There are treasures to be found at yard sales. If the thought of buying anything from a yard sale or thrift store gives you the heebie-jeebies, think of this: EVERYTHING is ‘used’ from the moment you buy it. And if you’ve ever stayed in a hotel – even the finest 5 star resort – you have slept on used sheets, toweled off with used towels, and sat on very used furniture!

My nephew turned up his nose at a used t-shirt my grandmother bought for him at a thrift store. When she explained that the brand new t-shirt that cost $25 (for a t-shirt!) was worth $1 at a yard sale after being worn only once and put through the wash, he began to see the logic. (It had the latest logo on it that he and his friends were wild for! He is now grown and has small children – he can really see the value of ‘used’ in a whole new light!)

So, here are a few tips to get the most out of buying ‘used’. First, make a list of what you want. That’s right! I said it! I have made a list of some items I could have gone to Wal-Mart and bought for a fair price, like a large bulletin board, one of those soaking foot baths, a set of bathroom rugs, a bed skirt, etc. You can find just about anything used, but in new, or like new, condition – if you are patient. I have been amazed at the things on my written or mental list that I find in my travels to yard sales and thrift store. Also, consider Craigslist and the local newspaper want ads. Don’t be put off by bad photography – go look at items to see for sure. You will often be surprised. And yes, sometimes it is junk. Just keep looking.

Another way to have fun with buying this way is if you want to redecorate a room. Look through magazines and pick out a room you’d really like to copy. Then try to find items close to the look of the items in the picture! Use your imagination. If it’s not exactly the same, can you paint it or stain it or glue something to it to recreate the look? Then paint your room the color in the picture and decorate away! Amaze your friends and family who thought you couldn’t decorate even a hamster cage! (This idea, by the way, was at one time a show featured on HGTV. That’s another way to get great ideas. One show on the HGTV network is called “Design on a Dime”.)

Go early to yard sales, but not earlier than the time posted by the sellers. The time and effort put into having a yard sale is often exhausting. It’s no day at the beach. So give the sellers some sympathy. You can still offer less than the price they have on items. They’ll simply say yes or no. And they usually say yes if you offer just a little less.

If I’m really gung ho, I get the Friday paper and mark as many yard sales as I can close to my house on a copy of a city map. This way I can go in a straight line closest to my house; using less time and gas. It only take a couple of hours on a Saturday morning.

And by all means have fun in your hunt for new treasures! Get over being squeamish. Everything you already have is ‘used’!

Lisa Malwitz

Tallahassee, FL

A note from Lynnae: I love buying gently used items! In fact, we just found a great deal on a lawnmower on Craigslist! What are some of your favorite “gently used” buys?

Photo by Cosmic Kitty.