Yard Sale Lessons

Back in April we held a yard sale with my mom, sister-in-law & brother-in-law. This was the first time I had ever had a yard sale as an adult so it was quite the learning experience.  There are a few lessons I picked up along the way that I thought I’d share with you in case you were ever interested in having a yard sale of your own. [*I apologize in advance that I don’t have many pictures to share along with this post – I was so caught up in the bustle that it didn’t cross my mind until days later that I should have taken a few pictures just in case.]

Get ready, get set, sell!

First of all, prepare for it to be a surprising amount of work. Not to say this should deter you AT ALL but just letting you know so you can be mentally ready  Going into it I didn’t think it would be all that bad. Lay a bunch of stuff out on tables and blankets with price tags for people to buy…whats so hard about that? But it pretty much consumed my life for an entire week day and night, and I had the luxury of being able to do a little of it during the day while I was caring for my daughter.

While the collecting of the goods to sell wasn’t the challenging part, it was the pricing that took fooooreeevaaaaaaa. If there is one thing I read repeatedly from yard sale pros and also heard from my mom (a yard sale veteran) its that to have a successful yard sale everything needs to have a price on it. Having blankets or tables with miscellaneous items stating that “everything on this blanket priced $1” apparently just causes confusion and you risk the possibility of shady people putting things into this section that didn’t belong there.  The only time lump pricing works is with items of the same category: books, dvds, necklaces, watches, bracelets, earrings, sunglasses, articles of clothing.  With things that I had a lot of within a certain category, I did not see the point nor had the time to price each item individually. Make sure when you do this you remember what you had set your prices at because once things started rolling I found it hard to remember what I had priced things because I had so many different prices (dainty necklaces were one price while statement necklaces were another, etc). It probably would have just been easier to have a pricing strategy where if it goes on the ears $1, wrist $2, neck $3 and so forth.  For watches I priced them a lot higher than I ended up selling them for. They didn’t have a working battery so since I couldn’t guarantee that they worked I just let them go for practically nothing. Had I taken the time to confirm they were working I could have tried to sell them for more but then again there is no guarantee I would have been able to get that higher price anyway. Which leads me to my next point…

Price reasonable. I feel like we sold a decent amount of stuff, but in the back of my mind wonder if I would have sold more if I had priced lower.  Pricing is a tricky game because you don’t want to price so low that you’re losing out on money that you could have potentially received by someone who would have been willing to pay it but then you don’t want to scare people off.  Definitely go into your yard sale with flexibility in your pricing. I priced a lot of stuff higher but knew that I would pretty much take most anything people offered if they were interested because my primary mission was to get rid of everything. My husband and I both had a ton of cloths to sell. Even though clothes don’t typically sell well at yard sales I was determined to at least try.  Hubs had a TON of button up shirts to sell and because I wanted to try to make some money on them, I priced them at like $0.50 a piece. They went like hot cakes.  The rest of our clothes, I had priced higher, like $1 for shorts, $2 for pants, $3 for jackets, etc and they were not really moving as quickly. By about 9 or 10 am there was still a lot of clothing left and the crowds had dropped down to more of a trickle, so we decided to cut all the clothing prices down to 50 cents a piece for everything (except t-shirts which were 25 cents). After we did this, clothing started moving a little better. When it was all said and done we learned that…

Mens clothes sell. Women’s clothes…not so much, but accessories do pretty well. Our best seller’s were: men’s button up shirts, t-shirts, polos, shorts and pants. As far as women’s clothing goes, I sold maybe a few dresses but neither my sister-in-law or I sold much of our clothing. I think this really comes down to sizing and the fact that women’s clothing is much more tailored to fit. What did sell well: jewelry (necklaces, bracelets, earrings, watches) and definitely SUNGLASSES. We had a whole tray full of old sunglasses that we had collected over the years but never wore. I priced them at like $1 a piece, eventually cutting them down to 50 cents as the morning wore on, and by the end every single pair was sold (with the exception of pair that someone broke).

In order to sell the things, you have to get the people.

Advertise your yard sale. After you put in all this work to collect items to sell, price and go through the process of getting things set up, you definitely want to make sure people know you’re there.  We advertised our yardsale on Craig’s List because it was free for unlimited text and our local paper would have cost us almost $30 (No, thank you!). I found a lot of people advertise their yard sales this way.  There are also a lot of local buy/sell/trade/online yardsale groups on Facebook that you can request to be a member of where you can promote your yard sale as well as post any items that you really want to sell but maybe didn’t move the day of (or things that might be too expensive to sell at a yard sale).  I had planned to do this but got caught up in all the other prep that I forgot.  Our Craig’s list ad was put up early in the week so that it would be there when the hard core yardsalers started planning their route on Thursday/Friday and included a list of items we would be selling (see left).  Craig’s list has the option to upload pictures as well which is a wonderful way to show a general overview of stuff you have to sell or big ticket items you want to pimp out like furniture, lawn equipment or electronics.

