This past weekend, I capped off my summer of purging and de-cluttering with yet another yard sale…this one on my own driveway with my own junk! With this being my fourth big sale in about five months (including two major estate-style sales while helping my father downsize), I honestly feel like I am now an expert at preparing for and executing yard sales (maybe I should put that on my resume ;)! As I was preparing for this last sale (at least for a while!), I was telling my sister that I feel like we’ve learned “the formula” for a successful sale. As in, if you follow these particular steps…”you too can have a successful sale, get rid of (most of) your junk, and make some good money!” (imagine that said in an infomercial type voice!) Now, I don’t make any promises because so much of a sale’s success is dependent on where you live, what kind of stuff you’re selling, and the weather (!!!), but our family followed the exact same game plan for each of the four sales and brought in over $20,000 across all the sales. Because I honestly feel like we have this down to a science, I wanted to share with YOU what all we’ve learned along the way!!!!
My absolute number one piece of advice is to price everything. Yes, it can be a pain and very time- consuming, but it is SO worth it on sale day….especially if you have a lot to sell and have several people working to cash people out. We felt like buyers were more likely to scoop things up when they didn’t have to approach us for each and every price. Checking people out moved faster, and it ensured we consistently priced based on the quality of the items and not just on our whims or based on pressure from enthusiastic bargainers. We also had really good success with pricing things to move. Instead of pricing high and expecting people to bargain, we priced low and made a “We aren’t bargaining” policy. Sure, this wasn’t 100% effective as there will always be the people who try to talk you down no matter how low your prices are. But having the “we priced everything low so we aren’t bargaining” phrase in our back pocket made dealing with hagglers so much easier. Toward the end of the sale (and on bigger more expensive items), we knocked prices down and entertained offers more often just to get things gone!
One last tip on pricing: instead of buying yard sale labels, we found it SUUUPER easy to print tags on pre-made return address labels (the itty bitty ones) in whatever prices we needed. We printed a lot of $0.25, $0.50, $1, and $2 tags…some $3, $4, $5, and then a sheet of just $__ tags so we could write in prices as we needed. With sheets and sheets of labels ready to go, pricing went relatively quickly!
ORGANIZE & CATEGORIZE
Not just for our sakes, but to help our shoppers out, we worked VERY hard in the days and weeks leading up to to the sales to purge out the true junk and organize our “goods” into shop-able categories: home decor, cooking/baking, tools, toys, recreation, furniture…you get the idea. This made for easy and logical setup and also helped out shoppers who were looking (or not looking) for something in particular. We received so many compliments on how well-organized our sales were, and I really think that our organization and presentation directly influenced how much stuff we were able to sell!
When setting up items to sell, whenever possible, get it all up on tables. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to furniture or large/heavy items…but for dishes, glassware, kitchen utensils, small appliances, craft items, knick knacks and (most especially) books, folks are a little more willing to take the time to peruse all your goods if they can stand upright (rather than be hunched over down on the ground). In our experience time and time again, if things weren’t selling down on the ground, almost as soon as we moved them up onto tables, they’d be gone! We used everything from long 6′ tables, to card tables, to sheets of plywood setup on saw horses. Anything will work – just make sure it’s sturdy enough to hold everything safely.
Also, we found it worked best to have tables running all-the-way down the center of the driveway so that both sides of the table could be loaded up and people could move down both sides – this was especially important at times when we had a lot of people crowding into the driveway! Lastly, as your shopping day moves on, make sure you take time to consolidate, re-position and make things look nice so that it doesn’t look and feel picked over. Re-position items that aren’t selling because they might be getting looked over and make sure price tags are still visible and sets of items haven’t been split apart!
Some of these suggestions might be no-brainers to many of you, but to me, this next tip was new to me and the most surprising! We had so much success with two-day sales: a pre-sale on Friday and then the usual early morning Saturday sale. We held a Friday sale for all four sales, and all of them were incredibly successful. For us, we attracted more neighbors, work crews (yard crews, cleaning crews, delivery people) and the coming-home-from-work crowd on Friday, while the Saturday shoppers were more hard-core garage sale hunters. Regardless of who passes through, it’s a pretty simple concept: the more hours you have your stuff out, the more likely you are to get rid of your stuff!
Cash is certainly king at yard sales – it’s the safest and easiest way to take payment, especially if you don’t know your customers. A majority of our transactions were in fact done in cash. However, if you have expensive items to sell (electronics, furniture, or in our case: fabric!), it is very appealing to customers (and pretty handy, I might add!) to be able to take credit cards. We ordered card readers for our iPads and iPhones through PayPal and were able to accept credit card transactions with very little hassle. At our Craft Estate Sale, this was a significant reason why we were able to sell so much…accepting credit cards allowed our customers to buy piles and piles of fabric and supplies without having to run to the ATM!
The success of your sell is directly correlated to how much foot traffic you get: no customers means no sales! Use every mechanism you can think of to get the word out about your sale. We used electronic avenues like Craig’s List, Facebook groups, Twitter, this blog, workplace message boards, and personal email invites to advertise our sales. We also relied on old-fashioned signs and flyers. We posted bright, clear signs at the entrance to the neighborhood, which brought a lot of traffic. We also create a flyer with all of our sale details (including what we were selling) that was easily posted and shared on social media and also printed and hung at college campuses or handed out to friends and neighbors.
