Tag Archives: Garage Sale

How To Have A Four Digit Yard Sale… Or Man My Feet Hurt


After spending 14 hours on my feet Saturday I was afraid I might never walk again, but since I did I thought I would fill you in on our sale this weekend.

For those of you just tuning in we got together with some good friends of ours Saturday and Sunday, who just happened to have the best yard ever for selling things, and had the biggest yard sale in history. Or at the very least it felt like it should have been in the top five.

We’ve had several sales in their yard in the past which have always done very well, and this one was no exception. They are in such a good spot that you don’t even have to advertise, you just set it up and they will come. It’s on the corner of two well traveled roads, but neither one is so busy that you can’t slow down or find parking.

Our friends are about to move, so we’ll be losing the good sale spot, but they have now reached the ruthless de-cluttering stage known as why-the-hell-do-I-have-so-much-stuff-oh-my-god-get-it-away! This stage most commonly occurs after moving an entire household one or two times, but can also be attributed to being overwhelmed by too many commitments and the responsibility of caring for said stuff.

Symptoms frequently include the intense need to remove anything from your home that doesn’t add value. For example – the trays and little pokey things for corn on the cob that have been innocently sitting in my kitchen drawer for years… they were pulled out in a flurry of ruthlessness Saturday night and put in the yard sale on Sunday. I’m now thoroughly enjoying 16 square inches of glorious space their absence left in that drawer.

Put two families together that are both in the ruthless get-it-away phase and you have a yard sale that causes people to do U turns in the road.

We came to the sale with two closed in utility trailers packed from one end to the other… approximately 144 square feet 6.5 feet deep, adding up to a whopping 936 cubic feet of our belongings. They had a garage full too with more pulled out of the house as the day went on.

I’ll be honest, I was a little surprised myself by how much we still had. Then when I think back to everything we sold, threw away, and donated before we ever moved… well, frankly it’s shocking. Especially considering that at one point in time all of that was contained in our house and shop, which really never looked particularly overwhelming to the casual observer.

We really weren’t hoarders, I swear. I even thought we were on the opposite end of the spectrum all along, not too materialistic with minimalistic tendencies (that sounded like a professional diagnosis, didn’t it?). As it turns out, we were probably closer to normal than I ever suspected. It’s easy to miss the piles of things that are hiding in the closet, on the back of shelves, the bottoms of drawers, and under the bed. I really believe now that complacency fosters a lack of control, in all areas of life.

I think if everyone had to remove the entire contents of their house once a year and really look at what they’re hanging on to it would result in a serious shift in shopping habits and hoarding tendencies. Seeing it all in one place really leaves a weird taste in your mouth.

But, I digress!

We left the sale with approximately one half of one closed in trailer full… It might have even been less than half, but Marty had to leave early, and a professional packer I am not.

We even went so far as to sell one of the trailers at the sale too. So we pulled up with 2 trailers full, and left the next day with one trailer half empty and a bag of cash. Well, sort of… we haven’t gotten around to picking up the second trailer yet (sorry Tisha!), but when we do that’s what we’ll have.

It wasn’t quite that quick and painless though, those were two very long days, and for a short period of time Saturday night I wasn’t sure I would ever walk again. But all in all for the amount of work we put in I was really pleased with the outcome. I thought I’d share a few tips for making the most of your yard sale, since we appear to have gotten pretty good at it over the last few years.

#1 ) Set up the night before if you can

It rained all day Friday, and I couldn’t take off work anyway, so after much debate we finally decided to wait until Saturday morning to set up. Which was a wise decision, because while we were standing around talking about it Friday night it started raining so hard a duck floated past us in a kayak. Or that’s what it looked like… it could have been a canoe, it was pretty dark.

Even though we didn’t have much choice I would always advise setting up the night before if possible, especially if you have lots to set out. It’s so much easier at the crack of dawn to just raise your tents up and uncover tables. Friday afternoon we did take both trailers and our tables and tents over, but we didn’t want them sitting out in the rain overnight either.

If the weather had cooperated we would have gone over Friday night, set out our tables and unpacked all the boxes onto them, then covered the tables with pop up tents (a roll of black plastic or sheets works too). That way Saturday morning could have been spent organizing and arranging instead of hauling.

Instead we ended up setting up at 5 o’clock Saturday morning, which is a thoroughly unpleasant time to start hauling around furniture and heavy totes. We actually worried for a bit that no one was going to show up, we went from 6 to 7am with no traffic whatsoever. That might not seem unusual, but yard sale shoppers tend to be a pretty serious crowd… it’s not unusual for early birds to show up before you ever uncover your tables.

As it turned out though, the worry was for nothing, because at 8am the flood gates opened, and they didn’t close until 5pm. There was thankfully a short lull at lunchtime, without which I think we would have all starved to death.

#2 ) Don’t make it too accessible to creepers

That’s just good advice for any area of life, really.

Creepers at a yard sale though are those people that drive slowly down the road by the sale, or even go so far as to stop, but never get out of their car. They assume that they can see everything they need to see from the safety of their vehicle, without being pressured to buy a pirate hat or pre-owned Pyrex set.

