What do Barb Tobias (The “Thrift Talk” Diva), Tori Spelling and Carol Burnett have in common?
I was stunned to learn, after reading numerous reports on People.com, Omg.com, and Thefrisky.com, that real celebrities were raising serious money through holding all types of sales; garage sales, tag sales, yard sales, porch sales, divorce sales, downsizing sales, moving sales…and are now moving into the corridors of high-rise apartment buildings where city dwellers are holding “lobby sales”. And, here I thought that this Thrift Talking Diva had the corner on making good money at my fancy Diva Sales.
Yikes! Little did I know that I was going up against the likes of Tori Spelling, Scott Baio, Teri Hatcher, and Pamela Anderson. I’d been snookered and outclassed. And, I would have to imagine that my stuff was probably pretty paltry in comparison to their stuff.
Sure, I’ve yakked for years about the benefits of holding tag sales and purging homes of unwanted and unloved things. And, I’m still a strong advocate for the yearly cleanse (because it’s the only cleanse that’s capable of making a fast buck). But, I was still having trouble wrapping my arms around celebrities hawking their junk … like the rest of us.
I kept asking myself, “Why would outrageously wealthy superstars hold yard sales?” So, I started doing a little celebrity snooping, and, voila, Diva Detective was born. True, most stars hold sales through auction houses, but a few, such as Tori Spelling, Scott Baio, Teri Hatcher, and Pamela Anderson actually worked their own sales, albeit with professional and agent assistance. Many of them do it for charity; however, Tori actually pocketed the cash.
Star Willie Aames sold off his belongings at his suburban Kansas City home. Apparently dozens showed up while Aames bargained with treasure-hunters and even signed autographs. Hundreds of people stood in line to snap up movie memorabilia, taxidermy, antiques, artwork, furniture, and even his piano. And, the shocker…his production crews were even there to film a television documentary.
A cable network recently shot a pilot for the project, titled “Celebrity Garage Sale,” staring actress Illeana Douglas. Apparently the hook is that Douglas is on a mission to help her famous friends get rid of their unwanted junk by holding, you guessed it, a garage sale. They’ve brought in Tom Arnold to mix it up because his garage sale is said to have raised $5,000 for Camp del Corazon, a summer camp for children with heart disease.
Scott Baio’s sale raised funds as well as awareness for mandatory newborn screening in all fifty states after his daughter tested positive for GA1, a metabolic disorder. Fortunately, she is fine, after it was discovered that her results were a false positive.
Teri Hatcher raised $20,000 for her favorite charities through an invite-only, fifty-dollar entrance fee, yard sale and served Buttercream Cupcakes & Coffee to her customers!
And, Pamela Anderson was reported have sold one of her homes with all of the contents with the proceeds going to PETA.
Now here’s one that shook the fibers of my “divaness”. Supermodel Erin Wasson held a garage sale selling off pieces from her personal wardrobe … the likes of Balenciaga and YSL. Now, rumor has it that these rags sold for under $100. Where was I when all this was happening? According to Erin she was attempting to “edit down my wardrobe and be very Japanese, where you have one rolling rack…I love the idea of being super edited.” Awww…
So what’s the difference between their yard sales and mine? So okay, the autograph signings are probably a draw. I’ll give them that. And, maybe their furnishings are a tad more elegant. And then there are the gowns, and posters and the jewels. Hmmm…
It was great fun seeing old friends and making new ones as I toured the very chic consignment shops of Birmingham, AL and Atlanta, GA, confirming that all that famous and infectious southern charm is still alive and well!
Betty Anderson from Fun Finds and Designs in Canton, GA was the first to host the launch of my new book Tossed & Found. Her consignment shop looked spectacular, she put on an amazing spread, and her partner in crime (Terry) made certain that the patrons had a full glass of velvety wine.
Barb Tobias’s presentation at Fun Finds Consignments in Canton Georgia exceeded all expectations. Her new book Tossed & Found highlights her life-changing foray into the world of thrift and consignment. Her journey parallels one woman’s progression from small town farm girl, to fashion model, radio and TV personality, corporate executive to author and keynote speaker. Her message is profound and delivered in the most entertaining and thought provoking way. She will bring out the “Diva” in every woman and leave you with a smile on your face and renewed hope. She was a delight. ~ Betty Anderson – Fun Finds and Designs, Inc.
Tracy Dismukes from Collage Consignment in Birmingham, AL continued to spread that warm southern hospitality. Her well appointed fashion stores were stylish and oh so chic. And, her staff catered to every need as customers streamed in to snap up trendy fashions before my presentation started.
Jenny Eid, the amazing owner of two intriguing and spacious furniture consignment stores, one in Dunwoody, GA and the other in Alpharetta, GA put on a gala event in each of her fashionable locations.
