Monday 11 February 2013

Magpie Monday - the fine art of jumble sale-ing

It's been a full on action packed weekend, with my usual desolate diary rammed with girl's nights out, a charity ball, a lesson in how to drive (?) a canal boat...

Sadly, something had to give from the calendar and that was the carefully selected jumble sale I spotted advertised in the paper this week.

The precursor to Magpie Monday was a post I wrote on how to get the best bargains from charity shops - it still remains a popular post, so I thought I'd pass on my 'wisdom' for jumble sales too - they are a whole different beast.  I've been going since i was knee high to a trestle table, so hopefully I've learnt a thing or too.

Please don't let me put you off unduly.  They are great places to pick up fabrics; vintage clothing and all manner of exciting things.

Location, location, location

Unlike charity shops which often have stock shipped in from outside of the area from bag collections or recycling bin donations, jumble sales are very much a local affair.

You will find them in village halls, churches and school assembly halls.  Look out in the classified sections of your local newspapers for adverts, or check local 'what's on' guides online.  You may also spot flyers on parish noticeboards or PTA websites.

Basically, if the jumblie is happening in a village you'd consider moving to for school catchment, then it's going to have some nice gear.  To a certain extent, the donations may also reflect the organisation it's raising funds for, so expect to find lots of kid's clothes at a scout group one, decent bric-a-brac at a church sale (and usually homemade jam!), and check out the 'am dram' groups and operatic societies for avant garde clothing.  I don't much care who I give my 10p to, although I would draw the line at buying a teapot for a far right political group.  But that's just me.

It's all in the planning

Once you've located your sale (here's where you can copy grandma and get the highlighter out on the newspaper, much like people used to go through the Radio Times marking out highlights of the week), you need to make sure you arrive in plenty of time.  Village hall car parks that can just about cope with the weekly whist drive, are not geared up for the onslaught of the modern day jumblers - what?  You though it was only you who liked a bargain?  Make sure you get a good spot in the queue - yes, this is just like the Harrods sale, people queue.  Although I draw the line at camping overnight.

Cash is king

This is quite possibly the only place left in the country where you can buy something for 10p so make sure you have plenty of change.  Nobody will think you're cool waving a £20 note about.  Make sure you have loads of loose change, and put it in your pocket - there won't be the elbow room to root about in your handbag for your purse, and everyone will HATE you for it.

Keep some change handy to pay the entrance free - typically 20p-£1.  The seething mass of resentment and tutting behind you as you are slow off the mark paying your door money, and then fumble around looking for change will ensure you NEVER MAKE THAT MISTAKE AGAIN.

If you go with a friend, it's polite to 'pay them in'.  Plus it's cheaper than a drink in the pub.

Every Man For Himself

You may have come with a friend, but just accept that once you get through that door, your killer instinct must kick in.  Agree to go your separate ways and meet up to pour over your spoils at the end.

It's dog eat dog, survival of the fittest, fortune favours the brave and every other cliche you can think of.

Don't take your kids with you if you can help it, they'll only slow you down, and very possibly get squashed.

Decide on your strategy and go for it, this is no time for faffing about.  I do: 1. Bric-a-brac 2. Linen and fabric. 3. Clothes then toys and books.  My eye sight is not good enough to read titles through rows of people three deep so I wait til the end.  If you can't get to the clothes first, then frankly you might as well wait.  They might start off neat and ordered, folded into categories on the tables, but in 2 minutes flat it will be a seething, swirling tide of garments, with flotsam and jetsam washing to the top, only to be sucked down deep into the pile again.  Wait a while and see what's thrown up.

All human life form

If you are only just about able to cope with the sanitised, Mary Portas'd charity shops, then I don't think you'll have the stomach for a jumble sale.  Personally I think the entrance fee is worth it just for the people-watching opportunities alone, but then I'm weird.  There may be odours.  It may be unpleasant - this is another reason not to take children unless you can bear the humiliation of loud exclamations of "Mummy, that man SMELLS".  I find a liberal squirt of perfume before I go in helps.  Sadly walking around with a nosegay or a hanky over your face is frown upon nowadays.


