When you shop flea markets and yard sales, there's no stockroom full of duplicate merchandise, and there's rarely a return policy. You have to make fast decisions, and those decisions need to be good ones. You can reduce your risk of buying something you can't use -- or worse, passing on something you'll desperately wish you'd bought -- by creating a flea market and yard sale tool kit.
A flea market and yard sale tool kit is just a collection of tools to make your secondhand shopping comfortable and productive. You'll want to keep most of these with you during the sales. Others can be left in your vehicle until you need them. If you're shopping in a walking city, pare it down to the essentials.
You should customize your flea market and yard sale tool kit to your specific needs, but here are the basics:
Keep with You
- A list of the items you hope to find, including any necessary dimensions.
- A floor plan or list of room dimensions. Don't forget to include your window measurements and the dimensions of any existing furniture you'll need to consider. For example, if you're shopping for side tables, you'll need to know the arm heights of your sofa and chairs.
- Paint swatches of colors you've used in your rooms, or colors you're considering.
- Fabric swatches of your current upholstery, drapery, and accents. Use pinking shears to cut one or two inch squares, then fasten them all together with a large safety pin. If you don't have samples of your upholstery fabric, check under the cushions and on the bottom of the piece. Many manufacturers affix a small sample with the tag.
- Small, lightweight tape measure.
- Large mesh tote bag or folding laundry cart with wheels, to keep your hands free while you shop. The tote bag works fine for small sales, but you'll be glad to have the cart at large sales and flea markets.
- Bubble wrap or tissue paper, so you can get breakables home safely. Toss a few sheets in the bottom of your tote bag or cart until you need it. You can keep extra in the car.
- Notepad and pen. Use a thick marker to make some sold tags on a few of the pages in advance. That way, you'll have them when you need them.
- Cell phone. You'll need it if you get lost or have car trouble, and you can use it to connect to the internet to check on a maker's mark or signature.
- Spare car key. With all the hurrying in and out of the car, at some point you'll probably lock the keys in the car. Nothing kills a yard sale buzz quite like watching other shoppers zip off to the next sale while you stand around waiting for a locksmith.
All of this may seem like a lot to carry on your person, but it's really just a few ounces. Wear a jacket with lots of pockets, or tuck everything into the side pocket of your tote bag, and you'll be able to reach everything without digging.
Keep in the Car
- Basic hand tools. You might need to remove the legs from a table, detach a mirror, etc. Phillips and flathead screwdrivers, a pair of pliers, and an adjustable wrench should do the trick.
- Roll of masking tape. You might need to piece the bubble wrap on large breakables, and tape is also good for keeping furniture doors closed and protecting glass inserts.
- Rope or bungee cords. In a truck or van, you'll use them to keep furniture from shifting. In a car, you can secure pieces that are a little too big to fit fully in the trunk, or strap things to the roof. Make sure doing so doesn't violate any traffic laws where you live.
- Extra wrapping and cushioning materials, and a few boxes to keep breakables from rolling about in the car.