Sunday, October 17, 2010


Yesterday was a glorious fall day and I had a few errands to run. As I traveled around I noticed many yard sale signs of all sizes beckoning buyers. On my way home I passed a sign that said YARD SALE -- CHEAP.. Cheap made me stop. Not that I am cheap but I only had $8.00 in my money pouch and usually one needs cash at a yard sale. Maybe, I thought, I could find a little treasure.

Yard sales go by several common names; tag sales, rummage sales attic sales, moving sales, garage sales, and others.. It appears to be a regional tradition as to what they are called. In central Kentucky I have noticed the name yard sale is popular. So when I use the term yard sale, I am talking about any of the common names for a yard sale. Overall, one can say that yard sales are a national tradition. 

Usually yard sales have signs posted near the place of the sale. I am not a yard saler ( new verb in our language) per se, but once in a while I will stop if the sale looks interesting  -- or its a nice day and and I have $8.00 in my pouch.

Across the country, yard sales perhaps reach the billion dollar mark each year in sales according to one source. They are a form of retailing that is decentralized, run by private individuals not companies. They are informal and social -- one can pick up the item, note any flaws if any, and talk to the owner about the item. Also, the items are fairly priced and  -- just maybe you will find a treasure.  

As I approached the YARD SALE-CHEAP place, a friendly couple greeted me as I strolled toward the front yard where all the sale items were located. I could tell that much of what had been for sale for gone. I know that there are folks that get there first thing and buy all the good stuff. Yet, I felt it was my lucky day and began my search for a treasure. 

I asked the woman of the couple a question about some bottles that I thought were nice -- and I noticed her accent. She told me she was from Paris, France originally. We chatted a bit and then I went back to get the bottles -- but then noticed other items of interest. Not only was everything cheap it was first quality. 

I picked up some lace curtains -- two panels -- that were quite lovely. She told me that she had gotten them from her aunt's French summer cottage. 

Hmmm  -- I knew right where I could use these fine pieces.


Then I looked in the free box and found a nice brass candlestick that had lots of character marks. Wellll -- this can have a place at my home.

I do like little boxes. Sitting on one of the tables was a soapstone hinged box with an elephant carved into the lid. I like to use interesting boxes to wrap small presents in or use them for some of my small mundane things around the house -- like paper clips or stamps etc.  Somehow opening an unusual box for some paper clips and other mundanes appeals to me. 

Sooo -- I now have more items added to my purchases


Now I spotted two tin items. One, another small box emptied of its English bon- bons it once contained. It had a lovely impressionistic lithograph printed on its lid. The other tin was an old muffin baking tin -- I do appreciate old household items. 

The tins joined my growing stack of things to purchase. 

So now back to the bottles I had first noticed when I arrived. Yep, Genuine Phillips Milk of Magnesia bottles, small enough to sit on my window sash -- filtering the sun's rays through their dark blue.

Stacked them with my pile.
Found another old bottle. This one an old embossed Vaseline (short and stout) bottle. I added this to the mound. 

Actually, going to yard sales or having a yard sale is a gender issue. I am a feminist so don't get me wrong. But traditionally, woman have been in charge of all things household. And, sorting out what to sell is usually household items -- so the task of a yard sale falls to the female of the house. Same goes for buying -- women historically are the household consumers. Not that men aren't involved -- they are -- but just in smaller numbers.  

Oh such beautiful dinner plates but only two of them. No matter to me as I mix and match all my dinnerware. I don't have any that I bought new. There are stories to share about all the dinnerware I use. My most precious stories are about some soup bowls that used to belong to my youngest son who has since passed. 

The French lady told me that the above two plates were her grandmothers in France. I told her I like to eat from old plates and her face lit up and she said, "it's like having your grandmother there to share your meal!" I agreed. 

The idea of yard sales began around the 1950s when the U.S. started their trek toward a consumeristic society. It was a grass roots movement. It provided an outlet for individually owned goods. By the 1970s it had reached its peak and has pretty much maintained that peak until the present day. 

The last items I would buy were some small serving spoons or perhaps they were some hearty sized soup spoons. They are heavy silver-plate and quite old. I know I will use them for soup. 

Final total of goods -- $6.20!

But aside from money, I like used items because they have been touched and cared for by folks. I know that they are not living things but the spirit in which they existed perhaps infuses a certain light into their present day reality. They are my treasures for now. 


  1. I have found everything from Hudson Bay blankets to kids clothing to furniture at garage sales. When my kids were young, we would make a day of it, traveling from sale to sale while living in Illinois, all of us enjoying the thrill of the hunt. Many of these treasures still grace my home and have added character to my life over the years.

  2. All that for $6.20? My goodness!!! Such treasures and so much history. I guess they were waiting for you to come by.

    I am not very lucky with yard sales but did have a recent success. I was on the phone with a dear friend who felt blue and moaned that so many things were missing from her life she didn't even have a teddy bear to hug. Two days later I happened upon a yard sale and, yes, a hugable teddy bear that cost $1. She says it gets a lot of hugging.

  3. Darcy -- You were a smart young mother to purchase all that good stuff and saved lots of money I'm sure. I would still think that you would be stopping once in a while at a garage sale. We all like bargains. -- barbara

  4. June -- what a sweet gesture to give your friend a teddy bear. Like you, I'm not one to make a habit of going to sales but I find they can bring us some pleasure when we find something for ourselves or others. -- barbara

  5. I have always loved yard sales because usually the people you meet there are great treasures too.

  6. Kass -- thanks for stopping by. What a lovely way to describe yard sales. -- barbara

  7. Barbara! Sounds like you made out like a bandit and what luscious stuff!! oooohhh I'm so jealous. You'd be my pick of the yard-sale-picker! Can't help be reminded of an old joke that is told with a bit of snarkiness:

    Why do West Virginians use clear trash bags?
    Answer: Makes window shopping easier!

