Looking for easy and simple estate sale shopping tips? Here are my best tips for bringing home those treasures.
estate sale shopping tips blue and white

This past weekend I went yard sale and estate sale shopping.

And I found this.

Guess what it is.

I know you are giggling to yourself at this exact moment in time and thinking that looks like a salt shaker to me.

Hello Captain Obvi.

But actually?


I saw it on a folding table next to a Christmas wreath and a plastic bag full of corks and a mini cruise ship. Just between us? I’ve never seen anything like it before.

Ever in the history of ever.

I scooped it up and bargained on the price and brought it home and cleaned it up.

And now?

This is sitting on my dining room table.

estate sale shopping tips cruet set

It’s a blue and white cruet set.

There’s a salt and pepper.

And a mustard (that’s missing its spoon).

And an oil and vinegar set with an oil pitcher that still needs to be soaked. It was so dirty when I first got it and I soaked it for two days to get all the dirt out of the inside and the dirt out of the cracks.

estate sale shopping tips mustard

There are little holes in the central canister that each of the pieces fits into.

And they all have a label.

There’s also a central spinning piece that sticks up through the middle hole that you can carry it around with (I picture a 1950’s dinner party with the hostesses carrying this around to each person at the table).

I’m cleaning it right now and then I need to put back into the center of the piece.

You won’t even believe what I paid for it.

Definitely less than the cost of a good steak dinner.

I came home and researched it and found this.

A super, super, super identical item for almost $200.


Now I’m never parting with it. I bought it because I loved it, not because I thought it was valuable. But finding treasures like this is what makes estate sales and yard sales so much fun.

Every time I post a find like this, I get tons of questions about yard saling and how to bargain and where I go and how to discover all the best stuff.

So I put together a little list of how to shop estate sales and yard sales.

The Best Estate Sale Shopping Tips

1.  Be prepared

Pack a little shopping kit and keep it in your car.

Here’s what I have in mine:

  • measuring tape (in case you have to measure)
  • a list of measurements for things you are looking for
  • plastic bags (in case you need to wrap up delicate items in your car)
  • screwdriver (in case you need to take something apart)
  • hand sanitizer (no explanation needed)

estate sale shopping tips oil and vinegar

2.  Think outside the paint

So many times the shape or size or texture of a piece is perfect, but how it is painted throws me off.

As in look away and don’t look back.

I’ve had to train myself to look beyond how it is painted to the actual piece I’m buying.

Paint can be changed.

Incredible, carved legs or a planked top can not.

3.  Think groupings

So many times you find a zillion of something that you never thought that you needed.

That zillion could look really amazing all grouped together on a wall.

One time I found all these old letterpress stamps for almost nothing.

One letterpress stamp?  Kind of lame.

A zillion of them stacked in a wooden container and hung on the wall?  Amazing.

4.  Start a pile

I don’t know why.  I’m not saying this makes sense.

But I have so much better luck when I start a pile at the checkout.

Maybe it opens up my mind a little?

There’s nothing worse than going back to find something and someone has already picked it up. So sometimes I just put things at the front and decide later if I want to buy them.

But I couldn’t do that if I didn’t have a pile.

5.  Always ask

If the price looks a little high?

Ask if this is the best price they have.

Most of the time they are pricing things a little higher just in case you ask.

And the dollar that you save when they come down a little?

You’ll need it for the milk glass container at the next stop. 🙂

Isn’t it the cutest?

I just went into the dining room to tell it hello and so happy I am that it came home to live with me.

And now?

What about you?

Do you have yard sale tips or thrift shopping tips I missed?

Amazing shoppers have to stick together. 🙂

PS In case you are a blue and white fan like me, I found a few cute blue and white condiment holders all linked here.

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  1. Image for Kimberly Westby Kimberly Westby

    Try denture tablets to soak any china etc. that is stained. In most cases 'it's the bomb'.Use a few in a container, leave overnight. I cannot take credit for this, see Eddie Ross' book Modern Mix. I really enjoy your blog posts. Kim

  2. Image for Peg Peg

    Lovely find! There are several ways to "try to" remove stains under glaze on stoneware and china if you Google it, but I often find them to be part of the charm!! xoxo

  3. Image for Judy Allen Judy Allen

    What a score. I love the fact that the piece was used in real life. Hence the oil residue. That’s called life! Love love!

