You have entered into a wonderful gathering place designed to unleash the Diva Spirit, highlight talents, push creativity to its limits, and explore the wonderful, zany world of thrift and frugal decorating. The possibilities are limitless. An endless supply of bargains and choices are at our disposal, and that is what makes the journey along the tattered highways of thrift so compelling.
This site was designed as a place to share garage sale tales, learn where to find cheap deals, understand the difference between vintage and antique, experience the thrill of thrift store treasures, become skilled at fixing broken parts, and discover the secrets that can turn a frumpy house into a fabulous home.
On a larger scale, this site is a place where women can converse with one another, share their experiences, and have a voice. In addition, you will learn about my journey through the thrift world as well how to create a home that honors the Diva in all of us.
Thrift Talk Diva
The Warrior Spirit within…
Why I Call Myself A Diva
When I was growing up in the fifties and sixties, I was caught in the middle of two ambiguous eras where strong female role models were just becoming the norm. However the movement toward a more independent, self-actualized woman was beginning to percolate beneath the surface. This trend, interestingly, was reflected in the fashions of the day and nudged along by the ever-progressive motion picture industry. Here, among the drawing boards and fabric bolts of Hollywood design studios, life began to imitate art when Marlene Dietrich created a furor wearing pants in the 1930s film Morocco. Garbo soon followed suit, and the rest was another cornerstone in female history.
But the Diva who really touched my soul was Katharine Hepburn. Throughout her film career Kate maintained her fierce independence, took full ownership of her controversial label, was quick to challenge convention, and loathed labels and inequity.
When asked, in an NBC interview, why she wore pants the outspoken actor proclaimed, I just had good timing. The times fit me. Pants came in, low heels came in, and the terrible woman came in…who spoke her mind.
Kate extolled with feisty abandon her beliefs in education, in human sexuality and birth control and applauded women’s rights. Katherine Hepburn was a Diva. A warrior. A woman who savored the moment and danced to her own rhythm.
Although growing up in the shadows was the norm for my generation, strong, vibrant and daring women were emerging. Jacqueline Kennedy epitomized the strength of the sixties woman and was indeed a soldier in both fashion and fact. Gloria Steinem, despised and revered, was and is an unquestionable testament to the pursuit of the feminine.
These women were a few of the many role models that nudged me away from the security of a predictable life and comforts of a mundane existence.
During those exciting yet turbulent years, women burned their bras as a symbol of a female society unwilling to be harnessed to an outdated plow. The movie industry, quick to imitate life, awakened that restless seed within me as I passed from the spring of my youth into the summer of my adolescence.
I was mesmerized by movies that influenced the wide-eyed teen that I continued to be. But it wasn’t until the eighties that I began to see the seeds of the strong, warrior female emerge.
Movies like Beaches and Steel Magnolias are still apologetically referred to today as “chick flicks”, ignoring or diminishing the power of their titles or the mettle of their characters. To me, these films captured the Diva character, embracing and intertwining the beguiling spirit of the feminine with the resolve of the warrior.
We need to recognize and honor the fact that heroes are not singularly made on battlefields or boardrooms, heroes appear in the bedrooms of the sick and within the written words of children’s storybooks. Heroes are the women who went to the factories when the men went to war. The silent combatants were the women who were the gatekeepers of the underground railroads.
Yesterday women sheltered the persecuted, today they shelter the abused. Heroes are the women who entered the male bastions and broke the glass ceilings.
Some women find their paths early and lead rich, full lives. Others discover their missions latter and revel in their new-found bliss. And some fallen warriors never open themselves up to life’s possibilities.
In reflecting on our unique and individual journeys, I am reminded of Viking runes; the smooth and ancient hieroglyphics said to foretell ones cosmic direction. There is one stone in the bag of 27 fortuitous messages that is blank. Although that rune is disappointing when first received, it is the most powerful and promising of all the runes. It is said to be the pregnant rune . . . the harbinger of all possibilities. In choosing this rune the Diva Warrior learns to honor the power of the unknown, and develops the courage and faith necessary to step into the void.
I never attended a garage sale until I began my secondary career as a thrift diva. But once I got started, I realized that they are one of the best ways to find bargain pricing on just about anything you need – as long as you aren’t in a hurry to find it!
