Now that you’ve de-cluttered your house, what do you do with all the stuff?  Other than donating it to a local charity, you could hold a yard sale.

How does one hold a yard sale?  Well, here’s a bit of a blueprint for having one of your own.

We had a yard sale on Sunday to help raise funds for a friend’s various therapies needed since her stroke in December.  She’s come a long way physically, but there is still a ways to go verbally.  Thankfully, her mental skills are just as sharp as ever.  She’s got a great sense of humor and isn’t that what gets us through the bad times? 

So, what do we do to hold a yard sale?  Usually, it’s a block sale at a friend’s home.  There are 5 of us girls who hold the sale, not including the various neighbors.  Our friends and relatives give us their stuff, too, to sell.  Most of the time our goal is to raise money for our weekend away – our Girls’ Weekend – but this year it’s to help our friend.  We’ve been holding garage sales for about 20 years now!

We get most of our stuff to the site the day before and have a ‘pricing party’ where we decide the prices for each item (or type of item – like books, clothing, shoes, purses).

The day of the sale we arrive about 90 minutes prior to the start time (yes, that’s 6:30am!).  The hostess has coffee ready and I usually bring bagels and muffins.  We set out the tables and start putting out all the items and clothing (5 banquet tables).  Then, we wait for the hordes of people!

Attract attention with bright colors and large items http://www.morguefile.com

Oh, one rule we have among those of us during the pricing party:  If you see something you want…you can have it.  We’ve never taken advantage of that – if it’s a big ticket item, then we’ll pay something, but not for books or a pair of kids pants.

We have a few times during the day which are frenzied and a some that are lulls.  Right before the official start time, we have people show up who hope to buy items they can take to their flea market booths or sell at their own yard sales or simply want to beat the crowds. 

There’s a lot of action at the beginning of the day and then, all of a sudden, no one’s around, then a lot of activity and then, right during lunchtime, another lull until about 1:30pm, when it gets hot and heavy again.  Then things die down around 3pm, when we start packing everything up.  But, even then we’ll still have people poking around while we’re tearing down.

If you want to hold a yard sale here are some things to consider:

1.  Who all’s involved in the yard sale? 

2.  How do you get people to show up to buy your stuff?

3.  How do you prep and price for the garage sale? 

4.  What can you expect to happen at a yard sale?  What sells?

5.  What will you do with the stuff that doesn’t sell?

6.  How much money can you make?

Who is doing the selling?  To start with, Block Sales garner more traffic.  People like being able to walk the block and look at all the wares.  If you can’t get many neighbors involved, then call it a ‘Multi-Family Sale’, that’s still a good pull, and get your friends and family to donate stuff they’ve been dying to get rid of.  Only those who work the sale get a cut of the dough – although we’ve had exceptions to that a time or two…for instance, someone was selling a really nice rocking chair and another time a big-screen TV.

Sometimes people will stop their cars in the street and yell out the window "Got any TVs or lawnmowers?" http://www.morguefile.com

Start talking to your neighbors (or tape a little 1/2 page flyer to their screen doors announcing your idea) to find out who might be interested in a block sale.  Then plan it for the weekend when most of the interested parties are around.  About a month prior to the sale, remind everyone about the date.  You’ll remind them again the week prior.  Each neighbor involved in the block sale will pay their fair share of the newspaper advertising.

Don't sell something covered in cat hair! http://www.morguefile.com

How do you get people to come to the yard sale?  Think about your locationAre you tucked in some twisty-turny neighborhood?  Maybe you should have the sale at your friend’s house.  You want high visibility, lots of people seeing your signs (more on signs in a bit), and an easy-to-find location.

You can do what we did, which is plan the yard sale around a local festival or carnival or street fair and benefit from the traffic that event will pull into your area.

You can advertise in your local ‘Times’ neighborhood paper – it doesn’t cost that much and people still use the paper to find sales.  You can put a free ad on Craigslist.  There are a number of sites where you can post info and pictures for free:  http://www.yardsaleseason.com/  This site will also repost your free ad on other sites such as Google.  Another is  http://www.yardies.com/  (although Yardies would like a donation)  Do your own search and you’ll find even more places to advertise for FREE!  We like free…

I recommend putting up the ad a couple days prior to the sale, not just the day before.  People will be able to search for and find your garage sale if you word it correctly in the ad.

