Three times a year, I road trip to PA for "extravaganza weekend". Due to the accursed day job, I can't hit the first extrav event (Kutztown—which I consider the best of them), so it's always a crapshoot. To make up for it, I drive up late Friday night. Gotta wait until rush-hour traffic dies down. So, you KNOW I'm raring to go early Saturday morning!
call me the crate queen this weekend
This time? Rain, rain, rain. The first 2 outdoor markets—the main attractions—I hit were, um, unattended by sellers. I waited an hour, but all the tents were closed or the tables were bare. Harumph. Time to drive out of town to a known location for some good junking. Even those weren't coughing up the good junk I need for a haul. I piddled, I wavered, I hesitated. I bought a handful. At this point, it's time to hit the antique malls.
Then, my friends, it became badass junking. I became that buyer that is running the staff at the malls ragged, running my stuff up front to THE PILE. I ran out of checks. My debit card now has skidmarks. I was on a mission.
I found loads of my go-to items, which always provides a head rush. This type tray with all the amazing price-related letters/words was astoundingly affordable. Can you see the words "and", "only", and "pair"? Love, love, love.
But my ab-fab purchase was this huge galvanized tub with added FEET! Wouldn't this be awesome for a backyard party filled with wine/beer? I snapped this photo in situ, intending to send it to my dealer friend to see if she wanted me to buy it for her when I realized HELLS YEAH buy it myself. D'oh.
A rainy day road trip turned out head-spinningly awesome for the last few hours (a blur), scoring 2 amazing hanging scales not pictured, as well as loads of other smalls. I retired to the motel, intending to hit the outdoor markets early, but upon waking decided I'd spent too much money already, so headed home. That is sooooo not me. But it's true. For once, I'd blown my budget.
P.S. The BVD pajama rack is a whole 'nother story….
Tiny Hoard #2's home is on my hall table, so I can see it every time I enter or leave my house. I plop my keys right next to it, offering myself a measly thrill upon entry AND exit.
As you an see, sometimes the trinket is something I've been meaning to do something with (give the Brownie booklet to a co-worker) or something that broke that I just don't want to lose (the "Junk Girl" spoon keychain charm) or something that flat-out makes me smile (the "I'm particular" button).
The tiny hoards also allow me to rediscover my treasures, even as I'm off to do the humdrum daily grind. Time to go photograph and discover another….
These last 6 months, even though I haven't had opportunities to junk as frequently as I have in the past, it doesn't mean that I'm hoard-free.
In fact, I have loads of what I call "tiny hoards" all over my home. Little trays and cigar boxes house my hoard, simply to make me happy. I love that when I reach for the tv remote, the above tray is right in my face. It makes me smile. Even if I'm watching bad tv.
Since I rarely let anyone inside the warehouse my home except my sister, she gets to enjoy them too. Coincidentally, I've also become enamored of "flat lay" photography, due to some awesome Instagrammers and Facebookers, namely my Aussie junk sister Tamarah of Shabby Vintage Junk.
Last week's Luckett's booth I shared with my sister
I'm not gonna sugarcoat it: I've had a rough and demanding 6 months. My job—which I've had for 31 years—changed dramatically. We moved my octogenarian parents from Florida to Virginia, and then my father had unexpected major surgery. Basically, my junking was severely curtailed for 6 months, and the repercussions are hitting me now.
First, you get out of the habit of junking. That, in turn, leads to a lot of panic purchases and/or stymied junk runs, where you're just not finding anything good. Or, you simply cannot muster the energy to go out looking. Not a fun feeling.
That, in turn, leads to a neglected and stale booth. Of course, we all know what that means: lackluster sales. Of course, I'm still doing better at my current location than I did anywhere else, but it's been a slog the last few months. Sure, the booth still looks good and has great junk, but it's stagnating and I know it. Since we only sell once a month, it's important to MOVE merchandise, and to make it appear fresh. I'm logging a big FAIL in my head. Lord, are we hard on ourselves, huh?
Tiny treasures in my Luckett's booth
But I'm stoked to re-boot. We all know that we're moving into flea-market season, so I'll be redoubling the efforts! I've got to admit, though, that I'm struggling (in my mind) to find a solid way to make the junking work in a satisfying way. I'm committed to rejuvenating my etsy shop, and giving a big junk infusion to the booth, as well as rededicating myself to the blog.
What I really want, however, is to shed the golden handcuffs and go junking full time!
My first reaction was giddy excitement. A cruise with alleged legends in the repurposing/home decor field? To Miami/Key West/Cozumel? But, then?
1. I realized that I've never heard of any of these people except the Scott Brothers and the Junk Gypsies. Hence, alleged.
2. I am also petrified of open water, and have studiously avoided cruises as if my life depended on it. Hell, I skipped one of my BFF's 50th-birthday celebrations because it was a cruise. (If you want independent scary affirmation that cruises may be a tier of hell, I strongly recommend "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again", by David Foster Wallace, which is probably the best nonfiction I've EVER read.)
3. Miami/Key West/Cozumel are all been-there-done-that on my bucket list. In fact, my hotel in Cozumel caught fire. A sooty toothbrush will scar you for years.
4. What are the odds that all the fellow cruisers would be fun junkers?
I'll readily admit that I'm a tad late in participating in this yearly endeavor. I've shocked myself that I'm even writing about this. But it snuck up on me, and I've got to let it fly.
Every year, right around New Year's Eve, it seems everyone posts about struggling to find their "word of the year". I just shrug. I grok that many are looking to create a mood for the year, or a mantra to live by. Most words-of-the-year tend toward the lofty and aspirational: bliss, rest, create, peace, inspire. All admirable, to be sure, but unlikely to last beyond the next holiday.
