Square Feet: One Man's Trash...
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Square Feet: One Man’s Trash…

About every two weeks, Torontoist looks to fill up all the square feet in your abode. Eschewing the Ikea catalogue, delve into the unique design shops, interesting sales, and easy do-it-yourself projects that can be found scattered throughout Toronto.
In photo: (A) Three ties from Harry Rosen and Armani, $0.75; (B) Oak-framed light box with chipped glass, $9; (C) Two worn wooden picture frames, $1; (D) Rodney’s Oyster House shucking platform and shucking knife, $0.50; (E) Vintage fondue set with six plates and forks, $4. Photo by Vanessa Toye.
It’s 9 a.m. and the streets are already buzzing with people hauling finds back to their cars and going on the prowl for the next treasure trove. It’s feast or famine in the world of weekend garage sales and the early bird gets the antique/vintage/collector’s/slightly-used proverbial worm, but do mind the notices that the earliest of birds aren’t always welcome.
With one twenty dollar bill in hand and listings pointing towards the High Park area, we got away with a few goodies and a whole quarter in change this past Saturday. The take of the day included six full sets of matching cutlery with a tray, three designer label ties, a modern toaster in need of a cleaning, a clean vintage toaster with orange stripes and wood veneered sides, a red and white striped flour sifter, two small beakers, a plastic spatula, an oak-framed light box, and two wooden picture frames with the glass intact.

Junk to some, garage sales can fill that niche of a missing necessity (cutlery lost in a recent move) or a postponed expensive splurge now found used (say, an obnoxiously large light box). Finding a good garage sale is much easier these days. Craigslist and Kijiji are the most popular for notices, but Wikipedia has compiled a list of mapped sites that subscribe solely to the trash-to-treasure doctrine. Of course, the traditional morning drive or walk through your neighbourhood will reveal signs posted on poles directing you to a few nearby. It also helps to know what types of sales to seek out and the ones to pass up based on what you’re looking for.
Garage, yard, and moving sales will have anything between unique trinkets to full-fledged dining furniture sets. They are your best bet for used home basics that have recently replaced with something new. Community, street, and park sales tend to have the same sellers as garage sales but in mass numbers. Some were invited to join and are just trying to make a quick buck, however the density of sales in a one block span is a big attraction for buyers. Church sales bring out the hobbyists in a neighbourhood. Unless you’re looking for some knit ware, the baked goods and books are the only incentives to go. Avoid the professional sales and junk dealers. They may have great looking stuff but have no interest in giving you any kind of deal. Week after week they will still be there and prompted the bylaw against having more than two garage sales per year.
2007_07_28morefinds.jpgNo matter what type of sale you’re at, keep in mind the following tips.

  • Start early. Garage sales usually start at 8 or 9 a.m. and being there at the beginning will get you first pick of the deals. You may be paying a premium without having any offers put in before you.
  • Start late. Sellers want to sell and if that item is still around past noon, they may very well give it to you for a song. Unfortunately you may be looking at a picked over lot and some of the better goods will be gone already.
  • Start at the end. It was likely two steps from the curb before and if it didn’t fetch a dime then it’s likely going to be waiting right there for you, for free!
  • Hold onto it. Even if you’re not sure that you want a certain item, carry it with you while you’re browsing. Someone else may snap it up the second you put it down.
  • Test it out. You don’t want to bring home something broken, so make sure that anything electrical gets plugged in. Good sellers will always oblige any requests.
  • Prices aren’t final. Don’t be shy about offering half price for something as there’s always room for negotiation. Purchasing several items at once will only sweeten the deal more and give you more leverage.