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“Now the fun begins,” Lisa Boland mutters under her breath just before she asks the proprietor of the North Kildonan garage sale we’ve spent the last 20 minutes perusing, “So, how much do you want for all this?”

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Lorne, the 71-year-old homeowner who tells us he’s moving into an apartment soon and needs to downsize, takes a moment to consider Boland’s selections, which include several packages of unopened gift wrap, an ashtray and lighter ensemble, a mismatched lime-green decanter set and a half-dozen cassette tapes by acts such as the English Beat, Fine Young Cannibals and a Canadian heavy metal outfit dubbed the Killer Dwarfs. (Lorne, who apologizes for not having price tags on any of his sale items, winks when a scribe turns the latter band’s release over in his hand and remarks, “For real, you used to listen to these guys?”)

“Does $20 sound about right?” he finally replies, dropping his asking price by $5 almost immediately, after reading a look on Boland’s face that seemed to indicate, “Twenty bucks? Are you kidding me?”

The two eventually settle on $10 for the lot, but only after Boland decides she doesn’t “really need” a rainbow-coloured curio Lorne refers to as a “peter-heater,” a knitted gag gift that is supposed to warm a particular part of the male anatomy. (“Not to worry, it’s never been used,” he assures a second woman waiting to pay for her purchases.)

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Veteran garage sale shopper Lisa Boland examines a record at a garage sale Friday. Lisa has been going to garage sales for 40 years.

On the way to her car, Boland, who as the owner of Bitchin’ Kitsch ‘n’ Kitchen resells the majority of her weekly garage-sale finds at her stall at Old House Revival on Young Street, checks her phone to see precisely how far we are from another sale that looks promising. Seconds later, as she’s negotiating a right turn onto Springfield Road, she is asked why, when people are able to go online and pick up almost anything under the sun, she devotes a fair chunk of her summertime weekends — “and Thursday nights, that seems to be a thing more and more these days” — to sifting through others’ unwanted goods.

“It truly is the thrill of the hunt,” she replies, noting she caught the garage-sale bug in the mid-1970s, when, at age seven, she tagged along with her father while he puttered around their River Heights neighbourhood hunting for camera equipment and old books.

“I mean, unless there’s something specifically mentioned in an ad that draws you in, you never, ever know what you’re going to uncover,” she continues, instructing her passenger to consult a map to see if they should be turning left or right when they get to Raleigh Street.

“So yeah, I never head out on with the intention of returning home with a Wile E. Coyote coffee mug or an old curling sweater. But when it’s suddenly right there in front of you — and all somebody wants is a buck or two — how can you pass it up?”

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Lisa Boland’s haul of treasures from just one garage sale.

If you’ve never hosted a garage sale and are planning to — or if you’ve staged one but the results, financially, were less than satisfactory — you might want to spend some Media an exhaustive website maintained by Chris Heiska, a Maryland resident who has been answering to her self-anointed title for just under 20 years.

In 1990, Heiska and her husband moved from upstate New York to Lusby, Md., a small town about 70 kilometres south of Washington, D.C. (Over the phone, Heiska chuckles when a reporter mentions there’s a fair bit going on in Washington these days, adding, “Oh yeah, just a bit.”)

The reason Heiska started going to yard sales following their move was simple: there she was, with a brand-new house that “needed filling up” but because there were no shopping malls or department stores in the general vicinity, buying second-hand quickly became her best option, she says.

Her motivation to create a website devoted to the do’s and don’ts associated with mounting a successful garage or yard sale was just as straightforward: “My thought process was, if I offered people tips on how to have a yard sale, then they’d have one — and then there’d be more sales for me to go to,” she says, mentioning she launched her website in 1999.

Several of Heiska’s online suggestions seem like no-brainers: make sure your signs are legible, make sure your items are fairly priced and keep your proceeds in a safe and secure place. Others, such as investigating local laws associated with sign placement and how often you’re allowed to conduct a sale might seem less obvious to garage-sale neophytes.

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Lisa Boland, a 40 year garage sale veteran talks prices with Lorne Jennings, the owner of this garage sale. There are garage sales popping up around the city all the time and you never know what treasures you might find.

Heiska also devotes an entire section to her garage-sale pet peeves. That includes homeowners who believe “death metal” is appropriate background music at a sale, people who don’t go to the bank beforehand and can’t make change “even for $1” and well, pets.

“I don’t care if you have the friendliest dog in the world,” she says, adding there should be a special place in Hades for those who neglect to take their signs down once their sale is finished. “Lots of people are afraid of or allergic to dogs, so please, keep them inside the house while your sale is going on.”

Heiska adds an important thing to remember, particularly if you’re selling clothes, is to check any pockets or hidden compartments for valuables. She can’t count the number of times she’s picked up a bathrobe or sweater for 50 cents, only to get it home and discover a $5 or $10 bill tucked in a fold somewhere. (“Hey, finders, keepers,” she says, when asked if she’s ever dashed back to return the moolah to its rightful owner.)

Heiska agrees with Boland’s assertion it’s the element of surprise that continues to draw people to garage sales, week after week, year after year, despite the prevalence of e-commerce.

“Plus, since you’re rarely spending too much on any one thing, there’s not a whole lot of buyer’s remorse. I mean, it’s not that big a deal if you buy a piece of cheap artwork somebody else might consider a piece of junk, because as soon as you want to get rid of it, all you have to do is host a yard sale of your own,” she says, answering “yes and no” when asked if she still shops at garage sales on a routine basis. “Yes, as often as I can, but no, if my husband is in the other room, eavesdropping on this conversation.”

 

Few things signal the arrival of summer in Winnipeg better than garage sales. Or moving sales. Or yard sales.

From the colourful handprinted signs dotting the boulevards to the driveways packed with tables and boxes offering the promise of potential hidden treasures, it’s a rite of weekend city life.

To help navigate Winnipeg’s endless garage sale possibilities, the Free Press wants to give you a leg up. We want to map out each week — with our readers’ help — as many garage sale locations in the city as possible.

So, give us a few details and help the city’s treasure hunters. 

And please note, the map only shows sales coming up in the next seven days, but don’t worry: If you submit a sale well in advance of the day, it will show up a week before it happens.

 

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It may take up to 10 minutes for your sale to appear on the map, so hang tight.

If your sale is takes place over multiple days, submit each day individually.

Read more by David Sanderson.

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