Thursday, August 16, 2012

Lessons Learned from My First Yard Sale, Part 1

I didn't come from a home that did yard sales. Mom and Dad never really bothered with them; they just took unwanted items to the D.I. (our local thrift store). As a kid, I always wanted them to have a yard sale -- the idea of it brought out this entrepreneurial side of me and I thought it would be exciting to see people buy our old stuff. I could do a lemonade stand at the same time! Maybe even baked goods! I'd be rich! I was like one of those characters in cartoons who starts daydreaming dollar signs.

My enthusiasm for yard sales diminished as I got older. I volunteered at a couple church fundraiser yard sales as a teenager, but that was it. Once I took a few things to a friend's yard sale, hoping to sell some of the terrible re-gifted stuff from our wedding (who gives newlyweds a circa-1992 glass tic-tac-toe set, I ask you? And don't even get me started on the dish set that literally had a layer of dust on the box. They wrapped it with the dust on the box!), but hardly anyone came and I had to cart all the stuff home again (or to the good ol' D.I.).

Whenever I'd mention doing a yard sale after that, my husband would talk me out of it, saying it was a waste of time, that it wasn't worth the hassle, etc. Then, a couple months ago while we were cleaning out our garage, I made the call: we were going to have a yard sale! Surely someone would want or use some of this stuff! I talked to a few of my neighbors and after some coordination and planning, we set the date for our neighborhood yard sale.

There was a lot of stuff in the garage and I knew there was plenty more in the house, so I got to work decluttering and gathering things we didn't like, use, or wear very often.

The gathering phase was pretty messy at times, especially in the boys' room. I wouldn't say I hoard clothes, but I do get a little overly sentimental about them. Not anymore! I pulled out all the boys' clothes I have stored in containers under the bed, crib, and in the closet. See that pile at the door, next to the teddy bear? All of it was headed to the yard sale.

It felt good to make some space in the boys' clothes storage. I did keep the high quality clothes, the cutest clothes, and the truly sentimental items (like what we brought each of our boys home from the hospital in), but I got rid of the things I didn't love. I also went through my room, the kitchen, the bookshelves, and the closets. No space was left unturned! In all honesty, the gathering phase was kind of fun.

Lesson #1: That quote from William Morris ("Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.") is sheer genius! I can't even begin to say how positively freeing it is to get rid of stuff you feel like you should keep, even if you don't want to. How often do you think "I should keep this because it was a gift", "I might read that book again", or "I should keep this because it might come in handy someday" ?  No joke: less of that stuff makes me feel like I've got more space in my brain. I can't explain why, but I'll take it.

Once everything was gathered, it was time to price it all. I really didn't know what to sell anything for. I was nervous that if I did it too high, people would just leave and I'd make no money. If I charged too little, the yard sale wouldn't be worth the time and effort. What's a girl to do? Consult the Internet, of course. So I did a little research, checked some websites (this link and this link were two of the more helpful links about yard sale pricing), and started sticking those little yellow price tabs on everything.

Lesson #2: Don't spend too much time agonizing over the pricing like I did. Consult a few websites, maybe visit a thrift store for price comparisons, and then go with your gut. How much would you be willing to pay for that item? This was a good guideline for me in the end. I had people ask me to go lower on a few items at the yard sale-- sometimes I did, sometimes I didn't. Because I went with my gut and priced what I thought was best, I knew what I felt comfortable with charging/accepting and went with it.

After the gathering and the pricing, it was time to start advertising. I put a couple free advertisements on a local classified ad website. After that, I picked up some posters at Walmart, pulled the big, strong-smelling Sharpie from the junk drawer, and handed it all over to my husband.

Lesson #3: I have yet another reason to love being married to an artist. He whipped these babies out in no time. It would have taken me FOREVER to just get the words written in a straight line. All I did was tell him what to include. What I learned from him: keep your signage simple, include just enough information, and use big, bold letters and arrows. 

A couple days before the yard sale, as I was getting everything ready, I realized that I needed to get some change. As with the pricing, I wasn't sure how much change I'd need to get from the bank, so I consulted Google (here's the link that helped me most). I got a roll of quarters, 25 $1 bills, four $5 bills, and two $10 bills. It seemed like a lot to me, but most of the links I checked said that it was wise to have $40-80 in change.

Lesson #4: Extra change = One less thing to worry about. I'd suggest getting more than you think you'll need. I mean, there's enough to keep track of on the day of the yard sale. Bargaining with people intent on getting a steal, answering questions, straightening up after each rush of shoppers, doing math in my head, and keeping track of my baby was enough to keep me busy. It was nice to not worry about having enough change when a lady gave me a $20 bill for a $2 Thomas the Tank Engine DVD.

I collected. I priced. I'd commissioned the artist for the signs (ha ha). I visited the bank. I was ready for the sale. Ready but nervous. Would my efforts pay off? The next day also had its lessons for this yard sale novice.

To be continued...

You can find Part 2 HERE

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