This site has tips for having a garage sale and warnings about scams and stories and links – very informative = http://www.yardsalequeen.com/ 

The day of the sale – please, not the day before – put out your signs.  Sturdy signs that won’t blow over and are legible.  We have A-frame signs that one of the hubbys made for us.  Before that we used posterboard but had a hard time finding a place for our signs among all the others.  Our A-frame signs really stand out.

Make sure your signs are readable.  Big letters, bright colors, bold and simple is the way to go.  If you can’t read it from across the room, no one can read it as they’re driving by!  Don’t bother to put the hours and date on it, since you ARE going to put up and take down your signs the same day.  Use BIG letters and just say Yard Sale or Block Sale or Multi-Family Sale or Estate Sale and an arrow.  Most other info is unnecessary, unless you have lots of furniture or baby clothes, then you can put that on the sign. 

The Yard Sale Queen also has great photos of good and bad signs pointing the way to your yard sale http://www.yardsalequeen.com/yardsalesigns.htm

We post our signs at each end of the street and 2 each at the next 3 intersections that feed that street – 8 signs in all.

We put up the signs when we are ready to receive buyers and even then people will show up early!!!  If you post a sign of 8am – 3pm, someone will be in your face at 7am poking through your stuff before you’ve even got it out of the garage!

How do you prepare and price for a garage sale?  Put out emails to your friends to start saving things and remind your neighbors.  We begin almost as soon as the previous one is over.  Don’t wait until just before the garage sale or you’ll lose the benefit of all that stuff you get rid of during the year.

Designate a place in the basement or garage or closet where you can begin to store the items.  My mom had about ½ her garage filled with stuff her friends and we had given her, plus her dining room started to fill up, that’s why we had a garage sale earlier than the official ‘girls’ garage sale.  She could barely get out of her car!

Better to take all this to the scrap yard! Not the swans, though... http://www.morguefile.com

Now, about a week before the big day, go through the stuff – what is it?  Appliances?  Books?  Clothing?  Furniture?  Toys?  Then go to eBay or Craigslist or a similar site and see what those items are selling for, if you can.  Today a La-Z-Boy recliner is going for anywhere between $25 and $150.  The chair we have for sale needs reupholstering (or a chair cover) so we gave it away.  I put a sign on it “Recliner – FREE to good home”.  Some kids moving into an apartment down the street took it and were very excited about it! 

Our rule of thumb is to sell ‘big ticket’ items for about 50% of what they go for on Craigslist.  If we discover that something is truly a big ticket item, like a Batman lunchbox or something, then we’ll see about selling it at a consignment store or on eBay or Craigslist ourselves.   Don’t look at ‘selling’, look at ‘sold’ items for price gauges.  We found about 9 of a particular Avon bottle for sale, not for very much, either.  Only 2 had sold, the other sales had expired.  This meant we didn’t worry about how much to price our item at.  Just sell it and be done…it didn’t sell, btw…maybe because Cindy broke the lid!  😉 

We've got this for sale on Craigslist right now!

We’ve bought and sold quite a few things on Craigslist (and bought a bunch on Ebay) and have been successful there, so you might consider it, too.  We sold a washer, dryer, fireplace mantle, work trailer and a piano on Craigslist.  I was researching a pewter coaster and found it sells for $10 on eBay and a hideous Ingles figurine (hideous because the paint job seems sloppy to me) had sister figurines on eBay selling for more than a garage sale would get for it, so we held it back.

Anyway, we discovered over the years that all hardback books should be sold for the same price and all paperback books for another price.  All clothing is sold for prices like, T-shirts are 50 cents, all women’s clothing is $1, all suits are $3 or something similar.  No need to keep track of each particular item – it’s too much to monitor – unless the item is special – like a wedding dress or an Armani tuxedo or Llago figurine.

Don’t sell toys without doing your homework.  You might not know that Legos are expensive and sell for a higher price or that those Tickle-Me-Elmo dolls are still pricey.  We had an Ariel doll, NIB (new in box), which was selling online for $35!  We decided not to sell it at the yard sale.  I could kick myself for selling a Mickey Mouse lamp about 20 years ago…way before Craigslist existed.  I have a Snoopy lamp in a box in the basement, is it worth money yet?

