Lessons From My Yard Sale

On Saturday, it was my birthday. I celebrated the way I bet a lot of people do: I hosted a yard sale.

Okay, maybe NO ONE else celebrates that way. If the date had been up to me (it wasn’t; I was part of a City-Wide yard sale fundraiser for our local senior center, where registering for $25 gets you on “the map”), I might have chosen a day that WASN’T on my birthday. But, here we were, HandyBoy and I setting up for a full day on a gorgeous Saturday in October, selling our clutter.

Honestly, it was the best possible way I could imagine spending it, and I have no regrets.

We’ve done 2 yard sales before in our 11 years here. One was 5 years ago, after we sold our weekend-place in NH, and we determined we didn’t need to own 2 households worth of stuff. Two weeks after moving out, on a rainy Saturday in April, we had our first yard sale. The second was during the summer of 2021 (so, still pure pandemic-times), where I did an “everything is free” sale of a lot of the organizing solutions and gear I had. I just wasn’t going to be doing that much in-person organizing anymore, and even when I do, I don’t bring products with me. Yet, I had a closet full of cool stuff. I did an “Everything is free” set up, asked people to donate what they felt was fair to one of a few causes, and so I got space back, raised some funds for meaningful causes, and people got some very cool organizing things.

This one was a bit different. There wasn’t anything in life really motivating us to have a sale. If it weren’t for the fact that the City-Wide sale was happening, and it had a fixed date, I don’t think it would have occurred to me. But once it was on our calendar and I’d committed to it, it allowed me to look at our stuff with a bit more of a critical eye.

I’m always decluttering and getting rid of things on our “Buy Nothing” group on Facebook, giving things away for free, neighbor-to-neighbor. I do regular runs to drop off an item or a box at a donation site, and just had a few months ago. But this felt different, not only because I knew it was about “what might people pay for?” but also that I needed a critical mass of stuff to make it “yard sale stop” worthy. Knowing I was doing this sale inspired my parents and our neighbors got in on the game, so we had more things at our sale than just ours, so I knew critical mass would be achievable if we all participated.

So we dove, in and spent the last couple of weeks gathering. I’d just open a closet, a drawer, a cabinet, open up a bin on a shelf and ask, Am I using it? When’s the last time I did? Do I still need this? What would I do if I didn’t have it anymore and the opportunity to use came up and I didn’t have it? What would I do? I asked all those questions I ask my clients, and hope my clients learn to ask themselves. I found items I forgot I still owned, swore I’d already gotten rid of. Items we had upgraded and held onto the older version “just in case” the new one didn’t work out. Outdated electronics. Kitchen tools I had extras of. Craft supplies I had used but would never return to. Once you start looking with the eyes of “do I really still need this?” you’ll be shocked at what you find!

I definitely thought I’d gotten rid of this ice cream maker years ago!
What a surprise to open a cabinet and find it!

Getting Ready for the Sale

When it came time to setting up, we staged everything in our garage on tables the night before (which told me I needed to borrow even more tables!) and started pricing objects. This is actually one of the harder parts of a yard sale for me — yes, I’ll sell it, but for how much? How much do i price it for and how much will I haggle down to to let it go? Is there a minimum amount I won’t go below? This part of yard sale prep is a bit more mentally taxing, so I’m glad I’d set time aside to focus on it.

Saturday morning came, and we were ready to get started. It was in the high 40’s (!!!) so we were hustling with tables and items and scurrying around in coats and wearing gloves. (It got to about 70 degrees by noon, so that was a reward, for sure). In addition to being organized (well, duh), I had made signs up for every table to indicate what they were about. I heard great comments about those all day, so I was happy I put in that effort! Those weren’t planned; they just emerged as I started grouping like-with-like!

We made several hundred dollars (yay!), sold more than half our stuff (double yay!) and then it was time to pack up. Half went into boxes to get donated, and those boxes went straight into my car and were donated the next day. The other half went into “maybe I could sell this on Facebook Marketplace” or “This I’d put on Buy Nothing“. Our neighbors helped with the clean up, and helpful that they know the Buy Nothing Group well enough to help me sort with that. Within an hour of the sale ending, we were fully packed up, tables, broken down, boxes in places where boxes will go, and it was all over except for counting the singles 🙂

Lessons Learned (or Reinforced!) from My Yard Sale Experience

As a professional organizer, when someone tells me, “Maybe I’ll have a yard sale” (or a garage sale, or a tag sale, or whatever you call it by you), I will poke a little. “Is that something you normally would do? Do you feel like you’re up for that? When would you do it?” I want to help them bring aspiration from imagination to reality, and see if is truly an exit strategy for them. I honestly didn’t know the answer for me, but it turns out, when someone (a) already picked the date and (b) it was a fund raiser for a cause I believed in and (c) I *knew* it would draw lots of shoppers to our neighborhood, as there were over 60 houses in our city participating, those barriers removed for me made it easier to commit.

  • Always Be Decluttering — always be looking critically at what you own and why you own it, and be comfortable putting something aside when the time has come
  • If you want to plan a yard sale, PLAN the sale! Pick out a date and commit. Build a schedule leading up to it that not only has you gathering items for it, allows you to market it and set up for it.
  • Have friends with folding tables who are happy to loan them to you, and give them notice on the ask! We set up our last table as plywood on a saw horses! We had a tarp on the lawn! I don’t need to own 12 folding tables myself to be able to have a yard sale!
  • Be clear on your goals. Is it to get rid of stuff? Price it to MOVE. Is it to maximize money making? Do your research and know what you have.
  • Make it easy for looky-loos and tire-kickers to say yes. Have an extension cord to plug things in to see if they still work. Print out directions to unusual items that will need them, leaving the “it’s a mystery” out of apprehension.
  • Have a “what’s next” plan for things that don’t sell. We had boxes ready and a plan for donations. The donations were donated less than 24 hours later (we might have done it that day, but it was my birthday, and time to celebrate!
Happy Birthday to me! Happy Hour after we packed everything up!



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