Hoarder to Order (Part 2): Sale away, sale away, sale away… (Sorry, Enya)


July 18, 2012 by Decorum DIYer

Well, as you will see, the second stage to our basement project was to sort and clean out what we no longer needed.  Between one move, three kids, and my Craigslist obsession, we had a lot of stuff!  We still have a lot of stuff.  Sure, I could have donated everything and just have kept careful notes for an easy tax write off, but I thought we could actually have a yard sale.  I mean, how hard could it be, right?  I know, famous last words.

I’ll answer that.  While hosting a yard sale can be rewarding, it requires a lot of preparation work. Unfortunately for me, that meant a lot of late nights for Mom whilst Daddy and the children slept, or at least had intermittent sleep. (it is 3:36 am right now, and my littlest is screaming/crying.  Yes, I changed him and gave him gas drops and teething medicine.  Aaah, motherhood.)  Anyway, I was determined to make this the best yard sale in the neighborhood!  I was channeling a little Martha Stewart (well, to her it would be a ‘tag sale’) and even a pinch of Hyacinth ‘Bouquet’ (Bucket to you and me).  It’s a shame I didn’t have any Royal Doulton with hand painted periwinkles to sell – of course, she wouldn’t, would she?

But, I did have this lovely set…

(I see you eyeing up my Trivial Pursuit DVD edition.)

which, sadly, did not sell.

Anyway, as part of my preparation, I decided I should check the web and blogosphere to see what others thought would make a successful yard sale.  I found a few sites that were very helpful.

Yard Sale Queen – website

This lady knows what she is talking about.  It is a lengthy read, but full of great points.

Vintage Revivals – blog

Some great points, but mostly I bonded with her hoarding reference and sense of humor.

My Blessed Life – blog

This is a blog that just happened to have some yard sale pointers.  Setting up your yard sale in terms of departments, like a store, is easier for everyone, you and the shopper.

The above are just three sources that I was able to find doing a simple search on Pinterest.  Really, are any more than three sources needed?

So, some things I gleamed from the above and from my own preference are these few simple rules:

  • Price everything.  Yes, everything.  It saves a lot of time if shoppers know your asking price or starting point for negotiation.  Also, it keeps you from being harassed every few seconds with this question, “How much for this?”  I found simple, round price stickers at the dollar store – so easy!  If you have a lot of one type, also make a large sign that states the price for each type of item, i.e. “all paperback books $.25 each”.
  • Place prices were they are visible, not on the bottoms of things.  Also, the bigger the item, the bigger the price tag.
  • Prices should be low so that things sell.  If you aren’t willing to price things at a reasonably low amount, maybe you shouldn’t be selling it, or you should consider Craigslist, Ebay, etc…. (Same goes for collectibles.  Yard sales are not the place for collectibles, well, at least not YOUR collectibles.  Be prepared for individuals only searching for coins, postcards, jewelry, and the like for THEIR collection.)
  • Have some items that are FREE and advertise as such.  People love free stuff and it will get them to stop and take a look.  They may even buy something.
  • Set up your yard sale as a department store.  Put like items with like items.  It is easier for you to pre-sort for the big day and quickly put out on tables/racks the morning of.  It also helps your customers shop more effectively.
  • Hang all of your clothing, if you have the space.  People hate to bend over to the ground to pick things up – yes, people are lazy.  If you must place items on the ground, use a blanket to keep items clean and sort items by size, season, etc…
  • Start prepping your yard sale at least two weeks in advance.
  • Advertise on Craigslist and/or your local paper a few days prior with a description of the types of items for sale.  Don’t be surprised if someone wants to purchase an item before the sale.
  • The more furniture and baby items (if you have them), the better.  Baby clothing and items are great sellers.  Furniture sells, but mostly it draws attention to your sale.  People will stop, if they see a slew of furniture in your yard.
  • Post large, legible signs with date, time, and address at least two days in advance on busy roads and corners near your home.  These signs should be sturdy, not paper. The morning of, place more, smaller signs to steer traffic from the main road (if you don’t live on the main road).  Please don’t forget to remove these signs after the sale.
  • Make sure you have change, both coins and paper bills.  I suggest using an apron with several pockets to keep your change and your proceeds.  Many people like the idea of a money box, but I think it is safer and easier to keep the money on your person.

Just a glimpse into our yard sale madness:

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For us, our yard sale was successful, monetarily.  Although pocketing some handy dandy cash is nice, the point was to get rid of the stuff.  The profit is just the silver lining.  I am sure the lack of customers was mostly due to the heat wave. I know, who holds a yard sale during a heat wave?  I did. It wasn’t my first choice, but we needed to get a move on our basement progress and the weekend following July 4th was the best choice.  Trust me, I am the last person to hang outside on an 85 degree day, let alone a 100 degree day.  We did do one smart thing, once we realized that the weekend was shaping up to be record breaking temperatures.  We decided to keep most of the items under our carport and an adjacent tent (borrowed from my sister) to keep us and customers out of the direct sun.  We only placed large items at the end of the driveway to attract attention.

