Sunday, September 27, 2009

Reflections on an epic yard sale

The good news for us is that PEOPLE LIKE OUR STUFF. Sorry for yelling, but they liked it so much that that they bought almost all of it at our yard sale yesterday. We were selling like crazy from 8-12. It was the best yard sales EVER (yelling again) because we had tons of good items that actually worked or were purchased within the past five years. You could have set up a whole house and remodeled it too with what we were were selling. And our prices were nice and low, so everything was flying.

My favorite part? The FREE section. That's right. Give the yard sale people of the world what they really want: free stuff. The free stuff helps them to feel like they are really getting a bargain and makes them more likely to buy something. They've done studies on this. I kid. This might not be true at all. In fact, it might be that giving away free stuff makes people want the stuff that's for sale for even less money. Either way, I don't care because it is really, really fun to give away free stuff. People just can't believe that you would give something away that you could charge a whole two dollars for.

Throughout the morning, I would select priced items that just weren't moving and bring them over into the free section (understand here, my end game was to get rid of everything by the end of the day). Items priced for $1 in the for sale area weren't even getting a glance from passers by, but you put them in the free section and watch out! They were all over it.

One of the best moments was when two ladies who had already talked me down to $2 for a designer jacket (because $5 was far too much), were walking back to their cars. I yelled out, "Ladies, more free stuff!" holding up the fresh load of items in my hands. Without hesitation or any thought at all, they abruptly did an about-face then made a b-line for the free section. Nice!

One of the things I found amazing was the power of a dollar (or three, for that matter). It can make all the difference between someone wanting or not wanting to buy an item. I was reminded by my husband that it's not about the price at all, it's about the thrill of the negotiation. The conversation the jacket lady had when she got home went something like this, "Man, did I get a bargain. She had it marked at $5 and I got her down to $2!"

I really meant to put up a "No Haggle Zone" sign, but the early birds descended at 8 a.m. (start time was 9) and it threw me off entirely. My husband came up at 8 as we were getting ready to set up, and told me we had customers. I certainly wasn't pleased that people were already there. I think my reaction was fueled by the fact that I was running on a week of very little sleep. Come to find out the two ladies in the garage could hear me when I said, "I should have included a 'no early birds' line in the ad." They actually helped us set up, so it worked in my favor.

While I didn't get the sign up, I did manage to put my foot down with a few hagglers. And on other occasions, as the day went on, I gave in. I told one woman who got me to come down one dollar on a $3 item to "make sure to spend that extra dollar wisely." She promised he would.

For all my sudo-complaining, it was a super fun day. The weather was phenomenal and Ryan and I had a blast answer questions, chatting away and selling our stuff. Our background music was the rough cut of my band's upcoming CD. This resulted in adding more than a dozen new people to my email list. Nice by-product.

By 2 p.m. we only had a limited number of items left. For some reason the small kitchen appliances weren't selling. Ryan's theory was that people had their own unnecessary kitchen appliances that they never use, so why buy more. I didn't think that usually stopped yard-salers from doing their thing, but maybe he was right.

We rounded up the rejects and put them all on one table (photo). We didn't sell any of these things. I finally just gave the ice cream maker away to someone who bought our grill. Seemed like a good combo.

We ended the sale by packing up the leftover items and driving them to Good Will in Worcester. This gave us the perfect excuse to eat the Chicken Ceasar Pizza at the Corner Grille.

Our summation of the day? It was an absolute success. Besides the fact that we made $1,000 (by selling thousands of dollars worth of stuff) we got to have some excellent conversations with our patrons. Many asked why we were moving and where. We got to tell our story and, like usual, people had positive responses to what we are doing. "Good for you!" and "Good luck!" Some seemed to wish they could do they same or said that they planned to.

Ryan and I compared notes on the day as we drove home from Worcester. We agreed that it feels so good to shed so much of our stuff. We are feeling great about the choices we're making and the direction we're going. We're glad that we bought the house and are grateful for the five amazing years we had in Groton and everything we learned being homeowners. Ryan says he sees the experience as a right of passage, of sorts. He got to put all the things his dad taught him into practice and realized that he is really very handy and can do just about anything that is required to fix a house up. Lucky for me.

One thing we are learning about ourselves is that we like experiences a bunch. We love to try something, learn from it and walk away with the experience of it under our belts. With that said, I don't think this next phase of our live is just about a new experience. Part of it is--living in an urban setting--but the part about simplifying life, that's something that we want to last through a lifetime of experiences.

P.S. To see some of the stuff we sold, check out the Moving from Groton blog.


  1. I love yard sales for the reasons you describe here.. and more. It seems to me that they are the closest thing we can get to a open market, and I kinda get a kick out of the way that a "whole dollar" suddenly has a whole lot more value... it's pretty interesting, isn't it?

  2. It really is interesting stuff. I'm wondering if someone has done a thesis on it. I'm serious! It would be a cool thing to examine closely. Know any PhD students looking for a topic? ; )

  3. I am glad I didn't see any gift I have given on the reject table. :-)

  4. Good point, Mom! I'm glad it was a success, Amy. I know what you mean about free stuff. We just gravitate to it, even if we don't need it at all.