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Yard Sale 2.0

Condo association yard sale 2010 (v. 2.0) is in the books, folks. And once again (you may remember our sale of yore), it was a heckuva success. We all walked away with some cush in the pockets, invaluable extra space in our homes, and bellies full of burgers and beers… But let’s back up a bit and retrace the steps of a successful sale.

A successful, busy yard sale does take a bit of planning and some internet know-how if you want to maximize your profits and keep the traffic flowing. Nothing takes the wind out of your sails like a lack of customers to buy your wares. And while everyone has their methods, we’d like to share what worked for us, starting with this fool proof time line:

  • 3 months out: Send out an email to involved parties (in our case, the condo association and a few choice friends) to gauge interest and pick a date. At this point, we also lobbied our condo board to fund the table rental, grillables for lunch, bottled water, and a few cases of beer to liven things up. We agreed on a budget and stuck to it. (Keep in mind that there’s strength in numbers. A multi-family sale always draws a bigger crowd. Rally your friends and turn your sale into an all-day party. It’ll be more fun. We promise.)
  • 1 month out: Send a confirmation email about the final date and ask participants to let you know what they plan to sell. Some of your crew may still be figuring this out, and that’s okay. What you do know will be helpful to generate interest in your eventual Craigslist ads. Start making a list and set it aside.
  • 1 week out: Send out one last reminder email to everyone involved and update your list with any changes. Now’s the time to begin your bombardment on Craigslist. For this sale, I posted an add 1 week out, 3 days out, and the day before. Remember that this Craig fellow is pretty wily. If you attempt to place your ad in more than one place at the same time (Garage Sale section and Bicycles section in our case), he will reject your subsequent posts. You can easily outwit him by cutting and pasting your ad together in a different way, and slightly altering the title. This is the first of my many versions:

Using popular search words such as “vintage”, “antique”, “furniture” and “bike” can only help your cause. Be sure to describe some of the items you’ll be selling so that people know what to plan for and what to be excited about. Big ticket items often go first, as people see the ad and get to your sale when it opens (if not earlier) to get the best deals early. I’ve known people who literally make a living buying and selling at yard sales. This is serious business, friends.

  • 3 days out: In the few days leading up to the sale, try to collect your items in one location. For us, this was the office. This is the time to really assess what you’re putting up for sale and go over each item. If you haven’t used it in a year, you’re probably not going to use it. Ever. Cut your losses, throw it to the wolves and see how much you make. For us, this involved gutting and rearranging our tiny basement storage unit, rooting through all of our junk drawers, and dissecting every closet to see what we could live without. For those of you with attics, swallow your pride and get up there. You’ll be glad you did. (Along the same token, don’t get rid of something you truly love. Purging can sometimes get the best of us, so it may work for you to select a handful of nights during the week leading up to the sale to sort. This way you’re not making snap decisions you may regret.)
  • The night before the sale: Do your best to have everything priced, organized and staged for easy access to your sale location. For some of you lucky suburbanites, this may be as easy as prepping your garage and opening the door when the sale begins. For us, we began loading heavier items into the building’s main hallway. We strategically placed things around the corner from our large glass front door so that prying eyes wouldn’t get any wise ideas.
  • The morning of the sale: Generously pepper your neighborhood with high visibility signs. The brighter, the bigger, the better. Use large text, arrows, and simple directions so that passing motorists can plan their turn a block or two ahead. I can’t tell you how many times my lady has seen a last minute sign and had me slamming on the brakes.

  • The morning of, continued: Don’t neglect your parking situation. Be sure to move as many cars as possible off of your block and around the corner. Parking is always at a premium around here and we’d hate to see you lose a sale because someone couldn’t find a place to ditch their ride for a few minutes. The farther they have to walk, the less likely they’ll want to haul away your heavy bookcase. The easier you make it for them, the more pleasant the experience all around.

I know what you’re thinking; enough planning already! Let’s get to it. Like eager beavers, our morning started off with sleepy smiles and iced coffee. Of course, there’s no avoiding those early birds. Be prepared for people to show up at least a half hour before your sale is scheduled to start. While it’d be much easier to roll your eyes (we had just rolled out of bed, after all), we put on a happy face, continued our prep, and gave out prices to those who asked.

Variety is the spice of life. We had everything from old ‘Dead albums to modern carbon fiber bicycles. In addition to clothes, furniture, and home wares, you better believe we even had some good ol’ you-didn’t-know-you-needed-it-’til-you-saw-it knick knacks.

These back-issues of Dwell and other interior design magazines went amazingly fast. This well cared for stack went home in the first hour, and how could you blame them? At a quarter a pop, it’s a steal for some eye candy and inspiration.

