JOLIET -- Jacki McHale looked at the fabric lying at the end of a Joliet driveway and thought, "Gold mine."
McHale, a Channahon resident who has been going to garage sales since she was a kid, has learned to find value in the things people want to get rid of. Like fabric, she said.
"Fabric is super high-priced in stores right now," she said. "If you see it selling for a quarter to a $1, it's a good deal right there. Just make sure to smell the fabric first."
McHale grew up in Joliet, buying and selling at garage sales. From furniture to electronics to toys, she revels in the rush of getting a good deal.
"I love it. I don't know how many I've been to in my life," she said.
While garage sales are havens for inexpensive secondhand items, there's still an art to it. McHale took The Herald-News through a tour of a garage sale and pointed out the dos and don'ts.
Heidi Cole helped her mother, Linda Burton, set up a garage sale at Burton's home on Silver Fox Drive in Joliet last weekend.
The sale had some furniture, kids' toys, electronics and household items like silverware and glasses, including an old desktop computer and a toaster oven.
"She did a good job laying out all the items on blankets," McHale said about Cole's setup of separating items on the driveway ground.
"It made sense to put it that way," Cole said. "It's easier for me to pack stuff up."
She priced her mother's items at what she thought was a fair deal. But Cole also wanted to make some money for a church-related charity back in Texas where she lives.
However, when Cole was in the garage, McHale noticed a dog.
"Don't ever bring your pet outside," McHale said. "That's a red flag for everything - the furniture, clothes and fabric."
Cole said she will drop the prices for her belongings the second day, which is a normal practice according to McHale.
Research and buy
McHale advises people to do their research before going out to garage sales. If an online ad for a sale promises a lot of furniture, make sure to bring a car that can hold it.
"Don't be afraid to call ahead," McHale said. "And when you come, do a sweep of the whole place."
McHale spotted a Dunkin' Donuts brand coffee mug in the mix of other mugs and glasses at Cole's sale.
Working as a barista at Starbucks, she loves all things related to the brand.
"My dad likes Dunkin' Donuts and I'm Starbucks," McHale said. "I'm always looking for unique items you can't get elsewhere."
Printed items like the Dunkin' Donuts mug are unique and enhance the value of the buy. McHale also said it helps to think of what family and friends would like.
Winter coats that usually go from $50 to $100 may end up costing less than $20 at a garage sale.
"You're going to see things from all seasons," McHale said. "You don't want to think of snow in the summer, but you have to look at it."
But with clothing, McHale said to make sure to smell for pets or other odors that may never come out.
Many people miss the potential value of ordinary items, McHale said.
"I look at this yarn and some people see crocheting," she said. "I see multiple uses like tying back things."
McHale spent $13.75 for three hats, one mug, a suede coat, some fabric, some twine, five kids' hats, a Superman costume and a generic Jenga game at Cole's garage sale.
"Great deal, right?" she said.