We were very surprised to see that furniture items just didn’t sell well at our yard sales, pretty much across the board. Although our furniture was good quality and priced well, it really seamed like yard sale shoppers weren’t in the market for (or prepared to take home) large furniture items. We had much more luck selling furniture online. With that said, furniture in the yard does get people to stop and shop!
Ziplock bags, baskets/boxes, and tape were our go-to supplies for all of our sales. Anything that could be bundled, we packaged/taped together and priced accordingly. Sets of dishes, piles of dish towels, series of cookbooks, matching tablecloths and napkins, purses with wallets, etc. Not only does a “set” look more appealing to buyers, but it’s a more effective and efficient way to move your stuff out! This technique was especially helpful in selling off craft supplies. Matching skeins of yarn, coordinating cuts of fabrics, sets of threads and more were bundles and sold as single items. Also smaller items, like zippers, elastic, ribbon, stamps etc were put into “grab bags” and priced super cheap! People scooped them right up, and we weren’t left with odd spools of ribbon or random zippers!
SELLING CRAFT SUPPLIES
Speaking of craft sales, I think this topic alone warrants its own post, but here’s a few quick points. We had a TON of craft supplies to sell (figuratively and literally ;). You name it, we had it for sale, often in really high quantities! To sell the craft supplies, we held a separate and specific Estate Craft Sale. It was quite possibly our most successful sale, and this is why:
- It was a dedicated Craft Sale – and pretty much ONLY crafters came out to shop. If you have a lot of craft supplies to sell, sell and advertise it separately from a general household yard or estate sale.
- We specifically advertised our sale to local crafters, quilt groups, stamp groups, stained-glass groups, knitters and more…and they came out by the dozens!
- All of the above tips hold true for this sale, especially the bundling (bundle everything and anything you can!) and the organizing and categorizing. Crafters tend to do specific hobbies so they only shop for certain things. Have all the fabric in one spot, all the ribbon in one spot, etc.
- I said this above, but it’s worth repeating…have your books up at waist height! Our craft shoppers spent hours looking through my mother’s extensive book collection…looking for a unique book or their next project. We sold every last book because we had them displayed in a fashion that customers could easily sort through!
- Fabric – oh my – this could be a whole post in itself too! We had about 2,500 yards of fabric to sell, and it was in every form you could imagine: yardage, fat quarters, scraps, sets…you name it! There was no way to measure and price each and every piece, so we decided to sell the fabric by the pound. Yep – you read that right! 1 pound of quilting cotton is approximately 3 yards…we sold fabric for $10/pound (which worked out to about $3/yard). We had signs everywhere explaining our system. My sister and I weighed each and every customer’s pile of fabric on a high-tech kitchen scale and it honestly couldn’t have worked better! Customers were happy, and we were efficient…and we sold a TON of fabric! For anyone who has a lot of fabric to sell yourself, I highly recommend this approach! Email me if you have questions or want more info!
This one is a little more of a lesson learned than an actual “we did it and it worked.” Because of the amount of good stuff we were selling at our sales, people were scooping up items right and left and quickly had their hands full! People then would make piles off to the side while they continued to shop. While this worked well, during our busier times, we had a difficult time keeping track of whose piles were whose. And unfortunately, on some occasions, people’s piles were shopped from by other customers…making for sad and cranky customers who lost out on things they wanted and had first! We found that by having a dedicated helper at a holding zone (complete with holding bins/boxes and sticky notes to write names on) helped tremendously. If you are gearing up for a really large estate-style sale, I would recommend having a holding zone where people can safely keep items aside while they continue to shop!
THE POWER OF FREE!!!
Ooooops! I know I said 10 tips, but here’s a bonus! With the exception of high quality items that we wanted to try and sell online, once everything was out of the house for the sale, it didn’t come back in. At the end of our two-day sales, we left everything outside for the afternoon/night with a big FREE sign on it (we had great rain-free weather for almost all of our sales). The next morning, whatever was left was loaded into cars and donated right away. It’s amazing what people will haul away when it has a FREE sign on it! So it you don’t want to have to lug some big furniture to the thrift store yourself, put a FREE sign on it, and you’ve got good chances someone will come and take it off your hands!
Phew!!! I’m not sure what was more exhausting: doing all these yard sales or writing this monster-of-a-post! While it’s been an incredible year of getting rid of so much junk and making some great money (and doing A LOT of family bonding!), I am excited to say that my purging and yard sale-ing is officially over for a good long while!!! I’ve learned a lot (both about my own shopping/keeping habits as well as how to have a great yard sale), but one soul can really only be around so much junk and junk shoppers for so long. I’m pretty excited to see this chapter of my year come to a close!
What about you? Do you have any rockstar yard sale tips? Do you agree/disagree with my ideas here? I’d love to hear if you’ve had something work (or not work) out really well! Not that I’m gearing up for another one anytime soon…but eventually, I’m sure I’ll be back out there again some day!!!!