Monday, May 5, 2014

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

I recently helped friends who were leaving Michigan with their moving sale. Not only was it fun to spend time with Bonnie and Paul before they leave, I also learned a lot about sales. Some of those things may be well known to many of you who have ventured into the sale business on a weekend following a big basement purge. For me, they were a bit of a revelation!

Beth has written some marvelous observations on estate sales here and here. I thought I'd add my own notes.

What's in a Name?

Yard sale. Garage sale. Tag sale. What do those names conjure up for you? For me, it's the dribs and drabs of life. All the things from the junk drawer you either have multiples of or never used in the first place. Too many belts. Clothes -- not necessarily good ones. Books -- not necessarily good ones. Toys. Lots of items, none of which have terrific value.

Moving Sale. To me, that means someone is leaving the house -- probably for something smaller or out of town. So, lots of the items I imagine in a yard or garage sale are included, along with more furniture, larger ticket items, yard implements and tools, appliances and equipment -- much more comprehensive.

Estate Sale. To me, that implies that someone either died or is significantly downsizing, probably to go into an apartment or assisted living. They may be older. There might be medical equipment and more likely to include items in what I define as a moving sale. One might also be more likely (at least at this writing) to find vintage items -- hats and memorabilia, for example. Estate sales are run by professional companies. They are more likely to know the value of an item, hence more expensive and fewer good deals (but the last day is at discount.)

Of course, if you're not moving, you can't call it a moving sale! But you might try a clever name like "The Big Sale on Brown Street" or "The Big Clean-Out!" I'd be curious and more likely to check it out.

Pricing and Dicing

I recently read an article saying that the most successful yard sales ditch the price tags altogether. That leaves room for bargaining -- you can kick it up higher and go down. That's all well and good if you are the only one working the sale. But if you have friends helping you, tags really help! Paul and Bonnie did have things priced. Yes, they were willing to deal, but it made it much easier for the helpers to know where things were going.


It's a Sign!

If you expect people to come to your sale, promotion helps. Whether its a note on Craig's list, a facebook post or an ad, it all helps. Better still are really good signs. People need to know where they are going -- and it doesn't mean just putting a sign on your street corner and in front of the house. It means on the main intersections that lead to your space. I am convinced that the signs bring them in, no matter what. And if you decide to extend an extra day and all your other promotion doesn't have that, updating signs can still bring 'em in.

Sunday, Sunday.

How many yard, estate or moving sales do you see on a Sunday? I don't see many. The sale I was working at was originally on Friday and Saturday. But there was still a lot left. So Saturday night it went into the garage and came out Sunday morning -- with no other promotion except modified signs. It was busy from opening at 11 till closing at 3. Even as we packed up after, people were still there. If I ever do one of these, Sunday will be in the plan.

 Organization Helps

You may not have lot of tables -- I know I wouldn't! But using tarps or vinyl tablecloths on the ground will help keep your items relatively nice. Labeled bins, organizing by topic (kitchen items here, books there, children's things here, holiday there, etc.) will help your shoppers find more of what they are looking for. You are essentially opening a store for two or three days. Use your space! Things on the lawn and in the driveway make it look like you have a lot -- and might be more worth stopping at than the place down the street!


Work the Floor

How many times have you been to a sale and the people who are there sit in the garage and unless you come up to them, they make no move to be friendly, say hello or even try to chat. Paul said something I will never forget -- "Every person who gets something gets a story with it." We all have stories for our stuff. Share some of those. I don't know if it was Paul, the item or the story -- but those people were buying. And the more they buy, the less to haul away!


Let's Make a Deal!

People hope to get good deals. And while you may treasure that lovely set of dishes you bought at Target five years ago and hardly used, the buyers don't really care. They want a good price. Be willing to mark appropriately -- or go down. But...


Know the REAL Value of Your Stuff

If you have a fine antique, something of greater value than a yard sale, for example -- then don't put it in the driveway or if you do, be willing to be firm on the price (or price for dealing) and willing to bring it back inside. onsider selling online, finding a specialty auction, donating to a museum. If you have to let it go, let it go with grace. Someone will love it.


Ask for Help!

When Paul and Bonnie asked their friends to help they offered us whatever we wanted from the sale and there was a never-ending supply of beverages and lunch, too. We had fun, at least I did. And yes, I came home with some lovelies, too! I'm sure I would have helped no matter what -- but it was nice to come home with some special things that remind me of them long after they're dipping their toes in Florida's oceans! (This is one of my favorite treasures. It will go on our Christmas tree as a reminder of our friends!)

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

If you ask me, the toughest thing about doing a sale is the emotional attachment of letting go. (This explains a lot about my basement.) It's not the things you bought yourself, necessarily. It's the stuff you grew up with, the gifts from family or dear friends (especially the dearly departed friends) and your favorite collections. As we were packing things for Goodwill after the sale, Bonnie pulled out several of the stuffed toys. They were special to her, things her boys loved as children.Yes, they would have gone in the sale and she was fine with them going to someone who would love them. But beyond that, she couldn't let them go. At least, not that day. It wasn't the time. I wouldn't have been able to do that, either. Be gentle with yourself. Gentle but firm -- you can't keep it all!