Your best bet is to grab and hold as much as you can.  Don't waste time paying for each item as you go,  grab as much as you want from each table, and pay in bulk.  If you're not sure, grab it, then step aside from the throng and have a closer look.  You can always put it back.

Those people who can empty a dishwasher by carrying ten mugs in each hand, looped through their fingers yeah?  Those are the sort of skills you need to practise.

Make sure you have bags too, otherwise you're wasting valuable time waiting for an octogenarian to find you an antique Safeway carrier and carefully fold each item into it.


Possession is 9/10ths.  If someone already has hold of one end of a tablecloth, then it's polite to let go.  Although, equally if you already have one of a pair of curtains in your arms, it's not the done thing to insist on buying the other one (lady, you know who you are).  I guess ultimately it's down to your own moral compass and whether you can sleep at night.


These vary wildly in both quality and availability, but the one commonality at ALL jumble sales seems to be weak tea.  If you must partake, ask for it strong and make sure you wash your hands before indulging in cake.


Once safely outside, sanitise your hands.  Then go home and shower.

Have you been to a jumblie lately?  Have I put you off??!!

If you have any second-hand purchases, I'd love you to link up and show.

Incidentally, my linky host subscription is up for renewal after 2 years.  I was staggered to see there have been 1627 blogs link up in that time!  Thank you for your support.

Me and My Shadow


  1. I was lucky enough to have personal guidance from yourself a couple of months back, it was definitely an eye-opener from a people-watching perspective! x

    1. Ahh I lulled you into a false sense of security with that one! That was a walk-over. Next time we'll do hardcore :0)

  2. You know Can't remember the last time I saw a jumble sale advertised around here. Such a shame,I love the chance to scout for some bargains.

    1. Aww that's a shame Pippa. What area do you live? Have you tried online listings?

    2. Yes.I'm in Bolton, near Manchester. I think they have just fallen out of fashion here.

    3. Something might crop up here Or try your local radio and newspaper websites. Hope you can find one, they're great fun! x

  3. Excellent post, Liz. Jumble sales are, unfortunately, few and far between these days - well they are round my way (east London) but there were two last Saturday. I went to one but had to forego the other as I'd promised to go to Westfield with my daughter. Give me jumbling over tedious retail shopping any day of the week! xx

    1. They seem to be on the up here, certainly over the winter. Summer is more Car Boots though.

  4. We don't have jumble sales anymore. Which is a shame as I remember going regularly with my mum as a child

    1. Aww I bet there are some on somewhere nearby, you just need to search them out. Have you tried looking online?

  5. Haha this post made me laugh! Good tips :) x

  6. Great post, great tips . Now all I need to do is find a jumble sale. Don't seem to have too many these days.

    1. Right. I can't believe they only happen round here. I'm going to find you a jumblie Karen!

  7. Thanks for this as it is:
    a) full of extremely useful advice
    b) made me laugh!
    Cheers x

  8. I haven't been to a jumble sale in ages - can't remember when I last saw one advertised. I tried searching online and found a few so might be able to find something suitable.

  9. Awh Liz, two years wow! That's an amazing achievement go you!

  10. Hilarious but very true! They are so stressful compared to car boots and charity shops but you can find some great bargains. I noticed there's one near to me on Saturday so if I'm feeling brave I'll go along. (I think that not washing is a tactical step that I'm not prepared to take!)

  11. Great advice! Love the part about "every man for himself"... so true! I hate when I bring friends thrifting and they want to stick together and offer their own suggestions and commentary to me; just let me do my thing and we'll meet up afterward to talk about it!
    I love these types of sales... they're always a little crazy, but you can find the best deals!

  12. I haven't had a good jumble in ages - must find one. I do love some bargainous fabric

  13. Fabulous, simply fabulous! We did jumble sales when I was a young lassie (under 10) at my primary school in the hall. They were manic! It was back in mid 70's and people treated jumble sales like they were buying a new iPad. You've brought back some lovely memories!

    CJ x

  14. PERFECT instructions :~)) Maybe you could add - wear comfy shoes :~))