“Garage sale-ing” describes the act of heading out on a Saturday morning, coffee and local classifieds in hand, to find the next steal-of-a-deal. 

The feeling aroused by discovering said deal(s) is a cheap thrill that brings many in the territory out on a weekly basis during the summer. I am not alone when I say that garage sale-ing is my favourite cheap thrill.

I developed my passion for this hobby here in Whitehorse, and weekends spent in town always involve the observance of garage sale Saturdays. Like any other culture, the garage sale scene in the Yukon has rituals and customs that enrich the experience.

A day of garage sale-ing starts with a discussion of what you are hoping to find, a route plan, and it ends with a celebratory brunch. It’s is a lifestyle.  

It is crucial to pack the essentials: a fanny pack full of change, a trucker hat, and your game face. Everyone has an important role to play. There’s the driver, head navigator, the person in charge of bringing the coffee and classified ads, and of course, the enforcer. The enforcer is a senior garage saler who knows that deals are flying out the window, and works to keep the team on task.

The garage sale weekend takes dedication.

As garage sale enthusiast Shannon Mallory states, “It’s serious. Friends duck out of Friday night parties to rest up for Saturday morning. And when a friend at a garage sale is eying up the same item as you, it’s friends-off.” 

I certainly know the feeling: As you cruise your targeted neighbourhood searching for deals, you can’t possibly ignore the pressure that accompanies cruising within a convoy of your competitors.  

Lucy Morrison, another local enthusiast, states: “it’s important to find the right partner. When there are no deals to be had, everyone’s got to get out of there. As the sales start to get picked over, it’s important to start adopting the ‘drive by’ approach – not every garage sale is worth stopping for.”

Northwestel Community TV’s series, Garage Sale Scavenger Hunt, leverages the popularity of the garage sale lifestyle in Whitehorse.  Community TV manager Chris McNutt developed the idea for the show in August 2012.  The show began as a segment for North of Ordinary in 2012, and is now a complete series.

This reality TV show features two teams who have two hours and $40 to acquire one list of random treasures. Seven episodes will be filmed this summer, and the ‘finals’ will be filmed in August. 

McNutt says the show was, “popular right away. People get into the chase – it’s all real.” 

He says that producers from other networks have a hard time believing that they’re not faking it. There’s no need to in Whitehorse, which is “ripe for the picking. There’s no shortage of garage sales, and people enjoy the thrill of it.”  This community television series has strong local appeal, as viewers recognize the people, neighbourhoods, and homes featured. Moreover, the strong garage sale-ing culture ensures an understanding among the audience.

“Everybody does it, or can relate to it,” says McNutt  

Garage Sale Scavenger Hunt was nominated for an award by the national organization, I Heart Local Cable.      

The popularity of bargain hunting is likely driven by the thrill that comes with the unknown — not knowing what object we’ll come across next, who will be selling it, and the value it will hold for us. 

The fun of the hunt offers a good explanation for the thriving ‘buy and sell’ culture in the territory. Facebook groups, online classified sites, thrift shops, and free stores are all routine stops for those who love to discover discarded treasures.

After all, visits to aforementioned buy and sell (or free) outlets are not mere shopping excursions —they are small steps along our quest for the next big find.