Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How to Have a Successful Yard Sale (with Less Trauma)

Yard sales.  Mmmm.  Let's see.

My first recommendation is that if you don't want any trauma, don't have a yard sale. 

You can only stand someone trying to talk you down from $5.00 for a Coach bag or from 25 cents for a cashmere scarf so many times.

And I know.  You have all of these lofty ambitions and ideas about why a yard sale is a good idea.

"It will force us to clean the garage."

"We will get rid of all of that junk we aren't using.  Remember:  One man's junk is another man's treasure (or something like that)."

"How hard can it be?  We put some stuff out and we sit in the sun while people cart it all away.  And they will pay us for it!"

Uh-huh.........right.

Last Saturday, I went against every fiber of my being and had a yard sale.

Our neighborhood hosts a neighborhood-wide event every year and this year we thought we should participate. 



Other years we had been gone, and I now see that the powers that be were looking after us and telling us to get out of Dodge.

But I have had some successful yard sales. 

I have made as much as $1000, back when I was young and had clothes to die for.  Yes, clothes DO sell if they are cool clothes in smaller sizes that will give young men and women a thrill to find.  But it's also important to have some furniture, household items and tools. 

Oh, geez.  Tools.  I can't tell you how many times a guy will walk up and say, "Do you have any tools?"  You say no and off they go.  I wondered later if it mattered what tools they were.

Last Saturday, we made about $250, which sounds OK. 

But do you know how many items you have to sell for 25 cents each to make $250?  You can do the math.  And when I consider the number of hours I spent getting ready and then sitting out there smiling saying "Bye.  Have a nice day," when someone left an item because I wouldn't sell it for a dime, I figured I was making about $2.00 an hour.


The clichés and annoyances are too many to list, but, OK, you twisted my arm.
Let me mention a few.


Early birds.
This is the first person on the scene and I mean early (7am when the sale doesn't start until 9) who professes to either not know what time the sale was supposed to start or who says something lame like, "I get up early so hoping you did too!"  Yeah, right.  We saw you trolling by at 6am.



Do you have change for a twenty?
This person is also that same early bird, who is first on the scene and who buys one item for 25 cents and only has a 20 dollar bill.  Her response when you frown and say something about not having enough change? - "Sorry, but that's what you get out of the ATM."  Ahem, ever heard of preparing for your yard sale foray by going INSIDE the bank and getting change so as to not take all of the change from the people holding the yard sale and possibly provoking a yard sale murder at 7am?

Getting it for free.
The person has three items - one is $1.00, one is $2.00 and one is 50 cents - and says, how about $3.00 for all three, thus getting the 50 cent item for free.  Now I know it's only 50 cents, but if I wanted to GIVE AWAY my items, I wouldn't have had a yard sale, now would I?

Insulting your items.
This person disparages your items in order to get a better deal. 
 
"There is a small spot on this Hermes scarf.  How about selling it for 25 cents (instead of $100)?"



You pull out your magnifying glass (that you have on hand for just such an exchange) and see a speck the size of a louse and remember that it was when you were eating caviar and egg on toast points at The Ritz Hotel in Paris and a bit of egg fell onto your scarf, a spot that is easily dabbed off in a few seconds.

OK, I don't own any Hermes scarves and I haven't eaten caviar and egg on toast points at the Ritz in Paris, and I wouldn't put a scarf like that in a yard sale if I did, but you get my point.  It's hard enough to see the Coach bag go for $5.00 or the Ralph Lauren jeans for $2.00, but do they have to insult my items to make a deal?  And isn't the fun of yard sales and thrifting supposed to be finding that great item and resurrecting it?

So you see there is a great deal of suffering associated with yard sales and if I could talk you out of it, I would.


But if I can't talk you out of it, and you haven't decided to do something less painful than like, say, having your teeth drilled without novocaine instead, then here are some DO's and DON'Ts that might help make your yard sale less traumatic.


DO prepare.
A little preparation and running around the week before the fact will make your day much more enjoyable, or failing that, less soul destroying.  Get your posters to make signs, your price tags, change, tranquilizers...

DO have a yard sale, not a garage sale.
If you have a garage sale, everyone will want to buy what you have in there that is NOT for sale.  Trust me. Don't put yourself through that.

DO go to the bank.
Unlike the person who arrives first at your sale and wants you to break a twenty, prepare for the yard sale and just such a person by going to the bank.  Get a roll of quarters, a roll of dimes and a roll of nickels and at least $20 in ones.  You could make it easy on yourself by not pricing anything below 25 cents and everything else in 25 cent increments,  Then you won't need nickels.  It's up to you.  But be prepared to make change. 

I keep my coins in a muffin tin for easy access and the bills in an envelope.


DO Advertise.
Advertise your sale in whatever newspapers still exist and online - perhaps FB if you have many local friends or Craig's List, unless it is a neighborhood sale, where this element is handled by someone else.  But it never hurts to call attention to YOUR sale.

