Exactly a week ago, I was up in Winnetka for an event we simply call ‘Rummage.’ The short version of the story is: long ago, my aunt Jacquie lived in Winnetka and was involved in helping with her church’s yearly rummage sale (which by the way has been going steadily since 1902). My grandma, Mama Kitty, also got involved–and hasn’t stopped in over 20 years even after aunt Jacquie moved away. Every year she shows up, spends a week helping set up for the sale, and wears fabulous outfits frequently involving sequins and feathers but always involving a hat, a purse, and high heels.

As the years have progressed, Mama Kitty has pulled member of the family into her irresistible orbit, and various grandkids, aunts and friends have become . . . addicted. That’s probably the best word to describe the draw of Rummage. We may have to start a family Rummage-holics Anonymous chapter–but instead of weaning ourselves off of Rummage, the goal of our club will be to draw more people in. Plus, with Mama Kitty bedecked in feathers and jewels, the word ‘Anonymous’ will quickly become quite senseless.

Last year, my husband and I met the Rummage crew for dinner one night at a TGI Friday’s next to the hotel where they were staying. This year, however, living only 45 minutes away from Winnetka, I had to be more involved. To be honest, I didn’t exactly understand this world of Rummage until last week. And as much as I may try to describe the experience, it’s one of those things you just have to live through.

All year long, this church collects donations of all kinds, from furniture to toys to clothes to books, etc. In preparation for the big sale on Thursday from 9-3pm, volunteers spend all week preparing the loot: it’s divided into departments (Linens, Women’s Sportswear, Toys, Books, Kitchen, Garden, etc). Each department has a department chair who then organizes her team of volunteers and gets her area in shape and ready for the masses of people who will descend on the sale Thursday. This year my cousins and grandma, along with Pat (Wild Woman) worked in ‘Blouses.’

Yes, there’s a whole department just for women’s blouses. This is the biggest friggin’ sale you will ever see–and you don’t even want to see the Toy department.

Oh, you want to see the Toy department?

Fine, I’ll show you the Toy department.

Here’s Mama Kitty shopping pre-sale in the Jewelry department.

She’s the one in the silver sequins, in case you weren’t sure, flanked by June and Eleanor.

And here she is scoring some hat boxes and scarves and belts and hats in Accessories.

This year, my cousin June’s husband made us all magnetic name tags that identified us as the women in Mama Kitty’s retinue. Here’s mine:

Please don’t think garage sale or yard sale. These donations are top notch. Brand name. Stain-free (for the most part). This shebang beats out any Plato’s Closet experience I have ever had. Here’s a wider angle view of the Accessories department:

And the department housing purses and wallets:

There’s even a separate department for Infants/Toddlers clothing as opposed to kid’s clothing. Here’s the Infants/Toddlers section–if I am blessed with one of ’em myself, this is where I will be aquiring their wardrobe:

The workers get to shop pre-sale with a 25% mark-up, which is a huge incentive to volunteer your time. As you sort through the treasures, you’re bound to find something you love. Like this silk Banana Republic blouse:

It was $2. That’s right. The deal was 5 blouses for $10, and I saw no reason to exercise restraint. I also thought I had really scored with this dress/shirt:

However, my husband wisely vetoed it. Though it had potential, the pale orangey colored background wasn’t doin’ anything for my skin. It will be heading back into the donation cycle asap. Thankfully, with only $3 spent on it, the phrase ‘buyer’s remorse’ doesn’t even apply to the situation.

Earlier this year I stated my year-long plan of getting rid of 1 item for each new clothing item I brought in. So I’ll be giving it a valiant effort as I dig into my closet, find homes for the new items, and try to move as much stuff out as possible. More tomorrow on the fun stuff I found!

Reasons to program Rummage into your calendars for next year:

1) Quality stuff for incredible prices.


3) Because you love to shop and are on a budget. OR because you love to shop and have loads of money. Either option works.

Reasons to program Rummage into your calendar next year if you’re my husband:

1) The Books department. Baby, it’s the size of a used bookstore. Really. You’d be in heaven. Check it out:

And of course, a reason to volunteer as opposed to just attending the sale on Thursday (besides pre-sale shopping privileges) is the incredible camaraderie of all the women volunteers, working together to get things done. My muscles were very sore when I returned to work the following day–some from helping in the insane Women’s Sportswear section (which alone had as much merchandise as a TJ Maxx store), but let’s be honest–probably mostly from trying on so many dang blouses.

Hey, lifting those arms time after time after time is no joke. I also got a good workout trying on dresses in this lovely department (conveniently across the hall from Blouses):

Shamelessly promotional Rummage tip: Calories burnt are directly proportional to money spent on clothes. Try on more clothes and get yourself in shape! Shopping has never been so healthy.

I absolutely loved spending time with my girl cousins, talking about our lives, getting to know them as adults, pulling items from racks and shouting “Hey, what do you think? Is this your style? Wanna try it on?” across the room.

Hi Emily and June! I loved our peaceful Panera breakfast in the morning sunshine!

Mama Kitty: if you’re reading this, I hope you’re planning on coming again next year, because we need to rope in my Mom and sisters!

Rummage 2012: I will be there, baby.

*85% of pictures in this post courtesy of Aunt Jacquie–thanks!

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16 Responses to Rummage

  1. Helen says:

    Oh wow, how I would love this sale. The book section, oh my goodness the book section, how much care has been taken to make it look so nice.
    one problem – half a world between me and the rummage!

  2. Joanne says:

    How super cool! And Mama Kitty is adorable. I want to be her when I grow up. And own fantastic hats like that. She’s an icon in her own right.

  3. wow. Looks awesome. Very, very awesome. I was drooling over the accessories store :-)

  4. Virginia says:

    The book portion is HEAVEN. What an awesome rummage sale. If only I still lived in DeKalb…

  5. This is really a big deal and I wish I lived nearer. What treasures…but the real trasure is you Mama Kitty!

  6. skippymom says:

    I am in awe of Miss Kitty – she is awesome! Her style, her energy, her smile – contagious!

    Glad you had a great time for such a great cause. This may be worth a trip to Chicago next year. Please remind us ahead of time so I can start working on my hubs. :)

  7. Erica says:

    This looks so fun! why have I never joined before???

  8. I love that dress your Aunt is wearing – even more, I love her spirit, way to go, sequin hat!

  9. I really think I might be there next year. And I miss Emily. And I adore your family.

  10. Holly says:

    Looks fun! I lived in Chicago for four years–wish I had known about it then! I’m still in the Midwest so maybe I’ll grab some sisters and friends and take a roadtrip for Rummage 2012!

  11. giselle says:

    How fun!!! I love shopping for cheap!!

    I’m confused – you get to buy stuff pre-sale as a volunteer but have to pay a 25% mark up??

    • Jenna says:

      Yeah, if you shop before the sale actually opens you have to pay 25% more. It’s a small price to pay for getting first dibs on everything there, if you think about it. I think it’s also the organizers’ way of making sure the volunteers don’t clear everything out before the real sale (though that would kind of be impossible, I suppose).

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