That’s right. No other source, not even Goodwill, the Salvation Army or your favorite flea market sells stuff as cheap as people who are purging, cleaning out closets, moving or settling an estate. Which is why garage sales are always on my “hot list.”
Granted, if you’re shopping for a specific item, you may not find it on any given day no matter how many garage sales you hit. But, then again, even if you don’t find what you came for, chances are you’ll find something else you can use at a price that’s negligible – sometimes even free!
Beyond that, garage sales are a blessing for those with babies and small children. Why? You can stop the constant “baby needs it” cash outflow by letting other people’s kids be a steady supply of new-to-your kids toys and clothing.
Here are eight of my best tips and tricks for garage sale success:
1. Timing Matters.
- Most garage sales occur on the weekend starting on Friday, as early as 8:00 a.m., and run through Saturday or Sunday. (Although not as many are held on Sundays.)
- Early birds have been known to show up an hour and a half early (yes, at 6:30) so if your heart is set on an advertised item, plan to arrive early. However, be courteous. If the sale is not open, wait in your car. Don’t knock on the door at 6:00 in the morning. (The sellers may have been up until 3:00 a.m.)
- When shopping garage sales go on the first day. The good things will go first and prices can still be suprisingly low.
- Estate sales are often houses full of items. Since the merchandise is usually better quality, it will also be more expensive. You will find better bargains if you wait until the end of the last day.
2. Shop late and bargain to save money.
- Most of the time, the better deals are found at the end of the sale when sellers are faced with the prospect of hauling their stuff back inside or to the thrift store drop-off center.
- Bargain harder at the end of the day when there is less opportunity for the seller to get asking price.
- Basically prices are always negotiable at garage sales. You may not get it, but it never hurts to ask.
- Buy multiple items to get a “bulk” rate.
- Early in my thrifting “career” I snagged a sterling silver butter dish for $5. Strangely enough, many sellers do not price items, seem indifferent to how much money they make, and will essentially let you name your price even early on in the sale — so aim low.
3. Plan your route to save time and gasoline.
- Pick one promising sale to visit first, and plan the rest of your stops to flow out from your first stop.
- Shop at Subdivision Sales. Homeowners band together to offer house-to-house sales all on the same day. What a boon!
- Look up sales online in advance, but be aware that many people only advertise garage sales via signs posted around the neighborhood and on major streets the morning of the sale. So anticipate that whatever the route you’ve planned – you’ll likely end up with a lot of small detours.
- In the height of the garage sale season, plan to visit only one general area each week. Driving ten miles out of your way for one sale that may or may not be any good isn’t a productive use of your time or gas money.
4. Choose your neighborhoods wisely.
- For the discerning shopper, patronize the upscale neighborhoods. Yes, they might be a little pricy, but that is where the nicer things are found.
- A good rule of thumb is to haunt the middle class neighborhoods. They typically offer the best ratio of good stuff to good prices.
5. Choose your sales wisely.
- Moving Sales are the best places to get deals because people are limited by time deadline and how much they can move.
- Estate sales are best for higher end items, but you’ll pay higher prices as well.
- Ordinary garage sales are a crapshoot.
- Cruise the Internet and pick out the best ones by reading the ads on Craigslist, although I’ve found that you never know until you get there and take a look.
- To save time, simply cruise by uninteresting looking sales. You might miss some good things hidden in boxes, but at the height of the season, there are so many sales and limited time.
- If you’re looking for a specific item, like an antique dresser, you can try emailing and calling all the people who have actually posted ads in advance and seeing if anyone is selling that item. If so, they might be willing to set it aside for you until a certain time (say, 8:30 for a garage sale that starts at 8:00).
- Set a budget before you head out the door.
- Avoid buying things just because they are a great deal.
- Be honest with your time and talents. For example, unless you love to refinish furniture, you’re unlikely to suddenly take up the hobby and that shabby chic chair will be collecting dust in your garage for quite a while.
- For sales with unpriced items, make sure to ask about prices before you let yourself get attached to things.
7. Shop with a friend.
- Be careful not to compete with them for every thing you find . . . you just may loose a friend. Rather, consider someone with strengths you lack.
