De-cluttering part 1: The Flea Market

e-Bay, Huuto-net, flea market, garage sale, yard sale, swap meet, boot sale, net-cycler, free cycler… The list of outlets and ways for getting rid of stuff is endless.

We live in a 3 room apartment * 78 square metres. Limited storage space. One storage locker in the house cellar. The house does have common store rooms for bicycles and prams. Luckily.

In the past we’ve sold stuff at a weekend kirpputori (flea market). First step: find a date far enough in the future to allow decent collection time of things to sell. Step two: the table. Some markets operate on ‘first in best dressed’ basis. Our favourite lets us book a specific table. Location is everything, so close to the entrance is critical. My philosophy: get the buyers while they still have coins in their pockets! Pay the fee and wait for the big day.

Ah, the big day. Car packed the night before. Change rattling in the box. Nice plain dark fabric to cover the usually pretty ratty table. Thermos filled. Tea-bags and snacks packed. Alarm set for earlier than usual on a weekend morning. The trip there goes quickly, streets are quiet at 7:00 on a Saturday morning.

Then the fun starts: dragging the stuff from car to table – along with the 3 or 4 hundred other sellers. If you time it right there’ll be a trolley to help ease the load. Table covered and then goods displayed to their best – the trick is to make the table look inviting, show everything off yet at the same time not so overload the table that it scares people off or have so few items that the table looks, well pathetic 😉

Early birds do get the worm, and the flea market is no different. Collectors of Finnish glass and china ware will be asking already while you are unpacking “Onko Arabiaa?” “(do you have any Arabia?”) ** Similarly, music collectors and  book enthusiasts will be scrabbling through your stuff even as you unpack.

Then there are the bargain hunters who know that the best stuff goes really quickly. They pick up desired item, roll it around, examining from every angle, looking for the scratch or mark that will become the bargaining chip. Then they might put it down, feign indifference, walk away. A few steps from the table they take a pause, look back and get the look. Back to the table and it starts! Opening volley Paljonko? (How much?)  I never price things, I’d rather let the customer ask – makes the haggling more fun! Sometimes I throw something else from the table in to sweeten the deal. Sometimes I hold firm on the price. Depends very much on what it is – a pair of Mr. 12’s ice skates I can afford to be firm on the price. An English book or magazine might need something extra… Some people bargain quite hard, others are a bit more relaxed about it. My rule is that I don’t really want to take the stuff home again, so clothes, books toys etc, I’m ready to sell them at quite low price. It’s about emptying my cupboard, not making money.

After the early bird rush the day settles into a routine of sorts. Often if one person stops, a small crowd will gather. At some stage The Engineer and Mr. 12 will drop by to say hello, they’ll explore the rest of the market, hang with me, sell some stuff, spell me for a toilet break, and if I’m really lucky bring me a burger for lunch!

Mid afternoon things slow considerably and the neighbours often start packing. We usually take a table for the whole weekend, and while some of the faces on Sunday are the same, often it’s a totally new crowd: buying and selling. About 2:30 on Saturday afternoon we start packing up. The stuff stays with a cover thrown over the top. Any really valuable stuff (and the change tin) comes home for the night.

Sunday is a repeat, and hopefully by pack up time there’s not so much left. Recycling centres get the left overs.

I really enjoy the face-to-face aspect of the flea market. It’s great practice for my Finnish! A few will pick up that I’m not from ‘around here’ and then a conversation will continue… about Australia or the seasons or their mothers cousins ex-wife lives in Sydney! (you get those sort of comments a lot!).

So how do you get rid of your clutter? Throw it away, give it away, auction it, sell it or are you still waiting for the right opportunity?

To be honest, I could be a lot more pro-active in this area.

De-cluttering part 2 will examine the self-service flea market, and part 3 will delve into online auctions

* Finnish real-estate listings only count bedrooms and living room. Our place was listed as 3 rooms + k(itchen), b(athroom), 2(nd wc), s(auna) and b(alcony).
** Finnish tableware. Still manufactured today. Highly functional, collectible and very desirable.

5 thoughts on “De-cluttering part 1: The Flea Market

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    1. I agree, there is a hassle factor. Although the fun factor on the day more than compensates.


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