Friday, August 19, 2011

Extreme shopping lists

I make the most of my summer yard sale months by organizing myself beforehand.  Most people make grocery lists.  Well, I make yard sale lists.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to people who know me well.  I've written before about how I make lists of the papers stacked in my "to do" pile, and how I use lists to automate my onerous decisions.  I love making lists.  In the case of going yard sale-ing, this list helps me to get almost all of my shopping done during the summer months.

School ends pretty close to the time that yard sale season starts here.  I started the season by packing away all of my boys' school clothes and making a careful inventory of them.  The numbers on the label don't mean much -- a '12' might be too large and a '14' too small, depending on whether the fit is slim or not, so I measured the waist and inseam of each pair of pants.  I wrote these measurements in the waist band in permanent marker.
Then I created a master list of all the clothes I have, so I could see what I still need.  At the time I photographed this list, for example, I had two pairs of pants with a 24" waist:  one 23" long, and one 24" long.  I had five pairs of 29"-waist pants.  This whole process took an hour -- not much fun, really, but if it saves me one trip to the store come winter, I'll have made up that time.

I don't take the master list with me.  Instead, I have an index card with the clothes and sizes I'm looking for.  I make up another index card with the names of all my friends and family that I'm shopping for.  These index cards are my shopping list, and I update them as I go along during the summer.

To make yard sale-ing more efficient, I keep my "supplies" in one place.  This froofy black bag is a gift from a friend.  It's small -- just the right size for what I need:
  • a large collection of quarters (exact change makes the sales go much faster),
  • the index card shopping lists,
  • a tape measure, and 
  • my cell phone.
With the exception of the cell phone, I keep all those items stored permanently in that bag.  Friday night I plan my route (in an earlier post, I describe how yard sales are listed in the Friday paper).  Saturday morning, I take the marked-up newspaper, a water bottle, and my yard sale bag, and I'm ready to go.

Thanks to this system, I know now (mid August) that I'm pretty much set for school clothes for the year.  I am still looking for formal suits for the boys, and I'll probably end up shopping in a thrift shop for those eventually.  I'm getting close to being done with my Christmas shopping.   But I know I still have time -- yard sales will continue into early October.

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