So things are happening fast around here. We spent the summer noses-to-the-grindstone, anticipating Alan’s dissertation defense. That was the big deadline, the big finish line. Then, all of a sudden, it was over. We went to Utah, we came back, I was sick. And now it’s one week before Alan starts work! When did that happen?!
We had been planning on hosting a yard sale Saturday the 17th. I was going to spend last week preparing: sorting through stuff in the storage areas of the house (porch, garage, loft, basement), pricing items, setting up. Instead, I rested and tried to recover from being sick. It seemed like the yard sale was going to have to wait.
Thursday morning I woke up feeling better. I hadn’t felt good in nearly two weeks, and the energy was stimulating. I decided, in bed before I even got up, to do the yard sale. I’d have two days to sort and prepare, but I could do it! My mom came over Thursday to help, and Alan didn’t go in to work on Friday. (He finished the changes necessary to his dissertation Thursday, so he’s kind of done. He will clean out his office, and he wants to spend some time training group-mates on some laser stuff before he leaves.)
Saturday we woke up early (5ish), and set up the yard sale. It was quite a success! Let me tell you what we did, what worked, and what didn’t.
1. I read The Joy of Less a while ago, and had a great mentality when sorting our possessions. Instead of asking myself “am I willing to part with this?”, I asked “is this ‘treasure’?” I didn’t decide what to sell, I decided to sell everything, and then had to choose what to keep.
2. I priced things low. I advertised the sale as a “nothing over $10” sale. Some people got really good deals on the items with the highest value. I ran out of $0.25 and $0.50 stickers first, because I priced things so low. I wanted things to be gone, I didn’t want to get the most money for each item. I didn’t want anyone to want something, pick it up, and think it was too expensive.
3. We sold home improvement supplies. This was Alan’s idea, and it worked great. We sold the faucet we bought and never used, and the left-over chain link from installing the gate across our driveway (40 feet for $10). We sold PVC pipe ($0.25 to $1.00 per piece) and green-board ($0.50 for partial boards) and cement-board ($0.25 for partial boards). We sold partial cans of spray paint ($0.25) and wood stain ($0.25). It was a good portion of the sale, and it attracted more buyers, including people just driving by the house who stopped.
4. We advertised on craigslist and gsalr.com. In fact, I put up the gsalr.com ad first, and it had an option to cross-post on craigslist. I still had to make the craigslist listing, but I could cut-and-paste some nifty html from gsalr. It made the craigslist ad look nice: it had a map and a nice font. It was easy and free.
5. I advertised for no early birds. I don’t know if this made a huge difference, but it helped me not get stressed out when setting up. In the ad I mentioned that prices were tripled before 8am. That kept people away!
6. I made really legible signs. I read some advice to simply make signs that say “yard sale” with an arrow. I used some foam-board we had, and a huge magic marker. I made the letters six inches high, and the arrow was seven inches high and 15 inches across. We put out five signs. Two were double-sided, so they could be read by traffic going either direction. They went on the main roads leading to our house. There was a single sign that pointed to our house if you came via a side street. And there were two signs right in our front yard: one on the left and one on the right, for traffic going both directions.
7. We had a cooler of bottled water and ice. We sold the bottles for $0.25. It wasn’t a huge draw, but we did sell some bottles of water to people who didn’t buy anything else!
8. We had lots of change (probably too much). We withdrew $150 from the bank: 5x $10, 10x $5, 30x $1, and two rolls of quarters. In retrospect we probably needed 5x $10, 5x $5, 15x $1, and one roll of quarters. I had priced so many things at $0.25 and $0.50, that I felt the need for nearly a hundred quarters. But I didn’t think about the fact that most people would buy more than one thing. Plus, I’d often round down, to make people feel they were getting a really good deal.
9. I kept the change in a carpenter’s apron. It kept the money on my person, and it was easy to pull out change. It was also easy to switch the apron between me and Alan during the sale. I handled most transactions, but I also left the sale several times to pick up more stickers (see #2), and to pick up some lunch.
10. We set out everything for free after the sale was over. I put a curb alert on craigslist, and we told the neighborhood kids everything left was free. They were so excited. Their parents probably weren’t thrilled that they brought home so much junk, but it was fun to watch. I did pick out a few high priced items that didn’t sell: a clarisonic mia face washer, a pair of unworn dansko shoes, and a nice coat Alan’s never worn. We’ll bring those to Goodwill, along with anything that was left. I think we’ll have just one box worth of stuff for Goodwill.
We made over $300 at the sale, which sort of surprised me. (I say “sort of”, because I kept an inventory list as I priced the items, and I entered it into Excel. I knew that the sum of what I had priced was over $300, and that surprised me.) I said to Alan several times before the sale that I was most excited to get rid of so much stuff. Making money was secondary. Yard sales are such a win-win!
We held the sale from 8am to 4pm. At 6pm we had some friends over for a farewell/congratulations Alan party. I knew I’d be tired, so I planned a super low-key party. I cut up a watermelon and a pineapple into wedges (finger food!), and set out the leftover bottles of water (#7 above). I asked people to bring soda, beer, or chips/dip. We ordered six pizzas, and an hour-and-a-half into the party I went out to buy a box of ice cream sandwiches. We ate in the back yard, sitting on wooden arm chairs Alan brought from the house (we sold almost all our outdoor chairs that morning!). It was the best party I’ve thrown in a while.
Our friends from church came (as well as my parents), and it was really great to sit and chat. Most of the people had been in the first Small Group I joined, five years ago when I returned from China. That’s where I met Alan. That group has since dissolved: people got married, and had babies, and moved on from just being “young adults.” It was so, so nice to be together again. We talked and laughed until it got too dark to see anymore.
The reality that we’re moving has only just sunk in. Alan’s first day of work is a week from tomorrow. A week later the cats and I will join him. There’s still lots to do, but it’s all very exciting!
P.S. Today is our anniversary–four years!