Jun 13

how to find good yard sales in Portland, Oregon

I have developed a specific technique to find good garage sales. Here are some tips:

• Isolated single-family sales are rarely worth a drive unless they have a specific item you’re seeking.
• To find large sales, use search terms: rummage, church, school, multi-family within the Garage Sales category on craigslist.
• Subscribe to the feed for craigslist posts that meet your criteria using an RSS reader

• Sort your route using google maps! Simple but extremely effective.
• When in doubt or nothing stands out, consider focusing on sales in affluent neighborhoods. In the Portland metro, I like Beaverton/Hillsboro, Piedmont, Eastmoreland, Laurelhurst, and any of the “Hillside Terrace” sounding streets that mean hilltop property and expensive homes. Often you can find others in the neighborhood just by driving to your main sales target location.
• “Moving sale” often means the owners are trying to unload large items quickly, and therefore cheaply. A great place to search for furniture.
• Signs: most yard sale signs are default neon cardstock you can find at any pharmacy or grocery store. When I have time, I will follow rabbit trails through neighborhoods linking from sale to sale based on whatever signs catch my eye.
Anecdotally, I like to try to figure out the style of the sale based on the wording and handwriting on the signs. I usually assume artsy signs will point me to the sale of a free spirit, while very tidy and informational signs will have good things in excellent condition, but the owner probably knows exactly how much s/he paid retail and wants to make more off the sale.
• Similarly, the wording in the craigslist ad can tell you a lot about the expected haul. All caps? Probably an older person writing the ad. Older people tend to price things really low, with the occasional ridiculously priced “antique” thrown in there. (I avoid sales advertising antiques, or emphasizing certain name brands because the prices will be higher.) I learned to avoid sales that advertise ‘GIGANTIC SALE’ with ‘LOTS OF TREASURES’. If they seem overly enthusiastic in a listing for a single-family sale it’s probably not that great. If the word “knick knack” is anywhere in the post this tells me it’s not going to feature useful things I am after. • When considering whether to drive a little further for a multi-family or church sale I rely heavily on the photos accompanying the craigslist post to determine how organized, up-to-date, and in my taste the items might be. Is it worth the drive? 50/50 on group sales.
• Another thing about a church or school-hosted sale is that it’s usually many families donating the stuff from their garages to a good cause, but they are not pricing their own “treasures” – when the person doing the pricing is not the one who paid for the item originally, prices can get really low! No ego investment…
• If you’re in an organized school-based sale, look for signs or posted spreadsheets with general pricing. School PTAs love their price signs and color sticker categories!
• Strangely enough, plant sales are actually kind of awesome. Prices are low and the quality of the plants tends to be high. And the people selling the plants can usually tell you all about how to care for them.
• PRICE NEGOTIATIONS: Generally speaking, people are more firm on posted prices at the beginning of a sale and ready to pay YOU to haul it away by the time they have been sitting out in the sun for six hours. If I am interested in an item that is not priced, I casually ask the sale owner “how much are you asking for this?” And then counter-offer a few bucks lower if I think they quoted too high. I have rarely been turned down. People just want you to take away their stuff. (I don’t banter with little old church ladies because their prices are always low to begin with, and rarely with school fund-raising sales because it’s all a good cause.)
• Yard sale 101, but it took me awhile to get the courage to do this: when you’re buying multiple items you can easily group them and then ask “can I give you $___ for this?” and they are happy to give you a discount. Especially easy when you’re buying multiples of the same thing, like a stack of children’s books or a pile of clothing.
• A few times I have seen a big furniture item I liked but thought was priced too high. I have left my number with the sale owner and said “if that table doesn’t sell by the end of the day I’ll give you [35%-65% of asking price]. Just send me a text if you’d like me to come by and take it off your hands!” in a light, respectful tone. Our kitchen table was even delivered to our door the same day by a couple happy to have it out of their garage!
• If you’re on a tight budget, consider dropping by large rummage sales around 1:00 on their last day (they’re often Friday-Saturday). Many groups do a blanket 50% off, or “fill a bag for $3!” which can be really fun if there’s a stash of something you want (clothes, books, household goods). Just avoid the used-bra table!! AHHHHHHH
• Ask about unique items — I’ve always been intrigued by the story of unusual items I have found at smaller sales, the owner can usually give you a bit of a history lesson and is happy that someone cares.
• It’s ok to do a drive-by. You might feel a little guilty not stopping at someone’s sale – especially if you make eye contact as you go by – but don’t let your guilt cause you to stop at a sale that does not have the type of items you are seeking. It’s WORSE to feel like you have to “pity browse” and make token small talk so as not to be rude.
• Buy the lemonade. Always buy the lemonade. Unless they’re trying to charge $1. Garage Sale Lemonade is not worth a dollar.

