The pros and cons of yard sales

Over the years, we amass such a collection of knickknacks, mismatched housewares and random odds & ends it’s no wonder yard sales have become an American institution. How else would we unload ourselves of our unwanted possessions, or stock up on someone else’s discarded treasures? As a somewhat minimalist, I’m more for having the sale then prowling local neighborhoods in search of unique and oftentimes quirky finds, but that doesn’t mean filling your yard with clutter comes without it’s annoyances. It may seem like more of a chore than it’s worth, but knowing what your in for ahead of time makes it easier to be successful.

Plan ahead. Check the weather in advance for the day you plan to hold your sale. There’s nothing worse than setting everything up only to have it rained on, and nobody wants to buy someone else’s soggy leftovers. If it’s going to be a hot day, and you plan on sitting outside awhile-you should plan on about 4-5 hours for your sale, more if a steady flow of people continue coming-make sure you have plenty of water and food to keep you energized. I recommend sitting in a shady area, or putting up an umbrella to hang out under while people shop your goods. This also gives you a chance to keep an eye on everything while staying cool. There are going to be lulls in your traffic- people seem to either come all at once or not at all-so you want a comfortable place you can relax and keep an eye on the road while you wait for the next wave of customers.

Depending on how much stuff you’ve accumulated, set-up could be a pain in the butt. You need to make sure you have plenty of table space to set your things out on display, and you want to make sure the sale is visible from the street. This is especially difficult if your yard is hidden from view or your house just isn’t in a good location, but proper signs directing people to your sale will help increase intentional traffic; the likelihood of passers-by simply stumbling upon you might be lower, but don’t get discouraged, they will come. Putting signs out and taking them back down again can also get annoying, but if you have others helping you run things, planting signs can be quick and painless. Just make sure you have someone manning the sale while you run around, because the second those signs go up, people will start stopping by. And don’t forget to take them down again when you’re ready to call it quits. For serious yard-salers, an end time on your sign is not going to deter them from coming anyway. I recommend taking the signs down first, then packing up.

If you can, host a multi-family yard sale. As far as yard sales are concerned, the bigger, the better, and the more friends you get to add their junk to your collection, the more enticing it is for passers-by to stop and browse. It also tends to be easier for everyone involved to host one collective sale instead of several individual ones. Not only is it more desirable for shoppers, who have more choices in a single location, it’s more effective for you. The bigger the sale looks from the street, the more customers you get, making it easier to sell most of your things.

Stay organized. If you do host your own sale, try and recruit a few friends to spend a few hours of their day helping out. Having a few extra hands will make things a lot easier on you, especially when it’s time to deal with customers. Most times, you’ll have several people inquiring about items at once, so you want to make sure they have more than one person they can go to.

It’s also a good idea to keep your money in a central location, especially if you have more than one person helping you sell. Keep it in a lock box, or even an old pencil case. You can get them at Office Depot for a couple bucks, and they come in handy for other uses as well. Make sure you start the day with some change, too (not everyone walks around with a pocket full of singles). Twenty or thirty dollars in 1s and 5s should be plenty, just something to get you started before you start raking in the dollar bills.

Be reasonable. It isn’t necessary to put price stickers on every single item you have out, or even at all. Sometimes it’s in your favor not to have stickers, because most people will get deterred if they see a specific price, and might walk away from something they were about to buy or at least inquire about. It’s a good idea to have prices in mind for certain things, and if you have friends helping, even making a list of your items with tentative prices will be helpful when they’re negotiating with customers. Always start a little higher than you know someone’s willing to pay- a buck or two higher will suffice- because most shoppers are professional bargain-hunters, they know how to play the game and they’re going to do everything they can to bring you down on your price. And that’s okay. Just remember to negotiate fairly; this is, after all, a yard sale, not an auction house, so expect most things to go pretty cheaply. If you have something you just can’t bear to sell without getting a specific amount for, label it as such. Anyone who really wants it will be willing to inquire and work out a deal. Or, just keep it out of your sale altogether. There are other avenues you can use to get what you want for it, like eBay and craigslist.

Just remember, no matter how much or how little you sell, you will have less things by the end of your sale, so packing back up will be much quicker. You can put the things you don’t sell away for future sales, or if you’re feeling particularly charitable, there are plenty of organizations that need and accept donations of any kind. Bigger orgs, like Salvation Army and Goodwill, will even make house calls to pick up your donations, making it easier to get rid of some of your bigger items, like furniture.

In the end, it’s a bit of a commitment to hold a yard sale, but if you don’t do anything with your stuff, it’s just going to continue collecting dust in the back of your closet or garage. You may no longer have any use for your things, but, like they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

It also doesn’t hurt to put a few extra bucks in your pocket, too.

Happy selling!

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1 Comment

Filed under bargains, how-to, yard sale

One response to “The pros and cons of yard sales

  1. Laura

    Great analysis of the all American yard Sale!

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