Thursday, June 21, 2007

Garage Sale America - where have you been all my life?

When life was simpler (read: before having a child) I used to love to dig through piles of castoff items at yard sales, state fairs, "antique" stores and the like. I spent my summer vacations in Maine, going from one small store to the next, searching for that something special to add to my already growing collection of antique cameras, candlesticks and Fiestaware. I was on a mission. I was focused. I was obsessed. I was broke (hence the tag sale-ing).

I miss those days.

Once I found an antique Heywood-Wakefield child's rocking chair in one of these stores, not what I was looking for but a good find nonetheless. I balked at the price tag and decided to pass and I've been kicking myself in the tuckus ever since. Having grown up around furniture makers in the shadow of the furniture capital of the world I have a special place in my heart for Heywood-Wakefield and Nichols & Stone furniture and I should have snatched up that rare find when I had the chance. Even if it would have cost me most of my paycheck.

Okay, all of my paycheck. And then some. Remember, I was broke.

That's the beauty of those types of expeditions, though - you never know what you're going to find. But you can be guaranteed that it won't be there when you get back.

Up until now I've never had my own yard sale (garage sale, tag sale, what have you) since I've never had enough of my own things to warrant trying to get rid of the overflow. But now it's time. Through years of consumerism, the joining of my things with my husband's, and then from an inheritance I have enough of my own stuff that I don't want and I'm going to try to sell it to others. It's time for me to hold my own yard sale.

I'm terrified. Where to begin? How do I price a box full of fairly recent hardcover books? Or, for that matter, my husband's old bedroom set? How do I prepare? What do I need to make this sale successful? How do I act when complete strangers show up on my yard at 8am to pick through my things??

When the Parent Bloggers Network said they had copies of Yard Sale America by designer Bruce Littlefield to review I knew this was the push I needed.

I was very excited to receive this book, but I have to admit if I was in the bookstore and had no plans to have a yard sale I might have passed this one by (kinda like that chair, but for different reasons).

It's a soft cover book with a kitschy design. A book to be taken seriously? It's hard to tell at first glance. But within its orange covers the reader will find not just a wealth of information on Garage Sales - such as the location of the World's Longest Yardsale or a list of Do's and Don'ts for Sellers - but a piece of Americana.

Littlefield, through his travels, has amassed a wealth of stories about the characters he has met on the road - The Yardsale Queen, the world's oldest and youngest yard sellers, Andy of Andee's Anteeks (Anteeks - Kolectibels - Old Stuf - Sum Junk. He byes and selles - Ask for a kard) - and it makes for a charming read.

It gets better. Do you know how to spot a fake or a reproduction? I didn't. Do you know the history of Bakelite? Lalique? Tiffany? Barbie? (Oh how I wish I still had those old Barbies my Nana kept for me when I was a kid) It's all in this book, in easy-to-read bite-size pieces, like so much of the garage sale munchies one might find at the World's Longest Yardsale. Easy to swallow, all served up with powdered sugar and more than a touch of Littlefield's enthusiasm for bargains.

Here's the best part: Wondering what to do with all your treasures after you've spent a weekend at tag and rummage sales? Littlefield is, after all, a designer, and the book has a section on interior design with these cheap treasures. As a matter of fact, Littlefield has furnished his own house almost completely with items he's purchased at yard sales. It's a helluva lot more interesting than Pottery Barn.

I'm glad I have my own copy of Garage Sale America. Not only do I feel more confident about holding my own yard sale now but I feel a lot more familiar with a piece of this wonderful country that I may never have known. Don't pass this book by... like I did with that chair. That damn chair that will haunt my dreams.

I'll know better now.

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