Your Comprehensive Guide to Kicking Garage Sale Ass in Dallas

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These days, what with the trendiness of vintage stores and everything looking like it got fished out of a mid-century dumpster, garage sales have sort of gone by the wayside. Sure, it’s super cool to fish around a musty thrift store until you find an old plaid shirt that only has a few cigarette burns, but somehow less chic to fish through other people's castoffs while standing in their front yard.

But thanks to the beauty of suburban sprawl and good old-fashioned American consumerism, Dallas is a pretty killer place to go, as your crazy aunt might say, “garage sale-ing.” It’s going to take a little planning and more patience than you ever thought possible, but this guide will ensure that you make the most of Dallas’ garage sale scene.

The Preparation 

Do a drive-thru – The only real way you’re going to get a feel for a neighborhood’s garage sale scene is to drive around. You’ll frequently see garage sale ads posted on Craigslist or neighborhood Facebook groups, but beating the streets is a must. Choose a fancy-sounding subdivision (something with “hills” or “heights” in the name) and drive up and down the streets on a Saturday for the real lay of the land.

Wake your ass up early – Garage sales are not for the brunch crowd. Seriously devoted junk vultures are up at 7 a.m. scrounging for finds, and everything but the stained clothes and broken appliances will be gone by noon. The sweet spot seems to be between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., but that really all depends on the neighborhood you’re in. On the flip side, never show up at a garage sale before the time posted on the sign – that’s just rude.

Gather your supplies – You’re going to need caffeine to power through a full day of garage sale shopping throughout Dallas-Fort Worth, which means snacks, Xanax, the occasional cigarette, water, and probably a flask full of whiskey. Don’t forget your phone charger, either, lest you end up stranded in Burleson with no GPS in sight.

The Neighborhoods

Highland Park - It’s obvious that you should be gravitating toward rich neighborhoods for second-hand goods (clearly they can afford better stuff than your plebeian ass) but Highland Park can be hit-or-miss. Sometimes you score excellent vintage handbags, others you only find piles of ugly drapery.

Southlake – This is the place where everything from Z Gallerie goes to die, or at least be sold on the curb for 11 dollars. Here, you’ll find every tacky wrought iron and wine-themed tchotchke you ever thought possible, all covered with a thin film of child. This 'burb can be great, however, if you’re looking for designer jeans or shoes, furniture, or shabby chic decor.

Preston Hollow – If you’re balling on a budget, you’ll find plenty of designer scores and Neiman Marcus castoffs in these old homes. China, vintage barware, and costume jewelry are where it’s at, though. Don’t be surprised when you see a ratty-looking old fur coat priced at a couple thousand bucks.

Kessler Park – The cool rich people live in Kessler Park, so they have cool shit. It’s also likely that they don’t know what the hell any of the stuff they’re selling is going for down the street at the vintage shop, so don’t feel bad when you haggle a housewife down to a couple of bucks for a piece you plan to re-sell on eBay.

Lakewood/East Dallas – This is a neighborhood outfitted entirely in mid-century modern furniture and organic baby slings. Even just driving down the streets on trash day in Lakewood can yield treasures, but garage sales here are serious goldmines. Keep your eyes peeled for vinyl records, good fixer-upper furniture, and vintage accessories.

The Etiquette

Be firm but polite – Garage sales are where all your Southern charm will be tested to its limits. The very moment that you have a woman snatch a 50-cent South Padre Island tank top out of your hands because “she saw it first” is when you will just need to say “bless your heart” and snatch that tank top right on back with a sweet smile. Garage sale enthusiasts can smell fear, so you must stay strong.

Claim your goods – If you see something that you (or your cousin’s mother-in-law’s caregiver’s step-sister) might like, snatch it right on up and carry it with you. You can’t lay claim to anything at a garage sale with just your eyes in these parts, and you don’t want to end up debating with a West Plano housewife over a $15 Coach purse. You will lose.

Leave your kids at home – If you want to fight with your toddler over a 13-year-old plastic playhouse, be my guest, but do it on your own damn time. Garage sales are for grown-ups who don’t want to listen to your child scream because you brought him to an actual smorgasbord of toys and won’t buy him anything but socks.

Be a decent human being – You would be amazed at how many times greedy-ass garage salers will swap price tags to make items cheaper, grab things away from fellow shoppers, and just outright steal from sellers until you actually spend some time “in the scene.” Don’t be that person.

The Supplies

Plenty of cash – Garage sales don’t take credit cards, OK? Skip the ATM and head to an actual bank (if you can remember where yours is) and get enough cash for a day’s worth of shopping in multiple denominations. Your garage sale host is going to be real pissed when you try to pay for a $3 item with a $50 bill.

A roomy ride – The second you decide your tiny compact car will be able to hold all of your garage sale finds, you’re going to find the perfect desk or table that is totally not going to fit. Find a friend with an SUV, split gas, and don’t feel guilty when you bring home yet another Pinterest project – it was only eight bucks!

Decent haggling skills – Some neighborhoods are better for haggling than others – know in advance that those rich folks ain’t budging on that mustard yellow tea cozy – but people in Dallas will generally make a deal. You’re most likely to get the best deals at the end of the day, when people are nearly ready to just set their yards on fire to never have to look at any of their old shit again.

Tote bags and packing material – You’re inevitably going to buy some breakable shit, and it’s only going to happen after the garage sale host runs out of newspaper. Steal a few copies of The Dallas Morning News off your neighbor’s porch to ensure that the Precious Moments statue you couldn’t live without survives the trip home. You’ll also be glad you have those tote bags when you’re not carrying 14 armfuls of shoes and books up the stairs.

The Pitfalls

Designer handbags – If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in almost eight years of going to garage sales in Dallas-Fort Worth, it’s that people around here love a “replica” (read: fake as a three dollar bill) handbag. If you find some Gucci or Louis Vuitton, inspect the stitching and quality of the bag. The same goes for Nike sneakers, MAC and Urban Decay cosmetics, even Beats by Dre headphones.

Price gouging – Some people are overly proud of their goods, especially now that everything is “vintage” and “antique.” If you suspect that something is overpriced, use your phone to check prices on eBay and Etsy for comparison, and let the seller know. In many cases, they really don’t know what it’s worth (only what they paid for it) and will cut you a deal. But you should also be prepared to listen to why this particular ashtray is special because Great Aunt Myrtle brought it over on the Mayflower or whatever.

Getting duped – Shady people have garage sales too, and sometimes those shady people are going to try to sell you an iPod on the cheap. Unless the seller can make the item work and prove that it isn’t just a very expensive paperweight, avoid. The same goes for anything else – inspect clothing, decor and furniture for stains or other damage thoroughly. Garage sales don’t have return policies. 

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