A Tribute to my Sister
A Knack for Choosing Clothes

I don’t remember when my sister started frequenting garage sales but I do recall that when I went along, it felt like we were going to the fair! She always said, “You never know what you’re going to find at one of these places.” And we didn’t. But we often left with a good “find.”

In mid-June, I returned home from whichever country I happened to be teaching in at any given year. When I unpacked and slid open the closet door, I knew I’d find a few bags of clothing stored there for me. I’d open the bag and pull out what she later referred to as “a cute top I couldn’t resist,” or a “pair of jeans in your size. Amy, look at the label!” She delighted in gifting me these articles of clothing. They were practical, inexpensive and often,  brand new.  I wore most of what she found for me. They fit me well and looked nice, not to mention most of them sported top brand names.

Every week from Thursday to Saturday during my six-week stay home, she had our mornings mapped out for us by neighborhood. With the newspaper in hand, she would pull into the driveway and beep her horn. She had circled, highlighted, and put stars next to the ones she felt sold the greatest loot.  “Got your seat belt on?” she asked. At my nod, she backed out and we were on our way. She learned early on that her sense of direction was much better than mine, so she slowed down to find the address. She maneuvered her car into a spot the size of a handkerchief–or so it seemed to me–and we got out. She handed me a cloth bag or a back-pack, one she’d likely picked up cheaply or for nothing at another sale.

Carolyn could size up a sale at a glance. “These prices are too high,” she whispered. “Don’t pay more than…” Sometimes she pulled me aside, “That’s  a steal! Grab it before anyone else gets it,” she advised. I picked up the good stuff and set the trinket aside. I trusted her judgment completely.

Our neighborhood garage sale
Our neighborhood garage sale

The neighborhood sales were her favorite. She moved quickly from one to another. Often I found her sorting through piles of clothing in boxes or heaped on sheets on the ground. I don’t know how she had the patience but she extracted one-of-a-kind pieces. Her daughters, me, Mom, or one of my brothers were recipients of her generosity. Later, she sorted through baby clothes and toddler sizes with the same efficiency. While she sought out clothing, the list eventually widened to hand-held toys and playhouses, tools for Dad and love stories for Mom.

Since I knew she had the clothing department covered, I lingered over decorated tin cans, Christmas ornaments and the books. At one neighborhood sale in a wealthy subdivision, Carolyn latched onto some classy silverware. She said we couldn’t pass it up; the price was… yes, another steal! She also purchased Tupperware, serving dishes, bed sheets and  dishware–the latter two, she  gifted to refugee families and others in need.

My sister helped people often. She helped a missionary in Zimbabwe by finding school uniforms along with pens, pencils and notebooks. One summer when I came home, I told my sister that I would be traveling to a Kenyan village in December of that year. I planned to visit the school of a Kenyan child I sponsored through an organization called ChildFund, International. The primary school was in need of everything–but books in particular. So we scoured the sales for used books. Most of them cost a quarter each. But the way she explained, people listened and really cared. As a result, we often received the books for a dime each. Some people simply gave them to us. Like the clothing, the storybooks my sister found looked nice, were culturally appropriate and colorful.

My sister always went with a list and specific goals but she stayed open to the possibilities. It was fun to watch her in action.

If Carolyn felt the owner needed the money badly, she looked around until she found something she could buy, just to help them out. If she thought the owner was taking advantage, she would move on even if she liked something. As Carolyn looked over the wares, she struck up conversations with other shoppers–men and women alike–and those selling. Her enthusiasm and energy were indelible. In fact, her good-nature was infectious. I often heard laughter in her midst.

Along the lines of garage sales, my sister had her favorite discount stores. When I went to Gabe’s, I got a headache and felt overwhelmed.I had no idea where to start looking. But she  knew exactly where to go and how to find me the perfect back-to-the-tropics teaching outfits. When I left for the Middle East, she found the proper attire for me there, too. Carolyn had the patience to find me the right sizes and so many choices. The shopping sprees ended up as “gifts” to me.

The shopping spree for princess dresses was a hit!
The shopping spree for princess dresses was a hit!

Last spring, she and her oldest daughter, Rachel, jumped in the car and took two granddaughters and another little girl to Gabe’s. It was a one-of-a-kind sale with prices reduced to more than half off. The look on the girls’ faces tells it all. My sister loves to bring joy to others, especially her granddaughters.

One day I asked her to look for some kind of clothing rack to hold clothes at my own garage sales, which took place in early August every year. The flimsy one I had kept toppling over. I don’t know if it was the very next day or a couple days luater but she found an incredible rack on wheels with hooks at the sides, a top and a bottom rack. She bought it off a family closing up for the day. Just like that. I was speechless. The perfect clothing rack!

She said with a grin, “You never know what you’re going to find at one of these places.”

How do you feel about garage “sailing” when you are shopping for something? Do you prefer retail outlets or thrift stores? What is the most interesting / best bargain that you’ve found? Looking forward to your responses!

