There’s an adrenaline rush that accompanies a particularly enticing score at a local garage sale.
Jenny Erb is all-business in these matters, using hunting terms such as “attack” and “snag” to describe her strategies.
“I go for the fun and the hunt — that’s a big part of it,” Erb said. “Also being able to snag some great deals.”
They could be board games and toys, vintage signs, home furnishings or name-brand clothes.
For local garage sale enthusiasts, yard sales provide the thrill of the pursuit of items that are far from trivial.
And in Columbus, the hunting grounds are plentiful.
After moving to Columbus from Wisconsin, Jenni Kiesler was taken aback by how many yard sales were going on locally compared to her home state.
“There are distinctly more garage sales here,” she said.
For Erb and other garage sale shoppers, yard sales are also family tradition.
As a child, Alissa Hodge began frequenting such sales with her mother.
“My mother handed me a candle,” she said, “and I turned it into a flaming torch.”
Preparing for the hunt
Just as there are many different garage sales, there are many strategies for finding the best ones.
Kimberly Van Osdol searches the newspaper, checking for sales on the days she can go.
“I’ll look to see where most of the garage sales are concentrated,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll just drive down main roads.”
Erb takes a digital approach.
After searching the sales in The Republic’s online classifieds, she enters the addresses into Google maps, creating a garage sale trail which she shares with friends.
“Start early in the mornings to avoid crowds and heat,” Kiesler advises. “Keep a running list of things you need.”
All of our experts hit the sales on Friday mornings.
As in a brick-and-mortar store, there are deal breakers for garage sale items. After all, an unusable item, no matter how cheap, can be a millstone around your neck. Look for clean, dust-free and hole-free clothes.
Hodge — who consistently shops for 3T to 4T sizes for her older son, Lucas — takes a look at the family selling the clothes to gauge how many kids might have gone through a pair of jeans or a shirt before she will purchase it.
Van Osdol keeps an eye toward reselling; she sells her finds, on occasion, at Picker’s Paradise.
If you have the capabilities to refurbish or upcycle an item, don’t shy away from buying items that need a little reworking.
When Kieseler purchased her prized yellow chandelier, it needed to be rewired. Her husband did just that, and now the same chandelier illuminates a bedroom.
The art of the deal
Once you’ve found items you want to purchase, don’t be afraid to ask for a lower price, Hodge said.
“My mom said, ‘Alissa, don’t say yes immediately. There’s always room for a bargain.’”
Set your personal price limits. Hodge won’t pay more than $1 for any kind of clothing.
Sometimes, you can bundle items together in price. If your three items tallied together would have cost $10, ask if the seller will take less.
Think your purchases through.
“Don’t feel like you have to buy something just because you went out,” Kiesler said.
Do treat yourself.
If you find an Anthropologie dress in your size — with the tags still on it — for $3, as Erb did, snap it up.
Our garage sale champs generally search with particular pieces in mind.
Van Osdol looks for primitive-style furniture, books and knick-knacks.
Erb, Hodge and Kiesler look for home furnishings, children’s clothes, furniture and toys.
“The things I’m looking for change with my seasons of life,” Erb said.
She scouts for clothes that will fit her two young sons in the coming months.
She also looks for specific items for friends.
“My brother-in-law has me looking for wooden chairs,” she said. “Another friend has me looking for a Bumpo” (children’s floor seat).
After pricing toddler alarm clocks to help wake her fussy child, Hodge decided to take her search to the garage sales.
While toddler alarm clocks retail for $35 to $40, she found one, mostly new, for $2, in her first day of searching.
Keeping it real
Once you’ve found your bargains, the next step is keeping them organized.
After cleaning items, Hodge organizes clothes in bins marked with size of clothing and the season for which they are appropriate.
When buying toys in advance of Christmas, she wraps them well ahead of the holiday. She also rotates out toys, pulling some out only for special occasions.
Van Osdel maintains a storage unit, with her found items organized in tubs.
“I’m kind of like a hoarder, but I sell stuff,” she said. “If I were to drag my stuff from the storage unit and dump it all over the place, I’d probably end up on TV.”