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What I Know About Jumble Sales


It’s not a lot. So if you’re looking for a top 10 list of what to do and how to get a bargain probably not what you’re after. Although if you are genuinely looking for a ‘how to shop a jumble sale’ then you are beyond any reasonable help I could give.

Having said that I was pretty awe struck by the sheer skill involved in succesfully shopping a jumble sale. I speak as someone who currently leads the PR for a major international high street retailer, so I understand that there is something of an ‘art’ to shopping in almost any situation.

So a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of manning the ladies clothing stall, along with a couple of other parents from the school ‘doing their bit’(this is a greatly used term in PTA circles I have discovered, I speak with some authority as the Secretary of the PTA no less – my secretarial skills are as good now as they were when I attempted to PA for the HR director of a big publishing house when I was 18. Lacking in organisation, a bit haphazard and rather tardy. But hey, I’m doing my bit..)

Anyway. We were on ladies clothing. I was terrified. Mental arithmetic has never been my strong suit and neither has haggling, or reverse haggling as I guess one does in a sales-person-at-a-jumble-sale capacity.

I should have watched this clip first…

“How much for these jeans?”

“Oooh well they are a ‘brand’ so £2 please.”

“£2? You must be joking. I’ll give you 50p.”

“Oh, ok then. Thanks. Er.. would you like a bag?”

See? I’m crap. I went on like this for a few ‘sales’ until a kindly looking lady who had been lurking by my part of the stall fingering the same polyester turquoise boob tube for several minutes said:

“It’s normally 30p an item at jumble sales, love.”

“Oh right, really? Goodness, that’s cheap. Well okay then, thanks.”

So I imparted my new found insider knowledge to my women’s clothing colleagues. Suffice it to say they had been faring far better than me, and were deep down far better reverse hagglers. I was shamed. However my lack of mental arithmetic and sheer idiocy did come in handy at one point.

“How much for all these?” said a friendly lady with a mound of clothing on her arm.

“Let me just count them, right you’ve got 5 pairs of jeans (why??), a few tops, a bra (ewwww), some shirts, ok there are 19 items here, so how about £8?”

“Ok then, can I have a bag please?”

“Er yes of course.” Bloody hell, even by my poor reckoning that was over £2 per item. So I felt satisfied that this sale alone had vindicated all my previous rubbish ones.

I quite enjoyed it if I’m honest. I began to find nice bits that I thought would suit people and employed my best non-sales sales patter “this would really suit you, are you a size 6 or 8? Oh you’re a 12? Never!”.

I was particularly happy when a very nice young lady bought about 5 things that had, in fact, been mine. Always nice to know they’re going to a good home.

My friends Lucy and Claire are great jumble sale pros, they are also excellent at charity shop shopping too. Somehow they manage to find lovely things. They both have exquisite taste I think that’s the key. Lucy did once tell me that you go in and literally pick up anything that looks nice then sift through it all later before you buy. That’s why you get this crazy locust like frenzy at the beginning. I genuinely think it’s a bit of a game to many people.

I try but rarely get it right. I’ll find an old jug that I think is just perfect, normally because in some way it reminds me of my childhood and I’ll be convinced it’s a real ‘find’, only to discover it’s from Sainsbury’s home department or MFI.

I am very proud to say though that our school jumble sale raised lots of money for the PTA, more than the previous year (clearly all down to my £8 sale). My girls loved it of course. A big hall to run around in and lots of their little friends there too.

So whilst I still know bugger all about how to shop a jumble sale, I have learnt that the whole experience of being involved can actually be a lot of fun. Just another of the things my 20 something self would have choked on her Silk Cut at.



  1. You’ve changed. :) xxx

  2. This made me smile as its such a reflection of my own life. Becoming a mummy has made me break some of my own rules, set by my younger self, all for the love of the childeen !!

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