  4. Image for Teddee Grace Teddee Grace

    A very nice find! Throw a denture tablet in the water when you are soaking dirty porcelain, pottery or glass pieces. It works miracles.

  5. Image for JC JC

    Super cute find! The hunt is part of the thrill I think! I always feel an itty bit sad when I don't find anything. Just thinking outside the box here but I wonder how this would look with flowers displayed in each piece? Are the holes big enough in the s&p shakers? Certainly the oil and vinegar jars look like they would, as well as, the mustard base. It could make even more of a centerpiece! Just a thought. Happy day, friend.

  6. Image for Cheryll Cheryll

    Brava! Great find. I have not ever seen this. About 3 years ago I came upon a canister set, in the blue and white almost-delft pattern at a consignment shop. I had seen it in a magazine a few days before and I just had to have it. I overpaid I think, but it was beautiful. It did compete with my American/Colonial pottery so right now it is safely wrapped and tucked away. I will be rehoming it soon. Keep on shopping, you are really good at it.

  7. Image for Regina Merrick Regina Merrick

    Oh. My. Goodness!! That is one of the more perfect finds I've ever seen - and it's perfect with your blue-and-white!! Today it's way too hot to go to a yard sale, so I hope you found it last week or earlier when you could actually STAND to be outside! :)

  8. Image for Deb in Oklahoma Deb in Oklahoma

    Great find, and what a unique little piece for your collection! When I go junking anywhere, I always take a good sized tote bag with shoulder straps, and a couple of old hand towels inside for the breakables. It allows me to tote around the smaller treasures without having to hike back to the cashier (or the car), especially if the sale covers some big real estate. I know some people aren't able to "shoulder strap" bags easily, but this works for me. I can also tuck my shopping kit (I'm right there with you, KA--gotta be prepared) into the tote bag for quick access, but my hands are free otherwise. My best junking excursions have been well-planned so I can keep my eyes peeled for the best loot!

  9. Image for Maureen Merrow Maureen Merrow

    OMG!! That set is so amazing!! It looks like it was made just for you. I loved going to yard sales in NJ. Now that I live in Florida, there really aren't a lot of them. I hit the thrift stores and find great things. I love following your blog.💗

  10. Image for Debbie Debbie

    I just know your entire face lit up when you laid eyes on that. Congratulations on a great find. PS: I tired some of the make up you recommended a little while back and am very happy with it, so thanks much.

  11. Image for Mary S Mary S

    By the way,,, What did you have to pay to get this???? Hope I'm not being too personal.. You can choose not to reply. Just wondering about it. I love it!!!!!!

  12. Image for Jodena Beale Jodena Beale

    Blue and white. Be still my heart. Soooo pretty. Lucky lady. Im just a weee bit jealous Thank you. For sharing.

  13. Image for Nancy Carr Nancy Carr

    I love your found salt shaker. The set is perfect. Finding things I treasure is very satisfying. If they are blue and white things, this makes it even more special. Blessings


    What a great find, KariAnne! It's so pretty and will look so good on your dining room table. It was definitely meant to be in your beautiful home. Enjoy!

  15. Image for gail w turner gail w turner

    I love garage sales first because generally the prices are better, after all this is a garage sale. Then estate sales. Usually I only take 20.00 in cash and when that is gone, then I go home. But if I had found your condiment set I probably would have run to the bank. Love it. Happy estate and garage saling!!!

  16. Image for Patricia Patricia

    Blue willow is right in my wheelhouse! Before I had to downsize, I had a house full of blue willow (but no condiment sets). Had to sell most of them at an estate sale after we moved. Sigh. Still have enough blue willow china for our everyday ware and a few pitchers for flowers. And platters and soup tureens. I had to stop looking at blue willow.

