Saturday, May 9, 2009

Garage Sale Season is Here!

It’s always this time of year when the weather is getting warmer, the leaves are budding, and the grass is growing that my thoughts begin to turn to one of late spring’s pressing questions: when does garage sale season start up? And, more significantly, when are the Uptown neighborhood-wide sales?

Garage sales, and neighborhood-wide garage sales in particular, are a great asset to any community. They’re fun, of course, but their benefits go beyond just entertainment value:

  • Garage sales build community. Sales are a chance to meet the neighbors. There’s nothing like looking over someone else’s cast-offs to provide a source of instant conversation. Besides the snoopiness factor, of course, is simply the chance to hang out outside with your neighbors, chatting about the day, exchanging information (and money), and just generally feeling more connected to both other people and to the community at large. Your garage sale-hosting neighbor is usually a captive audience: you can talk to him or her as long as you want, and when you want to leave you have the ready excuse of other sales to attend.
  • Garage sales are a form of recycling. You might not have a use for that green lava lamp anymore, but that student down the street might think it’s just the thing for her new apartment. Garage sales hook up buyers and sellers, and keeps things out of the trash. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.
  • Garage sales help you to make or save money. Most people don’t make a fortune from their garage sales, but you’ll probably make enough to make it worth the time and effort. And, even if the hourly wage ends up being less than what you’d make at work, there’s something about garage sale money that makes it feel like found money. Have the sale with a friend to double the fun; time goes fast when you’re lounging around in the front yard talking to friends and neighbors, and when the day’s done you’ll have a pocket full of cash and house cleared of clutter. For those who are doing the buying, garage sales are full of great buys. Whether you’re looking for weird novelties or have an actual need to fill, go to enough sales and you’ll probably find what you need, and for a fraction of what it would cost new, and probably even cheaper than what you’d pay somewhere like Salvation Army.

While every nice weekend between May and October is going to be filled with garage sale options (check the Star Tribune, Craiglist, and watch for signs posted at corners to find them), there are some definite Uptown highlights fast approaching. The local neighborhood-wide sales are a highlight of the season. They make it easy to hit a lot of sales in a short amount of time, of course, but they also tend to have a festive atmosphere that you don’t find on the average Saturday. There’s usually food and drinks to be purchased at some of the sales, and the food, combined with the wandering groups of fellow garage salers, make for a good time. I, for one, am counting the days until the first (and my favorite) Uptown neighborhood sale of the year: next weekend’s CARAG sale. So, with no further ado, the 2009 guide to Uptown neighborhood sales:

CARAG Neighborhood Sale
Saturday, May 16; 8:00 to 4:00

The CARAG Sale always has a good mix of stuff. The neighborhood itself has a pretty diverse of ages, which translates to everything from old-lady knick-knacks to hipster apartment furnishings. There are families, too, and I once filled a bag with baby clothes at just a quarter per item.

ECCO Super Sale
Saturday, June 6; 9:00 to 4:00

The ECCO Super Sale has been around (almost) forever – it’s now celebrating its 37th year. I think I’ve been to at least 25 of them, and my brother was born after my garage sale-loving mother went into labor following a long day of last-minute ECCO Super Sale baby gear shopping. Historically this has always been the best Uptown neighborhood sale for kid stuff, although there are plenty of options for adults, too. It was at an ECCO sale that I scored a brand-new Coach briefcase still in the original shopping bag and tissue paper; the owner said he already had another one, and that the shade of brown “didn’t go” with his fashion tastes.

Saturday, June 20; 9:00 to 4:00

The Wedge is filled with youngish renters, which often makes for great garage sale finds. Younger renters often have cool stuff, move often, and can’t take it all with them. I like the Wedge sale for finding clothes and random household stuff. One bonus about the Wedge’s sale (for customers, anyway) is that you can top off a day of shopping by stopping off at Mueller Park for the neighborhood’s annual ice cream social. The ice cream social runs from 3:00 to 5:00.

ADDED BONUS: In the spirit of one of my favorite local blogs, Picking Up Strangers, I’ll give a prize to the first CARAG Sale shopper who identifies me and says the special winning phrase: “Uptown, it’s where I want to be.” (sorry, family members aren’t eligible.) How will you know me? I’ll wear my heart on my sleeve, Uptown-style.