How to Salvage a Garage Sale Find

Going to Garage Sales

Think of your garage sale excursion as a safari to a new land, the land of discovery. Before you head out the door, pack for the journey. Even if you're impulsive by nature, having a few items on hand will make your efforts more successful in the end.

Nothing spells the death of a fun garage sale outing more than being uncomfortable. To make sure you enjoy your shopping experience, dress for the weather and wear comfortable shoes. Take along water and a snack if you plan on making more than a couple of stops.

You never know what you'll find, but having a wish list doesn't hurt. Keeping a list of things to look for, from bundt pans to bamboo steamers, will help you develop a "no man left behind" strategy.

Don't forget the designer side of things, either. Along with your wish list, keep samples of your paint colors, drapery fabric, upholstery and anything else you may want to match. You might have to paint or reupholster your finds, but then again, you could discover the perfect match, if you have the tools to recognize it when you see it.

Carry a tape measure, and be sure to jot down important measurements before you leave home. If you want to find a nice wooden chest to fill that alcove near your staircase, knowing the maximum width you have to work with will save you from a big disappointment later. If you do find something with potential, keeping a tarp, some plastic sheeting and some painter's tape in your car will help you get your finds home with a minimum of fuss. You should also have some rope or bungee cords on hand in case you find a big-ticket item you need to strap to your roof or hang out of your trunk.

When you're hot on the trail of a fantastic find, get the skinny on it before you buy. Having Internet access to sites like and others, which can give you a good lead on what constitutes a fair price, will give you an advantage and peace of mind. Oh, and when you do pay, make sure to have cash in your pocket. Carrying some small bills and change with you will usually save time and trouble.

On the next page, we'll peruse a few furniture finds.