DO Price everything individually beforehand.
I know it's a pain in the butt, but I guarantee you, if you put things in boxes thinking you will remember what you wanted to ask for things, you won't.  Buy some labels and price, price, price.  For books, I put the price on the inside cover of each book in pencil.  Some of your books really will sell for $5.00, so don't just say they are all 50 cents or whatever one price you come up with just to save time.

DO have tables so you can display your items.
Don't just lay everything in your driveway or have piles of stuff in boxes.  Get some tables or even plywood over saw horses will work.
Display your items thematically if possible.  Think department store.



DO hang your clothes up for easy browsing.
So buy some wire hangers if you don't have enough on hand.  People won't find that great item if you have them in boxes or heaps on the ground.

This kind of a set up is a DON'T



DO Put up signs.
Put up signs at every turn near your house so you will not only get the people who have seen your ad but capture people from all directions who are just out driving around.



DO keep your garage door closed and anything you don't want to sell out of sight.
Otherwise, people will wander in there and ask to buy everything that is NOT for sale.  Hubby had been in the process of setting up our hammock for the summer and had left it, all rolled up, leaning up against the car, well out of the range of the yard sale items.  I couldn't even really tell it was a hammock.   I can't tell you how many times someone asked how much for the hammock?

DO close up when you have had enough.
When you are about ready to let out the scream of the banshees, it's time to start cleaning up.  I guarantee you, people will still come and look through your boxes and you will make more sales, but you can get a start on clean-up while they are looking.

DO have a plan for what you will do with items that don't sell.
You do NOT want to put all of that stuff back in the garage.  Eyeball those items you can still make use of and then have a pact with your significant other that one of you will immediately load up the car to take whatever doesn't sell to Goodwill, books to Half Price Books (or something similar), etc.  You never want to see that stuff again, I promise you.



DO wear a sun hat with a strap if it's sunny out.
The strap will give you something to gnaw on to keep you from saying something you will regret when someone disparages your items or wants your Jimmy Choos for a buck.



DO have reading material for yourself
(some alcohol wouldn't hurt either, but that could go wrong fast so avoid the urge).  "You're offering me WHAT for that Birkin bag?!!!  Why I should..."

DON'T discount what you have.
Sell everything you think possible, even half empty bottles of perfume and parts of make-up kits, even if they aren't complete.  At my last sale, everything I had in that category sold.  It is true, one person's junk is another person's treasure, and you don't know what people are looking for so put it all out there.  I sold two Tupperware popsicle makers, one had the popsicle sticks, one didn't. Now is your chance.  You may never want to go through this ever again.

DON'T sell an item for less than you want. 
It's OK to say no and that you really want that $2.00 for the DVD player that still works (and that you figure you can still use in the den if it doesn't sell).

DON'T let people use your bathroom. 
It's bad enough supervising all of the browsers and ringing them up.  You don't want to have to try to remember how long someone has been in your house doing god knows what.

It's OK to say "I'm sorry, the outhouse is under renovation."

(The two exceptions to this are little children and pregnant women in dire need)

And one final "DON'T."
Long ago I heard a story about someone having a yard sale and at about 4pm a truck pulled up and the driver offered her $200 for everything she hadn't sold. 
He paid her, loaded up his truck and that was that.  It was all gone.  She made more money and no clean up.

DON'T count on that.  It won't happen.
I have come to the conclusion that was an urban legend

So don't hang around until 4pm when you have already gnawed the strap of your sun hat off from the pain.  Close up when you can't take it anymore.

So I hope I have taken the sting out of some of what can be one of the worst or boring days of your life, a day you will never have back ever, ever again ever.

As for me, I won't do another one of these until it's an estate sale and someone else is doing it, if you know what I mean.


Share your yard sale tips.

But also share your yard sale horror stories. 

C'mon, do it, it will be fun.


Thanks for reading!

Next Sunday is Father's Day so
 
See you Friday for my
Father's Day tribute to my Dad,
a quite extraordinary man.

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2 comments :

  1. Oh the pain of a yard sale! Never again for me, that is for sure!

    I did discover Craigslist last year, though, and have made a nice amount of change by trying to sell my items there rather than automatically taking them to the Goodwill, which is what I've generally done. It's fun, and I'm always surprised at what sells (old records, two used ice chests, bike, bike rack) versus what doesn't (my ample collection of inherited silver and crystal, a Tiffany glass vase I've been trying to get rid of since receiving it as a gift, oak furniture (oh,that 80's oak furniture . . . what were we thinking, and why did we buy so much of it?!). If the items don't sell after two weeks, then I donate them, secure in the knowledge that they apparently are worthless! :-)

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  2. You are right, Tamara. Craigslist is amazing. I can't believe how fast people respond to ads. We have actually had bidding wars on items such as our washer and dryer! I think Craigslist gets a bit of a bad rap these days because of some robberies and murders associated with it as well as the "adult" content but that aside, it's a great way to not only get rid of unwanted items but for people looking for jobs and even those "Missed Opportunity" ads where someone says something like, "You, the girl in the red coat I saw riding the #7 bus - you are beautiful. Call me!" :)

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