And Bonnie Kallenburg and Betsy Johns of Finders Keepers in Decatur, Georgia rolled out the red carpet and made sure every detail was covered as I swept into town. Her store is amazing and her staff was beyond warm and wonderful.
Thank you for making the first leg of my Frugal is Chic Tour such a success!
Q. Why do you refer to yourself as a Diva?
A. I struggled to come up with a title for myself . . . a name that would reflect my journey to the top of the proverbial pile so to speak. When considering strong, self-actualizing words for women, the English language provides few choices.
Was I going to call myself a Princess? Well, we’ve all pounded that word into the ground. And, I really didn’t want to defend my title against all the little, fluffy, cutesy dogs named Princess.
Perhaps calling myself a master of my trade would work. Naw, that term was obviously reserved for men.
Okay, so how about mistress of my trade? Well, that one is sure to make the tabloids, and not an image I wanted to portray. Plus, the word no longer carries (if it ever did) the element of accomplishment that typified someone who has walked the bumpy road to success.
A Queen? Now, there is a moniker that negates the thought of achievement brought about by hard, creative work. The term typically refers to a birthright not accomplishment.
Alas, there remained . . . the Diva. Strong, accomplished, talented. That could work. Of course, I knew that there would be those that would scoff at such a self-proclaiming title, but I would ask. What word has this culture cultivated to capture the strength, the magic, of talented, smart, resilient women?
Thus, another Diva was born . . . The Thrift Diva
Q. What exactly is Thrift?
A. Thrift or thrifting, as it is often called, is the act of purchasing secondhand items at a fraction of their original cost.
Check out my FAB 99 cent 60’s swing coat . . .
Q. Don’t most people regard the act of thrifting as a rather seedy, back-alley type of activity?
A. They used to, but times are changing. With the downturn of the economy thrift has stepped out of the closet . . . so to speak. Many people furnish their entire homes in fabulous but frugal secondhand finds. I have. I just talked to a fellow thriftier that furnished her 3,800 square foot home with used bargains . . . for $8,000 . . . and it looks fabulous.
Others build their wardrobes from posh designer fashions they rescue from thrift stores, garage sales and auctions.
Q. I find the phrase Thrift Diva to be somewhat of an oxymoron. Isn’t thrift the polar opposite of being a Diva?
A. That is actually one of the reasons I began calling myself The Thrift Talk Diva. My mission is to take thrift out of the gutter. To show people how to decorate or dress using recycled products. Think of it. No packaging, no shipping costs, no advertising. Not only is thrift socially responsible, but we can all live in wonderfully appointed environments at little to no cost.
And . . . The Thrift Diva can show them how to do it.
Q. Why are you the expert on thrift?
A. I have been shopping America’s thrifty by-ways and high-ways for 30 years, I have outfitted my home and myself in fashionable thrift bargains, and I have taught countless Divettes how to create fabulous interiors for little to no cost.
Q. Am I right to assume that thrift shopping is becoming more in vogue with the downturn of the economy?
A. Although the art of thrifting has been around for years, it is definitely in vogue . . . it is the new black.
Q. Why does it matter?
A. There are several factors that make this frugal trend a hot topic:
- The economy is in the dumper but people do not want to give up their lifestyles . . . and they don’t need to. What they need to discover is a cheaper means to accomplish their goals, whether it is outfitting their families or decorating their homes.
- Women are hard-wired to nest, to create richly appointed, comfortable homes. Fashioning a home is the primer creative outlet for most women. It started when hides, caves and timbers were crudely fashioned into habitats. These abodes were adorned with drawings, beads, animal relics and other adornments.
- It is fun. The thrill of the hunt is as alluring in the halls of thrift as it is in the fields of prey.
Q. Do you consider the Art of Thrifting to be a business or hobby?
A. My fascination with garage sales, flea markets, antique and consignments shops started out as a hobby. I was a single mom on a tight budget and was thrilled at the thought of decorating my home at little to no cost. It wasn’t until years later and the change in perception that I actually turned my passion into a coaching and speaking business with the launch of my book Tossed and Found.
Q. Was thrift hunting an accepted activity 30 year ago?
A. Absolutely not. As a matter of fact I write about going to garage sales, incognito. I used to carry a pair of sunglasses and a scrunchy hat in my car to use whenever I stopped at a yard sale or thrift shop. At the time I was a fashion model and I was doing a lot of radio and television appearances. Back then my Divaness had not yet fully blossomed and I would have sooner died than been spotted with my head in a dumpster or in the back of some grubby barn searching for my holy grail.
