside the house—every inch of the back yard was covered in stuff, piles several feet high. There were 3 or 4 outbuildings, full of stuff. Practically everyone shopping the sale could be seen to shake their heads and ask did you ever see anything like this? We were still looking around the first room when I heard another arrival say, “I wonder if people look at this and want to buy stuff, or if it makes them want to run home and get rid of everything they’ve got?”

We were there at least an hour, and it was fun—but we were awfully glad we had a spare bottle of water in the car to rinse off our hands afterward! We’d barely arrived when a young woman approached and asked if we were looking for anything in particular. I thought she might be working for the sellers and trying to steer customers through the maze. But actually she is a graduate student at one of the local universities, doing a paper on estate sales. She gave us her questionnaire, and we chatted on and off during our sojourn through Stuff City. In fact, I got one of my favorite quotes of the day from her. She was looking at one of the dozens of dolls that were strewn through the piles of heaven knows what, and I saw her arrange the arm and then take some pictures. “I kind of like the dolls,” she said. I agreed, saying they were like a macabre art piece. “Yeah—the victims of this guy’s obsession.”

A family group was poking through piles nearby. “Hey Grandpa, look!” the teenage boy exclaimed. He’d found some walkie talkies. Grandpa was appreciative. “I bet you could call Mars on those,” he said. Must have been BIG walkie talkies. When I got back inside I watched a mother holding a young daughter, maybe age two, looking at stuff in one of the bedrooms. The child was squirmy, and mom finally put her down, with a stern admonition: “Don’t touch anything! Dirty!”

We talked for a few minutes with the man running the sale. He said his family has been in this business for nearly 50 years. I'd be curious to know how many sales in that time have been as jam-packed as this thing was. Frankly, I admire them for being willing to take it on. “We brought 45 boxes of stuff down from the attic,” he told us. “Avon. One was full of face powder. They dropped one of them and it exploded all over the place.”

I think my husband managed to unearth the best thing in the whole darned place. Though the sale had started the day before, and we didn’t get there till after 10 a.m., so heaven knows what was already gone. Anyway, in a back corner of one of the outbuildings, behind a bunch of other stuff, he found this floor lamp that we both liked.

We think it's brass and will be pretty spiffy when it's been cleaned up and an interesting shade found for it. Here’s where I tried cleaning a spot.

Our other purchase here was some 50s vintage paperbacks (there were thousands to choose from). We couldn’t resist these covers…

…and look what they did with Tolstoy!
We resumed our errand-running, and there just happened to be another sale on the way to Home Depot. By now it was nearly noon but we stopped anyway, and found this Ansel Adams print we like.
The nice lady having this sale said her friends were bringing more stuff that evening, so I made this my first stop again in the morning. Her friends had come through. I picked up a lambswool sweater for felting
and two trellises that will enjoy living in a pot with some vines. Or maybe hanging out with Edward.
As I was looking around, another young woman arrived and started looking through the clothes. “I don’t know why I'm doing this,” she said. “I'm having my own sale this morning. My husband is making me get rid of stuff, and he’s going to think I’m crazy to buy more.” She was one of those people who, every time someone else tried to speak, would resume talking, mostly about how her husband was making her sell her stuff. After a few minutes a little girl about four years old came running up. “I told you to stay in the car,” the woman said. The child ignored her and walked up to me, holding out her hand. “What’s your name?” she asked me, completely self possessed. I shook her hand and told her my name (she was so formal I told her I was Mrs. H—rather than my first name), then asked hers. Katie. She proceeded to shop around the garage, with her mother bleating in the background, “Katie, I told you to stay in the car. Katie, don’t touch anything.” In a calm voice Katie replied, “I’m just looking,” and one second later we heard CRASH! Katie had dropped the lid to a teapot. Mom came rushing in. “Um, how much did you want for your teapot?” she asked. The young woman having the sale was so gracious—she took one of the matching handleless cups, put it on the top of the pot for a lid, and said not to worry about it, then started picking up pieces. The mom seemed to take it for granted that someone else would clean up the mess and went back to her shopping, yapping at her daughter from time to time. Katie continued to ignore her.

I'm only sorry I had my back turned when Katie dropped that lid. I'd give a lot to know if it slipped from her little hands, or if she did it on purpose.

The rest of the morning was very pleasant. I tooled through one neighborhood with dozens of sales, and managed part of another before I'd had enough. Chatted for a bit with the Harley-riding detective I remembered from last year, along with his nice wife. We got to talking about accents (my Missouri/Oklahoma/North Carolina/California mixture had him wondering) and he told me when he first left Iowa and went into the Marines, the other guys claimed they couldn’t understand his accent. “And they were from Texas!” Later I talked about gardening with a couple who have pretty much ripped out their front yard and relandscaped with veggies. I met up with some of the other regulars I haven’t seen for a while—Carol was buying a baby gate for her son and daughter in law and told me about passing up some golf clubs a few weeks ago that were priced at $25, which she thought was too high. Then she’d kicked herself for not getting them. But she’d just found the same thing for ten bucks, and she was gleeful. We nodded our heads wisely and agreed that if the price is too high, pass it up, because you’re going to see it on someone else’s driveway if you just wait.

