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Last weekend my mother came over to sort through wedding pictures. She brought with her this beautiful bouquet of red tulips. They made me so excited for spring. Here in Nebraska, like many other places, we have had record snow falls this year, resulting in more than one inch of snow on the ground for over 75 consecutive days. Yes, those tulips made me very excited for spring. I placed them in one of my favorite vases. A fifty-cent thrift store find. Looking at the flowers in my second-hand score got me thinking about the garage sales that come with warm weather. I am a garage sale/thrift store junkie, much to the chagrin of my husband. “Stop bringing home crap” he tells me. To help us all heed my husbands advice I am dedicating this post to my rules for second-hand shopping.

Go with a purpose…kind of. It is never a good idea to go garage sale or thrift store hunting when you aren’t quite sure what you are looking for. On the same note if you are looking for an exact object, say a turquoise blue ceramic lamp with a white drum shade you will never find it. I like to keep a running list of things that I need. That list includes picture frames, books, vases, furniture and interesting fabric. I love finding that stack of picture frames in the corner of someone’s garage. I ignore color and focus on condition. Once I get them home I spray paint them to match my décor. Same goes for lamps. I once found a huge ceramic lamp for $1. It was a hideous shade of green. I painted it black and it now has a space in our living room.’

Consider condition above all else. This rule especially applies to furniture. One thing that drew me to this chair from an earlier post, was how sturdy it was. Wood furniture can be re-finished if it is solid wood or has a thick veneer. When considering condition also be sure to think about pricing. I am also on the look out for something very affordable. Once while hunting I found a rectangle table. My office was in dire need of a new work table. After I decided it would be a perfect fit I then saw its $20 price tag. I went through a sort of sticker shock. I had been picking things up for 50¢ and $1 and $20 seemed like a lot. I did not buy the table but kept thinking about it. Another table I had been looking at for my office was in the $500 range. Plus my current table was a plastic fold-up one that had cost $30. I then realized the table I saw made perfect sense. It was solid wood, heavy duty and the perfect size. I went back the next day and luckily it was still there.

When shopping be mindful of geography. I tend to stick to older, established areas. Think estate sales. These “old money” neighborhoods tend to have the best vintage treasures, antiques and classic, well-built furniture. Garage sales in newer areas with younger residents are where you are more likely to find the same stuff you are trying to replace. However, if you are looking for children’s clothes and toys these areas can be a goldmine.

Lastly, if you see it and love it, buy it. You most likely will never see anything like it again. Last summer I stumbled across a really interesting set of dining room chairs. I really liked them and they were well built. At the time I didn’t think I could use them. Now about once a week I wish that I had bought those chairs. In the end if it doesn’t work in your décor there will be someone whose it will.

Here’s to a successful garage sale hunting season!