Yard Sale Tips and Tricks

“It was an immense achievement!”-Prof. Higgins

Our sale wasn’t open until 8am.  At 6:30am, when we opened the first box, the sharks smelled the chum in the water and were on us in an instant.  Thanks to the Craigslist posting that I renewed the night before, people had our address and they weren’t going to wait until 8am!  We had a babysitter come over at 7am to help with the kids while the hubby and I tore around setting stuff out.  Thank goodness we had already set up the tables and clothesline the night before. 

The hubby put our yard sale signs up at 745am and we were flooded anew with people.  From 630am – 930am we must have had over a hundred people stop by. 

The crowd slowed down by 10am, the sitter left, and the kids came outside with us.  They loved it! 

I had to keep an eagle eye on Oliver, but Evelyn loved sitting on the giant tarp climbing over clothes mountains and playing with all the toys. 

I felt bad selling some of Oliver’s stuff.  He wasn’t too thrilled when people kept walking away with his toys.

We were lucky it didn’t rain, but -dang- it was HOT and humid.  Evelyn had enough of it after an hour. 

The kids went down for their naps after 12 and we started wrapping things up.  By 2pm, all of our stuff had been boxed and sat awaiting their donation to charity.

As promised, we did not keep anything that did not sell.  A nonprofit came by after dinner to haul the rest of our stuff away.

Here are some tips that I’ve picked up from doing several yard sales throughout the years:

1) Price and pre-sort everything before the sale.  If you are expecting a lot of people, pricing ahead of time is such a time saver.  A hundred people aren’t following you around asking, “how much for this?” and there is also less haggling.  Pre-sorting your items makes setup a breeze.  Even if you don’t have time to unpack your boxes, at least related items are all together.

2) Make a plan and advertise.  You can take out ads in the newspaper if that’s how your community hunts for yard sales.  You can also place ads on Craigslist for free.  Lastly, always make signs.  60 – 70% of our traffic comes from the signs alone.  I actually sketch a map of our neighborhood, drive the routes to my  house, and mark on the map, with a number, where a sign would be helpful.  I then make my signs accordingly (ie. need 3 right arrows, 2 straight arrows, and 6 left arrows) and mark the number on the back of each sign using the map as reference.  Also, use an obnoxiously bright color posterboard.  I can make 4 signs out of one sheet and I use a small foam brush and paint to write on the signs (see pic above).

3) Setup as much stuff the night before as possible and wake up EARLY to set out your items.  Elevating objects on tables, benches, or even plywood on milk crates, is a big help for the buyers.  Hang clothes, if you can, and use a big tarp on the ground for other items.  We went to Costco and picked up some low-sided banana boxes to group like items in.  We also made the huge tarp baby central and piled all the clothes and toys over there.  The serious shoppers plopped right down on the tarp and sifted through all the stuff!

4) Be prepared!  Have small change – some ones, fives, tens, and quarters available.  Also, stash a couple 20s inside in the event someone busts out a hundred dollar bill for a twenty seven dollar purchase (thank goodness for pin money).  Protect yourself from the sun.  Wear sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, etc…  Have plenty of water on hand to prevent dehydration.  Pack yourself a little snack or lunch, just as if you were going to work.  You might not get a chance to run in and eat.  Have some plastic bags or boxes available for your shoppers.  The more convenient you make it for them, the more likely they will keep shopping.  Buddy up with someone to help you run the sale, especially during those first few insanely busy first hours.

5) And as the great Kenny Roger’s says;

“You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away and know when to run
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealing’s done”

Be prepared to wheel, deal and bargain during your sale.  Know when to stand your ground and when to give a little.  When people combine items, go ahead and take off a couple bucks.  Throw in a freebie for gracious buyers and enjoy the give and take of bargain hunting.  There will always be the hardcore people out to lowball every price.  Try not to take offense.  They are just opening negotiations.  As the sale goes on, try to keep your change money separate from your profit money.  Don’t tempt people by pulling out a wad of cash and rifling through it – count your money when the sale is done…  Lastly, know when to end it and have an exit plan.  What are you going to do with all your leftover stuff?  If you are donating it, make your arrangements beforehand so you aren’t hauling all that stuff back into the house.  If you are saving the leftovers, box, label, and seal your items right at the end of the sale – again, so you aren’t cluttering your now empty house back up.

This last bit doesn’t need a number – take down any signs you posted and be a good steward of the neighborhood.  There’s nothing tackier than leaving your signs all over the place to rot in the weather and annoy all your neighbors.  Taking them down is also thoughtful to all the would be shoppers who are spending time and effort to track down a finished yard sale.

Enjoy the feeling of purging your unused stuff and know that your things are being loved by someone else.  Enjoy the emptiness and peacefulness of your clutter free house.  Remember the beaming smile of that little girl who gave you a dollar for a butterfly parasol that she kept open in the minivan as she drove away.  Life is good.  :-)

Do you have any yard sale tips and tricks to share?

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