A Wee Bit of Advice for Selling Your Stuff

yard sale

We all have crap stuff that we want to get rid of. You know the boxes of baby clothes in the crawl space, the gifts you’ve tried re-giving but can’t because you’re never at a party without the person who gave it to you, the exercise equipment that wasn’t intended to get daily use for drying laundry.

One day, prompted maybe by your in-laws visiting or that you’re moving or maybe by the fact that you can’t stand climbing over all that stuff just to get to the laundry room anymore you get the idea to sort it out and clean it up.

But the garbage pile is significantly smaller than the keeper pile. It’s still good
you insist. Somebody can use this. Somebody will even pay me for it. I can have a yard sale and make enough money for my trip to Vegas! Ya! Let’s go for it!

As veteran used goods purchaser and seller (my family ran a flea market stall back in the days when flea markets were one big garage sale and not the glorified dollar stores that they seem to be now) who used to revel in getting up early on a Saturday (yes before having kids and losing the privilege to sleep in for I think forever) and head out with a friend looking for antiques and cool finds and then later as a mom looking to score some awesome deals on clothing and toys, I have some advice for those of you who are planning a yard sale:

1) Some scratched chairs, mason jars without lids and an almanac from 1986 do not a yard sale make (seriously I was at one like this at 8am this morning). Put your good stuff out where people can see it so they will have the patience to sift through for the real scores.

2) People will come early. Suck it up and be ready. It’s only one day. Expect to be up and running by 7am. If your garage is empty (and it should be after your prep for the yard sale) lay lighter stuff out on tables the night before, then you just have to (carefully) move them down the driveway in the morning. If you don’t have that space then at least sort stuff by table for a quicker set up.

3) Customer service. Seriously. Say “Good Morning” and smile. Your conversation about your kids with your neighbour can wait. I have put stuff down and walked away when no one is interested in selling it to me.

4) If someone is looking at toy trucks and you have more in the garage, tell them you have more and then pull them out and help them sort through them.

5) Have change. Lots of Quarters, Loonies, Toonies and Fives. (For my non-Canadian readers that reads lots of quarters, $1’s, $2’s and $5’s.) Bank machines only give out $20’s.

6) Be prepared to offer deals. You want to get rid of this crap/stuff right? Don’t hold out for the highest bidder or you will likely be holding on to it for another year or five. If it’s a great condition blender that just doesn’t fit your new kitchen then you don’t have to sell it for $1, but $80 is too much for a yard sale. If you can’t part with it for less then put it on Kijiji and move on.

7) Sort clothes by size and sex. Kids clothes sell better than adult. Spread them out and clearly price them. Wash them to get stains off. Throw out badly stained clothes. A sign printed with your computer works equally as well as one scrawled on a scrap of cardboard. ie: kids clothes $2 each, 6 for $10. Or fill a (grocery) bag for $10.

8) Price everything. Even if it’s a $1 table, a $2 table etc. Set your prices realistically. Even if it’s a new item, the people coming are looking for used prices. Again if you can’t part with it for less than new price then go to Kijiji and don’t turn people away with high prices.

9) Clean stuff off. It’s been sitting in your basement/crawl space/closet/garage/shed for years. It’s dirty and dusty. It doesn’t have to have a spit polish but stuff that has been wiped down or hosed off (baby wipes are awesome) will sell faster.

10) Put bits and pieces and accessories in a clear sandwich bag and tape it to the item. Think of a toy kitchen. For $20 I’m much more likely to take the one that has a bag with dishes and plastic food and stuff (even if it’s not a complete set I mean come on, what family is able to keep a complete set of any play toys?) than I am to take the one with no accessories at all.

11) College/University manuals from twenty years ago are outdated. They belong in the recycling bin.

12) If you do not have enough stuff to make your driveway look full or if you live in an apartment, pair up with a friend/neighbour. An empty looking driveway will only make people drive past. When it is full looking then it’s worth their time to stop and come take a look.

13) Put up signs at major intersections as well as at every turn on the way to your house. Make the lettering large and thick and keep your message simple. “Yard Sale. 123 Elm St. Sat 8-1” Is all that is needed. Anything else complicates the sign and makes it too hard to find the relevant details as people are driving past. Providing hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (ie Friday 5-8, Saturday 10-2, sunday 12-4 does not work. Way too complicated, and no one can figure out when they can come.)

14) Use tables to raise stuff off the ground and unpack boxes. Though die-hards will dig through boxes of crap, most people won’t and you are losing opportunities to sell it if it can’t be easily seen.

15) Saturday mornings are the best time. Sundays not so much, weekdays won’t net you much (perhaps some traffic if you are on a busy street?)

16) At the end of the day you need to decide what you are going to do with the stuff that is left.
Think twice before you hold an annual yard sale. The regulars get to know who holds a twice a year sale of the same old crap and will avoid them like the plague. If you have growing kids and have a whole new pile of stuff to add each year then maybe an annual one is a good plan. But it’s like retail, you need to add new inventory each time or your sales will go down. If your motivation is simply to de-clutter and get rid of stuff then look at what is left. Anything that is still usable or wearable as is can be donated to the Salvation Army or your local thrift shop (please click here to see why I don’t support donating to Goodwill), anything that requires repair needs to be thrown out. Metals can be picked up or dropped off to your local scrap metal place.
Anything else that can’t be donated really needs to be thrown out.

17) Count up your profit (minus of course your float-the change you started with) and decide which piggy bank it goes in. That trip to Vegas might have turned into a nice dinner out (or maybe it’s now a bigger trip) but think how wonderful it is to have gotten rid of all that stuff.

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