October 14, 2012

Yard Sale!

Last weekend, we had a yard sale at my mom's house.  We originally hoped to have the sale at the beginning or end of summer, but you know what they say about the best paid plans and all.  Having been through it though, it's probably better that we didn't have it sooner because even though it was the first week in October and temperatures were cool the sun was strong and we were hot!!!  I think I would have melted into a puddle sitting out there all day in July or August!

Shep and I have been designating things as "yard sale" for what feels like a year now.  Each time we came across something in our apartment or storage unit that we couldn't find a place for or no longer wanted, we'd yell "YARD SALE!" (similar to how a granny would yell "BINGO!" in a game hall).  It kind of turned into a joke, and we'd giggle every time we designated something to be sold.  We did such a great job of "de-cluttering" our living space that we created a huge pile of items in the extra bedroom of our apartment.  Talk about counterproductive.  ;)  Eventually, we de-cluttered the yard sale staging area by driving multiple car loads of crap yard sale goodies to my mom's house, including a cargo van full of furniture and other crap treasures (huge thanks to my brother who helped out with that task like a rock star!).

Curious what we had for sale?  Here's a sample....

It was scary to see how much STUFF Shep and I had accumulated to sell, especially since we've only been married for 3.5 years, and we live in a condo!  A lot of our overage was due to having too many lamps, for example, after merging homes years ago and never down-sizing properly at the time.  Other items (like all the blue boxes above) were a result of recent upgrades in our new apartment to lighting and bath fixtures.

All in all, it was a productive first yard sale, and we made $231.35!  Not bad for a couple of amateurs!  Because knowledge is power, we created a tip list for any brave souls out there in cyberspace who will one day master your own first yard sale!

Lessons learned:
  • Advertise, advertise, advertise!!!  We actually took it a little light on the advertising since this was our first sale and we didn't want to be overwhelmed.  We also didn't have a need to sell everything at once though.  The Monday before the sale I put an ad on craisglist that included a description of the items I was selling, the time and date of the sale, the location of the sale (we included directions but not a street address for privacy reasons), and some photos of key items.  I also included a note instructing "cash only" and "no early birds".  Saturday morning, I refreshed my ad so it would appear toward the top of the listings and visible to those searching that day.
  • Have change on hand: People will pay for a $5 item with a $50 bill, and will also pay in quarters so it's a necessity to have change and small bills on hand.  Before the yard sale, we stopped at the bank and got approximately thirty $1 bills, several dollars worth of quarters, and about eight to ten $5 bills.  We had some $10 and $20 bills on hand as well, which came in handy to break larger bills without needing to give all our small bills away.  After the sale I had $50 in one dollar bills, which solicited a very intriguing look from the bank teller when I deposited the money.  I just smiled politely and handed the wad of ones over.
  • Price items reasonably:  This was probably the hardest part of the day for us.  Some of the items we were selling were either of great sentimental or monetary worth.  However, those shopping at yard sales are looking for bargains, not memories, so price accordingly if you truly want to sell your stuff!  I think we did fairly well in this category, but there is definitely room for improvement next time.  For example, I had about a dozen glass vases I was trying to sell for $5 each, which I think I'll mark down to $3 next time around.  One pair of grumpy old garage sale ladies actually uttered the phrase "YEESH!" while looking at some of our items.  I think at the time they were looking either at purses that I was trying to sell for $5 or a perfectly working and almost new cordless vacuum cleaner for $15, I can't remember.  But, both are pretty good prices if you ask me, so I'm not sure what they were "yeeshing" about!  I think they were professional pickers and generally grumpy, so I tried not to take it personally.  A gentleman proclaimed to Shep that we would "never sell anything at that price!" (that price being $3 for a hardcover book in excellent condition), so Shep invited the man to make an offer.  The man offered $2 and a sale was made.  Flexibility is key!
  • Staging is important:  Think of your yard sale as a department store -- group similar items together, arrange items in an attractive way, and ensure all items can be easily seen.  One thing we're going to do next time is rent or borrow a rack, to more easily display the many pieces of clothing we want to sell.  I managed to sell a couple shirts and a few hats this time around, which were folded nicely and placed in bins, but I think a clothing rack is going to make a huge difference next time.
  • Be ready for early birds:  We woke up super early and made it to my mom's house in record time; however, the items took a bit longer to pull out, set up and price that we predicted (rookie mistake) and one or two shoppers arrived before the official start time of the yard sale.  Even though I specified "no early birds!" in my craigslist ad, some folks arrived early so be prepared!
  • Have a plan for after the sale:  In this case, ours was to shove everything back into my mom's garage at the end of the day, where it will sit until our next yard sale in the spring!  It's hard to predict what will sell, so be sure you're not stuck with a bunch of stuff you have no room for when the day is done.  If you absolutely must get rid of all items by the end of the sale, start marking prices down in the afternoon and have transportation or help (or both!) on standby to help haul the items away to a local charity or drop-off location.  Many charities will accept used clothing, furniture, housewares, but some have strict rules so make sure you research ahead of time!
  • Buddy up:  It's good to pair up with at least one other adult.  At times, there were nearly a dozen people simultaneously perusing the items, asking questions, asking to pay, etc.  At other times, there were no guests, so we took turns going inside to cool off or grab a bite to eat.  I wouldn't advise holding a sale on your own -- it's a lot easier, and more fun, to share the responsibilities!
So there you have it, folks... Yard Sale 101 as told by Nicole & Shep.  :)  Any readers out there have any great advice to share?  We'd love to hear it!

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