The 10 Commandments of Garage Sailing

One cool thing about my Miller-side of the family is their passionate love for GARAGE SAILING.
Literally, they go every Saturday.
I never grew up doing it… so I have officially been initiated into the Miller clan by joining the Saturday morning search for treasures among other people’s trash.
My mother-in-law Ann (who I wrote about here), is a garage sailing pro (and I don’t say that lightly).
She knows how to work the system.

SO, in honor of the Saturday search, I asked her to write a post about her garage sale tips!
Check it out:

Every Saturday morning my friend, Carol, and I pile into one of our cars and cruise around Gilbert, Arizona, looking for garage sales. Carol—whom I introduced to “garaging” as she calls it—psychoanalyzed me. She says I love going to garage sales because I can afford anything on the driveway.

Maybe that’s it, or maybe I inherited a cheap gene from my dad, a Willie Nelson look-alike who lived in a camper shell on the back end of a pick-up for decades. I do buy new occasionally.My bed, dining room table, and the dresses I wore to The Little Millers’ wedding and Luke’s older brother’s wedding came from the store. I’m just sayin’….

If buying other people’s second-hand junk at a fraction of the original price appeals to you, read on. But if it sounds like one more thing you “should” do—like keeping a journal, flossing, or scrubbing your grout with a toothbrush—skip this blog. Life has too many shoulds already.

Ann’s Ten Commandments of Garage Saling

#1. If old tires or rims are sitting on the curb, drive on by. I’ve never even been tempted to buy anything at a sale that included these items. Go figure.

#2. Pay 10% of what you would pay for the item new. Unless you really, really like it.

#3. Don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation with the proprietor. This raises your enjoyment quotient, and if you later bargain—she already likes you. But don’t become a total schmooze. You have to live with yourself afterward.

#4. Always dicker with the price–unless the item is underpriced, then pay and drive away before the seller changes her mind.
a. Have a firm top price in your head of how much you are willing to pay.
b. Take off your sun glasses, so the seller can see you’re honest and not a shyster.
c. Bargain with the man on girly items and the woman on power tools. I once got a Pampered Chef stone quiche dish for a buck.
d. Offer half the asking price to open negotiations. [Although my husband—who joins me when Carol is busy—wishes I’d just pay the dang quarter!]
e. Hold out the money you’re offering to them. Seeing the green makes them want it.
f. If the person refuses to budge, smile politely and walk away.
g. Ditto, if they won’t come down to your firm top price. You always feel better in the car, sans the prize, than if you overpaid (well, if you’re me, that is).

#5. Carry a measuring tape and a list of your window (or whatever) measurements.

#6. If a mountain of clothing has been dumped onto a sheet in the yard, pay no more than a quarter apiece, or fifty cents if you’re feeling generous. Neatly folded items are worth more because the seller did the work instead of you.

#7. If a sale stinks of cats, smoke, or perfume, get back into your car. Do you really want that smell to follow you home?

#8. Don’t “settle.” You didn’t/won’t (hopefully) settle for your spouse. Don’t buy that hoodie with the frayed sleeves and the stain on the elbow if you don’t love it—even if you need a hoodie. Better no hoodie than walking around feeling like poor-pitiful-me every time you wear it.

#9. When you get home:
a. Wash all clothing in as hot water as the fabric can tolerate. What if the people had lice?
b. Never take dry-clean-only items to the cleaners. Wear until soiled, then wash in cold water, lay flat to dry, and hope for the best. There’s just something wrong with paying more to clean your treasure than you paid to purchase it.
c. Do not leave your loot in a pile. Put it away. If you upgraded your toaster, put the old one in the to-be-gotten-rid-of box in your garage.
d. Beg, barter, or somehow convince your spouse to install the new curtain rods, mini-blinds, or hammock ASAP. Or, novel thought, learn how to do it yourself. Not advice I have personally tried, but Carol is a wiz.

#10. If the whole sale is grossly overpriced, just say—preferably in your head— have fun hauling it all back into your garage. 

If you live in a part of the country that experiences winter, wait till Spring, circle the area garage sales in the classified section and plot a route before you head out. This step isn’t necessary in Phoenix where garage sale signs outnumber cacti.

Don’t discount the entertainment value you get for your investment. Carol and I catch up on each other’s week. Sometimes we try to figure out what’s going on in the seller’s life, determine his/her sexual orientation, or critique the poor dear’s taste in furniture. Once, we even saw a guy who could have passed for Fabio. Whoda thunk—at a garage sale!


Ann Lee Miller earned a BA in creative writing from Ashland (OH) University and writes full-time in Phoenix, but left her heart in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, where she grew up. She loves speaking to young adults and guest lectures on writing at several Arizona colleges. When she isn’t writing or muddling through some crisis—real or imagined—you’ll find her hiking in the Superstition Mountains with her pastor husband or meddling in her kids’ lives.

And once again, everyone who comments with an email address will receive a free e-copy of her book Kicking Eternity! Sweet deal, right?
Kicking Eternity 800x600 02


10 thoughts on “The 10 Commandments of Garage Sailing

  1. Awesome rules! Now about Garage sailing…How do you get your sail and rigging up? And how big of a sail do you need in Arizona to move a garage? Do you use a two or three masted sail?

    • Very funny, John Berkshire. I suggest you read something more highbrow–like War And Peace–where questionable homonyms won’t upset your literary sensibilities. You can pick up a copy at a garage sale. And if you’d really rather be called Clovis, that can be arranged.

      • Well, I was thinking about reading one of those new authors…but I don’t have an e-lectronic device…Clovis suits me fine. Who is this John Berkshire?

    • Clovis you snob, it can be garage-a-sale-ing or garage sailing. But I would suggest a three masted square rigger if you really want to get your garage moving in the Arizona Wind.

  2. I sure did need this great giggle this morning! Wonderful post!! (Ann was (and remains in my heart) a dear mentor for me during my high school years while Jim was my youth leader/finishing seminary.) You, the new Mrs. Miller, are a fun writer as well. Great blog!

  3. Great advice for garaging! It reminds me of Gibbs’ list of rules in NCIS, except these I can actually use…

  4. Pingback: Links on Links. | This is my life…

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