If you aren’t pooling the money and then splitting it like we do (regardless of how much stuff is brought by each person to the sale), then you could have different colored tags or coded tags for each item and remove the tag from the sold item and then tally up stuff at the end.  Or separate areas, maybe.  Personally, I think that would be a pain in the butt.  Your call, though.

The day before the garage sale is when we get together and put prices on all the stuff or make up signs for the things that are sold at one price “Hardbacks 50 cents” (hey, where is the ‘cents’ sign on the keyboard?), “Clothing $1”, “Shoes $1”, that kind of thing.

Pricing the items:  Either we know what the price should be or we’ll hold up an item and say “How much for this?”  We chime in and come to a consensus (it doesn’t take but a few seconds), then mark the tag.

You’ll need to make sure you have little tags or stickers, markers, scissors, tape for the pricing party. 

Consider where/how you are hanging up the clothing.  Some things can be in tubs – like baby clothes, maybe or sox and belts, but if you can hang up the clothes it will be easier to keep neat.  Stacks of T-shirts and pants will be a mess before long, so be vigilant and keep it from becoming ‘not worth the effort of going through’ by the buyers.

You’ll need display tables and you can use blankets to display items on your lawn.  Everything needs to be as visible as possible because we’ve discovered people don’t like rummaging through boxes of stuff, unless its books or records.  I read one blogger who said she loves to find dirty stuff and clean it up – we make things presentable, but not pristine. 

Go to the bank and get about $50 in change.  Ones, fives, and actual change.  Its surprising how many people come to garage sales with a $50 or $100 bill – which reminds me, getting one of those funny-money pens wouldn’t hurt, either.  You can get them at your local office supply store; although an article on Wikipedia says they aren’t foolproof http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counterfeit_banknote_detection_pen 

What is this store selling? http://www.morguefile.com

Do you have some items that will garner interest?  TVs, stereo equipment?  Furniture?  Appliances?  Tools, automotive stuff, lawnmowers?  Then take a picture of them and post them with your free ad.  Make sure you include those items in your info about the sale; you want people to be able to do a search on ‘stereo’ and find yours that’s for sale.  And don’t forget your address!  I did that one year and had so many emails the next day asking for it…d’oh!

The day of the sale put out your signs close to your start time.  People will start showing up pretty quickly once that happens.  Unless its a Sunday, then there wasn’t a lot of traffic for an hour or so and it really got busy after church time.

Is it a hot day?  Send someone to the store for sodas, water and ice.  Put them all in a big wash tub or ice chest and sell them for $1 each.  Make sure you create a sign for that!  In the past we’ve sold donuts, too, but now we stick to drinks.  Our neighbors’ kids have sold fresh-baked cookies and lemonade, another house sold brownies.

You MUST have a safe place for the money.  Either a pocket apron or a brightly colored fanny-pack is a good idea.  We like to have 1 person in charge of the money – that person is usually my sister, Susan, cuz she’s better at math than the rest of us.  The fanny-pack never leaves our side…someone is always carrying it (well, except when Cindy and I got to talking and forgot about it).  Don’t put the money in a strong-box unless you have a special table where people go to make their purchases – even then it’s vulnerable to a quick thief.

What happens at a yard sale?  What sells?  Honestly, each year something different is the ‘hot’ item.  One year it might be clothing, another year its kids’ toys and the next year its furniture.  Who can say what will be hot this year?  Its always surprising what goes quickly and what items aren’t touched.  One year all our Christmas stuff sold like hot-cakes! 

We had a couple items that I hated on sight.  Plastic heart fake stained glass window hangings that had gag-0-matic sayings on them “A friend is always in your heart” or bleah like that.  I don’t understand why anyone would even manufacture it.  It was virtually unreadable and poorly crafted.  Did it sell?  Of course!  Don’t ask me why.

We also had a hand-painted clown tape dispenser.  We wanted to give it to our friend, Roma, who hates clowns, but…someone bought it.  Someone bought it!

