Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Yard Sale Whisperer

I love running yard sales. Why? Because it allows me to indulge in three of my favorite things:

1) planning/organization

2) getting rid of crap

3) capitalism

So when my Aunt embarked on an epic clean out of her house (that contained, let's be honest, about 70 years of accumulated stuff from her and my Grandmother) I immediately suggested a yard sale. That was back in March. We set the date for the first Saturday in June so my Aunt Kim would have a goal for going through the stuff, and I immediately began designing the perfect yard sale sign in my head. It had to be on bright posterboard of course, so people could easily identify it, and it needed to contains the words "big" and "yard sale" to bring in the crowds. yes, I design posters 3 months in advance, and no, I don't care what you think about it. From there the hard work belonged to Kim who had to wade and sort through the flotsam and jetsam of decades.

I think she must have put on her superhero pants because by the time Saturday, June 4th rolled around, there was a whole garage full of stuff waiting to be sold. Furniture, cookbooks, appliances, tupperware, DVDs and VHS, linens, pots and pans, baskets, and table after table of knick knacks. Basically anything you can imagine we had it--it was like Portobello Road in that yard.

Luckily, Kristin, Selvi, and Chris had awesomely volunteered to help us lug things out to yard (and into people's cars) and from about 7:30 to 11:30 we had a steady stream of people buying things big and small.

Now if you are thinking of putting on a yard sale here are some things you should know:

1) Never underestimate the cheapness of people. Seriously. A never used bread machine is listed for $1 and you are really going to haggle with me to get to $0.50? REALLY? And 15 pairs of shoes, with name brands like Cole Haan and Ann Klein, and you think you are going to get all that for $10? No way, sister.

2) The things you think are going to sell right off the bat are going to stick around forever and the cheapest crap will go fast. I think the problem here is that there is a disconnect between the type of people who have yard sales and the type of people who shop at yard sales. I have a yard sale because I am a victim of our consumerist society and am lucky enough to have a good-paying job and disposable income. Which means I also have a lot of crap. Other people come to a yard sale because they need to get things for cheap. This type of person doesn't really have need things like a bread machine (which literally sold at the last second of the sale...for $0.50. Dammit!), but you better believe they will get in a bidding war with someone else for some 20 year old used tupperware with no lid. Because that shit is actually useful.

3) Have someone at your sale that speaks Spanish. I'm not making any kind of comment on the socio-economic demographics of the Alexandria area, but I've planned approximately 5 yard sales in the last 3 years and at every single one the majority of shoppers are native Spanish speakers. And you as a seller are a severe disadvantage for haggling when you don't speak the language of the person you are bargaining with.

4) You will quickly learn to spot the hoarders. Again, not being mean or anything, but when an older single white lady shows up at your yardsale and carts away 5 boxes of cooking magazines, you kind of get the feeling those boxes are going right into her living room where they will sit for the next 10 years. And be peed on by her 20 cats.

All in all, the yard sale was a complete success, we got rid of about 80% of the stuff (the rest got donated to the church), and Aunt Kim made a nice chunk of change. We lucked out and had GORGEOUS weather, and it was great fun to sit around and talk with my friends, Mom (who stopped by to help with the money collection) and Aunt. We also got to meet a bunch of the neighbors, because nothing brings people crawling out of the woodwork like a good yard sale. Maybe we'll do it again in the Fall, goodness knows there is still a lot of stuff in that house...sign up to volunteer now!