It can be hard to know if it is worth your time to have a yard sale when you have extra stuff to get rid of. I explored that question this summer and have summarized what I learned into this one post. In a nutshell, I would say that even if you have young kids, having a yard sale can be a fun and worthwhile weekend activity when you have it at the right time, in the right place, with the right heart, with a clear plan and realistic expectations.
That might sound like a lot, but it’s not that hard and I’m going to walk you through every step of the process, including 5 great reasons to have a garage sale, the 4 key elements you need to get right, and a practical step by step guide for actions to do before and on the day of the sale.
Okay, why are you considering having a garage sale? To make money? To get rid of stuff? To get some money back for your stuff? Because a friend suggested it?
After reading extensively about simplifying and decluttering, and having 3 yard sales in 4 months, here are my favorite reasons to have a yard sale.
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5 Great Reasons to have a yard sale
#1 To change your relationship with stuff
I think the first and foremost reason for having a yard sale is to change your relationship to your stuff. It was this idea in Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider, that convinced me to even have a garage sale at all this summer. I decided to put it to the test and it is true. Going through your stuff (see more on that below), pulling it out into the garage, going through it, pricing it, seeing it all in one place, and then taking the effort to sell it and in some cases donate it is a humbling and highly educational experience.
Before 2017 I had not had a yard sale in years because I didn’t think it was a good use of time, mainly based on what I’d actually make per hour for my efforts. I also didn’t usually have much to get rid of, just a bag of stuff we’d donate to Good Will a few times a year of outgrown clothes and cheap toys. But last fall I decided to join the current decluttering movement and conquer the clutter. This provided plenty of material for a yard sale and also convinced me the experience would be an important part of the simplifying journey that I was on.
#2 To make some money
It obviously can be a good way to make money, especially if you have furniture to get rid of, or if your young children have outgrown items such as clothes, toys, bouncers, walkers, high chairs and booster seats. If this your primary goal for the sale, make sure you have some larger items to sell, and make the effort to reach out to friends and family and offer to sell some of their stuff (see more on this below).
#3 To experience community
A yard sale is an excellent way to meet more of your neighbors, and to generally interact with people in a more relaxed environment. No one is at their primary job, everyone is enjoying a laid back weekend morning, either finding something fun or getting rid of stuff and making space in their home or garage. As a mom who spends a lot of time at home with young kids, I’ve found I really enjoy talking to the people who come to my yard sale.
The pace of yard sale shopping is considerably different than at a store. People are often going at a slower pace, enjoying the experience and being outside. Many will tell you a bit of their story, about why they are interested in an item. At each of my yard sales this summer I met a neighbor who lived nearby which I considered a huge bonus. I also really enjoyed blessing people who could use stuff that my family had outgrown.
#4 To teach your kids by modeling
Having a yard sale with young kids around can be a challenge, but as in many areas of life it all comes down to how you handle it. At a pretty early age you can begin to talk to them about keeping what we need and use, and passing the rest onto others so that they can make use of them.
It’s actually a great way to help your kids begin to understand and process how your family interacts with stuff.
I do recommend finding someone to watch your younger kids so that you can focus on the yard sale and talking to people. I was worried that my kids would try to save things back out of the yard sale, but my toddler was the only one who did this and only once all summer. I gave my bigger boys some money from each yard sale because they let me get rid of some of their old toys. I found that my all of my boys (age 7, 5, 3 and 1) were much more cooperative than I thought they would be, and the sales became even more of a teaching opportunity than I thought they would be, so I’d encourage you not to assume you can’t have a yard sale with young kids around.
#5 Teaching your kids about entrepreneurship and selling
At my third and final yard sale my mother-in-law suggested my boys have a lemonade stand. My oldest loved the idea, so we helped him make a plan; it turned out pretty simple, just a pop-up canopy tent, a chair, a cooler of ice and drinks and a homemade sign with options and prices.
The day before the sale my husband took him shopping for drinks. When they got back they figured out how much each type of item had cost and then marked it up by 50-100%. Bottles of water from Sam’s Club were 7 cents each, so they sold them for a quarter, as well as sparkling water, Kool-Aid pouches, and Dr. Pepper. Afterward we figured out that he sold $18 of drinks, and his expenses were $12, so he made $6. He was hoping for $10, so he was happy when I gave him a few dollars from part of my profit on some toys (which I’ve done after each yard sale) and his allowance, giving him $12 for his wallet.