Q. What is the best find you ever found?
A. I will share my most cherished possession because I feel that worth is not measured by the actual price that is paid, but the value that it holds for the huntress.
In the infancy of my thrifting addiction, I stopped by a fairly seedy sale hesitating as to whether to even go in. I did a quick scope of the interior of the garage and made the decision to leave when I spotted a dust covered picture propped behind some old boxes. Its back was facing me and I could only see the old and tattered frame. Turning it around and wiping the dust off the glass I was enchanted by the yellowed but fetching picture.
A turn of the century Diva peered out through her mask at a costume ball. I knew that I had to have her. Hesitantly I asked the proprietress of this fine establishment how much she wanted. Her tired reply asked for a mere $5.00. I knew that day, as I walked my treasure to the car, that I was hooked. I am a thrift-a-holic.
Q. When and why did you begin writing?
A. I have actually written for years, but I never brought any of my projects to fruition. It wasn’t until I lost my corporate position several years ago that I had the unfettered opportunity to follow my dreams. One day in had a serious talk with myself and threw the question out to the universe, “What course should I follow now?” The answer came back like a bolt of lightning…”Write a book about your passion.” Hence, the birth of Tossed and Found.
Q. Is there a bigger message beneath the clutter (so to speak) of Tossed and Found?
A. Definitely. I want to reach women and deliver this message: No matter how humble your dreams, no matter what your circumstances, you can reach that goal. You are powerful…own it. You are creative…embrace it. You are a Diva.
Q. Are experiences based on the events in your own life?
A. Absolutely. I talk about the experiences I have had on the road, on television and radio, on the runway and in business. I relate some of the amazing adventures I have had like having a gun pulled on us during a garage sale, finding true treasures for pennies, and decorating my home in thrift . . . at no cost.
Q. Can you share a little of your current work with us?
A. Yes. I am writing my second book entitled Tossed and Turned. Whereas Tossed and Found is about finding and buying secondhand treasures, Tossed and Turned is about decorating with frugal finds. It shows, step by step how to turn a ‘noplace’ into a ‘showplace’ at little to no cost.
The emerging Diva
Below is an email that I received from a very excited client. We are working to transform her somewhat worn home into a chic and stylish habitat.
Just last garage sale season, Jo learned how to shop using a newly frugal but creative eye. She quickly learned to spot the potential treasures beneath the tarnish.
After holding a garage sale of her own, we spent a few fun and productive weekends looking for bargain furnishings to replace the items we literally hauled out of her house and sold on the spot. Remember the old addage; One woman’s junk is another woman’s treasure? (Okay, so it is close enough.)
Jo was very hesitant at the beginning of our project. She was skeptical of finding quality items at local thrift venues. Now, she is an ardent believer and often ventures out on her own to find her bargains. She has learned that imagination and resourcefulness are key factors in finding the right deals.
I just made the best buy of the day… a– FREE, courtesy of Aurora Library. I was actually looking at all their $1 books because the library is closing for good.
I found a free bookcase and had just taken it to my car when I walked back in to find that they had just pull a love seat from the back room and pushed it onto the sale floor.
I was the first to look at it, then another lady started pushing it around and inspecting it. Since I had already made my decision to buy it, the sales person let me have it. Can you believe that?
I felt like I just gave myself a big ole’present. I can’t even tell you how great my family room feels to me – it’s beginning to feel more like home every time I add something.
Oh, and I picked up a fabulous lamp Goodwill for $24 with my Senior Citizen’s discount! Ha, ha! My family room is so cozy and the lighting is great now. I love it.
I can’t believe that I’m so looking forward to next garage sale season! I would have never thought I would be such an ardent convert! This is fun and it is not costing me any more money because I am using the funds that I made when we held my garage sale.
Thank you so much . . . and, Happy New Year!
To your success,
Denver Entrepreneurs LinkedIn Group
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!!
Height equals eye status. I use odds and ends to raise pieces to create variety and give status to a piece that I want to bring attention to.
Notice the risers…odd pieces that I’ve collected from jaunts to thrift shops, yard sales and rummage sales. I purchase orphaned pieces for three or four dollars and save them until I find a pairing that might work.
It takes a while to collect a variety of interesting elevators, so in the interim I use books or boxes…or both. The look is great and it is a cheap way to give height and a firm base to an art object or simply an interesting piece of décor.
Here I displayed a lion atop a book and a smaller decorative box. The lion I purchased at a garage sale for two dollars, the enameled box I bought for ten at a flea market, and the large book was a clearance find for five dollars from a retail store that was liquidating its inventory (The only way I buy retail.).
