I've had incredible luck with the thrift stores here in the Vancouver area. They haven't been picked over by hipsters the way they have everywhere else I've lived, so there are a lot of treasures to be found.
Garage sales, on the other hand, have been disappointing for the past several years. There are no old things for sale (and I'm not talking stuff from the 80's, Kylee and any other young whippersnappers who happen to be reading.) Every time I stop at a garage sale, here's what they've got: a rack of clothes from the early 90's, a box of worn-out toys, some books that aren't worth reading, a few ugly dishes, and a bunch of other stuff that was crap fifteen years ago when they bought it new and is even crappier now.
But I am over my garage sale sour grapes, now that I have hit the mother lode of all vintage treasure hunting activities. It's an event which combines the thrill of the hunt with the thrill of seeing how complete strangers live(d) in their homes; it's the Camas-Washougal Soroptimist Estate Sale.
I'd been to estate sales in Southern California before, and I'd written them off. I liked going into people's houses, but the sales were always put on by professional outfits who charged at least as much for everything as you'd pay in a retail shop. Plus, these days I find a lot of people try to entice suckers to their miserable little yard sales by calling them "estate sales." I fell for that two weeks ago.
The CW Soroptimists are another matter. Because it's a charity, and the heirs have already taken all the really valuable stuff, everything is reasonably priced. There's the added bonus of getting to see inside the older houses (usually mid-century) and the original details that some of them still have: open beams, stone fireplaces, brick walls. It might be ghoulish to enjoy combing through the household effects of the recently deceased, but I find it fascinating. Plus it makes me happy to give a home to something that was obviously loved by someone, inexplicable as that love may be.
You'd think it couldn't possibly get any better, but it does; they have an E-MAIL LIST. I signed up at the first sale I stumbled across and now I get advance notice when a sale is coming up, with details of much of what will be sold. It's heaven, I tell you. Last weekend I went to the first one that I'd gotten notice for. I was sorely tempted to stop at the five yard sales I passed along the way, but I knew they would pale in comparison. I was right. (I stopped afterwards.)
After two very thorough laps through the house, yard, and garage, I left with my finds: a brown pottery owl about the size of a cherry tomato for 20 cents, a duck made of some indeterminate plastic with light blue rhinestone eyes for 60 cents, a wood souvenir plaque from Long Beach, WA painted with the words "YOU'RE WELCOME GUEST/BE AT YOUR EASE/GO TO BED WHEN YOU'RE READY/GET UP WHEN YOU PLEASE" for $1, a purse with a garden scene in rhinestones, embroidery, and sequins for $2, and a white Red Wing vase with a chip on the lip for $1.
I love you, CW Soroptimists. And, when it's my time to go, I hope someone just like me will find a little something to suit their fancy in all the goofy stuff I leave behind.