However, despite my best efforts only about 25% of our items sold, which meant that we still needed to deal with about 75% of junk items after the sale.  The big hits (Chris giggles immaturely when he hears that phrase – say it a few times fast, you’ll get it, if you are not already giggling) were items that I was told by Chris (also a former Cutco knives salesman) were not to be included in the sale.  About one hour into our little yard sale and my husband dragged out his pristine Cutco collection from circa 1998.  Shockingly, a very odd, but polite gentleman (he looked a lot like Anthony Bourdain (the chef) by the way) happily paid a handsome sum for the entire set of specialty knives and box full of peelers.  Who knew?

The other big hit was this little vanity I acquired via my Craigslist furniture purchase for my daughter’s toddler room (oddly, the seller was my sister – small, crazy world).  As you may or may not recall, I repainted it a fresh, cottage white and reupholstered the seat in a lovely sage green stripe.  So, it was practically brand new.

It was priced to sell at $20.  I actually had two women vying over it.  Sorry, I don’t have an awesome bidding war saga to tell you.  Each had thought it would be a great addition to their respective niece’s room (which is even funnier, since I acquired it from my niece, technically).  Both were on the phones begging their respective sisters to call back with a yay or nay.  I had to think quickly and state that I was giving first right of recision to the first person that asked about the item.  It could have gone very wrong, but worked out.  I got my $20 and the woman walked away with a big smile.  Actually, she didn’t walk very far.  She stayed for almost an hour and purchased a lot more things.  Her name was Maureen and she was by far my best customer that day.  She even left at one point and came back with more money from the ATM and purchased even more items.  I had a lot of home decor items (come on, you knew I would) and she was extremely interested in some of my favorite pairs of curtains.

After the sale, we packed up about 1/3 of the remaining items and sent them off to the Goodwill the very same day.  Anything that we marked as ‘FREE’ was long gone.  The remaining items were split into two piles: 1. donations for a women’s shelter (women’s clothing, maternity, baby and child items (not toys) and 2. items of some value /bulk to be listed on Craigslist.  So, about 50% of the total number of items that were placed in the yard sale are still in my basement.  Did I mention that both my mother and my sister contributed items?  No, well they did and that is mostly what I have to sell on Craigslist.

Anyone looking for a doll house with custom, preteen, designer, zebra-print, duct tape decor? (Really, it isn’t as bad as it sounds.  It is actually kind of cute.)

No?  Okay, how about a ‘Glee’ karaoke machine?

No, not that either, huh?

What about an enormous set of ‘Monster High’ dolls and accessories?

Can you tell these items do not belong to me?  You get the idea.  Anyway, the best thing about this whole process was that Chris and I were able to shed years (possibly a decade) of unused items that needed to find a home, another home.  It really was a fulfilling experience.  It forced us to really think about what is important to us and what we truly need and want.  Many of the home decor items I had stowed away were to decorate my future finished basement/family room.  The irony was that we couldn’t be on our journey to a new basement, if we didn’t purge some of the items in the basement – no matter their one day intended use.  (By the way, night two 2:41 am and the baby is awake and screaming again.  Ugh, why me?)

I think the truly best part in all of this is that I was able to spend an entire evening (from 7 pm to 2 am) with my mother and sister going through old items, both theirs and mine, talking and reminiscing.  Also, during the yard sale, my husband and I met many of our neighbors that we probably should have already known.  There is something about displaying your junk (once your treasures) on your front lawn that brings out the best in people.

So, whether you are considering having a yard sale, or you just like to attend yard sales – it isn’t always about the bargain.


5 thoughts on “Hoarder to Order (Part 2): Sale away, sale away, sale away… (Sorry, Enya)

  1. janemaccubbinphotography says:

    Great tips! I always laugh when I see the Yard Sale sign hand written in ball point pen. Do you think those people wonder why no one shows up?

  2. Suzz says:

    Congratulations on a successful Yard Sale, Christine! As an avid-flea marketter, I agree with the tips you found … and it’s clear that your customers did too! Congrats!

    Some time ago, I read and saved an “article” by Real Simple Magazine, 10 Ways to Get Rid of Your Stuff (I can share it with you if you like). Among the tips is one that I constantly come back to – making room for the life you want to live. This tip talks about removing the memorabilia from your past (that once meant sooo much, but now is just clutter) to create room (literally) in your home/life. It’s obvious that you and Chris are working hard to this – I am so glad to have subscribed to your blog in time to “share” this journey you’re on. Keep up the good work!

  3. Christine Drumgoole says:

    Thanks, Jane and Suzz. Suzz, that is such a lovely comment and yes, we are on our journey, contest or no contest. Have a great day!

  4. That was indeed a ton of work! Congrats on uncluttering and making some tough decisions!

  5. […] see the continuation of the saga, please click here to see Part […]

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