    Great post!

  8. Elora -- Wouldn't it be wonderful if Americans started buying just half their stuff at yard sales and thrift shops. I make this comment as I round up my trash -- it always reminds me of the waste we have in this country. -- barbara

  9. This is a great post. Really informative and so accurate for Central Ky's yard sales! I love odd treasures, boxes, and I really love your bottles.

    *On my Writing Spiders post - if you click on the red words "Writing Spider", it will take you to the Wikipedia article about the spider.

  10. An interesting, engaging post! I enjoyed the bit of history. Wow, that woman has quality "junk"! I love the blue bottles, and all your purchases.

    I used to look for toys at garage sales when my kids were young, but don't often stop for sales now. It is my husband who loves them. Some summer Saturdays, he looks up all the garage sales listed in the paper and enjoys a morning out. He favours old electronics or an occasional small piece of furniture.

  11. Farmchick -- I checked out your writing spider with wiki. I realize now that I am familiar with this particular spider -- large and beautiful. I seldom stop at a yard sale -- but got lucky with this particular one. Many of my friends are regular yard salers. When I think about the yard sales, I realize it is about the most unregulated industry in this country. Thanks for the nice comments -- barbara

  12. barefootheart -- Interesting that your husband stops at sales. I know a man near where I live that drags his wife to many sales almost every week during the yard sale season. He is an addict about it. My friends that yard sale on a regular basis tell me they could furnish a house very well on the finds at sales. I do believe them when I hear about the things they buy. It certainly is a folkway now in the U.S. and it sounds like maybe Canada too. -- barbara

  13. Great bargains! The plates are beautiful. They should make any meal taste a little better.

  14. steviewren -- Some time I will maybe place some of my plates etc that I eat with on a post along with their stories. Old things reach out to me. Thank you very much for stopping by with your nice comment. -- barbara

  15. What wonderful finds! You stumbled into some real treasures! Love the dinner plates!

  16. Vicki -- Thanks for the comment -- your trip sounded productive. It is always good to get back home though -- barbara

  17. You've said it perfectly - they are items someone has touched with love, care and attention, not a sterile mass produced item that is cheap and 'disposable'.
    We call them Garage Sales here in Oz, as it's usually from the depths of the garage the items are dragged to sell, to get more storage in the garage...for the stuff people buy at other garage sales lol.

  18. Jayne -- I think one needs to be careful when going to yard/garage sales. I imagine that a house would soon fill with "stuff," and they could end up with just boxes all over the place. I really think the world has overused our resources to make all this stuff and continues to do so much to the concern of our future civilization. I really don't advocate buying a lot of things -- I just recognize that it is a new folkway that apparently has gone global. -- thanks for the comment.

  19. What a delightful collection you found, Barbara. I also love to collect unmatching china, little boxes, blue glass...wow, how amazing to find them all in one garage sale. I agree, there is a richness in a preloved treasure. French lace curtains! Gorgeous.They will look lovely billowing softly in the breeze on a sunny day.

  20. LiD -- This was a fun sale for me. I have put to use all the items bought at the sale. So, yard sales are popular with you too. Your interests are like mine. Somehow one doesn't feel like a consumer when they are buying used goods. Thanks for stopping by -- barbara

  21. Here in the UK we don't have individual yard or garage sales, maybe because properties are physically small and many don't have garages but what we do have are car boot sales. These are organised events, sometimes for charity, where you load your car with things to sell and turn up at a field along with (sometimes) 100s of other sellers. You pay a fee to sell, usually about £5 and customers pay nothing (usually) or sometimes a small fee per car to park. They are very dependent on the weather, which is a bit unreliable here so generally take place in the summer only. You do also get traders selling cheap tat but they are a very good place to pick up household items and children's toys and clothes. More fun are farm sales where the farm contents are being auctioned off possibly because the farmer is selling up and you can pick up old furniture and tools quite reasonably.

  22. Hello Ruta -- thanks for visiting my post. You wrote some interesting comments. The description of your boot sales is very similar to what we call flea markets. A flea market is where folks take their items to sell and set up their wares, usually on small tables that they bring, and sell in a small space -- along with others that are selling their wares. One can find all kinds of items to buy -- old and new. They can be held outside or in a building. Most of them that I know of are held in the summer like your boot sales. I believe most fleas charge the vendors a fee. But I do know a few that do not. I think the flea market event would be the closest idea to your boot sale. The farm auctions used to be the place to find good buys but I think they now are bidding places for antiques dealers and therefore the prices are high. But probably some auctions have reasonable prices? I used to attend auctions when I was younger and found them charged with excitement. Loved that atmosphere. Perhaps I will attend one again to see how they compare to former auctions.

  23. I love going to yard sales. Some of my favorite things are things I bought at yard sales. We've tried to stop buying so many things, though, because we are running out of room. But, I just can't pass up good deals and such neat stuff. I love finding old dishes, old tablecloths, etc. at sales.

  24. Janet, I have friends that hardly ever miss a yard sale in their area. They have picked up beautiful things this way. I bet you have some wonderful things from sales. -- barbara

  25. Reading this post was as enjoyable as being there in person. You did a great job making us all wish we were there five minutes before you.