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15 Jul 2019
How to Host an Awesome Yard Sale

One of the banes of being a party planner is the accumulation of stuff!  No matter what, there will always be some new theme, be it Fortnight or the newest Disney film, that will demand new decor.  The problem?  Kids and adults are fickle.  As soon as the next big blockbuster video game, film, or social media meme takes over, those items become passe and just start gathering dust.  

My husband Scott has an aversion to "stuff".  It gives him the willies.  I, having spent my life as both a prop master for a theatre company and a children's party planner, have a bit of the packrat mentality. I do however understand the desire to divest of unnecessary items.  Which is why we now have a very strict rule - If it doesn't go out over a 9 month period...it's toast.

So....what's a party planner to do?  Well, if you have an amazing sister like me the answer is to hold a yard sale.  My sister Freda is the queen of yard sales.  Honestly,  there is no one better than her when it comes to moving stuff along.  This year I actually participated in the annual purge, which takes place at my family's home in Sonora, California.  I thought it might be fun to share some insights on how to throw a successful yard sale.

Know what you want to achieve with your yard sale.  

Are you just trying to get rid of things?  Or are you trying to finance a trip to Bali?  The difference here is going to be in what you charge.  In my case, I just want to move things along.  Most people who come to yard sales are looking for bargains. My advice for those of you trying to make serious money is to check into your local consignment shops or think about something like ebay or CraigsList.  However, I can tell you that my dad sold one of his Harley Davidson Motorcycles at last year's yard sale, so you never know.



You have to get the word out.  No people = no sales.  Investigate in which local papers you might place free or cheap adverts.  Use descriptive words like - "priced to sell", "unique items", "sports equipment", "furniture".  Things that will grab people's attention and describe what they are going to find when they come to your sale.  Place signs in local spots with bulletin boards - coffee shops, churches, laundromats...areas where people congregate.  Make sure you list the date, time, and location.  Also, make sure you make a note that no sales will take place before the allotted time and date of the sale.  This will make sure you are not bombarded by early birds.  On the day of the sale place big, bright, colorful signs guiding potential buyers to your sale.

Be organized.

It's up to you how you want to organize your yard sale. I find it's best to have tables or areas that have either like items - kitchen goods, toys, books or are all the same price.  For our yard sale we had a 25 and 50 cent table, along with a $1.00, $5.00, and $10.00 table.  We also had a "priced as marked" area for items going for higher prices.  Big ticket and eye-catching items (in our case we had giant blow up pumpkins) should be placed out front to draw in your potential buyers.  We came up with a color coded system for our sale, and placed little round stickers on every item being sold.  We had multiple signs around so that it was very clear what the price was for each sticker.  If you have clothing...display it.  Make sure it's hung up so people can see it easily.


Invite friends to be part of your yard sale.

It's always fun to have a variety of items.  In our case we had friends who were jewelry makers and artists come over and set up their wares, along with another local friend who wanted to divest of lots of household items.  Couple notes - don't expect them to adhere to your rules and make sure that each area is designated so that shoppers know who to pay.

Make sure you are ready to go by the published time.

Have your tables and wares in place by the allotted opening hour.  Make sure you have people manning the sale.  There is nothing worse than having someone want to purchase an item and they can't find the owner.

Be friendly but not overbearing.

It's nice to greet people as they arrive.  But don't hover or hound them.  They will find you if they have a question.  Just be aware.  


 If you have electronics have a tester plug.

We had a ton of lights for sale.  To make sure no one went home with something faulty we supplied an extension cord for folks to check the items.  We also made sure to have at least one of the light up items lit, so people could see what the item was.  We had a full blown stereo for sale (albeit circa 1980 - and would have been a hit on the tv show Stranger Things) playing CD's all day.  It was a great way to not only add a fun, festive flair to the event, but also show off the system's abilities.


 Be able to make change, or have a credit card reader.

It can be a little iffy, taking checks.  Most people who come to a yard sale will have cash, so just make sure to have change.  We prepared ourselves with $100.00 in change - $10.00 in quarters, $30.00 in ones, $30.00 in fives, and $30.00 in tens.  If you have the ability to take credit cards, with say square or some other card reading app, all the better.


 Have a "last hour fire sale" or special offer

At our yard sale we told folks that the last hour was half priced, and that kids under 12 got to pick an item from the $1.00 or less tables for free.  Again, remember our goal, we wanted to get rid of everything.


Be willing to haggle.

People love to bargain.  Know your lowest price and stick to it, but also be flexible, you'll sell more.  


Have a place to take all the leftovers.

Check ahead of time with your local Goodwills, Churches, and Thrift Stores.  Make a list of who will take what, and how it needs to be presented.  For example, we were able to donate all our leftover clothes to a local charity box, but it needed to be bagged ahead of time.  Habitat for Humanity took all of our kitchen goods and furniture.  Salvation Army would take an assortment of stuff, but no books.  If you know your local donation spots you can plan accordingly as you clean up from your sale.

Our sale brought in $563.00, which is not bad, when you consider our goal was to clear out our warehouse.  It was a fun day of hanging out and chatting.  We really had a great time as a family.  We met a bunch of my parent's friends and got a chance to chat with the locals.  There was even a little girl who hung out on one of our blow up couches reading a cricket magazine while her daddy shopped.  She was so at ease and enjoying every moment of that lazy afternoon.  I know my Grammy Yocom was looking down from above and smiling.  Although I was ready to pass that part of my childhood on, there was another generation just waiting to snatch it up for a quarter.  Which is what a yard sale is all about.  One family passing the items they no longer need onto another, who will hopefully enjoy and profit from them.