Car boot sales: an easy way to get rid of unwanted stuff

It’s 3.30 am and I’m slurping tea and trying frantically to wake my husband up. How he can sleep through dog howling, alarm blaring, and me shouting I’ll never know, but he does. We’re off to a car boot sale and there’s lots to do.

By 6.00 am we’re following a line of other cars and vans, including that belonging to my sister-in-law, whose mad idea this is, into a giant field already crammed with people unloading and others crowding around car boots trying to get an edge.

Directed to a line, luckily or unluckily almost opposite the portaloos, we unload the pasting tables, tarpaulins and a dress rail, dumping all the black sacks on the still-wet grass thick with four-leaved clovers – lucky for us – I hope so. We fend off shouts of “any jewellery, mobiles, computer games or electronics”, from obviously experienced traders looking for inexperienced boot sellers, none of which I have for sale.

Dress rail and tables up, I start hanging up the used, but in excellent condition business clothes I’ve discarded now I’m retired and no longer in need of countless pairs of pinstriped trousers and silk blouses – sad but I don’t think I’m going to notice their loss. I dump all the children’s books into a messy heap on the mats and arrange the table with costume jewellery, cycle helmets, a few odd trinkets, a cuddly toy or three and some doggy related items, whilst husband wanders off towards the end of the field with doggy who needs the “bathroom”.


It’s just 7 am, and the field is full as far as I can see with vans and cars and several London taxis, whilst the “across the way” car park is now full of punters sprinting around with enormous carry-all bags and jingling bags of coins. 

And I sell my first items – a chatty Nigerian lady who has been working her way through the dress rails staggers up to me with an armful of clothes – I do a deal, and I’m delighted.  She tells me she sends so much stuff home because her family and friends have nothing, and this is the best way to clothe them.  Yes, I’ve sold them to her, but it’s heartwarming that my cast-offs are helping. I also sell a load of skirts and dresses to a lady who designs and makes clothes for a children’ street theatre company and I’m having great fun chatting to everyone, whether they buy or not. A guy comes along wholly immersed in whatever his headphones are playing and doesn’t hear a word when I yell at him, “I’m giving away £20 notes”. Just wonder why he’s there as he’s not really browsing but more like marching up and down the aisles.

Along come the book worms and it’s wonderful to help the youngsters pick out their “3 for a £1” reads  – don’t tell my husband, but I’m sneaking them an extra couple of books each. I can’t resist helping children who love reading.  A pretty toddler falls in love with a cycle helmet but Mum won’t be swayed and drags her off crying.

The table next to me is Gill, my sister-in-law, and she’s doing well having sold a bedside table and a vacuum, both of which my brother had told her she wasn’t to bring back home. We both sell some other big items, including framed paintings and a chrome toilet roll holder which wasn’t selling, and which finally sells when I nick half a loo roll from the portaloos to show “how it works”. Plonking a cuddly teddy into a travelling cot persuades a buyer that that was just what he needed to house his newborn kittens.

The costume jewellery proves a great lure, and buyers are having fun trawling through the necklaces and bracelets.   I persuade my husband to look after the stall whilst I go to the loo and have a wander around nearby stalls, buying myself a new winter parka from Zara, which I love and a pair of blingy earrings (which I don’t show my husband!)

Although the sun is trying hard to shine, it’s still cold, and I’m glad I thought to fill the flasks with hot coffee. Doggy is curled up on a tarpaulin under the table, only coming to life when another dog trots by, and they meet to have a bum sniff hello. We could have sold him a million times!

By about 10.30 am, there’s a general move to start packing up – even though ostensibly the boot sale finishes at 1.30 pm. But then, it was supposed to start at 7.00 am but that’s a notional idea since by 6.00 am the early birds were out in force.  As one of the security guards comes through reminding everyone that there are no rubbish bins and you must take everything home with you, I can already see empty spaces where traders had been and left vast piles of unwanted goods on the ground, not to mention the dozens of discarded paper coffee cups and burger wrappers. We really can be a nation of litter louts!.  

Husband is delighted as having repacked the car; we can now see out of the back window – something we couldn’t before! So either I’ve I’ve crammed the black sacks fuller or we sold rather a lot of our belongings. 

And as we drive home, I have a count up. It was £12 to take the car in, and yes, we’ve done rather well – I now have a jingling bag of coins and lots of notes. We have sold a huge amount.

We are going to celebrate with a takeaway!