 ***

If you’d like to read more of Amy’s writing, check out her memoir, Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith found on Createspace, Amazon anad Amy’s website

A Knack for Choosing Clothes
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20 thoughts on “A Knack for Choosing Clothes

  • January 9, 2015 at 8:59 am
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    Your sister is a remarkable woman! Her still at finding things appears to be legendary. I don’t think even my mother’s op shop find skills could match 🙂

  • January 9, 2015 at 2:28 pm
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    Women after my own heart! I love thrift shopping, yard sales and resale shops. Its an adventure for sure! I find the most amazing things just for poking around in a bin or on a rack. I have better clothes than I did when I retail shopped! Designer labels, funky things I’d never buy for full price but LOVE to wear. Someone’s giveaway is my lucky day! Blessings to you and your sister! #blogboost

  • January 9, 2015 at 2:43 pm
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    Patricia, what do you mean by “op shop”?
    Ha! Truly savvy! I forgot to mention when she found me all these things to start my own business on the Internet. She carefully gathered all these brand name clothes, including darling baby clothes at a very good price. But I couldn’t sell them! I took photo after photo but no one grabbed the bait. I didn’t have what it took to stay with it. She was so disappointed in the end result! Had it been her, the business would have thrived. While I desperately needed the money, it took up so much time (with no reward) that I became discouraged and gave it up. But I never forgot her sacrifice! 😀

  • January 9, 2015 at 2:49 pm
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    Good morning, Hobby!
    I can just imagine the conversations you two would have if you ran into my sister at any one of those places! I think expert shoppers gravitate to each other! 😀 Thank you so much for stopping by and reading my post and tribute to my sister, a shrewd shopper who knows where and how to find the best buys!
    Amy

  • January 10, 2015 at 7:55 am
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    This is such an nice story about sister and her giving spirit. I can imagine how it must be at those garage sales and that’s why I don’t go, lol. You just never know what you’ll find and have to have 🙂

  • January 10, 2015 at 11:14 am
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    With her experience, she should be head of a charity. I love her zest for living, of finding bargains, and of sharing them with people who will appreciate them.

  • January 10, 2015 at 3:45 pm
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    I used to enjoy a good garage sale. Lately, I just dont have the patience for them. Your sister sounds like a saint.

  • January 10, 2015 at 5:11 pm
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    Hi Cheryl,
    ….and have to have! how true!
    I used to buy these tins cans and I would fill them with fudge or cookies and give them as gifts at Christmastime! Thanks for weighing in on the topic!
    Amy

  • January 10, 2015 at 5:16 pm
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    Hi Francene,
    That’s so uncanny! She and her husband were in charge of a charity group called LOVE, INC. I’m not certain they necessarily WANTED to be in charge but they took their turn. They collected used furniture to help those who are in dire need (moving, after a fire, resettling of individuals escaping from domestic violence situations, etc. She’s always been super-generous! Thanks for reading!
    Amy

  • January 10, 2015 at 5:18 pm
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    Hi Mary,
    Ha ha! I could have never done it without my sister.
    She used to find the most amazing kinds of sales! One, I remember was in a factory.
    We found my dog gate there!
    Have a great day!
    Amy

  • January 10, 2015 at 7:14 pm
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    I used to go once a month with my grandma and mom to garage sales and thrift stores. Always getting that one amazing deal was so much fun!

  • January 10, 2015 at 8:09 pm
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    Years ago, when I was pregnant and then, when my son was young, I would go to garage sales and come home with fantastic bargains. I wish I would have had your sister along. She is amazing, especially as many have benefited from her giving nature. Our world needs more people like her – a lot more people like her. I haven’t been garage saling in many years. I’m glad you didn’t post this in May. I might have been running out the door right now.

  • January 11, 2015 at 2:13 am
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    Hi Amy,

    I am a man who hates to shop. But if your sister took me, it sounds like it would be an enjoyable experience. What lovely times of bonding those trips must have been for the both of you.

  • January 11, 2015 at 5:09 am
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    Those are some amazing sales – love the neighborhood “garage” sale! And the princess dresses are adorable!

  • January 11, 2015 at 6:18 am
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    I spend time antiquing with my husband, Which is a fancy word for selling old stuff. Nowadays they don’t bother with garage sales so uch, they load it up into antique “malls” and sell it there. But we have fun.

  • January 11, 2015 at 7:55 pm
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    Hi Cassandra,
    Yes, getting that one amazing deal is great!
    And the memories you were making … equally great!
    My sister was a great thrift store shopper too!
    We went to one in North Carolina at Christmas one year.
    I liked that!
    Thanks for your comment.
    Amy

  • January 11, 2015 at 8:00 pm
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    Ha ha! Right, that would have put you on the garage sale binge, huh? Me, too! And with my sister, you couldn’t go wrong!
    Our culture is so much into it. When I was married (to an Egyptian), he was horrified that my sister and I planned to get lots of baby clothes at garage sales. He said, “What are you talking about? We can afford to buy our own baby (future baby) clothes! We are not poor.” It is so interesting how different cultures see the same thing!
    Thanks for your comment!
    Amy

  • January 11, 2015 at 8:14 pm
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    Yes, they were! She was as good at finding things for men as for us “girls.” She had special radar!

  • January 11, 2015 at 8:52 pm
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    K. Lee,
    Yes, I agree. The neighborhood sales are the best! I remember one we went to in a wealthier neighborhood. We got a bulletin board, filing cabinet and two stools for my breakfast bar. Later, I had them covered in a beautiful upholstery dog upholstery print. They stools were perfect! My sister saw them! And, yes, the princess dresses are so cool. I was talking to my niece about them before I posted the photo and she said, “They were like wedding cakes!” (with the ruffles or something!). That came from a 7-year-old!
    Do you remember any specific memorable great bargains you’ve gotten from your shopping efforts?
    Thanks for reading my post and weighing in!
    Amy

  • January 11, 2015 at 8:54 pm
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    Antiquing! It sounds a step above garage sales! 😀 That sounds like fun! I think I might have gone to an antique mall in Texas several years ago. It was so fun! I’m glad you reminded me of them! Thanks for your comment!
    Amy

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