The Beginner’s Guide to Barn Sales

Barn sales are an eclectic combination of flea market shopping, visiting the county fair, and attending a yard party. Good sales are a full-scale event complete with an abundance of food and live music.  Each booth has a personality and is chocked full of carefully curated collections. Seeing elaborately decorated booths provides fuel for home decor and DIY projects. For very little admission you can enjoy an day of inspiration and entertainment. This is a large part of the reason why barn sales are gaining more and more of a following.

The prices of the items for sale are quite reasonable, and in many cases, you simply cannot find the items anywhere else. If you want your home or wardrobe to have one of a kind pieces, seeking out handcrafted items is a necessity. My favorite bracelets are leather and antique brass, hand-stamped sets. The artwork hanging on my walls was hand-lettered on white washed pallet wood. When I visit someone’s home, I love to see hand thrown pottery, quilts, and chalk painted furniture. Barn sale shopping avoids the look of being overly glossy and materialistic. When you purchase items hand crafted you focus on quality over quantity. This purposeful living has become a movement that runs perfectly in hand with our slower Southern pace.

If you are new to barn sales, below is a beginner’s guide on what to expect.

Beginners Guide to Barn Sales lemonade

What to Eat

Go with an appetite. Barn sales typically have delicious food trucks serving small plates, drinks, and desserts. Some of the food trucks parked at barn sales have become my favorite places to eat. I look forward to getting my favorite strawberry lemonade and spiced pasta salad as much as I look forward to shopping. You can start with a snack of cheese grits and mini sausage balls served in a mason jar. Move on to the chicken salad made from local free range roasted chicken…and there are fried hand pies galore. My motto is start the sale with food and leave carrying food.

French antique bird cage at a barn sale

What to Buy

The selection of booths at a larger barn sale (which involves 50 plus vendors) can be overwhelming. Not everyone is as fortunate as I am to have a handsome, patient man who will carry their large vintage signs. It is helpful to have a general idea of what items you will be shopping for.

I make my fair share of spontaneous purchases, but keep in mind, it is perfectly acceptable to look and not buy.  If I see a booth I like, I take a business card. It isn’t possible to buy everything all in one day. You can always purchase items later via Facebook messenger or at the next barn sale.

For the long term, it is a great idea to get to know the shop owners behind your favorite booth. They are a wealth of information on decorating and styling. After building a relationship, they are more than willing to offer custom made pieces that will be perfectly attuned to your personal style. I love recommendations and love to ask questions.

Many barn sale hosts have vendors at their event by invitation only. Each booth is hand selected and sure to be great. Barn sales are obviously casual and you can feel comfortable picking items up, trying jewelry on, and food vendors often offer free samples. You can ask how items were made or what ingredients were used. Barn sale shopping is very interactive.

Cash is good to have on hand, but most booths now take debit card using an iPad. I still like to pay with cash because I usually have a set amount of cash that I take and am willing to spend on shopping and food.

Clothes for sale at a barn sale

What to Wear

It goes with out saying that a barn sale is a casual event. Barn sales can involve walking through straw, mulch, and muddy fields. You also are likely to spend several hours in the sun if there are vendors set up in the grassy field areas. I opt for duck boots, jeans, sunscreen, and a washable shirt. Usually a chambray shirt or plaid button down shirt. A pocket umbrella is also a good idea. Dress comfortably and in a way that allows you to enjoy your day.

Sweet Ila Mae's barn sale. Quebeck, Tennessee. Photo by Pamela Claytor.

Rain or Shine

The show usually still goes on, even if it is raining. For a rule of thumb, sales called markets, such as The Vintage Market, are in a field or lot. Sales that are referred to as barn sales are usually in a covered barn. If it is raining, I would not recommend making a long drive to a sale because often vendors pack up and leave. However, if the sale is close I definitely recommend still going! You are more likely to have less of a crowd and get to converse with the vendors. They do not unload everything when it is raining so be sure to ask if you don’t see something you specifically want.

hello cottage at sweet ila maes barn sale

Discover New Sales

In addition to this website, Facebook is good resource for discovering barn sales. Often they are advertised only by word of mouth and social media. If you find a food truck or vendor you like, be sure to follow them on Facebook. Vendors often post their schedules, which include many of the best barn sales.

If you have any questions or advice you want to add please comment below. Comments and advice will be featured in future posts!

These beautiful photographs were used with permission from Pamela Claytor.