Sailing Nakamal

Getting rid of your stuff (yard sale lessons)

Related to downsizing tales, here are a few notes from our yard sale experiences:

What to sell


Everything has a buyer

After you figure out what you want to keep and what you want to give to family and friends – everything else that isn’t trash goes in the yard sale. Cleaning products that are more than half full. A box of knitting needles and accessories. Shoes. Power and garden tools (big sellers in our yard sales). The iron (my favorite yard sale moment was saying   good-bye to the iron). Christmas wrapping paper. The furniture that you couldn’t sell on craigslist. Empty picture frames. Hangers (we rubber banded them together – 10 plastic ones, 3 wooden ones with clips – and charged $1/bundle. They sold like hotcakes one day and had no buyers the next week).

Market yourself

Signs along the streets directing people to your sale are the best way to bring buyers to your sale. craigslist has a special yard sale section that is good (and free) if you want to post pictures of the bigger stuff. Don’t bother with paying for ads. Drive-bys are the best customers. Chances are there will be multiple yard sales in your area with their own signs – make sure yours all look alike (same wording, same color poster board, etc.) so the buyers can follow the trail to your house.

The only information you need is the phrase “Yard Sale”, the times and a big arrow pointing them in the right direction. Realistically, drivers can’t read any more than that in the micro-seconds that your sign is in their line of vision. Don’t forget to pick those signs up soon after the sale – you’ll want to use them again next time.

Put it where they can see it

Use any surface available for displays. Spread beach towels or blankets on the ground and lay things out. Haul your patio table out front. Borrow your neighbor’s patio table too. We took a closet door off the hinges and laid it across a couple milk crates. If they can’t see it, they can’t develop the impulse to buy it.

You do NOT want to unpack, set out, and repack every weekend.

You do NOT want to unpack, set out, and repack every weekend.

To make things a little easier on ourselves, we set up a display around the inside of the garage for small stuff – glassware, individual tools, the CDs, etc. and left it there until after the last sale. If you have a lot of stuff, and are having multiple sales, you do not want to be unpacking it all for the sale, packing it back up if it doesn’t sell, and then repeating the process the next weekend.

To price, or not to price

At first, we marked things with a price that we thought was reasonable. After the first day, we realized that the majority of the buyers want to bargain the price down. So after that we marked some things a little higher than what we thought was a reasonable price. Having a price tag also helps out any friends who come by to help you.

Instead of marking each individual item, put like-priced things in a box or on the same table with a sign.

Let’s make a deal!

Yard sale shoppers are bargain hunters, but remember, your goal is to get rid of stuff. Dicker a little – just enough to prove to yourself that you are nobody’s fool – but not to the point where you aren’t making a sale. When it’s priced at twenty-five cents, there will be someone who wants to bargain you down to ten . Just be ready to bite the bullet and take their dime (and be ready to make change from the quarter they give you), lose the sale or throw something else into the deal for that quarter.

Just can’t get enough of that packing thing….

Guess what? You’re temporarily a retailer. That means making sure your customers can haul off as much stuff as they want. Have a stash of plastic bags, old newspaper and small boxes to pack their purchases so they aren’t limited by what they can carry.

Being a retailer also means having coins and small bills to make change. Although by the end of the eight days we had amassed a large stash of quarters.

Do it again

Have a couple yard sales, or three or four. Every weekend brings a different set of buyers looking for different things. One weekend we sold five CDs, the next weekend we sold 50. Some people learned that we were emptying out our house to move onto a boat and were putting new stuff out every week. They became repeat customers.

Have seating available for the inevitable slow times.

Have seating available for the inevitable slow times.

We had four yard sales, and ended up with only about 10 boxes for Goodwill. Which sounds like a lot, but really wasn’t in the grand scheme of things.

Also, multiple yard sales meant we didn’t have to put all our stuff out at the same time. The very first day, as I was selling things John was emptying out cabinets and filling up the empty display spaces. We ended up having four weekend yard sales and holding them every other week.

Bunch it up

Some things we sold in ‘bundles’ – CDs were marked $1 each or 6 for $5. Picture frames fifty cents each or 3 for $1. By the 3rd yard sale, if something hadn’t gotten a lot of interest, we offered to throw it in when someone wanted a related item. “Oh, you’re buying the set of matched napkin rings? How about I give you these cloth napkins too?”

Remember, your goal is to get rid of stuff.

Get over your big, bad self

Detach yourself from the emotions of the item – especially the one that makes you want to think how much you paid for that extra-special-super-duper-everybody-will-love-this-as-much-as-I-do thingamabob. Ten cents on the dollar for things that are fairly new is common. Older things will bring less return. So get over it, because remember – what is your goal? That’s right – to get rid of stuff.

Besides, after about the 3rd time of moving the same things out of house or garage into the yard, and then back – you will be ready to give that crap away.

Walk around and help them buy

Wear an apron with pockets (think hardware store guys) or a fanny pack to carry the money. Everybody working the yard sale should have a way to carry money and make change while walking around. For the most part these are impulse buyers, and you want to be ready when the impulse strikes. Plus, sometimes you will need to be walking around to answer questions or ask if someone is looking for something in particular, and while your ultimate goal is to get rid of stuff, you certainly do not want to leave the money box sitting unwatched on a table.

Get help!

Always have at least two people to work the sale. We were also grateful one Saturday to have a 3rd person who called and asked if we wanted a Starbuck’s delivery (if you ever read this, thank you again Lorre and Sylvia).

Prove it works

Be prepared to plug things in and prove they work. Keep items that have cords near an outlet or run an extension cord to the yard. Test that outlet too, especially if it’s one that you haven’t used in awhile. We missed out on couple sales because we couldn’t get the item to run, then realized it was outlet that wasn’t working.

Take your vitamins

We scheduled our sales from 8-12 on Saturday and Sunday mornings. We did not need, nor did we want, to have later hours. Holding yard sales is exhausting. Every sale day you have the opportunity to rig up display spaces, move things out of the house/garage to the yard, and at the end of the day haul all that stuff back in if they did not sell.

Selling all your stuff is a lot of work.
Good morning!


You’ll need this.

We don’t think we missed out on a lot of buyers by packing up at noon, but we did learn that earlier buyers are the motivated buyers. The very first morning we lifted the garage door at 6:30 am to start moving things outside, and someone was waiting in the driveway. Turns out he was buying stuff to take to the Saturday swap meet to re-sell. So in the end, three people got what they wanted – the swap meet buyer got something they wanted, the swap meet seller made some money, and – guess what?

We got rid of stuff.

These are your people

Be prepared to encounter a wide and varied spectrum of the human race.

It’s a fact of life

Be prepared to lose some to breakage and shoplifters. Things are getting moved around a lot, you will have table tops crowded with glass items, and there will be times when there are a lot of people crowded into a small space. Breakage happens.

As for shoplifters, it’s not uncommon (at least in the Tucson area) for groups to arrive with multiple adults and children. You think it’s a couple of sisters and their kids out for a day of bargain hunting in the sunshine – then the adults distract you with nonsense questions or bargaining over some small item while the kids wander around, and (as I was told later) pick things up and spirit them away to the car(s).

On the bright side – at least they helped us get rid of stuff.

This entry was published on July 19, 2015 at 10:42 pm and is filed under Getting Started, Tucson and San Diego. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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