- If you aren’t good at bartering . . . bring someone who is.
- Bring someone who knows more about an area (furniture, glassware, jewelry) than you do.
- If you drive a small car, enlist a friend that drives a pickup truck!
8. Loose the great expectations mentality
- There will be days when you don’t find anything you like or can afford.
- You are under no obligation to stay any length of time at a sale. There are too many out there to waste time at a sale that has nothing to offer you.
And now, let the garage sale fun begin!!
When you’re planning a garage sale spend some time deciding how to price your items. Garage sale pricing is an art form . . . one that takes some planing and a realistic evaluation of your inventory.
When pricing keep these rules in mind:
- If your merchandise is priced too high, it won’t sell.
- If it is priced too low, the money you make won’t be worth the time you spent setting your garage sale up and selling for two or three days.
Here are some guidelines that I’ve developed, based on my experience and tips I picked up from traditional retailers:
- It’s hard to say what a used item is really worth. Whatever you decide on, leave room so that you can come down 25% to 50% and still make a profit.
- Try to think of the type of buyer that would be interested in individual peices and how much they’d be willing to pay.
- Be creative with pricing. . . Go WILD. I’ve used the “buy one, get one free” promotion to move smaller items or common things like clothing or plastic containers.
- Announce ’blue light special’ on certain items that might not be moving.
- Mark things down as the sale progresses.
- Go for the unusual. Tell your next customer that they’re the 25th shopper and entitled to a 25% discount. You’ll find that others will chime up and ask for the discount. Tell them that it will apply if they buy 5 or more items.
- Start an email sheet to inform your customers of your next WILD sale.
Price it higher if:
- It is the first day of your sale
- You are willing to keep it
- It has real collectible value or is vintage or antiques
- Know the value of the item at auctions like eBay
Discount your pricing if:
- It’s the last day of your sale
- You are relocating and holding a moving sale
- The item isn’t selling or is an item that doesn’t sell well at yard sales
With the downturn in the economy, thrifting has become the new American pastime allowing you to incorporate cheap but chic decor and fashion into your life. Across America hundreds of thousands of treasure seekers attend garage sales, yard sales, rummage sales, flea markets and estate sales to pick through other people’s stuff to find BARGAINS. This grass roots phenomenon has been compared to the modern– day gold rush as evidenced by the ever so popular Antique Road Show.
- You save money: buying reusable, quality products is less expensive
- You conserve natural resources: decreasing energy and raw material consumption helps the planet
- You eliminate waste: sensible consumption frees up natural resources for other worthwhile purposes
- You help others recycled clothing and household items are also sent to developing countries
- Customers also benefit by getting access to quality used goods at a great value.
- The poor and indigent benefit from food and shelter
- Customers also benefit by getting access to quality used goods at a great value.
- The poor and indigent benefit from food and shelter
- Individuals in developing countries around the world can now create their own marketplaces in which to conduct commerce.
- As a result, other individuals in these countries have a resource where they can find used, affordable merchandise.
To The Planet
- We’re doing our part to save our planet from the 20-billion pounds of used clothing and textiles tossed into landfills each year.
- One thrift store chain (Savers) and its recycling program alone prevented 280 million pounds of unsold merchandise from ending up in landfills last year by reselling to domestic and international people in need.
- Can you believe that the average North American throws away 67.9 pounds of used clothing and rags into the garbage? This results in over twenty billion pounds (or more than 9.09 billion kilograms) of used clothing and textiles tossed into landfills each year. When you donate to or shop at thrift store, increase the re-use of goods and help the environment. So says Don Ruehs Start you own High Profit Thrift Store http://startthriftstore.com/index.html
There are several things to consider when grouping collections.
- Collections make eye-catching statements when grouped using odd numbers. Stick to three to five items. More than five pieces tend to be too distracting, unless it is a very large grouping that will be viewed collectively as one piece.
- Spacing is critical when arranging multiple items. Although most collections are initially viewed as a whole, there needs to be enough space between each item to allow an admirer to also observe each item separately.
- Vary the heights of the objects so that the eye flows easily around the collection. If the objects are the same size, think about placing some of them on risers of different heights.
