Summertime is Yard-Sale Season!

Rummage sales, yard sales, garage sales, stoop sales, tag sales—whatever you call them, summertime is the prime season.

When we were approaching the seemingly insurmountable challenge of dispensing with most of the things in the sprawling suburban home my Dad had lived in for more than 30 years in preparation for his move into a much smaller place, one of the first things we decided to do was have a “first-cut” yard sale.

A couple of years before my Dad had a specific plan to move, my siblings and I—with our Dad’s approval—agreed that we would gather up all the things in the house that NO ONE wanted,  that meant NOTHING to ANYBODY, and that NO ONE thought was worth anything—and sell it in a yard sale.

We viewed this as a good way of warming up to the task at hand. And it was.

Once my mom died, we knew my Dad’s days in that house were numbered: he had multiple sclerosis, and although he was intrepid and managed fairly well, we knew that eventually he would need to be in a more supportive environment.  My mom was the one who had trouble getting rid of things, the one who loved to go to garage sales but never in my memory had ever held one. So once she was gone we knew it was time to start getting rid of some of those things she had acquired through the years. (There were at least three copies of Giants in the Earth in our house, purchased at yard sales for a nickel or a dime: just one small example. )

Starting out this way was a good strategy. We knew we were only temporarily postponing harder decisions ahead, but in the meantime, it was really quite rewarding to haul out loads and loads and loads of “stuff” that no one wanted—and then watch, often astounded, as other people actually paid us money for taking those things away, looking very happy with their purchases.

There are lots of places where you can get good advice about how to run a productive yard sale. Next week’s post will provide links to some of them, and will share some of those tips and advice.

But for now, here are a few general words of advice for our two main categories of people—“keepers” and “throwers”—as we enter garage sale season.

IF YOU ARE A “THROWER” (Someone who likes the idea of getting rid of things, and relishes getting rid of all of the “junk” in your family home)

  • Be strategic. Announce your sale in advance, using a variety of media—flyers, neighborhood list-serves, Craigslist, etc. Including information about the types of items you will have for sale can be helpful in attracting serious buyers as well as casual passers-by. And have a back-up plan in case of rain.
  • Be respectful. Be sure to clear permission from the owners of the items you are putting out for sale before doing so. (Just saying “You hadn’t done anything about it in 30 years so we figured you didn’t care about it,” probably won’t be well received by any “keepers” in your family if you’ve sold something of theirs without asking them first.)  If the owner of the item doesn’t want the item sold, let them know (gently, but firmly) that now is the time for them to take responsibility for it. And give them a deadline!
  • Be organized. A well-organized sale is both easier to run and more likely to be profitable. More on this next week.

IF YOU ARE A “KEEPER” (Someone more inclined to SHOP at yard sales than to SELL your things at one.)

  • Be disciplined. Don’t ever purchase something simply because “it’s such a good bargain” (Do you need it? Do you really want it? Do you already have one? Or maybe even two, or three, or more?)
  • Be REALLY disciplined. If you know that you can’t go to a yard sale and keep your blinders on, purchasing only things you need and/or have room for in your house, DON’T GO!



2 Responses

  1. The [Thrower-Keeper] labels value people’s pastimes and prerogatives.
    By associating themselves as Thrower or Keeper, they can improve without having to change what they love or who they are.
    For example, “I relish getting rid of junk but can respect those who need to keep theirs” … or “i’m inclined to shop yard sales but will always ask myself if I need it before I make the purchase”.

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