As background, I offer up this roundabout story. Stick with me.
Back in the 90s, I was a member of a beach house for many years. A large group of disparate friends would rent a beach house in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware for 4 months each summer. Weekends were pure bacchanalia—we spent them carefree, sunburnt, and buzzed.
One weekend, our housemate Mark announced that he now wanted to be referred to as "The Edge." You'll doubt me, but he was sober and serious. This was a dude who shaved everyday (even on vacation), read the Wall Street Journal on the beach, and actually wore a dickywhen we went out drinking, not in jest.
As patiently and calmly as I could, I explained that not only can you NOT pick your own nickname, but you can't pick the same one as the world-famous guitarist from U2 (second from left, for you squares).
This is my roundabout way of explaining that I never could pick an aspirational word to guide me through the upcoming year. My resolutions never stick. And I'm too much of a realist to think I can create my own destiny when it comes to bliss and peace and inspiration.
But recently, something happened that made me realize I DO have a word that just might be my north star: LET'S. A co-worker told me that I say it a lot, and it's always, um, inspirational. To wit:
LET'S get out of here!
LET'S do this!
LET'S do it again! (which I say after every deadline at our newspaper)
So, there it is. Sometimes the word finds you. Or maybe you had it all along.
I was super-stoked for the long-anticipated DC Big Flea this past weekend. There's been a lot of snow and cold, and way too much 9-to-5ing going on lately (more like 9-to-9). That math adds up to zero junking, so I was ready!
I used to sell at this show back in the early days of VRS, so I have history. The show is 6X/year and claims to have 600 booths. Sounds good, right? But, man, I am losing the faith. Anyone that's ever junked with me knows I'm good to go. I've got a pocket full of cash, a big empty vehicle, and need to feed the booth beast. Look out, move along, and get out of my way.
Don't get me wrong; there are some great dealers. But frankly, there's just far too much estate jewelry and glassware for my taste. It's pretty bad when I can breeze through a show this large in under 2 hours.
This past show was rough, for me. I kept looking and looking and nothing was speaking to me. Until….
Did I need something to cure my INFLAMED EYELIDS? Or maybe something for my GRIPINGS? I'm pretty sure it wasn't DYSENTERY, but could it be SPASMODIC CROUP? No matter, I've now got it all covered. I'm feeling better already.
Then, wait what? Am I dreaming? The only things that can turn around a meh show:
Wanna pick my brain? I know many of you blog readers are already well entrenched in the business, but everyone can learn something. I was asked because of the ebook I co-wrote, which is specifically geared towards beginners. I'm hoping that through my week-long Q&A I can help our newbie sistas. Please tune in the first week of March, but in the meantime check out all the great advice going on over there!
You're in luck! My sister, who is also a junker, has graciously contributed this post for my blog. And it's quite the eye-opener. Enjoy!
Recently the shop where I rent a small booth switched to all consignment. There are many pluses: The owner is a gifted merchandiser with ADD. Instead of the front of the shop looking like Anthropologie and the back looking like a warren of mismatched stuff, the whole shop is now carefully curated. Items are moved around frequently in constantly changing vignettes. Most of the schlock has been banished. What’s not to love?
For the last six years I have had a booth but never sold on consignment. I have never made a lot of money, and if I honestly factored in all expenses, I have never made even a little money. I do it for the hunt, the camaraderie (with Snissy in particular), and the joy of uniting a leather horse fly net or door-sized Mark Spitz poster with the rightful owner.
Here’s my winning business model: once I’ve found it and sold it, it no longer interests me. I’m looking for the next rarity that takes my breath away.
Why has adjusting to consignment been such a wakeup call for me? I have always recorded my profit and loss on each item as soon as the statement arrived, almost always accompanied by a check. On most items, after the discount or credit card deductions, I rarely even double my money. What’s that? You say the rule of thumb is to triple your cost in order to break even? Good luck with that. In my shop in Virginia's affluent Loudoun County, the wealthiest county in America according to Forbes, everyone wants to pay thrift store prices and isn’t afraid to ask for them.
When I was in college we still balanced our checkbooks by hand in paper registers. I’ll never forget peeking at my friend’s register one day and seeing that once it was evident that she would soon be kiting checks, she switched from addition and subtraction to drawing little pictures of what she had bought. A cat face for cat food, a glass of wine for a night out, ultimately devolving into a faint squiggly line in the debit column. Before you judge her too harshly, admit that maybe you should be doing this, too.
Going consignment is like pouring a cold splash of water on your spreadsheet. Unless you actually allocate your rent across your sales each month, it’s too easy to deceive yourself that even if you only made $10 on an item, you still made $10. But you didn’t. Assume you paid $10 for an item, marked it up to $30 and eventually sold it for $25. Your net profit, before rent, is $15. Not exactly worth getting out of bed in the morning, but OK if, like me, you never apportioned any rent to the cost. Surely several items in the booth will earn a more handsome profit to cover the rent, if not this month than next month. And besides, the rent is deducted from my check, right? I just don’t have to see the grizzly truth in every line item.
The cure for this kind of magical thinking is consignment. You truly make your money when you buy the item. Let’s say you fall in love with an item, like I did just this past weekend. And suppose it’s on sale! Look—a perfectly patinated industrial stool for $39! Surely I can get $69 for it, or at least $59. But wait. Doh! Instead of clearing $20, and counting on some other dear object that I overpaid for to cover the rent, I’m now on a 60%-40% consignment deal. Even if it sells for $59 (which it won’t) I now make $35. To put it bluntly, I lose $4. That’s a pretty easy calculation: Don’t buy the stool.
Michelle also has a rocking etsy shop. Sorry; the Mark Spitz poster sold.