I don’t hate garage/tag/rummage sales and I don’t hate gently used clothes from well-dressed women my size/style who so kindly sell them to me for pennies on the dollar.
In fact, I love those things.
Which is why I had to stop.
I banned myself from garage sales.
I grew up going to garage sales. A lot. As one of five kids, we played outside and we got things dirty and we didn’t know how to take care of our clothes.
I, in particular, stained at least one smiley-face t-shirt (oh, hey 90’s kids!) with grape juice from lunch at school, so heaven knows it gave my mom hives thinking of paying more than $10 for a shirt I’d ruin. (You’d think this would only apply to elementary school, but you’re wrong — I’ve been a klutz as long as I can remember.)
For even more background than what you’re looking for, I was a middle-schooler with long legs and a tiny tiny waist. Jeans were hard to find, so if a garage sale had one pair that’d fit, they’d often have more — jackpot!
Over time, I got used to wearing clothes that had once belonged to someone else. It doesn’t bother me if the clothes look nice and they're coming from a clean home.
In college, one of my best friends begged me to teach her how "to garage sale” (like, as a verb).
I was honored.
I know how to look at a rack of clothes and find the gem. Whether it’s the pattern, texture or color, I can spot a solid piece in seconds. I pass through the rack quickly, only stopping when something valuable catches my eye.
It takes practice. I’m good at it. I learned it from my momma.
But a couple years ago, I stopped. I had to.
Simply put, it was costing me a fortune when I’d leave my house on Saturday mornings to go through other peoples’ treasures, giving over my cash and taking home lots of space-sucking clothes I really didn’t need.
Sure, it was a good deal, but many times I wasn’t sure they’d fit or what my style was in general. For my pocketbook and my undefined personal style, there was a point when I thought it was better if I just stayed home.
So I did. I stayed home. I ignored signs on the road — I just kept driving.
It was a good lesson in wants/needs and space/fullness. I struggled even liking the clothes I did have in my closet; many of them hung untouched in my clothes for months and months. It was a waste!
In the last year, I’ve taken an interest in the capsule wardrobe theory (as seen/promoted/tried/tested by half of Pinterest).
I never set any rules for my wardrobe other than to only keep/purchase clothes that make me feel good wearing them. Sounds simple, but my big problem was that I had been acquiring clothes for years and years and never getting rid of any.
My closet had become a mausoleum of years past — high school, early college, the years I worked at Old Navy…
It was a matter of saying to myself, “I’m only going to buy clothes that make me feel good, fashionable, practical and flattering."
I cleared out my wardrobe. I took SO many loads to the local donation center.
I was embarrassed.
I felt awful at first, then I felt awesome.
Everything left in my house made me feel great when I wore them. My clothes no longer dictated my mornings of grudging outfit choices and lame self-esteem. I gained a new self.
Last weekend, I went to a friend’s garage sale. I know I’ll always find things I like there. I bought a armful of clothes for $5.25. I know they’ll work well in my wardrobe and they support my newly-defined style.
And I’m totally fine not going to every garage sale. It’s a matter of self-control and knowing what I want.
But I will admit: garage sales are a steal and I love them still. Now I just love them with less frequency. And my bank account appreciates that.
What are some limits you choose to place on your time, money or energy?
Related: Choose Your Own Adulthood