January 22, 2010

Cowboys, Sailors, and Stay-at-Home Moms - My First Storage Unit Auction

So. I was looking on Craigslist for yard sales this morning, and there weren't any. Curse you, Bad Weather! (I stole that from a "Curse You, Red Baron" Snoopy cup we recently bought for $1.50 and sold for $115 - LOL.)

There was, however, a storage unit auction. Believe it or not, I have never attended one of these entertaining events. Yes, that's right. Never. The prospect of having to empty a huge unit in less than a day just to find out that I have purchased a bunch of old Target lamps, baby diapers, and broken Ikea furniture hasn't appealed to me in the past. To my surprise, this event was a very interesting experience!

Ten units were to be auctioned off. Some went for $1. Some went for $500. It all depended on what was inside. Some of the more valuable items I saw included an air compressor, golf clubs, and a futon. In order to view the smaller units, attendees had to walk down a long hallway of doors, a few of which were open (see the rows and rows of doors in the picture provided). Larger units were opened from the outside.

This was a true gathering of bargain-minded people: retired folks hunting for goodies, self-employed individuals taking a break from the daily grind, grey-haired men in beanie caps looking like seasoned sailors, auction house owners searching for products to resell, eBayers hoping to find their next "homeruns," and stay-at-home moms and their babies looking for deals. I interviewed a number of these individuals. I felt a little like a reporter!

The auctioneer was especially cool (see picture above). He wore sunglasses, a cowboy hat, a warm satin and felt jacket, and super pricey horse ridin' boots. I talked to him after the auction was over. His name is Forrest O'Brien, and he is a professional auctioneer. (If you are in need of his services, contact him at salemakerfob@yahoo.com .) He's even on Facebook! Very friendly. He gave me the lowdown on the super high quality cowboy boots he was wearing. (I initiated that conversation.) Cowboy boots are HOT sellers on eBay! My heart skips a beat when I go to a yard sale and see a pair of quality cowboy boots at a cheap price.

After attending this unique event, I decided I needed to blog about it. I am obviously not claiming to be an expert on this subject, being a newbie and all, but I have come up with a list of tips for those who are interested in buying such units. Here goes!

Bring a flashlight. These units are often very dark. All the pros had flashlights with them (see guy in picture at right).

2. Bring warm clothing and an umbrella if it's winter. I would also bring an umbrella during the summer to keep the sun away.

3. Come to the auction prepared. The smaller lockers usually have to be cleaned out within 24 hours -- the larger ones within a week. I recommend having a truck ready or renting a U-Haul to take away all of the items you have purchased. Some pros even brought trailers to today's auction.

Be organized. Once you get home, divide the goodies into four categories: items to donate, items to post on Craigslist, items to list on eBay, and items to throw away. After you are done separating all of your purchases, IMMEDIATELY take the "donate" pile to the local Salvation Army. Thereafter, drive to the dump and get rid of the items you are tossing. Finally, photograph the treasures you plan to keep. Items that you are going to sell need to be listed immediately or at least stored in an organized fashion. Again, have a system in place ahead of time. I highly recommend listing the large items on Craigslist. Shipping costs can be outrageous for large items. If the bigger items are in high demand, try listing them on a metropolitan area's Craigslist site. I, for example, prefer listing cars on the Sacramento Craigslist site. Sometimes people are willing to drive a bit to get items they really want.

Note: Try to initiate this entire process as soon as you get home. Don't leave it for another day. Proscrastination does not make you money.

My final tip is a simple one: If you are lazy, do not purchase a storage unit. It is not a way to make easy money. It's hard work cleaning out a storage locker and listing all of your finds on Craigslist and eBay. If you're totally into bargain shopping and very organized, however, you can make some cash and have fun at the same time!

Someday I will attend a storage unit auction and actually spend some money. I learned a lot today just by watching. It was definitely time well spent!

Happy Bargain Hunting! - Miriam

Don't forget to check out my eBay store at Bluefrogshoes.com - shoes in wide and narrow widths / shoes in big and small sizes.....plus a whole lot more!


  1. Don't think we ever told you, but your Mom and I went to a storage unit. The one we were at was so bad that the thrift shops wouldn't want it. Oh well, Lake Co.....I love reading your blogs. See you soon. Love Nina

  2. Excellent write-up and tips! So how come you didn't end up buying anything? Did you bid but not win or was this more of an exploratory trip than anything else?

  3. good stuff chicoauction.com has a list of auction they are havering every month for storage units