Met some nice doggies, including Maggie, a lovely black lab.
She’s only 7 months old and was such a good girl. How come my dogs are never that calm? There was also lovely Lucy, who was so wiggly it was hard to get a picture of her wonderful blue eyes.

I finally held out my camera in front of her face and clicked. Then managed to pull it out of reach before she could give it a smooch!
Had to take a picture as well of the dad at this sale—he was so perfectly framed as he noshed on his breakfast. He said the frame was for a flat screen TV.
Our two days of garaging ended up with an outlay of $31.25. Besides the lamp, books, picture and trellises, I brought home:

A monkey for a door prize
A new fanny pack, required equipment when you go garaging.
Three wooden manikins to add to my collection. One turned out to be missing a foot, dang it, but maybe he can go decorate a pot in the yard or something.

A wooden yard bunny. He’ll have to try out different spots to find the exact right place.

A package of cute little round candles with a $16 Pottery Barn price tag on the bottom.
A clock to hang outside so I can time exercising in the pool. We get no rain here in the summer, so a clock will usually last several months outdoors. I know they make outdoor clocks, but for a buck or two I just get a fresh one each summer. This came from a sale with a lot of high-end stuff, so I suspect it may have been from someplace like Restoration Hardware.
From the same sale I got this wooden marble labyrinth game, and the nice son patiently went through his coffee can of marbles he was selling to find one small enough to go through the holes. So far I've managed to get all the way to hole number three…out of sixty!

The deal of the day came when I found a stack of clothing to augment my wardrobe. For fifty cents each I got a cute rayon shirt with matching pants—love the contrasting fabric used at the ends of the sleeves and pant legs, and for an inset pleat in the back of the shirt. I think I'll shorten the pants to crop length…

…Coldwater Creek pants…
…Liz Claiborne pants of a nifty silk and linen blend…
…and navy cotton Jones New York pants.
Fifty cents each for those brands is good, right? Well, it got even better when I got home and tried them on—and found this in one of the pockets!


  1. those are great finds!!! I love Lucy, what a pretty dog :-)

  2. I went to an estate sale that must have been the twin to the one you mentioned. It CURED me of going to estate sales, for about 5 years. Spooked a LOT of people!!! We wondered how the people had lived amongst the junk, and it was sort of sad, too. I like the "wide open spaces" of yard sales better, LOL...

  3. Love your story about little miss Katie! Part of the fun of yard sales is chatting with the people there. I doubt I would want to dig through that estate sale but you did find some nice things. I like the bunny. Would have snatched him up too! Sounds like you had a fun weekend!

  4. Quite an adventure and lots of good finds. That first sale sounds like my great aunt's house. I was a child when they died, so not sure who had to clean it out or anything, but it was piled high with stuff. She never threw anything away. There were stacks of magazines lining the floors like a

  5. You & I can now be twinsies: I have the butterfly outfit! I get very nice comments when I wear it.

    I will be going to MN again this summer to help my parents get rid of stuff; hopefully, we can prevent another estate sale like the one you went to! I still have some "weeding" of my own to do, & going to garage sales gets me going!

  6. I've also been to ALOT of sales in my day and I think yours takes the cake! xo Joan

  7. You had some fun at the sales! I love the bunny and would have bought that too. What stories you tell at your adventures. Thanks for playing along.

    I hope you'll link over to my blog next time in your post so others can come over to the party & see the other thrifty posts.

  8. Wow!! You certainly found alot for a little amount of money and then to find money in the pocket, what a bonus!
    Love the dog pics!

  9. you got paid to take those pants home, huh? how cool is that!

  10. mum and i are reknown for leaving cash in our pockets - be it clothes or bags. whenever we donate things, we always triple check all the pockets. whenever mum gives me a handmedown, she makes a big show of double checking all the pockets.

    you saving up that $1 for two really cool garaging items next week? i love finding out what you get every week.

    i'm dying to go to garage sales, but there's always SO MUCH TO DO on my weekends. =(

  11. Howdy Your Highness! Thanks for visiting my blog. I'm glad to have found yours. As a "later riser" I'm sure I miss out on a lot of good bargains. I'll just have to live vicariously through your finds.

  12. Wonderful treasures!
    Thank you for sharing!


  13. I enjoyed going along with you, this morning! What a fun post! You found some nifty things.

    Pat@Back Porch Musings

  14. A large lot of great finds. The doggies are very cute too. Debbie

  15. Great deals! Sounds like you had a lot of fun digging around.

  16. wow....some serious deals. :) thanks for stopping by my blog today!

  17. You got some great deals! After reading, though, I am thinking I need to clean out my basement! Linda

  18. Gotta love what they did with Tolstoy!

    That pair of pants paid for itself, didn't it? Great finds.

  19. As always, great stories! I especially like the one about Katie and the teapot. That sale would be enough to make me give up junking for good. I grew up in O.C. and cannot imagine where you find all these sales. I only ever found sales of tube socks and tupperware. Love your blog...

  20. I just knew the day would come when someone would pay YOU to take away some goodies!

    For me, it's fun to dig through places like your estate sale. I'm a pirate, of sorts, because I love looking for buried treasure.


I really love your comments. Thanks for coming along on my thrifty adventures!

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