If you follow me on Instagram, you’re no stranger to my snaps of our home decor. Many of you have asked where a lot of our vintage finds were purchased, but the truth is that the majority of the decor in our home was not purchased at a store. In our pre-children days, my husband and I spent every weekend browsing estate, tag, and garage sales for many of the pieces you’ve seen in my photos. This makes each item extra special to me because there’s usually a story about our “junking” adventure behind it. We’ve learned some tips on how to shop an estate sale along the way, so I thought I would share my knowledge with you today on how to scope out the best vintage items for your humble abode!
Do your research. My husband and I would start searching tag sale listings on Craigslist earlier in the week. People sell a lot of crap, but that’s not what we were looking for. We specifically wanted vintage or antique items, so those were the keywords we were looking for in the listing. We also loved “barn sales” because I knew there would be some amazing items to be found in there. “Everything must go” was another favorite phrase because we knew people just wanted to get rid of the stuff! Sometimes people would include photos, so we would put together a general list of where we wanted to go.
Start early. From the list we created, we would map out where we wanted to start first. We would try to be the first ones at whatever sale seemed the best. The earlier you start, the more you have to pick through! We would go about our day in that way, trying to get to the best sales early and push the mediocre ones towards the end of our route.
Estate sales are the best sales. When you see the word “estate” it usually means the owner of the contents has passed on and the family needs to rid of everything in the home. Sometimes the family will hire an estate sale company to come in and manage this for them, which means the prices are higher because the company takes a cut. These are usually the best sales because the owner has incredibly valuable items. However, it sucks for the buyer because bargaining is minimal and the prices aren’t exactly budget friendly. They’re still worth browsing because, if you love the same items I do, vintage decor items like picture frames, glass bottles, mason jars, etc are usually the items people don’t care about and aren’t priced too high. Now if you come across an estate sale that ISN’T held by a company…GO TO IT. That’s where we found our best finds. Usually the family is overwhelmed with the contents of the home and just wants everything gone. This makes bargaining a lot easier.
Always bargain! If you’re purchasing more than one item, it’s easier to bargain a set price for the lot. Don’t be afraid, the worst they will do is negotiate. Again, it’s a sale because they want things sold.
Check the basement and garage. If it was open to the sale, the basement or garage was usually the first place my husband and I would go. I’ve found incredible vintage scales, suitcases, books, bottles, jars, crates, etc. in both of these places.
Take your time. Look above and below, in and out, and really go through the areas of the home open to the sale thoroughly. I promise, this is to your benefit. If you rush, you might miss something! I once found 4 amazingly gorgeous vintage suitcases buried in back of boxes in a garage at a family-run estate sale. The seller charged me $1 for each. $1!!!! I love vintage suitcases, so this was a total score for me. And those suitcases are freakin’ amazing, so much so that I’ve had photographers ask to use them in photo shoots. I was so happy I found them that day! Same with my favorite vintage bottles. I found them buried in a box in a garage, and the old man selling them charged me 25 cents for each. You bet I bought the entire box.
I so miss our estate-saling days, as these were some of our favorite moments before we had our kids! Once they’re a little older, we totally plan on starting back up again, but right now I think it will be more stressful than fun 😉 I hope these tips help you score some great vintage finds!