tips from a junkstore junkie


Since so many of you guys loved M's house and were curious about how she decorated it with things she has found at yard sales, estate sales and thrift stores, I asked her if she'd tell us a little about how she approaches 2nd hand shopping.  Together we put a list of tips together that we use.
In addition to these tips we both agree that we live in yardsale/estate sale heaven.  We live in an area filled with old homes and really great prices.  If we lived in Los Angeles or Orange County we would never get these great of deals.  So where you live definitely matters.  But if you want a few tips, then here you go...  

Tip #1

The night before the sales, usually Thursday night, check your local newpaper, and craigslist for all estate sale and garage sale listings.  Make a list of the sales and map them out prior to going.

Tip #2

Don't drive around aimlessly; have a plan and limit how many sales you'll visit and how much you have to spend.  Bring cash and preferably small bills.  Many times the ads will have pictures so you can prioritize and determine which sales look the most promising.

Collection of yardsale pillows

Tip #3

Make sure you arrive earlier than what is advertised.  Often they will allow customers in early.  This can be a valuable few minutes before the crowds arrive.

Tip #4

Once you are in the house/sale, don't spend too much time in one area.  Try to make a grand sweep of the place and get a general idea of what is available, then you can slow down and take your time.  Whatever you do, don't barge, push or grab.  You'd be surprised how many people do.  Stay civilized!

collection of vintage and antique silhouettes, wicker lamp and antique birdcage

Tip #5

Check where others don't.  Make sure you look under tables and cupboards.  If there isn't a sign that says "stay out" - go ahead and take a look.

Tip #6

Don't be afraid to get dirty.  In fact, plan on it.  Some of the best things I've found were in dusty, dirty places.

Tip #7

If you feel something is over-priced, don't be afraid to offer less.
Sellers expect this.

vintage painting of frenchman, antique lamps, platters, chairs, wicker

Tip #8

Always ask whether the last day of the sale will be discounted, often it is.
Discounts of 50%-75% is the norm and this is when really fantastic deals can be had.

Tip # 9

This is a big one...never judge a house by its exterior.  Some of my best finds were in very nondescript homes.


antique french photo matted with antique french lace, antique sconces, vintage bird print

Tip #10

Make a list of things you want/need.  I guarantee you will find it, no matter how obscure or seemingly impossible to get.  It may take some time, but you'll eventually find it.

Tip #11

Remember to always be respectful, sensitive and kind.  Keep in mind that many times the homeowner or family members are holding the sale.  Whether the sale is because of a death or hard financial times it can be a very emotional time for them.  A little respect goes a long way.

I don't know about you but I don't know anyone who has a house like M's.  It's so full of character and charm and like someone in the comments pointed out, there's nothing cookie cutter about it.  You'd think I would learn from her?!     Thanks again M for sharing with us all.


  1. Thanks so much for all these wonderful tips. I can just imagine how comfy and cozy M's house is during the colder months. She has wonderful collections, but it doesn't seem cluttered at all!


  2. Thanks for the great tips. Tip #9 is so true. I found Flo blue china at a trailer park yard sale. When I asked how much, the lady said it's just an old plate, it's free! I bought other things from her so I didn't feel (too) guilty!!

  3. What a shame we don't have estate sales here, I'd probably be bankrupt and have a house like one of those hoarders shows on the TV! M's house is beautiful, she has great taste! x

    1. I'm with Vix, I wish we had them, I love the individuality of non mass produced chain store items.

  4. I used to love going to the estate sales when I lived in New England. Sadly they don't have them here in Northern CA.
    I went to a stunning one in Provence on my visit last year. The best!!

  5. I've only ever been to 2 estate sales in a private home and they were so crowded one could hardly see what was for sale.
    It would be good to only allow a few people in at a time. We have garage sales too but as you say if you do not get there early the best stuff is gone. I would love to be as successful as M in her shopping adventures.
    BTW M looks quite her thick hair.
    Thanks again Janet!

  6. I would love a day with both of you and a few estate sales! Once in a while I come across a good one..and you are absolutely right about being respectful...I'm always a little uneasy about going in to someone's home while people are picking through someone's entire life. But a few special words to the family goes a long way.

    M. looks fabulous! and if she ever wants to get rid of those pillows, I know a girl in NE who would love to have them!!! :) Can't wait to see some more of her house.

  7. I'm so smitten with her place, I can't read a word. And I think I need to start collecting silhouettes.

  8. I don't live in an upscale area; the yard sales here don't yield much. My town is poor. But I'll keep looking; I'm actually new to thrifting. I've always wanted new and shiny. New me now. Thanx for great tips...

  9. Great tips! A house collected over time like your's and her's are the cannot duplicate that by using a decorator and big furniture showrooms. Your houses have soul!

  10. Please thank M for sharing her lovely home as well as all the great tips. You two must have some fun adventures together, I'm a bit envious!


  11. One of my favorite things to do on road trips is check out local goodwills and thrift stores. And I must say that some of the best are right here on the Southern Oregon Coast! Allegra

  12. I miss estate sales! I love seeing the houses, how other people lived and digging through the old dirty stuff is FUN. In DC/VA there are a lot of diplomats and military families so you see things from all over the world. Who needs museums :)

    I ran into an estate sale in the last 10 minutes of the last day and the owner was there. She was so happy when I picked up a pair of wheat sheaf lamps on marble bases and told me the story about them. I love that I know a little bit about them and she was so happy to see them go to someone who would appreciate them. (too much coffee this morning--I"m really chatty). It's raining again... Have a great day.

  13. Great tips, but I think tip #11 is the best.

  14. Both your homes are so lovely. I have to say after reading this I was on Estate for about 2 hours combing through the upcoming sales in my neck of the woods. (Long Island) Some sales around here are pricey but fun to go to nontheless.
    Take Care

  15. Hi Janet,
    First I would like to thank you for all you offer us here on your blog - always interesting. Next I would like to say that your decorating style doesn't need to "learn" anything from anyone it's perfect the way it is. I think yours is more of a minimalist collection of things. I tend to lean more towards that too....although I envy people like M that have that special knack for putting lots of different things together in one place and achieve a warm cozy look like she has rather than a cluttered or "hoarding" sense of mismatched items, which is what would happen if I tried this! Thanks again! Laura

  16. Thank you for the reminder to be civil and not pushy. My friend recently attended the estate sale of a dear friend who lived down the street. The woman's family was there and it grieved her to see some people not being respectful of her mother's things. I had never thought of it that way, but will from this day forward.

  17. This is a fabulous, love, love M's style. I have similar collections but tend to be more conservative with how much I put out....but now I intend to shop my house and see if I can come up with an M inspired vignette. Love this post very much - well, love all your posts....more vegan recipes please. on summer bedroom

  18. Love M's house: it's cozy, homey, and original. Janet, was M going for a English country look?

  19. I loved seeing the pictures of M's house. I will use your collective tips when I go treasure hunting. My style has been a bit more uncluttered, mostly because I haven't played around with creating vignettes such as M's, or even yours. "Uncluttered" is feeling pretty boring right now! Thanks for this, and all your posts. Always interesting, always fun to read.

    I hope things are going better for you and your family.


kindness is never out of style.

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