Final Sifting Through Other People’s Junk (Part 5)

If you’re still with me, thank you. I wanted to save my favorite methods of junk sifting for last: garage sales and estate sales. As great as flea markets (Part 1), thrift stores (Part 2), pawn shops (Part 3), and online marketplaces (Part 4) are, garage and estate sales blow them out of the water (sometimes). I didn’t start going to either until after college. When I moved back to Vero Beach from Miami, I started to go a lot and once I moved to Jacksonville that frequency went way up. So let’s dive in.

Garage Sales or Yard Sales? More like Driveway Sales

The sales most people are familiar with would have to be garage/yard sales. Sometimes they’ll be in the actual garage or on the grass, but they’re usually on the driveway. Either way, just the name paints a picture for most people: an older couple or some younger adults put their crap on the driveway hoping to make some money. Usually it’s been dug out when cleaning a house to make room for more crap. Sometimes it’s to just make money to cover bills. Will Ferrell’s 2010 movie Everything Must Go tells the story of a man who got kicked out by his wife and all his junk is in the yard. So he sells it

Often times, these kinds of sales will have the same junk you’re trying to get rid of. Clothing, bedding, dishes, unused silverware, old gross toys, and so on strewn across blankets (not guaranteed) with little price tags. They can make for some great deals for people. Sometimes you’ll luck out and find tools, movies, electronics, or cool furniture. The chance of finding something awesome is what makes it fun.

Really Big Discs

The craziest thing I’ve picked up had to be a Pioneer LaserDisc player. I simply stopped by a sale on a whim and saw it. Now I’d heard of LaserDisc before, but never actually seen a player—I had to have it. For $75 I couldn’t say no. When I was getting ready to leave, the woman selling it told me to wait and said that she had some movies to go with it. I ended up with something like 100-150 LaserDiscs and a working player for $75. There were a lot of duplicate movies, and I ended up having to donate a good chunk of them when I moved out (didn’t have time or space to organize them). Getting them up to a 3rd floor apartment wasn’t fun either. At about a 12 inches wide, they weigh quite a bit. If you don’t know what LaserDisc is, they were a large (sized) analog film format on disc that predated DVDs. If you want to learn more about them check out this video from Technology Connections.

This is just a portion of what I had…

The easiest ways to find yard sales are on Craigslist, Facebook, and by driving around. You’ve seen the signs. Often times subdivisions will have neighborhood wide ones, schools will have them, and churches. I need to make a trek back to Virginia to go to Yard Crawl with my buddy sometime. We always talked about going together, but never did. It’s like 43 miles of yard sales and stuff.

Estate Sales

Now these are my absolute favorite way to find used stuff. Not just because of prices. I typically find estate sales on EstateSales.net and sometimes on Craigslist. Now these are USUALLY quite a bit different from a yard sale. They can be a bit more somber as they usually only happen after someone passes away. Families typically will host a sale (through an agency) to clear out houses of the unwanted things left over.

Now, yes, it’s sad, but it’s also something special. As an avid reader, movie watcher, and video game player, I love to see the world through a different lens than my own. When I step into these homes, I feel like I’m teleported into someone else’s life. You get to know people you’ll never meet as you walk through their homes and look over the items they’ve collected through their life. You get to see what their interests were, what was important to them, and what they did with them. Call me sentimental (I am, shut up), but it just feels nice. I feel like a modern day archeologist sometimes.

The Coolest Houses

One of the coolest houses I’ve ever been in had belonged to what I assumed to be a Korean War veteran, potentially a radio operator. The home was on the St. John River in Jacksonville, and was full of nice audio equipment, beautiful mid-century furniture, and some Sub-Zero appliances. The man had manually wired up a whole house (or at least multi-room) audio system that had a head unit in a closet with dimmer switches for volume control. The man had even wired a speaker in that closet door.

Out in the garage I had found tons of recorded cassette tapes, many had radio shows and music on them. I also found a Realistic portable cassette recorder in box out there. To this day I still use it to record random voice notes and field recording type stuff.

Complete with one half of a stereo mic setup from an antique store.

Another house of note was Historical Society Houses in San Marco, Jacksonville that had some of the most beautiful wood paneling I’ve ever seen. It had a nice den with bar, two stories, and lots of history. I loved it.

Some Weird Houses

Not every sale is in a cool house. Some are flat out gross. Often times you’ll walk into a house that had been neglected for a long, long time. You’ll smell it. Be it simple neglect or the lack of the ability to maintain it, they’re downers. I’ve been in a house that had shag carpets throughout that probably came with the house. I seriously hope it was the color of grass from the start and not a reflection of decades of neglect; the bright red shag on the stairs and second floor wasn’t much of an improvement.

I stopped by one in Palm Bay a few months back, and it kind of felt like a blast from the past. The subdivision had been built by the same contractors or architects as the townhouses my childhood best friend had lived in down in South Florida. Going inside was a bit different. The wallpaper peeled years ago, stains littered the walls, and a smell pervaded the place. The items for sale told a tale of someone who had gone through substance issues over the years and struggled with it. However, they also had signs of successfully overcoming their issues and I bought some of their sobriety pins. They’re easy to overlook, but proved as a testament to how far they’d come. I also bought their iPod with just about every Elton John album including the Gnomeo & Juliet soundtrack on it.

Things to Look For

Electronics, music, tools, and sometimes furniture. Yea, the regular junk I talk about, but you’ll usually get good deals on them. Today I managed to pick up a pair of Beovox S45-2 speakers for only $25. “But Chris, you have enough speakers!” Shush, these are normally a lot more. You can often walk with stacks of records for like $10, good record players for $50, and the one time I was too late I’d missed a $1,000+ record cleaner for $50.

Fresh from the trunk.

Tools and kitchenware can be had cheap as chips too. I found an old World War 2 US Navy MK1 knife recently, a box of good unused drill bits, and a really honking big moka pot. Show up EARLY if you want the good stuff. Ignore most of the guns, they’re usually overpriced. The downside is many estate sales start on Thursdays or Fridays.

I just think it’s neat.

Thank You

If you stuck through all of these posts or just read this, I wanted to say thank you for joining me on a journey of sifting through crap noone really wanted. We all have things we want to toss, but one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I hope you get to experience some of the same joy I do while digging through mounds of people’s unwanted junk. Until next time.

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