Put signs all around your ‘hood (then recycle them afterwards).  The more signs you have, the more likely people will find you.  While this did require me to purchase two poster boards and a marker, I saw it as a means to get my used goods into other peoples hands and all signs were taken down and recycled.   We had planned to hang them two days prior to our yard sale as a way to promote to people who normally drive through the area but due to inclement weather we held off until the day prior.  Definitely don’t do it the day of – it took us at least an hour to finish.  We put signs up at all the entry points leading to our street so that anyone looking for us would easily find us and so that we could catch people as they were traveling to/from other yard sales in our area.  Choose a bright color like neon green or yellow with thick black marker that is easy to read.  Write the words “Yard Sale” in big letters and if you are having multiple families join in be sure to include that too!! That’s a big selling point because more families means more stuff.  Include the date, day of the week, start as well as end time and of course, the physical address. Have your signs ready to go before you head out but take the black marker to draw arrows on the signs to point people in the direction you want them to go (avoid the possibility of confusion).  To make the most out of each poster board, I wrote “yard sale” with a big arrow on the back of each sign so that if you were going the direction that didn’t have the text you would at least know there was a yard sale nearby.  Generally, we had the text pointed towards the cars driving on the side of the road it was on since they would have a better chance of being able to read it.  In our area, wooden road sign posts are being replaced with metal so many we ended up having to punch holes through and tie up.  As a general courtesy, make sure you take down your signs by the end of the day and don’t just leave them for someone else or the elements to take down.  As soon as the yard sale was over I went around and removed all of our signs.  One of them hung in a neighbors yard and he literally went out of his way to thank me, saying that I was at the first person to ever take down their sign.  That’s crazy to me.  Don’t be “that guy” – take down your signs.

Early bird catches the worm.

Even if you want to start at 8, plan on people to start showing up at 7:30…even if you put in your ad “no early birds.” The early birds don’t care. They are out and they want first picking. I was pricing stuff all the way up until 7/7:15 so we were just starting to take everything outside to set up at 7:30 (huge mistake).  We were scrambling to get everything out and set up while people were already showing up and just helping themselves to looking through the inventory. We told tell them as they were walking up that we weren’t going to be ready until 8am but they flat out ignored us.  Pro: These people all ended up buying stuff.  Con: They might have missed stuff that hadn’t been unpacked yet and it was a little stressful having shoppers in our way when we were trying to get everything straight. Which brings me to my final point…

Give yourself plenty of time to get ready.  I was told I’d want to wait until 7 or 7:30 to start setting up because the early birds would otherwise start showing up when they see you have things out…well, as we have learned, they are going to show up anyway.  So better that they are showing up while you are putting the final touches on your displays rather than when you are hauling out tubs of stuff to put out.  It took me until 8:45 (45 minutes AFTER the start time) to finally finish unpacking because I was going between unpacking and tending to customers. I seriously felt like a chicken with my head cut off (and probably looked like one too).  Now I started at the later time, 7:30, so it might have been different if I started at 7am but judging by how long it took to get everything laid out I think earlier would have been better to make the whole process go more smoothly.  My advice: if you’re going to be up and at it early anyways, be ready to start setting everything up by 6:30/6:45 and have your pricing done the night before if possible.  Finally, on a more long term scale, pick a date far enough in advance that you can plan appropriately, with a rainy day back up plan if you’re able.  In our case, it was hard enough to coordinate a single date that worked for all three families so we just prayed for sun, which we were fortunate enough to have.

So, would I have the yard sale if I had to do it over again? Absolutely!! It was a great way to make a little money back on all the stuff we no longer wanted, rather than just donating it to Goodwill.  In the end a lot still ended up being donated, but we were able to off load a few things and make a few dollars in the process.

A few extras thoughts to add before I run:
– Make sure to have change! You’ll want to be able to break those $10’s and $20’s when the situation arises so make sure you have plenty of quarters, $1’s and five dollar bills handy at the start of your sale.
– If you’re having a multi-family yard sale, use different colored tags for your pricing so when things get hopping you can quickly direct a customer to the appropriate family to complete their sale.
– Use painter’s tape to price as this will remove easily and not ruin the surface it is being stuck to.

Hope this was a helpful guide if you’ve been considering having a yard sale. It’s definitely a great way to see your stuff go off to a new home rather than never really knowing when you donate.  🙂

xo, Erica