As a mom I would not do a yard sale if my only reason was to make some money. I’ve found other ways to make money with less effort, but the combined effect of the above 5 reasons convinced me to give it a try and I’m so glad I did.
So you’ve considered the reasons to have a yard sale. Now there are 4 key elements you need to make sure you get right in order to have an enjoyable, successful experience.
4 Keys to a Successful Yard sale
The first two keys to a successful yard sale are plenty of people and plenty of stuff. The second two keys are a consistent pricing strategy and clear expectations. If you get these four right, you’ll have a great experience regardless of some of the details and your specific implementation because you will have taken the main factors of people, stuff and price into consideration based on your unique goals and expectations.
#1 Participate in a community yard sale
This will save you the costs and time involved in marketing, and should guarantee a decent turn out, so if at all possible find out the date of your neighborhoods’ community yard sale and do it then. If your community doesn’t do them or isn’t having one soon enough, talk to friends and family and see if they have one you could join. Then weigh the pros and cons of taking your stuff to their neighborhood vs trying to get foot traffic to your house.
Generally the kinds of people who go to yard sales want the kinds of things sold at garage sales, but it still helps to have more people and more stuff to increase your odds of having the stuff to match the people.
Once you’ve picked a place and a date, encourage the nearby neighbors to participate and have a yard sale too. Whether you’re timing it with a community yard sale or not, a friendly reminder or suggestion might make the difference in having neighbors participate. I’ve found that the more yard sales there are on a street, the more that people who drive by will stop because there is more look at, and because it feels more like an event.
#Sell Your friend’s stuff too
Ask your friends and family if they have stuff to add to your sale. It often works well to give them the money for their large items and keep the money from the smaller stuff. It won’t be worth your time to track it and it’s an easy way to pay you for your effort. If you don’t find anyone who is interested, that’s fine, but it’s definitely worth taking the time to ask. After the first time or two you will probably figure out who is inclined to join you or contribute stuff and you won’t need to continue asking everyone.
A few tips on selling someone else’s stuff:
- Clarify what they want money for ahead of time. You could pick the specific items or a certain price, for example every item that sells for more than $10.
- For the biggest items find out if there is a minimum they’re okay with you selling it for.
- Don’t keep their stuff, sell it. You may get some things from them for free or discount which could save you money but try not keep anything unless it really was something you already needed or that was on your list, such as childrens clothing in the right size and season, or a certain item of furniture.
#3 Decide on a pricing strategy
It will make the yard sale much more enjoyable if you can decide on a reasonable and consistent pricing strategy and stick to it.
I recommend pricing items 30-50% higher than what you want for them, and then coming down when people ask for a lower price. That generally results in a win-win. And when someone asks for an even lower price give it to them unless it is one of your few higher priced items that you know you can get a decent amount for, or that a friend has requested you hold to a certain minimum price on.
When people come to a yard sale, they want two things: to find something fun, and to pick the price. Keep this in mind, and remember that if someone wants something at your yard sale, you win! That is the primary success you are looking for. So don’t let them leave without it, and make sure they feel good about buying it. That means you should give them the price they offer if possible. If not, don’t suggest the price you want to land on, suggest something above it, so that they can say it and you can then agree to the price the suggest.
Example: You’re selling a bookshelf and have it marked $35. Someone offers you $15. You do not want to go that low, but you’d be okay with $20. Don’t say ‘how about $20’, say ‘how about $25’? In my experience they will then suggest $20 and it will be a win-win.
If a friend contributes their items, I recommend not having them present at the yard sale unless they really will be okay listening to you ‘negotiate’ without interfering or being disturbed by the process. Ideally one person should be present at the sale whole time and be the person to answer any questions and make any decisions about price.
#4 Set your expectations
Decide what your main goals are for your yard sale. If making money is a large motivating factor, adjust your prices and strategy accordingly, and if you’re not going to go down much, be prepared to keep some stuff for the next yard sale, or to sell it online.
If you’re hoping to meet more of your neighbors, be proactive. Use the yard sale as an opportunity to knock on a few doors the week of the sale and invite them to come by. Consider having someone help you with the sale so that you have more time to chat with those who stop by.