Most of my discoveries are common sense but helpful to have as reminders. It took me a few months of trial and error to come to a workable solution for my Saturday escapades – where I wasn’t wasting time or gas driving across town only to be disappointed. Figuring out the dynamics on how to find and work it at big rummage sales made all the difference in my technique.


In a nutshell here’s how I prepare for my weekend adventures: first round- RSS feed from craigslist captures on specific search terms that indicate larger, better priced sales whose ads pop up throughout the week…. second round – another end-of-week sweep of craigslist postings for last minute procrastinators, sales in affluent neighborhoods (eastmoreland, piedmont, laurelhurst, etc) and kid stuff keywords… also add neighborhood-wide sales areas to my list for ROI with time/energy. last round – google maps to determine most efficient route (this part takes me the longest). I prioritize my route around sales that have specific items I want or big sales where “the good stuff might go fast.”

Do you have any pro tips for garage sales, yard sales, and rummage sales? What is your favorite item to find?

Jan 13

2013: epiphany


In 2013 I am ready for epiphany. This is my theme for the year.


Guiding word for January is ABUNDANCE. When I feel stressed, I tell myself I have plenty of time, or energy, or resources, or whatever. And I feel my stress melting away.

May 12
Apr 12
Apr 12
Apr 12

waiting for the baby

I felt like I was going a little bit crazy in the final two weeks of pregnancy. Tired easily, always hungry, in some pain/body stress, but unable to concentrate on anything work related….

In retrospect, here are the things I would recommend women do in the days/weeks before giving birth:

  • Check the levels of your shampoo, toothpaste, laundry detergent and make sure to replace anything close to being done. Check on the TP, paper towels, and other household items as well.

  • Schedule maternity leave notices on any blogs, set up email vacation autoresponders, and update voicemail messages to let people know what to expect from you communication-wise.
  • Set up a comfortable nursing station, with reading material, snacks, comfortable pillows, remote controls, and a little table nearby.
  • Clean up your media queues! Check your Pandora and Spotify stations, your Hulu and Netflix subscriptions, and in general put lighthearted stuff at the top for easy access.

  • Decide what level of Facebook and twitter interaction you welcome in your life around birth and in the first weeks. What information do you want to share with people? What information do you want your parents to share? Let it be known.

  • Pick out a baby announcement (I like the designs at minted.com)

  • Read Amazon reviews for baby products you’re considering and throw them in a baby registry or saved items in your cart to buy later as needed.

  • Find information for a good local lactation consultant. You might need it.

  • Set up (or ask a friend to set up) a meal train schedule for friends to bring you delicious food!


I also like this list from a reference book:


Enjoy this quiet time before your baby’s birth!

  • Visit a new or elegant restaurant
  • Enjoy a walk every day
  • swim
  • make a couple of stews or casseroles, and freeze them for after the baby is born.
  • Have lunch with a friend.
  • Treat yourself to a massage.
  • Make a list of numbers to call when the baby is born.
  • Spend a romantic night or weekend in a hotel with your partner.
  • Take a bubble bath.
  • Shop for yourself, not the baby.
  • Buy some fresh flowers.
  • Bake cookies or bread.
  • Visit a local museum.
  • Read a good book that’s not about birth or babies.
  • Write a letter to someone you don’t see often enough.
  • Go to a concert.
  • Go dancing with your partner.
  • Have your partner take some sexy and silly photos of your pregnant body.
  • Look at your baby pictures and your partner’s.
  • Savor being two before you become three!