  17. Image for Michael Hawkins Michael Hawkins

    Hey Rockstar, Super-great find! Love it! And congratulations on becoming a mother-in-law. The wedding pictures were rockstar quality, for sure! Wishing you a happy summer! --Michael

  18. Image for Anne-Marie Anne-Marie

    Now that's à find ! And your colors ! I ve never seen anything like it. I d soak the œil bottle in bleach (incident and out). Happy day to you !

  19. Image for Deb E Deb E

    Nice pieces of Delft Bleu - I collected it for years, and finally had to part with it when I downsized big time at retirement time. Enjoy!

  20. Image for Marlene Marlene

    I love the way things were made long ago, thanks for sharing with us, you made a great find. It's such a pretty piece and so everyday useable.

  21. Image for PJ PJ

    What a wonderful find! I bet that you danced to your car after your purchase. My tip for thrift store shopping is to visit each aisle twice, walking in a different direction each time. I am always surprised at the treasures I miss on my first walk through the aisle. Have a joyful day, KariAnne!

  22. Image for Mary Mary

    KariAnne - What a fun adventure you had and a 'souvenir' to show for it! Thanks to your readers for sharing tips and I am going to try the denture tablets for cleaning interesting finds!

  23. Image for BeverlyO BeverlyO

    Envious of your find! I love it. Thanks for sharing - I think. Now, I'm wanting to go out and poke around to see if I can find something I really don't need but I think is cute.

  24. Image for Teresa Gonzales Teresa Gonzales

    Love your finds! We have found so many great things at tag sales. It is amazing what people don't realize they have!

  25. Image for Jeanine Kesey Jeanine Kesey

    I used to work estate sales. They are so fun !! Make a big pile and ask what they will take for the pile. You might get a deal!! Love your find!!

  26. Image for Vicki Vicki

    Thank you for sharing your find! I have my grandmothers set of Blue Willow dishes and my child’s Blue Willow tea set from my childhood. I have the base of your set and didn’t know what it was for! Now I need to find all of the pieces that go with it! Love your blog!

  27. Image for Lauren Lauren

    My tip for Estate Sales, or shopping in general...take water with you! Love, love, love your find! Perfect for your home dining table. A well curated life treasure!

  28. Image for Linda Scott Linda Scott

    Don't you love the hunt! Great find!! Looks expensive too and I crack up how you personify objects! But I bet it feels happy being all clean and pretty prominently displayed as the centerpiece on The Dining Room Table! Lol...thanks for the tips!

  29. Image for Debbie Debbie

    Great find! Where do you look to find out how much one of your finds are worth? I have a old set that I love and I’m interested to see if it’s worth anything. It really doesn’t matter to me because I love it either way. I tend to buy things I love for my home, I think it gives it a personal touch.

  30. Image for Leslie Watkins Leslie Watkins

    I love it! What a great find! My husband found a wonderful flower cart he thought I needed last week…the $40 turned out to be a $500 value when we looked it up! I love those finds!

  31. Image for Rachel Harper Rachel Harper

    KariAnne, We just don't seem to have a lot of Estate Sales anymore. However, I'm going to start searching them out and I loved your tips. I shared How to Shop Barn Sales this past week so I'd like to add a link to your post to accompany mine. Thanks in advance.

  32. Image for Anita Anita

    What a great find! I've never seen anything like it either. I always also keep a small magnifying glass and a magnet along with my tape. Never sorry.

  33. Image for Pam Augustine Pam Augustine

    There’s a really neat story about the pattern on blue willow. You should look it up if you don’t know. Love your set. What a find.

  34. Image for Pam Augustine Pam Augustine

    There’s a really neat story about the pattern on blue willow. You should look it up if you don’t know. Love your set. What a find.

  35. Image for Susan Susan

    Oh, my. What an adorable set, I would have snagged that in a New York minute. I went to a church sale yesterday and I am having regrets about a lamp I left. How do YOU deal with regret? Today, I know I should have bougjt tthe lamp, because it appealed to my early 1940's aesthetic, but yesterday, I talked myself out of it because, "I didn't need it." Grrr! However, as it is, my house looks like a thrift store had the stomach flu...I have so many "finds" that I need to do something with, pronto.

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