In an effort to have the very best yard sale imaginable, I am tackling this with planning gusto. I thought it might be handy to share some strategies in case you feel similarly yard sale inspired. This is not my first yard sale rodeo. For those of you who may not know me all that well, here's a little backstory. For the better part of a decade, Mike and I ran an online (and for a little while, brick and mortar) used book business. To find good inventory, we spent a lot of our spare time perusing dusty library sales, estate sales, auctions, yard sales, and more. In the pursuit of literary gold, we also picked up a lot of junk. We helped that junk continue its earthly journey by hosting lots and lots of yard sales. Here's some stuff I learned, and some personal pet peeves that I want to avoid.
- Advertise clearly. There are a lot of ways to advertise for a yard sale. The ol' tried and true is a classified ad in the local paper. That's just the beginning! There are also online yard sale listing sites, including Yard Sale Search, gslar.com, Garage Sale Finder, yardsales.net, Garage Sale Cow, Garage Sales Tracker, and the Yard Sale Treasure Map app. Then, of course, there are the yard sale signs....
- Including clear signage. Seriously. In the yard sale world, it surely stinks when you see a sign boasting an amazing multi-family sale with treasures galore and you can't find the house. Make sure signs are clear. Keep wording to a minimum - people will be driving past your sign, not looking for an opportunity to read a novel. Use a clear font/easy to read handwriting. Write in big, bold letters. Use directional arrows, but only if you can make sure that they will keep pointing in the right direction. Wild goose chases mean less moolah. And then of course, Yard Sale Etiquette 101... take down your signs when the sale is over. Don't be a litter jerk.
- Price everything, or at least organize it so prices are evident. This time around, I bought a price gun so that I can click-click-click price things with ease. Since this will be a multi-family sale, I deliberately looked for a gun with a variety of symbols that can be assigned to different families. My hope is that the symbols will make it easy to keep track of revenue at check-out. If pricing every single item seems difficult, then put things in boxes and label the boxes - i.e, $1/Each in This Box - or place on tables or in well-marked zones, and make everything on each table or in each zone one price. Sure, you'll have to take your customers' words for it if they come up with an armful of stuff, but remember that you want to get rid of this junk and cordially thank them for their business. You can also price items by category - i.e., all hardcover books $2. A successful strategy with clothes is also to offer a bag option - i.e, all clothes $1 each or $5/bag. Regardless of how you do it, just make sure there are prices. Nothing sends me running from a yard sale quicker than having to ask how much each item costs.
- Reduce prices as the day goes on. Most people don't plan to haul their junk back inside at the end of the sale (extra tip - figure out your exit strategy in advance, and make arrangements accordingly. Many charitable thrift store organizations will come and pick items up if you let them know ahead of time). As the day wears on, slash prices. Have extra poster board and markers on hand to make signs to advertise the sales - 25% off, 50% off, all you can fit in a box/bag for $5, etc. Have extra bags on hand for customers and get to wheeling and dealing.
- Merchandise. Meaning, put stuff out in ways that is visibly appealing. Sure, people may be shopping on your lawn, but they will be more likely to buy stuff if you can arrange it ways that enhance its desirability. Put like things with likes - books on bookshelves; kitchen gadgets with dishes, pots, and pans; clothes on racks, if possible; kids toys attractively arranged; etc. Make it easy to move between sections - don't have stuff laying all over the place to trip people up. Put big ticket items up front to catch people's eye, or take some time to make a really pretty display right by the road.
- Create ambiance. We've all been to those yard sales with scary dogs, screaming children, and somebody's crazy uncle in a half-shirt sleeping in the stained and ripped Barcalounger on sale for $5. Don't be that sale. Play upbeat music. Sell bottles of water or sodas. Have a trash can handy. Have a couple of chairs for someone to sit and rest a spell. If it's a sunny day, make sure those chairs are in the shade. Make your sale welcoming, and you may make more than money - you may even make new friends!
- Make check-out a breeze. Rule #1, have plenty of change on hand. Rule #2 - it's a yard sale so expect price haggling. You don't have to accept a lowball offer, but don't be rude about your refusal. Again, remember the goal is to get rid of the stuff, not to hang on to it! Be nice about answering questions. If you're selling electrical gadgets, it's a good idea to have an extension cord by the check-out table so people can test out items before they buy. Have shopping bags (and boxes, if possible). Be willing to work with people if they need to make arrangements to pick up large items later. And as an overall rule, be friendly. If someone leaves your sale with the urge to post on Facebook, you want it to be about the awesome stuff they got at your yard sale, and not about your rude behavior.
- Have fun. Yard sales can be a lot of fun, including quality time spent with family and friends, warm sun on your face, and enjoyable interactions with neighbors. Or, they can be full of misery - strained muscles, bad weather, and grumpy people. You can't control the weather or the muscle pulls (to an extent... lift with your knees!), but you can control your attitude. Try to make the best of it, take pride in a hard day's work and enjoy the wad of money in your pocket. And when all is said and done, feel free to #treatyoself!