Garage Sales: What To Buy, What To Skip

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Garage Sale Sign

If you’re looking for a shopping high without the hefty bill, garage sales and swap meets can be the perfect solution, if you find the right ones. This quick guide will help you avoid garage sale pitfalls and score the smartest deals on the block.

Baby Items

Buy: Gently Used Clothes and Plastic Toys

Children outgrow things so fast that garage sale shopping is a popular past time for parents. Gently used clothing is a great buy, as are plastic toys that are easily washed and sanitized.

Skip: Shoes, Cribs, and Cloth Toys

Used baby shoes mold to the wearer’s feet and won’t properly support your growing child’s activities. Car seats and cribs pose safety hazards when they’re used, since you can’t guarantee a clean history. Stuffed animals may look cute, but may harbor unseen germs and bacteria in the stuffing.


Buy: books

Why pay full price for new books when you can get them for pennies at garage sales? You may even find crosswords, coloring books, and other activity books with only a few markings. These are a steal for children who like to scribble on the pages and move on quickly.

Skip: games

Be wary of board games. If all the pieces are in place, these are a great find. However, games like Jenga that are missing a large number of pieces are almost useless. Computer games are only good if the case still has the proper activation code. Make sure you have everything you need to enjoy your purchase before you buy.

garage sale in Ottawa

Home Décor

Buy: knick-knacks and accessories

Dress up your home on a dime with decorative items like paintings, sculptures, and vases. These are unlikely to see much wear and tear over the years. Many decorative pieces actually appreciate, gaining value as they age.

Skip: linen and pillows

Decorative pillows and bedspreads aren’t as great of a find. The filling can host mold, mildew, and lingering odors that are nearly impossible to get rid of. Examine items like rugs or place mats carefully to determine how much wear they’ve taken and whether they’re worth the price.

Kitchen Items

Buy: plates, glassware, etc. 

Garage sales are a treasure trove of dinnerware, drinkware, and silverware. If you don’t mind building an eclectic mismatched set, you’ll find plenty of choices. Plates, trays, drinking glasses, and utensils are all smart buys.

Skip: electronics

Watch out when you’re considering kitchen electronics. Always ask to plug them in and give them a go. You don’t want to lug a big microwave home only to find that it won’t run. Check for cleanliness with these items as well. Hardened food in cracks and crevices is difficult to get rid of.


Buy: wood or plastic

The best garage sale furniture pieces are those made from wood or plastic. They’re easy to clean or restore and often have an engaging antique look. Even a scratched or dented wood piece is easily repaired with a sander and a fresh coat of paint.

Skip: fabric

Avoid upholstered items like couches and chairs. Reupholstering is an expensive and time-consuming job unless you’re an expert. Mattresses are too risky, as they can contain years of dust mites, dead skin cells, or mildew, not to mention the potential for bed bugs or fleas.

Garage sales are an excellent source for cheap goods if you know what you’re looking for. Shop smart and you can score some unbeatable finds.


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Cate Morgan-Harlow

Cate Morgan-Harlow is an all arounder, writing about how-to, DIY, and design with gusto. She is a shadowy figure with a mysterious past.