In last month’s column, we left off with the cliffhanger question several of my clients have asked me: Now that we have purged so much from our rooms/house do we have enough to hold a yard sale?
To make a credible yard sale, you must have several components:
A large number of clean items in very good working order that can be displayed in a yard that is visible from the road. People cruise by in cars, on bikes and on foot. If the amount of merchandise is sparse or the quality is below par, they will continue on. Yes, one person’s junk is another person’s treasure in some cases. You may get the occasional vintage camera or antique watch shopper. Nevertheless, I am now finding the typical yard sale shopper is looking for good quality at crazy-low prices. Therefore, to prepare for a yard sale, toss grandma’s chipped cup and saucer collection. If you don’t want your family’s collections of Lladro or Hummel, realize that it’s unlikely anyone outside of your family will. Bring them to the closest art studio that teaches mosaic crafting. Flash a huge smile and tell them it is their lucky day because you are leaving them your family’s once-treasured dishware to smash and repurpose as works of art.
Large, bright, eye-catching signage with details of your sale including arrows pointing people in the proper direction. I highly recommend holding your sale with friends and/or neighbors. It can be lots of fun even if you don’t end the day with pockets full of cash. Joining together with friends for a “multi-family” yard sale will attract more attention and also stand out more in your yardsale.com ad. Shoppers prefer a multi-family sale because it usually means more merchandise to see in one location. A word of warning: Don’t use the term if it is not true; buyers will notice it immediately and you will lose your credibility.
A support system. My friends and I watch each other’s stuff while one of us takes a break and we give each other valuable feedback. We celebrate each other’s successes and help when we can so each of us will have a very fulfilling day. Included in a support system is a team of responsible individuals who will help schlep, put up and take down signs and bring you coffee and water when you need but can’t leave the site.
As you plan your yard sale, put yourself in the right frame of mind.
Ask yourself if your main purpose to hold a yard sale is to make money or to remove the clutter from your home. If your answer is the former, stop there. Don’t bother, you will be disappointed. You will not get rich from your yard sale. At the end of the day, be prepared to donate your unwanted items. If your answer is to remove clutter, then Ding, Ding, Ding… Your yard sale has a raison d’etre. You will remove clutter and enjoy some pocket money to do with as you wish. I like to use my profits for Broadway show tickets.
Be very willing to do lots of preparation. You will be identifying viable merchandise, tossing junk, pricing every item—either with individual stickers or tags, or by grouping items. At any rate know the price you are asking when someone comes to you holding up that toddler bike. In addition, devote sufficient time to advertise. Design and print flyers to be posted in neighborhood stores (with permission) and hang signs on trees or poles (check your town ordinances). One of the day’s final tasks will be re-visiting each tree and pole on which you hung a sign and removing it. During one of my yard sales, a number of years ago, I received a friendly visit from a local policeman reminding me that I must remove each sign before the next day. On the morning of the sale, you’ll need to get out before the “early callers” to set up tables by category (kitchenware, games etc.) Think of this organizing as a courtesy to your customers. Expect to be on your feet much of the day. If you are not able to do this, recruit people on your team who are.
Create a security plan. All money that you earn should be kept in a fanny pack that you wear 100% of the time. No cash boxes on a central table – even if you think you will never leave that area the entire day. If possible, over the course of the day, bring some of the cash inside and put in a safe place. Keep enough in your fanny pack to comfortably make change. Keep every door of the home locked. Say no to all requests to use your bathroom, even if it is for the cutest little toddler who is being potty trained and absolutely must use a bathroom.
On the day of the yard sale:
Stay very upbeat. Greet everyone who comes to your sale. Make them feel valued. You may have created a beautiful temporary store, but you cannot be successful unless you can satisfy your customers.
Be very willing to negotiate. Ask yourself if it is more important to get the amount you originally had in mind or that you get the item out of your house.
At my most recent yard sale a man asked me to explain how to use a particular high-tech computer item. I had no clue how to use it. Thinking quickly, I told him it was still in the box because I had never used it and I could not honestly tell him if it worked. So, I offered it to him at no charge in case it did not work. At first, he did not believe that I was serious, but once he realized it was indeed free, he was happy and bought a few other yard sale items. It was a win-win.
Yard sale season is almost over. Fewer people make yard sales in October and beginning of November due to the unpredictable weather. Once when I made a yard sale on a gorgeous Sunday in November, a customer told me she was so hungry for a yard sale that when she saw my sign, she dropped what she was doing and made a beeline to my “multi-fam sale.” When I first started making yard sales it was a daunting task. Over the years as I developed routines and created and refined my own to-do lists, the workload became much lighter. Now I have to admit it has become an anticipated neighborhood tradition.
I take a gentle approach; I am nurturing and non-judgmental. If my organizing or styling services can be of help to you, a family member or a friend, please contact me at [email protected] Be sure to check out my website: www.ideclutternow.com.
By Ellen Smith