It’s that time of year again…YARD SALE TIME! I hold a Yard Sale every year. (my annual sale will be on June 1st) With all the yard sale & thrift store shopping I do, I’m always “trading-up” my things, redecorating…and accumulating. This is my yearly “Purge”. With a life-time of yard sales on both sides of the table under my belt, I’m here to pass on my hard-earned selling wisdom in this 2-Part Series…
How to Have an Awesome and Profitable Yard Sale, Part 1: Organize & Prep (think like a shopper)
1. The first step is to Pick a Date. Be prepared, yard sales are a lot of work, and take time. Unless you have already gathered your goodies to sell, pick a date at least 2-3 weeks in the future. Believe me, you need that time to clean out your crap and get ready. Saturdays are the best days for a sale. Some people like to run 2-day sales, but not me. Most people are out shopping on Saturdays so that’s when I do it. I will sometimes do another sale the following Saturday if I have a lot of leftovers. Check the calendar, and don’t plan your sale on a major holiday weekend (many people go out of town).
2. Invite friends and neighbors to join your sale. I say this with a caveat. In general, more stuff & more sales = more traffic & more money. (ie: stating “Multi-Family Sale” or “Block Sale” brings more people to shop) However, this can also be a pain in the ass. I always invite a few friends to join my sales (There are 4 of us this year) but I only ask those I know will follow “the Rules”, which are: All their items must be cleaned, priced, at my home before set-up, and the friend must be present for the duration of the sale. (this makes your sale more fun, too!) You can add your own “rules” if you like, but these are the most important. If you decide not to invite friends to join the sale, at least let all your immediate neighbors know the date and time of your sale as a courtesy.
3. Purge! Go through every nook and cranny of your home and pick what you want to part with. Get some big boxes and go at it. Two boxes per room is good if you have a lot of clearing out to do: one for Yard Sale items, and one for Trash. One room at a time, one drawer at a time, one shelf at a time, take any item you no longer need, no longer use, or no longer like and put it in the “For Sale” box. Anything broken, stained, missing pieces or just plain worthless goes in the “Trash” box. Do this for every room in the house. You’ll be amazed how good it feels to get rid of stuff! Now toss the “Trash” boxes, it’s time to organize your sale stuff.
4. Go through your “For Sale” items and Clean Everything. Clean items sell better. Way better. It’s worth your time. FYI one of my favorite cleaning tools is the Magic Eraser. These things are little white miracles of clean. They remove coffee stains of cups in a snap, grunge off pots and pans, shine up most plastics and much more. (just be sure and test for colorfastness in an inconspicuous spot if you are unsure). Windex-up your glass & mirrors and get everything shiny and pretty. Also, go through all clothes pockets, and drawers, etc. in any furniture you are selling. Chances are you’ll find some cash. If anything you are selling has small parts or manuals, put them in a ziplock bag and tape it to the item. Now it’s time to…
5. Price it!* (see section on pricing at the end of this list) This is VERY IMPORTANT. Yes, I know it’s time-consuming, but it’s crucial. A priced item is a sold item. Believe me, if you don’t price everything, people will be asking you every 30-seconds “How much is this?” How much is this”? It’s annoying as hell and will turn your Fun Sale into an I-Wanna-Run Sale. Besides, people don’t like to ask! They’d just assume not buy anything if they have to ask a stranger about it. I’ve been going to yard sales all my life, and I HATE asking. Just shut up and price it, all of it. I promise, you’ll be glad you did. You can get packages of yard sale tags at most grocery stores these days, as well as office supply stores. Be sure and annotate anything special about the item as well, such as the year on vintage items, where it came from if that’s important, or any issues the item might have. (always be honest!)
6. Figure out WHERE you’ll have your sale. I always set up my sale in the garage, for a couple reasons. One, I can completely set up the sale ahead of time and not have a “mad scramble” to set up morning of the sale. Two, I don’t have to be concerned with “Early Birds” (more on those in Part 2) Let me tell you, it is AWESOME to be able to leasurely get up the morning of the sale, make my coffee, and just walk out to the garage and open the door at the appointed time) If a garage is not an option for you, try your best to close off the area of your yard where you will have the sale. Use caution tape and stakes if you have to, with “NO ENTRY BEFORE ___am” signs. It is nearly impossible to get properly set up with people coming and grabbing stuff out of your boxes and getting in your way before you are ready (more on this step in Part 2.) Think through what you’ll need to display your wares. Lots of tables is best, so borrow them if you have to. A clothing rack is great if you have lots of clothes (and they WILL sell best when displayed “like clothes”, not strewn over a fence or on the lawn. If you don’t have access to a rack, find sturdy poles or pipes and hang them to display clothes on. I often use old doors on sawhorses as table, with old sheets over them so they look inviting. In addition to tables and racks, you’ll need…
7. Supplies! Get your supplies ready. You’ll need:
a. Fanny Pack*
c. Ledger (or large pad of paper) & pens/pencils
d. Bags, boxes and newspaper (for purchases)
e. Extension cord (or easy place to plug in electrical items)
g. Help (a spouse, friend, whoever…friends don’t let friends have yard sales alone.
h. Staple gun (with staples) and packing tape (for putting up signs)
* A Fanny Pack is a MUST. Yes, I know they’re out of fashion, (and I agree, they are hideous!) but o so necessary for a yard sale. Do Not, I repeat, DO NOT use a cash box! Keep all the money on you at all times. It’s way too easy for someone to walk off with your cash box. And don’t just shove it in your pocket, it’s too difficult to keep track of that way.