Your instinct when you first set up a yard sale is to make everything visible from the road, that way someone may see something they just have to have and stop. That’s not exactly how it works though. You actually need some mystery… you need it to look like you might have some awesome stuff, if I could just get a little closer.

Make sure your sale looks big by spreading items out on tables and plastic if they’re on the ground, but don’t give away the milk for free.

#3 ) Always have a draw

At each of our yard sales over the last few years we’ve had a ‘draw’. Something that draws more people to stop and look than anything else at the sale.

It actually happened by accident, I had a nice little wicker patio set one year that I decided to sell. It was in great shape, so we set it out closer to the road and set anything else we felt was ‘patio stuff’ around it. We had so many people stop to check it out that we joked about making a drinking game out of it.

If I remember correctly that wicker set either didn’t sell at all in that sale or sold at the very end. But it turned out it didn’t matter. People stopped all day long just to ask about it, and the majority of them went on to walk around the sale, more than likely buying something when they did. Without that as our draw we might have missed out on dozens of sales.

A good draw would be something big enough to be seen from the road easily and nice enough that it looks like it shouldn’t be in a yard sale. It helps if it’s reasonably priced but fairly expensive. If you price it too low someone will buy your draw early on, and then you’ll have to go back to standing in the street whistling at cars as they drive by.

This year our draw was a metal Coke cooler… not a vintage one, but a newer one like you see in gas stations. It looked great from the road, we had people asking about it all day. It was priced reasonably, but not at dirt cheap yard sale prices, so it didn’t sell but it did the job nonetheless.

#4 ) Have fun with it…

And for Pete’s sake, talk to people as they come up! It makes me feel really awkward when I walk up to a yard sale and no one says a word. Like maybe I’ve wandered into a domestic dispute where someone is in the process of throwing someone else out of the house, but they don’t have the heart to tell me. I have a very active imagination.

I also have a tendency to get a bit silly, especially when I’ve had more coffee than sleep, and I’ll talk to just about anybody. That really comes in handy when you’re trying to sell stuff to strangers in your yard.

By having fun and talking to people I managed to sell a pirate hat and a pair of mop slippers on Saturday in the span of about 10 minutes. All I had to do was hold them up in the air and loudly ask if anybody needed them, and both sold nearly instantly. Boom.

#5 ) Don’t hold back

There are some things that aren’t usually seen as yard sale material. You’ll know them when you see them… usually really expensive collectors items, things that would cost more than a hundred or so dollars (except furniture), and oddities. And you’re probably not going to sell a ton of that at any yard sale. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying.

I’m guilty of this one most of the time, but I set out a complete boxed set of Monty Python Flying Circus DVDs at this sale, and even said at the time that they weren’t yard sale material. I had every intention of selling them online after the fact, but they were in the trailer so I set them out anyway. No one looked at them all day long on Saturday, except for one very sweet, fairly religious lady who asked me what they were… that was a complicated explanation.

And then, shockingly, someone came along who loved Monty Python, knew the value of the set, and promptly paid me what I was asking for them. In this area the odds are probably 1 in 10 that you’ve ever heard of John Cleese, much less can recite every line from The Holy Grail, so you can imagine my surprise. But, lesson learned. From now on I’ll at least give it a shot at the sale, because now I don’t have to worry about listing that set on Ebay.

#6 ) Have a plan for after the sale

All in all our sale was a huge success, and now that we have less stuff in storage to worry about I feel even lighter than I did before. Our town is having a community yard sale in two weeks, so we’ve opted to set back up for that one and hopefully get rid of even more. After that though I’ll focus on selling things that are worth more on either Craigslist or Ebay, and we’ll donate any smaller stuff that’s left.

#7 ) Always price a little higher than you will accept

This seems like a no brainer, but I thought I’d throw it in just in case. If you price slightly higher than the price you really want to get then people feel like they’re getting a deal when they haggle you down. But at the same time always know your bottom dollar on the expensive items. We have a very confident price on our Coke cooler, because I can sell it online after the fact if it doesn’t sell, so I won’t take any less. And you never know, all it takes is one person to know the value of an item for it to sell.

In my case all my prices were in my head this time… and I think that’s how I’ll do it in the future as well. I used to try to price every little item, or decide an arbitrary dollar amount to fit everything into such as the “Everything on this table is $1”. But that just turns into more work leading up to the sale.

This time I had a good general idea of what I was asking for the big stuff, and I priced the smaller items on the fly as people asked. This may not always be the best plan, but in this case it worked well. I think it gives you the flexibility to change prices as needed, as the sale comes closer to an end prices can go down, if the customer is particularly rude prices go up. Also, you can negotiate better that way, if someone sees a price on a sticker they think is too high they’re more than likely going to walk away, whereas if you’ve told them the price you’re already engaged in a conversation, making it easier to haggle on the price until you come to an agreement… which is the whole point.

In addition to all that, just try to treat your sale like a store, keep it neat and organized, but give people a few boxes of miscellaneous things to dig through too (it’s like a treasure hunt!). Bring lots of donuts and comfortable shoes, dress in layers and have a good chair.

Did I miss anything? Are you wearing mop slippers right now? Do you know the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?