Frequently there are items that have our eyes on…we’ll take them if they don’t sell.  Unfortunately, they sold:  2 adorable white plaster bunnies and 2 turtles for the garden, lovely green/blue flower coasters >sigh<  I did take a stepping stone for the area at the hose bib in the front yard…

"Car Boot Sale" in a parking lot...interesting... http://www.morguefile.com

As far as what happens…if you’ve advertised the block sale/yard sale, then you can expect people to start showing up before the official start time.  We generally allow people to wander and poke around, as long as they stay out of the garage.  Last year we had a guy come and buy a ton of stuff – he bought a red wagon and filled it up with things.  We figured he was going to sell the items at a flea market or his own yard sale.  But, we don’t care.  If we wanted to go selling at the flea market, we would, but we don’t so we sell them more cheaply and let others sell them to make a profit, too.  That’s money in more pockets, yes?  Spread the wealth!  That’s how I look at it anyway.

If someone wants to bargain with us early in the day, we generally don’t let the item go for too little.  If no one has expressed an interest in a bookshelf, say, by 11am, then we might be more willing to negotiate.

Its true, things will be stolen, price tags will be switched and people will shortchange you.  That’s the way it goes.  You should try to be vigilant and watch what’s going on but sometimes it will be SO crowded with people it’s impossible to catch ‘em at it.  Try not to let it ruin your day.

Even with tags and signs, people ask how much things are…its normal and we try not to be irritated about it.  My sister is very good at remembering the prices we’ve set so I’m always asking her.

Yesterday we had people coming back to our sale 2 and 3 times!  And buying something each time!

An hour before closing of the yard sale, we mark everything at ½ off.  Well, we don’t actually ‘mark’ anything, just tell everyone who arrives that everything is 50% off…and we tell them this over and over.  At that point, we want it GONE!  We are seriously making deals by that point.  Buy one book, get this coffee mug for free!  Two for one or ½ price?  Whatever works.  The goal is not to have to touch it again, right??!

Books at table height are easier to look through http://www.morguefile.com

What do you do with the stuff that doesn’t sell?  Goodwill, Salvation Army, hospital thrift shops, etc.  Find out when they close and what they take!  Our local hospital thrift shop doesn’t take lamps, for some reason.  End your garage sale an hour before the donation station closes or you’ll be hanging onto that stuff until Monday.

A great place to take gently used women’s clothing is Career Closet.  They help ladies find appropriate clothing for interviews and even provide 1 week’s worth of business attire.  They also provide on-site training and interviewing and grooming advice. We’ve donated to them many, many times over the years.  www.careercloset.org

Go get your signs!  It’s horribly tacky to leave them up for someone else to remove.  If you have enough people working then send 2 to get the signs while the rest of you pack stuff up to donate. 

While some of us go to the donation station, 2 of us count out the money and take out the cost of the Pennysaver ad, posterboard, yard sale tags, bagels, sodas and ice and repay whoever paid for those.  Then you can split the treasure among the workers or you might have a favorite charity to support.

How much money can you make?  There’s no right answer to this.  I have a friend who made $1200, just selling her own stuff!  Its so dependant on what you are selling.  I personally made over $800 at a sale last year, but there were power tools involved! 

I hope you have as much fun as we do!  People are always stopping by and saying they wish they could join us, we’re having a blast.  It’s a way to get together and have fun, while getting rid of things we don’t need and helping make money, too!

Here’s another question:  What kind of people come to a yard sale?  We get all types…I remember one year a woman from a hoity-toity area of town came through our block sale picking up knickknacks.  This year, a homeless man came by asking for what I’m not sure. He seemed to want us to hold a fundraiser for him, too. The conversation was weird and I ended up just asking him if he could use a totebag.  He said yeah and wandered over to that area, found a hat he liked instead.

We had another lady come by and spend about 30 minutes scrutinizing everything, she bought some items, then left and came back a couple hours later and spent another 30 minutes looking at EVERYthing.  She was getting out her wallet and counting her money and deciding between this item or that.  She was having so much fun choosing her pretty things that we threw in some other items that she really liked.  It made her day.

People of all shapes, sizes and economic backgrounds come through a yard sale.  Yard sales are fun!  😉

 

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