Our Low-Key Yard Sale

When Sherry and I hosted our first yard sale over four years ago, we remember feeling rushed to get everything outside and set up, being stressed about how to price everything, and constantly obsessing over how much money we had made as the day went on. It’s like we were both so excited to sell stuff that we didn’t like (so we could go buy more stuff that we did like) that it became a bigger deal than we initially expected.

Fast forward a few years (we also had a moving sale back in 2010) and we found ourselves hosting another clear-things-out yard sale now that it’s 2012 (I guess our pattern is every two years?), but this time we aimed for a distinctly more relaxed attitude. Why? Because this is how we approached it:

We were so focused on getting rid of stuff because somewhere between moving to this new house (and not having a use for everything that worked in our first house) and generally collecting items for various blog and book projects, we found more and more of our house turning into storage (hello playroom or basement – even our sunroom was filling up). So it was about time to send a slew of stuff home with other folks (where it would get more love than we could show it, and free up three rooms that we’d love to be functional for us instead of piles o’ stuff).

Oh and since we know folks will ask- the reason we didn’t tell the entire interweb about our yard sale was safety and manageability. We didn’t want to dole out our home address to the world at large, and since we didn’t want to spend extra money and time hauling everything to a more neutral location (the goal was to get rid of stuff simply and cheaply), it just had to be something that we did the old fashioned way- with signs and an ad on craigslist without revealing we were the hosts. Hope you guys understand!

Even though we were trying to keep it low key, it still took a bit of pre-planning on our part. We had to pin down what we wanted to kick out of the house for good, so last month we got our purge-hats on, sorted through closets, cabinets, and full rooms to sift out what we could part with. We did our best to be ruthless. If it hadn’t been used in a while and we couldn’t articulate a specific future use for the item, it got moved right to the yard sale pile. That pile lived in our sunroom for the days leading up to the sale, but starting bright and early (actually it wasn’t even bright yet) on that Saturday morning it all made its way out into the driveway.

Our inventory was actually a mix of our stuff and my sister’s – although some of the tables that you see below were just for display (we didn’t sell those two white pedestal guys on the right). We didn’t bother pricing anything ahead of time (again, this is our low key approach) and since we both agreed that the goal was purging, we didn’t stress about how accurately our prices were set (truth be told, they were all probably lower than they could have been, but it meant things moved quickly and no one walked out empty handed). For us, if someone left with something, that was a victory. It was really freeing to just say “how about a dollar?” and watch things clear out nice and quick. Of course the bigger items like chairs and dressers and bookcases went for a little more, but all of the stuff on the tables and laid out on blankets was pretty much a dollar or less. I think if you’re in the mindset that we were in our first sale you might want to price things higher, but it does mean that you run the risk of selling a lot less.

We didn’t get any great shots of the sale in action since there was, well, lots of action that kept us both busy. It was only at lulls like this that we broke out the camera. But this was after around 60% of our items had sold.

The crowd was pretty strong through about 10am. When things started to slow down, Sherry and I made the decision to expedite the process and we dropped prices to ridiculous lows. At this point the goal of getting rid of stuff overrode even our patience to sit in our driveway all morning. Yup, we priced our pile of kids clothes at five for fifty cents, pillows were two for $1, and we even stuck “free” stickers on items like the old ladder that the previous owners had left in our basement (easy come, easy go).

Oh yeah, and if you’re wondering where Clara was this whole time, her Grammy took her on an outing when she woke up around 8am (we were up a few hours before she arose setting things up, and were so grateful that she slept so long) and then returned her around 11am. After that she just hung out and upped the cute factor of our sale by drawing in the driveway.

By about noon things were so slow (and our inventory was so low), that we were actually only left with these four big-ish items (and about 30 small things that fit into two manageable Goodwill boxes). So we slapped a “free” sign on the few remaining large items and posted a curb alert on craigslist for them.

They were all gone within a few hours. Hooray for curb alerts. The great thing about them is that you don’t even have to be home. Which was handy since we weren’t. We were busy dropping off those two boxes of leftover stuff at Goodwill. Yard sale key: nothing comes back into the house!

By the end of the day I think we made somewhere in the neighborhood of $350 at the sale itself. Not our most profitable, but once you throw in what we made by selling a few items on craigslist ahead of time we were more in the neighborhood of $650. Not bad, right? As for those other items that we sold on the side (via craigslist & neighborly word of mouth) we happily sent all eight of our old dining room chairs off to live with someone else (she’s planning to recover them all – and send us pics!).

And we also sold our two extra new dining chairs to another person (for our purchase price of $62 each) who already sent us this photo of them living it up on her porch:

It felt great to give all of that stuff a nice new home. The lesson there? Had we wanted to make more money we would’ve sold more stuff on craigslist. But since photographing, listing, and coordinating pick-ups eats up lots of time, it was more efficient to achieve our “get-rid-of-all-the-things!” mission by putting most of our stuff in a kill-a-million-birds-with-one-stone yard sale. In the end, we’re both really happy with how the yard sale turned out – mostly because it taught us that we don’t need to be all uptight about hosting one. Which will hopefully encourage us to hold them more frequently and keep unwanted things from building up in our house.

Has anyone else hosted a yard sale recently? Do you have any tips or interesting stories from yours? We had a tense moment during ours when our wires got crossed and Sherry accepted money for an item that I had already set aside for someone else. Neither woman would back down so we did the mature thing and let a coin toss decide who took it home. Take that Judge Judy!

 

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