Whenever I mention to someone that we’re having a yard sale to lighten the load in our house, I get a sympathetic look and sometimes even an eye roll. I can almost see what the other person’s thinking: memories of lugging heavy, dusty old things out of the attic or basement, sitting all weekend in 90-degree weather while time and time again, some clueless person offers two dollars for your “old” mountain bike or only wants to buy one place setting of your dinnerware.
When I sold my home a few years ago and moved into my husband’s place, between us, we had lots of great stuff for which we simply didn’t have the space. Our solution was to have a “big ass” yard sale. I learned a lot about yard sale success from my husband, whose sales are legendary in our neighborhood.
Yard sales are the eco-friendly way to get rid of things since they are being recycled instead of thrown out. Plus, I think it’s good karma to send things you once loved to a new home where they’ll be appreciated, especially if you can walk away with a little money, too.
When we had our yard sale, we had some totally gross, ugly, seemingly useless stuff. I am not kidding when I tell you that my husband had a very old, very heavy wooden yoke in the basement. Like a yoke for oxen, you know, for plowing fields. I said, “No one will ever, ever buy that thing. Why are you even putting it out?” Not only was it one of the first things we got rid of that morning, but we sold almost everything else in just four hours.
By noon, we were sitting in the empty driveway, sipping cold champagne with a neighbor, and turning away “customers” who had failed to get there while the gettin’ was good.
1. Don’t expect to get rich. It’s about getting rid of stuff quickly. Accept that you will end up practically giving some items away and some buyers will get unbelievable bargains. Isn’t that why some people love to shop at yard sales?
2. Set a date, and a rain date. We like to plan our yard sales for a Saturday, and hope for good weather. If it rains, we can do Sunday. Start watching the forecast as far out as possible, and make your plans. Setting a short time window, like 8-11, will instill a sense of urgency in your buyers. This will help you sell out quickly and before lunchtime.
3. Make impactful signs. Invest in large, flourescent-colored poster boards and a fat, black marker. Write everything in very large, capital letters for easy reading. Sometimes, my husband will get cute with the signs and he’ll use a heading like, “WOW!! GREAT STUFF!!” Some signs can even have arrows directing customers to your home.
4. Put the signs where they’ll be seen. Hang your signs on telephone poles at busy intersections near your home using a staple gun. Don’t hang them too high or too low. Think about what height is most easily seen by someone sitting in their car.
When your yard sale is over, make sure you take down all of your signs. It's the right thing to do!
5. Advertise online. Craigslist is a perfect place to start. Be sure to list some of the categories of stuff you’re selling. Furniture and home goods always draw crowds. Also check local news websites for online classified sections to place your ad.
6. Get an early start. We start our yard sales at 8 am, but people will often start showing up even earlier. Early birds are usually on the lookout for items of potential value that they can either collect or sell for a profit. That’s how we got rid of the yoke. Was it valuable? Maybe, but we were just interested in gaining space more than anything.
7. Make me an offer. We don’t put prices on anything. If you price something too high, you could deter some people from even making an offer. Just put the items out, and get ready to negotiate when buyers ask, "How much do you want for this?"
Don’t think you’re going to be sitting on your duff at a table all day with this approach. Our yard sales look like the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. My husband and I are walking around talking to people, bartering, yelling questions to each other from across the driveway, and collecting money. If someone offers four dollars for something, we might say, “If you give me five bucks instead, I’ll give you this to go with it.” That’s how you get rid of your inventory quickly.
8. Have a “FREE” table. This happens when almost everything is gone and there are items that won’t budge. This is for stuff that you probably wouldn't donate because it's broken or missing a part. You'd be surprised how many people will take something because they know how to fix it. Once, I gave away an earring for which I couldn't find the mate. Turns out, the woman liked the bead on the earring and planned to use it to make a necklace!
9. No second chances. Once you put things out for a yard sale, consider them gone from your life forever. At the end of your yard sale, load any and all items that have not sold into your car for your next trip to Goodwill for donation. You won’t have to bring them back into the house, and you can get a receipt for your taxes.
Yard sales are a lot of work, but following these tips will ease the pain. Make sure to have your champagne chilling so you can celebrate all that new space you’ve found in your house. Happy selling!
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