Writings from my little corner of modern domesticity.

So We Had a Yard Sale…

Whew! I’ll tell you what- that was an adventure! And let me just say that I do NOT want to do it again any time soon- maybe in a few years. I’d definitely do it again, just not next year or anything (really, if KonMari sticks, I shouldn’t have enough stuff in the house TO do another one next year, but…kids and husband…).

Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t a bad experience, it was just exhausting! To get into why, I’ll have to provide a little background- the Yard Sale Saga, if you will.

For one thing, we live in a townhouse. It’s basically a two-story, 1000-square-foot apartment, meaning we can’t have a garage sale at our home, and instead hosted it at my parents’, somewhat out in the boonies. They aren’t way off the beaten path; only about 10 minutes out of town and in a high-traffic area for passersby, but they are a full hour’s drive away from our home. Obstacle number 1- having to bring anything we want to sell to another location, along with the kids and all their accessories.


One of my photos for my Craigslist ad. I did try to get the house in the picture, too, to help people find the place. Not that the stuff in the yard didn’t make it obvious, but…

Obstacle #2: When we married, there was an unfortunate error in communication regarding the contents of my room at my parents’ house, and they basically boxed it up in its entirety and put it in the top of the shed. This meant I had to comb through everything I hadn’t taken to college with me- everything I owned in 2010 that hadn’t fit or wasn’t needed in my dorm, minus a few things that had made the migration into our newlywed nest already. Picture those large Rubbermaid-type totes- not the huge ones that fit a Christmas tree, but the standard big ones that fit a 3-year-old (ask me how I know…). Ok- there were 10 of them, plus a couple smaller ones of weird sizes, and that was just their place. Yeah…

Obstacle #3: I have a nearly-3-year-old and a 6-month-old. They can’t help, and they can’t keep themselves busy while the adults are doing sale-related things.

There were some other minor difficulties, but these were the largest of them. We (mostly I) had to sort through the stuff at home, pack it up to take to my parents’, plus all the trappings for the four of us to stay over for a week while I sorted my leftovers there and got things tagged. Babies don’t travel light, either!

We had our sale the weekend after the 4th of July, over a Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The 4th was the Monday before, and we were away at Ryan’s parents’ for the festivities there. So I had Tuesday and Wednesday, really, to sort and tag. 12 boxes, plus two garbage bags full of toys, 2 of clothes, and an additional 3 boxes of stuff we’d brought over (over the course of a few drop-ins; no way did all of that fit in the Stratus!). And I did it…but (I’ll say it again)- whew!

And it was hot. 91 on two days of the sale and the Wednesday before. Ugh.

I’ll spare you all my rambling, though, and break this down into a couple short lists- what went well, and what I’ll do differently next time (or just wasn’t as great as I’d hoped).

What Was Good

  • Signage. We used full-sized sheets of hot pink poster board for each sign and put them every block near the house- one to the south, one to the north, and one more an additional block north, since that was a major intersection and not too far out of the way for a garage sale stop. We also had a matching sign over the mailbox that just said “SALE” and had an arrow pointing at the house.
  • Pricing. Most things were tagged, unless there was a large enough group of similar items. For example, I had a whole table of toddler/infant clothes that I just stuck a sign on for 50 cents apiece, and the same story for the two tubs of books and stuffed animals. Also, since my aim was to get rid of things rather than rake in top dollar, I didn’t have a whole lot priced over $1, unless I *knew* I could very easily sell it for more and it was worth my effort to do so, even if I had to sell it after the sale (a few formal dresses, the Bumbo seat, Magic: the Gathering cards, for example).
  • Advertising. I got on Craigslist and local Facebook garage sale pages a week before and put up ads which featured the dates and times of the sale, a short list of highlights, and the clearance we were doing Saturday afternoon. Lots of the people that stopped mentioned seeing the ads!
  • Letting the early birds flock. Friday, I had a lady come around 8:30, while I was still setting up (had to drag it all in the night before to dodge a storm), and had a pleasant conversation as we each went about our business, plus made $15 before we’d even opened.
  • Staging. Putting like items together and taking some care with the arrangements. I had my table of toddler/infant clothes right next to the table half-covered in baby goods. The toys were at knee-level; still up off the ground, but in great sight of any kids. Put things that might sell each other nearby- like maternity clothes close to baby stuff, or curtains with decorative vases or bookends that look nice with them. Crafting books with crafting supplies rather than with the other books.
  • The bundle sale. Not being afraid to make someone a deal on a pile of stuff, particularly on the last day and loud enough other shoppers notice, is a great way to move the merch. Let the entire remains of the kids’ clothes go for $15, sell a tub of toys for $10- just get it gone!
  • Re-staging.  Rearrange as you sell- get rid of tables if need be. Folks like the look of plenty, and 3 well-stocked tables look more interesting than 4 or 5 sparse ones.

What Was Not

  • Weather. Not much to be done about this aside from holding the sale earlier in the season, really. Which I will- sale by June or no dice next time!
  • Signage. By this, I mean the stakes. Initially, I’d had the idea to use a couple 1/4″ dowels, one at each side of the poster board, for staking them into the ground. This didn’t work, and instead of saving money (8 dowels at 57 cents each vs. 4 stakes at 2.79 each), we spent more, because we ended up breaking dowels and having to buy the stakes anyway. Fail.
  • Saturday clearance. I really don’t know what happened here! We set out with the plan to do everything you can fit in a bag for $5 after 3pm Saturday- and then had no customers whatsoever after 3pm on Saturday! I’d even said that explicitly in all of my ads on Facebook and Craigslist AND on ALL OF THE SIGNS! What…?
  • Afternoons. With the exception of one guy who dropped $20 at 5:30pm (we ran 9-6 every day) Friday, we rarely saw much traffic past 2pm, on any of the days. If we do this again, I’ll probably run Thursday 10-6, and then Friday and Saturday just 9-2, unless there are other sales in the area. Which brings me to…
  • Flying solo. Since we had to do what we had to do with our sale, we couldn’t line it up with other sales in the area to feed each other traffic. We were the only ones Thursday, and didn’t even know there was one up the street for a bit Saturday.
  • Change. This may sound odd, but we started with too much change. I’d figured $100 would give us a good mix- $10 in quarters, $30 in ones, $40 in fives, and a couple tens in case of larger bills like twenties (which we got quite a few of, but only on larger transactions, as it turns out). Looking back, we could have easily gotten away with $75 or maybe even $50 in change- $5 quarters, $15 or $20 in ones, and the rest in fives. Anything more would be able to be made from the day’s proceeds.

So that’s the rundown. I could go into more detail on a lot of it, and if you’ve got questions, feel free to ask! Overall, it was a lot of work, but we did make about $280 in 3 days, and when you consider most of the stuff was priced under $1, that’s nothing to sneeze at! I don’t doubt that we’d have made a whole lot more if we’d had this during my KonMari festival, or if I’d been able to hold on to everything I was discarding at the time. I sent a lot of good stuff off to the thrift stores 9 months ago!

And, really, with growing kids and a growing family and all the stuff that comes with it, I’ll be doing this again someday. So help me out- what’s the best idea you’ve ever seen at a garage sale?



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