From “The Joy of Pregnancy” by Tori Kropp

Apr 12

What to Pack for the Hospital or Birth Center

  • Bathrobe and slippers
  • Basic toiletry items (toothbrush, hairbrush, hair clip)
  • Favorite socks
  • Lip balm
  • Massage oil
  • Tennis ball or other massage aid
  • Comfortable pillow (with a case that isn’t white so you don’t forget to bring it home)
  • Frozen ice or juice bars, or your favorite juice or other cold drink
  • Small cooler (if no refrigerator will be available)
  • MP3 player with your favorite music
  • Reading material or a deck of cards
  • Nursing bra
  • Extra pair of underpants
  • Loose, comfortable clothes for going home
  • Address book or list of phone numbers to share the good news



From “The Joy of Pregnancy” by Tori Kropp

Mar 12

any day now…

So today is the “official” due date but our son seems pretty snug in there for awhile. So until further notice, in answer to your question HAVE YOU HAD THAT KID YET? answer.
I’m going about life as normally as possible for someone with a squashed bladder, and planning without commitment to easy social and business outings to keep my mind off the anxiety of waiting. The overnight bag is packed, the diapers are ready to be filled, and we have everything as ready as possible… today I am looking forward to getting lunch at my new favorite thai restaurant around the corner, having tea with some other Portland business owners, and possibly doing in some final maternity self-portraits at the studio.

Here are a couple of links that I’ve recently enjoyed:

Pregnancy Etiquette: Things You Should Never Say to a Pregnant Woman
I’m generally a social over-sharer, so I don’t mind giving people personal information within reason. BUT: I have been appalled by the autopilot questions people ask a pregnant woman, often in a social situation that makes it extra uncomfortable not to answer — “was this planned?” “were you guys trying for long?” are among the worst offenders, and people don’t think twice about asking that (REALLY?).

I think this one is specific to me, but I also get really annoyed when strangers and acquaintances ask what we’re going to name our son (we’re keeping it secret). I’m fine with friends asking this question as it can be relevant to other baby conversation, but when the Macy’s saleslady fired it off in a series of five other logistic questions I just wanted to punch her in the face. I don’t care to explain my choices to her because she’s bored on the sales floor, I just wanted to browse their nursing tank tops in silence.

While we’re on the topic of pregnancy etiquette, let’s talk about people who have had kids. I understand that many of the choices we’re making may seem naïve and we’ll probably learn the hard way on some things (ok, we’re probably not going to be able to get away with a plastic-free home…) but don’t you dare roll your eyes at me when YOU ASK and I tell you we’re at a birth center with midwives not doctors, and are choosing a more natural birth plan. The typical response is “good luck with that honey.” It’s basically exactly like the women share in this post: People’s Reactions to Natural Birth.

Mar 12

Multnomah County Library Buys Zines

I picked up a paper at the library that talks about the Multnomah County Library zine program. If you have a new zine or minicomic, send a note about the publication to zines@multcolib.org or mail a sample to:

Emily-Jane Dawson
Zine Collection
801 SW 10th Ave
Portland OR 97205

“please include contact information, prices and distros/vendors!”


Mar 12

how to get out the door

I’m notorious for being a little bit late to just about everything.

My friend Arnold Santos once named it “time optimism” – which means that I always think I can get [a lot more done than realistically possible] in a short amount of time, AND I also act in ways that suggest my commute to whatever location will be hassle-free and devoid of traffic. Sound familiar?

Awhile back I was given the suggestion to “just put on your shoes” (source: Marla Cilley via hp) — when you’re dragging your feet on getting ready or just keep procrastinating leaving the house, the small act of putting on your shoes is committing yourself psychologically to the reality of the situation. This works if you’re supposed to be headed out to the gym, or a social event, or a business meeting. Something about suiting up with the right shoes for the task is enough subtle trigger to get the rest of you going.

I have some other tricks I have used since I was young, like putting together my gear bag and picking out the clothes I will want – the night before. As a non-morning adult, if I have a meeting before my preferred rise-and-shine time (10am is about the earliest I can preferentially be clean and hold a decent conversation) I sometimes put out everything from socks to scarf for the next day’s activity. Limiting morning fashion decisions for my not-yet-functioning brain is a smart choice all around.

Here’s some smart advice from Gretchin Rubin of The Happiness Project. I think she’s the source of the “put on your shoes” trick, too.

« Older Entries
all content copyright © 2017 Rachel H