If your main goal is to get stuff out of your house (this was me this summer), then have a plan for the stuff that doesn’t sell. Make plans to donate what is left afterward, and tell your spouse or a friend so that you follow through. I’ve found when I have a clear plan to donate what is left after the sale, that makes it easy to enjoy blessing whoever comes, even if it means going a little lower on the prices for some items.
I knew which items I wanted to sell (rather than donate) and at what price. For everything else, if someone offered me a low price, I was happy to accept it.
When they said, “Would you take [really low price]”, I would say “sure – to a good home” and that would also get a laugh and a smile. It’s a win-win. If I know I’m donating it to GoodWill if it’s still left in my driveway after lunch time, it’s easy to try to send it home with someone instead, for pretty much any amount of money.
How to Find Stuff to Sell
In a nutshell I would say that the quickest ways to find stuff around your house to sell are:
- to walk through each room in your house and look for things that you don’t need anymore, that your family has outgrown in some way
- look for anything that you bought because you wanted to like it or you wanted it to serve a certain purpose, but you don’t or it doesn’t
- find items that were given to you that you don’t want, but you keep because it was a gift
Gather these things together and you may have enough for your first sale. If you have anything that you feel unsure about getting rid of, but that you don’t want, take a picture of it and let it go.
The best and most profound way to find stuff to sell is to change your relationship with stuff. I will save that for another post, but here are two examples from my life:
- I’m intrigued by the idea of a capsule wardrobe. Once I have lost the baby weight I intend to try narrowing my wardrobe down to 50 or so items to start with. This made it easy for me to finally get rid of a few bins of clothing from the attic that I was keeping for when they fit again. When I went through them asking myself if the item would be in my top 50, it was easy to part with everything that I was keeping just because it was a certain size.
- I’ve slowly been parting with some of my kitchen gadgets and accessories that I rarely use. As I’ve grown more aware and passionate about healthy eating, I’ve found it empowering to get rid of items that specifically help us eat sugary foods, and to keep multi-taskers that are useful for a variety of foods. So I sold my bundt cake pans, my large muffin pans, and a variety of cookie-related gadgets. I had not used any of them in at least 2 years and realized that anything I wanted to make I could do with my everyday pans that I also used for healthier items. However, I think it’s important to make exceptions based on your family’s values. I chose to keep our ice cream maker because it represents a fun way to have family time outside and to experience the process of making food together.
Preparing for a yard sale
A month ahead of time
Find out the yard sale schedule for your neighborhood, and any others you’re considering joining. Usually homeowners get dates from their HOA, and some city areas have facebook groups where schedules are posted. Get the dates and put them on your calendar.
Find some time each week to look through your house and identify items to sell. Leave large ones where they are until a few days beforehand, but make a list of them. Gather smaller items in bags and boxes in one spot in the house.
The week of the yard sale
- Plan time into your schedule to gather items and price them. Consider what arrangements you might need to make temporarily, such as not eating on the dining room table or parking your car in the driveway or on the street.
- Go to the bank and get small bills and coins so that you can make change for customers.
- Buy some blank stickers and pre-priced stickers, and you might want an old school fanny pack for holding dollars and change.
- Group your stuff by category, kitchen, toys, clothes, decor, tools. This makes it easier to price consistently within a category and it groups things how you want to put them out as well. Then you can box them back up a bit if necessary in order to have them on hand the night before.
The day of the yard sale
- You’ll want to wake up before the sale early enough to put out an extra sign, buy ice if you are selling drinks, and most importantly to set your stuff out.
- Make yourself a smoothie so that you can stay outside in case you get a constant stream of people, which is what you want.
- If you’re on a side street, even if you’re participating in a community yard sale it’s still a good idea to put a stick sign out at the nearest intersection; put your address on it and the few categories you have the most stuff for. I put ‘toys, furniture’.
- Put some colorful items at the end of your yard or driveway to make your sale look inviting.
- Place the largest items where they will be out of the way but easily visible down the street.
- Group items roughly by category, this lets people know that they’ve looked through what you have on a certain topic so that they don’t have to look as carefully through the whole sale.
- Keep in mind where the sun will be throughout the morning, and keep delicate items in the shade.
- Make a clear path for people to walk.
I hope that was helpful! If you have a yard sale, I’d love to hear about it, you can add a comment below.
To hear more details about my yard sale adventures this summer, check out the 8 Steps I Took to Conquer the Clutter
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