An Expert Mom's Tips for Getting the Most Out of Garage Sale Finds

Garage sale season has officially begun, and if your kids are anything like my son, a great chunk of his or her wardrobe is second-hand. It is easy to find kids items in great shape and save money stocking their closets through hand-me-downs, consignment shops and tag sales. However, there are also some mistakes that can thwart your thrifty efforts if you are not careful.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of garage sale kids items:

1. Check more than the tag for an accurate size.

One bummer of hand-me-down clothing is that clothes shrink in the wash. The more an item is washed, the smaller it becomes. You can compare the shirt to your child to be confident it will fit. The last thing you want is to bring home a bag full of un-returnable clothes that are too small.

2. Shorts usually last more than one summer.

While most clothing shrinks, shorts can be the exception. While my son gained a few vertical inches over the winter, his waistline did not follow the same growth pattern. You can usually get another summer’s worth of wear out of shorts if you buy them long—especially for boys.

3. Be a repeat customer.

It is worth writing down the address when you find a house with kids the same gender as yours, but a size or two bigger. It is easy to get lost in a neighborhood or community-wide sale (especially a whole year later), but if you jot down the address (and keep it in your glove box so you can find it next year!) you can start at the best house.

4. Stay away from used car seats.

There are many things that can be wrong with a used car seat. Missing parts, expiration dates, and more can leave you with an unsafe seat for your child. One mom put together this list to help decipher if a car seat is safe to buy. Following this checklist will require some research, a great understanding of car seat parts, and searching online for owner’s manuals. My advice is to buy a new car seat and be sure your child is safe.

5. Beware of drop-side cribs.

Did you know that it is illegal to sell drop-side cribs, even at yard sales? That law took effect in 2011 in response to many suffocation deaths and multiple recalls. The more a crib is assembled, disassembled, and reassembled the more likely it is for errors to occur, screws to be misplaced, and accidents to happen. Contact the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission at 800-638-2772 if you see someone trying to sell a drop-side crib. No babies should die because of a crib that was illegally sold.

6. Check for recalls.

When my son was just three months old, his car seat was one of the 3.7 million Graco car seats recalled. The remedy was simply replacing a part, but not all recalls are so simple. Put your data plan to good use and check with the Consumer Product Safety Commission before you buy a baby item. Just perusing the list today there is a rattle with a choking hazard, a bottle warmer that can catch fire, and a sippie cup with the risk for mold exposure listed. It is definitely worth a few minutes on your phone to keep your baby from choking, fire, or mold.

7. Wash clothing before wearing.

Last fall my family joined the one in five Americans that has had or knows someone who has encountered bed bugs. Our family unknowingly brought them home with us from a hotel we stayed at on a missions trip. The total cost and months of agony while we treated our home are enough for me to warn you to be serious about preventing bed bugs.

Please add these steps to your laundry routine when bringing home second-hand clothes:

Bag and seal all clothing BEFORE it enters your home.

  • A trash bag is an easy way to accomplish this. Keep the bag sealed until you are putting the clothes in the washer.

Wash all clothes on high heat.

  • If an article is too delicate to wash on high heat, leave it in the sealed bag and place it in the freezer for twenty-four hours.

With these steps in mind, happy garage sale shopping!