A friend of mine recently started shopping for a home renovation and wanted to know if I would share my estate sale shopping tips. Would I ever! It’s the perfect time of year for a beautiful morning driving around and rummaging for great estate sale finds!
For me, there’s nothing quite as exciting as a sign for an estate sale. Whether I see the posting weeks in advance or it’s a sign that suddenly appears in my way as I”m driving, I know I now have new plans. At estate sales, I feel invited into a different portal – to go through the keyhole of a home and into the most prized and personal collections and treasures of its owner. As much as I love secondhand shopping online, the community of estate sales really fills my cup.
Estate sales can be where you find the most coveted find of a lifetime or just a way to find home items that’s easy on the landfill and your budget. These are my humble estate sale shopping tips to make it a fun experience that’s worth your time!
Tips for Shopping at Estate Sales
Know the Local Leaders
In high school, I loved looking for good estate sales in the newspaper, which I’m sure is still possible! There are great catch-all estate sale sites like this that allow you to look for listings by area or ZIP code and get a preview of the sale.
From living in Dallas for a long time, I was able to get to know certain sellers who organize the sales and the type of style they tend to represent. For classic and mid-century styles, I loved Dallas Estate Sellers and Stardust Estate Sales, so I kept up with their websites and Instagram pages as well as subscribed to their emails.
I think it’s really helpful to know and follow a few estate sale companies in your area. The more you enjoy what”s at the sale, the more fun you’ll have and more often you’ll go! Sellers love to niche to drive demand for their sales, so look through all of the photos as you first browse directory websites and see if there are sellers you can follow for upcoming sales announcements as well.
Phone a Friend & Mark Your Calendars
There is nothing better than a sale announcement going up and the text messages beginning to fly.
“The camera collection!”
I loved my sale crew in Dallas. We loved to just break up the week getting excited for good treasure, but also got each other up and in line for big sale dates by meeting up and passing the time catching up while we waited for the doors to open. We would bring hot coffee to sip very slowly (just a reminder that there is no bathroom!).
Our group just grew over time as more and more people got to know about our antics and wanted to see for themselves. As crazy as it sounds, if this stuff really makes you excited, I guarantee that there is someone in your life that wants to try it too! Many of the people I met in my sale group I got to know because they showed up to wait in line. You may be surprised at the opportunity inviting people along gives you to get to know an Instagram or PTA acquaintance better.
We could all leave a sale empty handed and be glad that we disrupted the usual routine to spend time together. That just never happens of course!
Set the Right Expectations
A great estate sale listing will have a ton of exciting photos. A estate sale listing photo of dining room table, lamp or caftan can literally cause me to gasp. However, no amount of waking up early, standing in line or desire can guarantee taking home exactly what I want from a sale. There’s always the chance that one or 15 people will be there before me and all have their eye on your exact pick.
Every party has a pooper and there is no one more insufferable than someone in line complaining that they expected to be the first ones there or mourning a sense of entitlement to a big ticket item. Welcome to the circus – we’re crazy! Once you learn to go with the flow, you’ll love it here.
Instead of fixating on singular items for my success, I love getting excited for the kind of style this person had and what else that might lead to. Many times, something that made me want to see a sale is long gone by the time I walk in the house but I get to take home something else that tracks with the vibe. Sometimes, I just want to see it all together – from the wallpaper and drapes to the patio furniture and dishes – where I can really imagine the person who lived there. The experience is the prize! If you get something cute that’s even more fun.
It’s a bit much in the vortex of the sale. It’s all so good! It’s all going fast!
It gets to be a challenge to know what to pick up and what to leave behind. To help with my decision making, I have a few notes in my phone with:
- Everything we are looking for in our home (from a bedside table for the kids’ room to storage needs to a paper towel holder) so I can try to source secondhand first
- Measurements of common spaces, such as empty walls, shelves and recent clothing measurements for myself
Embrace the Possibilities
With that home shopping list in mind, I love letting old things from estate sales find new purposes! Maybe a teacup will hold jewelry, or a doll wardrobe will become a new medicine cabinet. What in your life needs a basket? Everything at an estate sale gets a second life when it goes home with you, why not a new job title too?
Do you have any estate sale shopping tips? Or an all-time favorite find? Share it below!