** Cash. Most people will show up with $20 bills fresh from the ATM, so you’ll need to have plenty of $1’s, $5’s and $10’s on hand, about $80 in change is good. If you have items priced under $1, you’ll need quarters, dimes and nickles as well (honestly I don’t do anything under $1, it’s just more hassle than it’s worth in my opinion)
8. SIGNS. Oh the signs. Critical to your Yard Sale success, and I’ve seen soooo many bad ones. The most important thing to remember is that they must be easily read from a moving car. No one is going to stop to read your sign. It must be BIG, NEAT and CONCISE, and must include at least 3 key things: What, Where and When. Simply, “YARD SALE, SATURDAY JUNE 1st 9am-3pm 1234 SPRING ST.” in BIG, CLEAN lettering. Don’t clutter it up with a lot of small words. Remember, must be read from moving vehicle! Every time I go out yard sale-ing, I see tiny signs printed on 8 x 10 paper in small type that no one can read. I don’t go to these sales because I can’t read where they are! Think like a shopper, and plan it out. A few more notes on signs: Have them all look the same (same color, same lettering, etc.). I’m a fan of those big florescent boards you see for sale at the grocery store. Get all the same color, it’s important to help people find you. Have fun with them! Make them distinctive, use bright colors, add balloons or whatever if you like, just make sure they are easy to read. This is what my signs look like this year:
They are 16″ x 20″ , and honestly should probably be even bigger. (I am lucky enough to have a friend with a print shop do these up for me cheap.) I also have a bunch of arrows that I will attach to the signs when I put them up. It’s easier than drawing them on the signs and trying to remember which sign goes where and in which direction. Also, while you’re making your sale signs, make a couple more that say “ALL SALES FINAL” and “CASH ONLY”. Then you’ll need to…
9. Figure Out WHERE to put up signs. You’ll want to put up signs at either end of your street, and at every major intersection and high-traffic area near your home, in every traffic direction. The more signs the better, always (I’ll be putting up 15 signs, but you could always do more than that). Put up your signs the night before the sale (you’ll have enough to do the morning of ) where they can be easily seen and high up. You spent all that time making great signs, so you want everyone to see them, right? Think from the point of view of the cars passing by. Be sure and take note of where you put your signs, because you’ll be taking them down right after the sale.
10. Additional Advertising. The local newspaper is a great place to place an ad, though you will have to pay for it of course. In my experience, Craigslist is the BEST place for ads. I’ll do a Craigslist ad for my sale 3 days prior, 2 days prior, the day before and morning of the sale. Make your Craigslist ad as detailed as possible. This is the place to talk about all the great stuff you are selling, and add pictures! People love pictures. Many people are looking for specific items, so list as much as possible. And again, be sure and clearly state WHAT, WHERE & WHEN! (Note: Do Not put your phone number in the ad. Trust me. AND state at the top of your ad: “NO EARLY BIRDS”. More on why this is important in Part 2) FLYERS. I print out a few flyers and put them up about 5 days before my sale on local community boards, coffee shops, anywhere it is appropriate. I add little pull-off tabs with the date and address at the bottom of the flyer. Are you on Facebook and Twitter? Post about your sale! I even create an invite on Facebook for my sale (you can see it here: https://www.facebook.com/events/146092605577643/
*PRICING. This is the most challenging part for most people, and a highly debated subject. Remember, you want to get rid of stuff. A Yard Sale is not a retail store or even Ebay. People expect Big Bargains. There are many garage sale pricing guides online (and some are better than others) but a good general rule of thumb is 10-15 cents on the dollar, unless the item is Vintage, Antique, Collectable, New with Tags, or Very Special/Unique. Even then, you can only get away with about 35% of retail. If you are unsure about your items, research the Final Sale Prices on Ebay, and price your items about 20% lower than that. Note: If you need to get more $$, then list it on Ebay instead of selling it at your yard sale. There are a few more exceptions to the 10-15% rule, namely books and clothes. Most books should be .50-$1 for paperbacks (depending on size and condition) and $1-3 for hardbacks, and clothes should be AT MOST 10% of retail if they are in new condition. CDs and DVDs should be $2-4. Price larger items with a mind towards bargaining. People like to haggle at yard sales, so for instance, if you want $10 for something, price it at $12: if you want $20, price it at $25, etc. Lastly, if you have these items, DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME cleaning and pricing, just recycle them: old tube TVs, VCRs, & cassette players; and anything stained, ripped, damaged/broken.
Remember, you want to attract as many people as possible to your sale, so Spread the Word as much as possible, and Think like a Shopper in all your sale-prep tasks. Next week in Part 2, we’ll talk about how to display your wares to get the biggest bucks, what to do the day before and morning of your sale, how to talk to people, safety, and what to do with the leftovers post-sale.
Have more questions? Ask me in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them in Part 2.