Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Turning Clutter Into Cash

     I love yard sales.  I grew up treasure hunting through people’s garages, back yards, and barns, and I’ve met some of the most interesting people during my forays.  It’s fun to hear stories, share gardening tips and peek at others’ landscaping, and cart people’s junk home to give it new life.  I’d much rather attend sales, but the time has come for me to thin some collections, so I’m planning my own sale this summer.  My friends have been quick to offer advice on avoiding yard sale “faux pas”:

·         Presentation, presentation, presentation.  Don’t just heap items on tables or the ground.  Group like items together, vary presentation heights, and make sure items are clean.  Hang clothing and linens, or fold them neatly on tables.  A closet rod, broomstick, or shower curtain rod between two ladders works great for this.  Place fragile items up high so little hands can’t reach them, and always be honest if a piece is broken or cracked.  If you stage items to show potential and style, customers will linger and purchase more.

·         Clearly price items, so customers don’t have to ask.  If you don’t want to price everything, fill containers with items that are the same price, or use colored stickers that correspond to a prominently placed key that lists prices for each color.  If you have big ticket items worth lots of money, consider consignment or advertising instead.  People are looking for bargains.
·         If you have items that you don’t intend to sell, remove them, cover them with sheets, or put NFS (Not for sale) tags on them.  Inevitably people will want those items too.
·         Make signs big and bold.  Drivers can’t read tiny writing on boxes near the ground.  Don’t put or leave signs out unless you are open for business, and make sure you post signs legally.  Advertise in newspapers and on social networking sites to get the word out.

·         Open early to allow the crowd going to work a chance to stop.
·         Recruit a friend or two to work with you, and keep your change on you—an apron with big pockets works well.  Make sure you stock enough cash to get you through the day.
·         Place your best pieces prominently out front to lure drive-by customers in, and have lots of items to choose from.  It’s frustrating to see “Huge Sale” on signs that lead to only one or two tables.  Consider teaming up with neighbors, friends, or family for more variety and items.  The bigger the sale, the more people will come.

·         Have plenty of packaging available:  boxes, bags, newspaper for wrapping, and twine or tape are all essential.
·         Consider donating leftover pieces in good condition to a local charity.  There are several local businesses that would benefit from your generosity, and the tax write-off will benefit you in turn.
With a little planning, I hope to turn my clutter into cash, and you can too.  And here’s the best part—now we’ll have room for new treasures that are out there waiting!  (Just don’t tell my husband.  He thinks we’re downsizing!) 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Prairie Sisters Perfection

The Prairie Sisters Show at Metra was a huge success.  Those girls really know what they are doing down to the last detail. 

Colorful pennants, flowers, and hand made signs greeted shoppers at the door, and smiling cashiers handed out baskets containing treats.  Booths were colorful and stocked with shabby chic and repurposed items, along with antiques and upscale "junk".  The temptations were numerous and reasonably priced.  Needless to say, we left with our arms full.

"Junk Hunks" were available to assist with loading of large pieces.  A ticket system was in place to mark items sold and ready to move.

 According to our vendors who participated in the show, many booths sold out to the bare walls, so when the Sisters return later this year for a second show, I'd recommend getting there early--and don't hesitate if you want something because it will likely disappear before you can return for it.  The only complaint I heard at all was how crowded the show was and how difficult it was to see anything in the booths.  From what I've been told, the Sisters are considering expanding into the next room to create more space to alleviate this issue.

Great job, Prairie Sisters--you are a welcome addition to Billings' antique offerings.  We are looking forward to seeing you again in a few months.  (Shows are scheduled in western Montana later this year.  Go to the  Sisters' website for more information:  )

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Baskets are great tools for display in the home and for adding a touch of warmth to any setting.  They are one of man’s oldest inventions, dating back thousands of years.  Baskets were used by Sumerians to bury their dead, and traces of baskets have been found in Egyptian pyramids.  The Bible mentions baskets several places.  Early baskets were made for practical purposes, but it’s interesting to note that even in early times, basket weavers were creative in the weaves they invented.  As trading and travel became prominent, different weaves made their way across the world, resulting in a number of beautiful patterns that we use today.
            Baskets are made of a variety of materials, including grasses, fibers, pine needles, cloth, and even newsprint.  Some of the methods today include coiling, splint weaving using flat materials like reeds, canes, or vines, and round fibered weaving.
            You can use baskets for decoration or for practical purposes in your home.  Layer a variety of baskets above your kitchen cabinets.  Use them to hold magazines, newspapers, or kindling in the living room.  Nail a flat basket with its back against a wall in the bathroom and add rolled towels or toilet paper. 

A basket with toiletry items in a guest bedroom will make company feel welcome and at home.

You can also nail a basket to any wall to act as a frame for other objects or use baskets on a desk to hold paper, cards, or objects like seashells or rocks you’ve picked up during your adventures. 

 Baskets in cupboards in the kitchen or laundry room make it easier to keep small objects together and organized.  Add baskets under the bed for extra sweaters or linens storage.

You can even use baskets in your garden shed to hold seeds, sprinkler heads, or flowers and herbs that you’ve gathered.  One of my favorite uses for baskets is to combine several small gifts for a friend in a festive setting.  They make a colorful, fun present for any occasion.

            Baskets can be found at most thrift and antique shops for nominal prices.  Try adding some to your d├ęcor this spring!
Sources:  Linda Herbert, "Basket Beginnings" and Helen Polaski, "Short History of Baskets and Basket Making"