This guy made out like a champ! Our good friend Cully sold a high end bicycle and enough parts to build three or four more. That explains the smile, huh?

Our neighbor, Doug, proudly displays the fact that his table has found a new home with a happy customer. He had the biggest furniture spread up for grabs, and lucky him, he sold every last piece. Way to pocket some loot.

In the end, all that planning paid off. The traffic was rockin’, and other than a few slow periods during brunch and lunch, we noticed an easy steady flow. A few repeat customers came by at several points during the day, scooping up anything they may have missed on the first few rounds. That’s dedication.

By 4pm, the endless heat got the best of us. We were satisfied, albeit tired and looking forward to naps. Of course, these empty tables are proof of a successful day. You better believe we earned that nap.

The Vargo leftovers were stashed in just one paper sack. For starting out with a mis-matched pair of furniture, two loaded display tables and a bench to show off some textiles, I’d say we did a-okay. An overly crafty Christmas tree skirt, a shirt two-sizes-too-small, and homeless cell phone cables were bagged up for donation.

The sale was, overall, a huge success. Jack not only shopped around a little himself (taking home some new ‘kerchiefs and a too cute to pass up aviator coat), but the well behaved pup even got to hang out with the neighbors all day and make a few new friends in the process.


So have any of you, our loyal readers, had big yard sale successes? Got some hot tips to share? If there’s anything we’ve forgotten to mention, now’s the time to spill the beans. We feel that we’ve kind of got this thing down to a science after two years, but there’s always room for improvement. That’s all for now, and happy browsing. We hope you found something you like. And, yes. Prices are negotiable…

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  • Jacquelin Seybert7.20.10 - 10:00 AM

    Why doesn’t every yard sale have cool stuff like you guys!?ReplyCancel

  • Susan7.20.10 - 10:23 AM

    Not yard sale related, but is your neighbor Doug single? lol :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.20.10 - 10:48 AM

      Susan, you just put a feather in Doug’s cap! He does, however, have a very lovely lady in his life.ReplyCancel

  • jill7.20.10 - 12:18 PM

    it’s all about location, location, location and you have the primo spot for a yardsale! plus, you do have a knack for organizing these types of things. i just donate all of our junk to goodwill.

    that jack is such a happy boy! xoReplyCancel

  • Kasey at Thrifty Little Blog7.20.10 - 4:33 PM

    Wow, I must have been reading your blog for a year now because I remember that last garage sale post!

    Great tips!ReplyCancel

  • dave7.20.10 - 7:33 PM

    Scott,
    Cully kicked butt! What great looking high end stuff. Who was Chicago biker guy in the upper right hand corner of picture #4?
    He looks like a bicycle messenger guy from a movie. Great post! Ann and I thoroughly enjoyed the pictures. Who is the cute couple in picture #2?ReplyCancel

  • jill7.20.10 - 7:39 PM

    and holy smokes, you’re hair’s gotten long!ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.20.10 - 10:23 PM

      Jill – Thanks! I’m sure as heck trying, but it’s not easy. Oh, how I’m tempted to chop it all off from time to time!

      Dave – you have to think we’re cute; you’re our dad! Not sure who the biker buy was, but we had a lot of traffic coming through with folks that looked just like him – all there for the bike parts of course. Glad you enjoyed the post!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda7.21.10 - 11:24 AM

    Great job you guys! Oh how I wish I could have teleported to Chicago for this :-)ReplyCancel

  • emily7.21.10 - 9:14 PM

    love love love coming across random connections on blogs! i read your blog for design and find a connection via bikes: in denver via chicago and had the pleasure of meeting cully. please tell him jonathan and emily (formerly of team pegasus) say hello!ReplyCancel

  • Lynn Stevens7.22.10 - 12:38 AM

    Evening of sale: Remove those high visibility signs — please!ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.22.10 - 7:49 AM

      Lynn, excellent point! They came down at 4 pm. Nothing is worse than being fooled by an old sign!ReplyCancel

  • Sara7.26.10 - 4:32 PM

    Side question: What breed is your dog? My husband and I are in the midst of a *discussion* about what kind of dog to get, and I think the kind you have might be the perfect compromise.

    Thanks for your help!ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.26.10 - 5:35 PM

      Hi Sara,

      Scott actually got a doggie DNA kit as a Christmas stocking stuffer last year, and while we knew he was mostly pit, we found out he was 75% pit and about 25% Irish Setter. Those kits aren’t 100% accurate, so it was mostly just for fun. Pre-Jack, we kicked around the idea about several different breeds for a while, but ultimately Jack chose us. We went to the animal shelter, and we just couldn’t turn down those big, puppy eyes. We’re so in love with our “mutt,” that we couldn’t imagine it any other way!ReplyCancel

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