The large antique horse at the top of the picture was purchased at a garage sale in Michigan years ago. When I moved to Colorado I realized I needed to work with the vaulted ceilings that graced the living room and dining room areas. To create height, I hoisted this wonderful old carousel piece onto a vintage hutch (from my mother’s farm) and initially displayed him all by his lonesome.
Over time I found his other two companions and two different thrift venues. The one on the right was snapped up at a 75% off clearance table at The Great Outdoors. And, the one on the right was a garage sale reject that I bought for a few dollars along with her broken ear and tail. I loved her old wounds and chose to display her just as she was.
Together the three make a great arrangement atop my dining hutch, and add the height I needed to fill up the tall ceiling space.
These three charming hats grace a bureau in a guest room of my girlfriend’s house. She has a knack for finding vintage items and displaying them with nostalgic grace. And note that she has used parts of a fence post to display her bonnets.
She has also incorporated two other elements of artful arrangements; an odd number of hats was used, and she varied the heights to create visual interest.
And finally, a simple raised bowl holding three different textured balls makes a simple but elegant display.
…Used Clothes, Furniture and Household Stuff
I have been buying thrift for thirty years. At first it was because I was a single mom on a fixed income. I sure wasn’t born frugal. I didn’t even want to be parsimonious (or know what it meant for that matter) . I learned to thrift through necessity.
Actually, for a long time I thought that I had been born a Diva; but life proved me wrong. I had to earn that status…but that is another story. Like all aspiring Divas I wanted nice things in my home. I wanted to look good. I wanted to dress the part. And…I loved to shop. So, what was I to do?
Then someone told be about thrift stores. Well that started it. Soon I discovered garage and yard sales, flea markets and rummage sales. And after I got comfortable with that level and buried my feelings of intimidation, I started haunting estate sales and auctions. Wow…what a revelation! I was smitten, but I couldn’t share my newfound addictions with anyone because thrifting was not acceptable thirty years ago. People weren’t earth conscious or intent on going green. However, times do change. It has been many moons since I have stepped into a retail store though today I can well afford to.
What I can’t afford to do is waste money. I can’t abide by putting more stuff, unnecessarily, into our landfills. It’s not so much that I’m a diehard green proponent; it is more that I just can’t stand the thought of throwing out all that packaging that wraps new merchandise away just to get to the main ingredient.
Case in point; This room diffuser comes wrapped in plastic, rubber and cardboard…which are all thrown away! The only part that is used is the bottle, scented oil and the reeds. Not only is the amount of packaging absurd, but the glass bottle, rubber topper and reeds are eventually thrown away as well.
If this item was purchased at a thrift store, very often the packaging is off the item; however the product itself is still good.
I can’t justify throwing a perfectly good shirt or pair of pants away when someone less fortunate than I can use it. And, I can’t see spending the money when no one notices.
Note: Talk about clothes…washable…OK.
Collections are more effectively displayed when grouped together and arranged artfully. They can be tucked and arranged in small, unusable spaces to create interest.
This grouping of classic car prints was purchased at a garage sale in Michigan for three dollars apiece (sans frames).
Capturing the nostalgia of the twenties and thirties when the auto was king was important to me, which is why I have hauled this grouping around the country whenever I move. It recalls the grandeur of the auto era and brings a little bit of my Michigan upbringing into my Colorado home.
The pictures set off a narrow area that is behind a banister and previously only displayed the unsightly wall switches.
When furniture and décor are mixed and matched, it expresses the individuality and creativity of the homeowner. The object of decorating on a budget is to create an overall effect. Flaws and mars and mars on furniture and decor can be interesting and typically overlooked by those viewing a room in its entirety.
Not only is an eclectic look fun but it also perfect for people who love to thrift. I mix antique with contemporary and expensive with cheap. The overall look is trendy and interesting . . . and my home, over time, has cost me nothing to decorate.
In this arrangement see if you can pick out the most expensive piece of pottery and which ones I actually picked up at thrift stores and flea markets for under ten dollars.
The black piece in the foreground is actually a lovely piece of Santa Anna pottery that I purchased in Santa Fe, NM as a birthday gift for my husband. The Zebra stripped urn was eight dollars, the pitcher to its left was four dollars, the southwest urn behind that was seven dollars and the large art deco vase to the right was twelve dollars.