My Love-Hate Relationship With Yard Sales

I hate having yard sales.

Every summer I struggle with the question: To have or not to have?? 

I contemplate the pros and cons.  Pros: Getting paid to get rid of stuff I no longer want or need.  More space, less clutter, and the feeling of relief and accomplishment that comes with it.  Cons:  A week of sorting, pricing, boxing, hauling up and down stairs.  The waste of a Saturday.  My husband complaining about having to help.  My mother-in-law dropping by and getting upset when she sees that I’m selling the cowboy boots she bought for my son 5 years ago.  And again boxing up all the stuff I didn’t get rid of and having no idea what to do with it.  Okay, so there may be a few more cons than pros, but that didn’t stop me from having another yard sale last weekend.

Everytime I sort through my kids’ stuff, my internal dialogue goes something like this:

“What if I regret selling this?  Should I keep it for my grandkids?  Ugh, no!  Get rid of it!  They have too many toys already!  Sell!…But it’s so cute, and we spent a fortune on it, and Nick had so much fun with it, Keep!…No, too many toys, Sell!,” and so on. 

My kids went to my parents’ house the day of my sale.  At the end of the day Karenna came home with my silver Barbie corvette from 25 years ago (ugh, I feel old!), which my mom saved all this time.  The steering wheel and some of the decals are missing, but Karenna could care less.  She loves it as if it were brand new.  She also plays with my childhood Cabbage Patch Doll, Pound Puppy and Little People sets, all of which my mom has saved, which my daughter loves equally as well.  So there is a good argument, I think, for saving a few of the kids’ toys, if you don’t go overboard and you have a place to store them.  I like to save a few of their favorites and the ones that’ll be classics decades from now.

Thinking about all of this has led me to ponder how wasteful our culture is, and how disposable our belongings are.  When we want something, we get it, and we get it NOW.  Then two years later we tire of it and it ends up at our next sale.  As easily as we get it, we trash it.  And the cycle continues.  It happens with my kids’ toys, with our clothes, stuff for the house, electronics, you name it.  It seems like it didn’t used to be that way.  Growing up my family had the same TV, the same appliances, the same toys forever before they were replaced.  I had nowhere near the amount of toys my own kids have, and I was just as entertained.  So why do kids today have so many more toys?  Why is everyone always striving for bigger, better?  Who knew a mundane yard sale would bring such questions to mind.  It has definitely allowed me to consider, “How long will my kids actually use this?” before buying them yet another toy that may land in a landfill

On that note, I’d like to share some “yard sale tips” for success.  Here’s what’s worked best for me:

1.  Advertise!  Put an ad in your local classifieds.  Be very specific in your ad, naming your big-ticket items, popular items, clothing sizes, brands, etc.  If the sale will be held on an open lawn, list a rain date.  Announce the sale on Facebook and Twitter.  Consider having a street-wide or neighborhood sale.  Make sure your signs are strategically placed, sturdy and easy to read.  Have your sale for two or three days, if possible.

2. It’s all about presentation.  Put your most desirable items in the most visible spot.  Neatly organize your loot.  Iron and hang clothes, if possible, or neatly fold them and place them on tables.  Separate kids’ clothes by sizes.  Have a separate bin for well-worn clothing and label it $1 or 50 cents.  (You’d be surprised how many people buy kids’ clothes from this.)  Note: I have never had luck selling adult clothes, even like-new ones.  Have toy playsets displayed on a table, not boxed or bagged.  If you still have instruction manuals, put them with toys/electronics.  Make sure everything has batteries, or keep some on hand to demonstrate that items missing them do work.   

3. Expect haggling.  People who go to yard sales want stuff for next to nothing.  When you’re pricing, keep in mind that people will try to get you to lower that price.  (Price everything!  People hate asking for prices.)  For stuff you really want to get rid of, price lower.  You could even have a “free” box.  For more valuable stuff, price higher and keep labels on hand in case you want to slash the price later.  

4. Be organized.  In my experience, the morning hours are crazy and the afternoon hours are steady to dead.  Expect a few people to show up a half hour to 15 minutes early.  Have someone available to watch your small kids, or send them to grandma’s for the day.  Make sure you have change for large bills.  Have lunch/lunch plans ready ahead of time and keep drinks and water on hand.  Keep your money on you or have someone with your cash box at all times.  Keep jewelry and valuables close to you.  Have someone there to help watch for shoplifters.  You’d be amazed how easily things can disappear when you’re not looking!

5.  Consign/Donate/Sell Online.  Your sale is over, and you’re left with a truckload of junk.  Now what?  I’ve had great success consigning my kids’ clothes.  They do the selling for you!  Pick a reputable children’s consignment shop and see if they’re taking new consigners.  Also, don’t forget to donate clothing, household and other hard-to-sell items to a local charity.  Finally, consider Ebay and Craigslist.  Ebay can be great for clothing, valuables and collectibles, and Craigslist is convenient for larger things that you don’t want to have to ship in the mail.

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3 thoughts on “My Love-Hate Relationship With Yard Sales

  1. Great tips! I love hitting up garage sales. We used to have them when I was a kid, but I haven’t had one as an adult. Largely because I have no place to hold one (our association doesn’t allow it) and I have no patience for the sorting/pricing thing. I usually chuck everything into a box and drop it off at the Salvation Army. I’m so bad that I drop it off on Sundays when no one’s around, as I don’t want to have to go through the whole receipt thing. How’s that for impatient? As usual, nice post. :)

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  2. Great tips! I have been considering having a sale to relieve some of the clutter that is driving my children’s rooms into chaos! They don’t play with them anyway, they would rather play with a box in the garage. Is there any weekends that are better than others to have a yard sale on?

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  3. I know what you mean! If you don’t want to go through with all the hassle, try consigning at a children’s consignment shop. I’ve had great luck with this!

    Retha, I’ve heard that spring is the best time to have a yard sale, but I always have them in August and do just fine. You can even have one in the fall. It helps to have one on a day you know they’ll be alot of traffic in your area or on the same day as a street-wide yard sale. Good luck!

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