I have sought inspiration in varying level at various times and have found that there is a rich tapestry of the inspired and those that inspire. They come in many different forms; a song we hear in the background, a headline or even a book title. Maybe the Universe is trying to give us a nudge or some divine spirit is vying for our attention. Regardless of the venue or purpose of these seeming innocuous whisperings, we know at a core level that we have connected with resonances of a higher power.
The following sites not only inspire but allow women to connect with other women from all walks of life. Businesses can be promoted, information shared, and a blog or forum started. Here are some of my personal favs.
- Brave Heart Women – For women who chose to be Inspiration in Action
- Women, health, family, love, beauty and entertainment
- Read a blog or start your own blogs on women’s issues
- Celebrating women…50 and better
- A Women’s community of strength support and creativity
- Empowerment, Inspiration, Connection, Success!
This is a guest-post from Chris Heiska, The Yardsale Queen.
Some people believe the myth that there’s only junk at yardsales and thrift stores. That is absolutely not true. Buying at yardsales doesn’t necessarily mean that you are buying someone’s used, dirty castoffs. I often find Christmas wrapping paper still attached to the box,
or a wedding card tucked inside of a box that was probably a duplicate wedding gift (and now the present that probably cost $40 in the store is selling for $5 at a yardsale).
The nicer stuff does get snapped up quickly, so persistence is the key. I often stop by the thrift store in my town two or more times a week to see what “new” stuff has come in. Often the cashier says to me, “Oh, we just put this out today.”
I can’t say specifically that shopping at yardsales and thrift stores is totally responsible for us living a debt-free life, but I know it has definitely helped. (Our mortgage was paid off in April 2000.) For instance, I’m not spending $99 for a metal two-drawer filing cabinet at Staples and putting it on a credit card; instead, I bought a similar one for $4 at thrift store. I don’t have high credit card bills since if I know I need something, I just wait until I can find it cheap at a yardsale.
Shopping at yardsales has enhanced our lifestyle — our money goes a lot further than buying retail. My son is enjoying playing in a $50 camping tent from Target that we have set up in the backyard. I paid $5 (still new in the box) at a yardsale a few years back.
Here are a few tips when shopping at yardsales:
- Be sure to look over stuff carefully since things are generally sold “as-is”.
- It’s easier to shop when I am not lugging my huge heavy handbag around so I wear a fanny pack. It keeps my hands free to look over items and carry stuff.
- If you are buying something in a box, make sure its what it says it is. My friend was disappointed when he bought a printer at a yardsale and opened the box at home to find the seller’s old printer in the box, not the one pictured on the box.
- Carry lots of change and small bills — much quicker to pay for something with exact change than waiting for the seller to make change.
- When buying electronics, ask to plug it in to test it.
- When buying a big item (like a desk or set of drawers), if you have to come back later with a truck to pick it up, take a piece with you — like a single drawer. That way the seller won’t be tempted to sell it to someone else who comes by later and offers more money.
- Clothes can be a real bargain at yardsales. The downfall is that you can’t try them on to see if they fit. Sometimes thrift stores have dressing rooms. Make sure all the buttons are there and the zipper zips. I also check the label for cleaning instructions (if it says Dry Clean Only, I tend to stay away since I want wash ‘n’ wear clothing). I also try to plan ahead for any special event clothing we may need. When I saw a classic conservative black dress ($5) that could be used for funerals or weddings (multipurpose!) I bought it since I knew it would come in handy.
- When buying CDs, VHS, or DVDs, check to make sure the right item is in the right case. Check the backs of DVDs and Cds for excessive scratches.
- If toys are electronics aren’t working, check the battery compartment to see if they have corroded batteries inside. I keep a multi-purpose tool in my fanny pack with a screwdriver to check.
- Look toys over carefully before giving to your child. I found nails and thumbtacks thrown in a canister of TinkerToys. For baby items, you can usually call the manufacturer’s toll-free number to find out if an item has been recalled. The safety belt on my child’s baby swing (that I bought at a yardsale) had been recalled and they sent me a replacement safety belt.
- In general, I would stay away from buying a used baby carseat at a yardsale or thrift unless of course I personally knew and trusted the seller.
- If you buy glassware, gently run your fingers of the edges. Sometimes your fingers can catch imperfections easier than your eyes.
Note that not every thrift store is created equal — some are run by volunteers and others are run for profit by storeowners. To find some non-profit thrift stores in your area (or to check some out while on vacation), visit thethriftshopper.com.
And when you do decide to check out your local thrift stores, flea markets and yardsales, you never know who you may run into. Celebrities who have been seen buying secondhand include Kirstie Alley, Jodie Foster, Clint Eastwood and even Oprah to name a few. If buying secondhand is good enough for them, it’s good enough for me!
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Visit Chris at The Yardsale Queen for more ideas on how to save money at garage sales and thrift stores.