Remember the Children (and others who may need your stuff more than you do)

There's nothing a child likes better than to find something special that doesn't cost much. Now is the time for your biggest, best dealing! "That's a dime." WOW!

And as the hours draw to a close, wouldn't you rather have a child take home that toy -- or a family clearly in need -- than load it up to take somewhere else? Remember -- keep your eyes on the prize (which is a clean basement, attic or house -- and not the extra five dollars you might have made.)


Everything Must Go!

When all is said and done, you have a couple of options. Bring everything back in -- or have a plan to never have it darken your door again! If you are lucky, people have picked through your free pile and for the truly junky, you'll be able to dump the rest in the trash.

The end of the sale is when you look for the few things you must keep, generally of sentimental value. Also, look at the items of some value that didn't sell -- those might be marketable elsewhere. Those are keepers -- at least for awhile. Also look for things that might be appreciated by friends. No, you're not going to pawn all your junk off on your friends. But perhaps you remember them noticing something or you have something you want to share. Remember -- it's out of the house!

Have plenty of boxes and bags on hand and pack them up.And, if you are very lucky, you will have plenty of friends who will help, too.

For tax purposes, anything going to Goodwill, Salvation Army or another charity needs to be logged, in case of audit. A check sheet indicating sweater, sheets, dresses, shirts, etc., is easy to do and you'll be glad later, too! (You might be more likely to undervalue your donation otherwise. The IRS has very good guidelines for this.)

Consider your local library for books, shelters for women's clothes and possibly toys, and other charities beyond the "usual." And remember, some will pick up your items at no charge. It's worth a call.


In Closing

I have slowly been plugging away in my basement, filling bags with mostly clothes and other items that are easy to part with. But no one but me can tell that anything has done.

It's time to get ruthless. And pretty soon it'll get tough, as I make choices.

From this experience, I've learned that I may or may not have a sale -- they are a ton of work if you have a ton of stuff. I do have a lot -- but I also saw what sold and made up for the quarter and dollar sales -- furniture and equipment. I don't have that stuff. I'm thinking maybe the donation will help more.

Either way, everyone I know who has pared down has said it's a wonderful and liberating feeling. And really, couldn't we all do with that?


Jane Rosemont said...

I think it's imperative to have price tags. In fact, if I go to a sale and there are no price tags it means 1) they threw the sale together willy nilly and 2) they will size each person up to see if they charge more or less. Here in Santa Fe, I do not wear my mother-in-law's diamond because I will be charged more. I don't like to see people make up a price on the spot, and I'm not crazy of haggling. Which isn't to say that I don't haggle anyway, but at least I know what ballpark we are talking about, when there is a price tag.

anno said...

Great guidelines for a tough project! Myself? Like you, I think I'd tend to look at donating what I could and pitching the rest.

Joanne Huffman said...

All good advice; but I hate holding sales. I'd rather donate.

Beth said...

Whew,,that was a great post! I have had many, many sales in my life. Yard sales, garage sales, and moving sales. The hardest one I had was this past summer when I had to get rid of a lot of Mother's things when she moved into assisted living. She had many years of stuff! All of the valuable dishes and vases and things I kept. I also kept a lot of things that I just couldn't part with as they were mementos that I had grown up with. I also have not sold all of her art supplies. Mainly her rubber stamps. I have a lot of the same ones so I need to sell them but so far haven't had the time to do that. But YES,,sales are very hard work! Everyone wants something for nothing. Luckily my husband is great at selling items. And on the last day of the sale we had buy one get one free. Last hour it was buy a item get a box full free. Personally I do not shop at sales that I have to stoop down and look at things on the ground. It's too hard for my back and ankle. So I try hard on my sales to borrow as many tables, benches and chairs to have the items up off the ground. Except the big items. But all and all,,your right,,if you don't have big items like appliances , electronics and furniture, you will not make that much. I dread the day when I have to down size but I am already purging now so maybe it won't be that bad.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Great post! That was nice of you to help your friends out but it sounds like you enjoyed yourself as well, so it was a win win! :) I can see how a person can get attached to things they own. I have started to go through some of my bins in preparation for my move and there are some things I have an attachment to that I just can't part with and then some that I got rid of with ease. But I have always lived in such small spaces, I haven't accumulated much but I could see that changing if I had a bigger place with more storage!

We had a big auction sale after my grandfather's passing but they mostly sold collector-type tractors and things like that. It was an all day affair and I went home for it, even though it was on a week day. It was a sad day, but it was great for the family to all be together for it and it was something that needed to be done as my grandpa had SO MANY tractors and engines and such.

Annie Jeffries said...

Hi jeanne. I just find the idea of having a yard sale overwhelming. I just pack it up and give it to a favorite thrift shop.

Tracy said...

VERY great post on sales, Jeanie--you highlighted a lot of good things to consider. My sister has had yard sales that have been pretty successful, and I've been with her a few of those time--it's fun with the sales! There's not a lot of yard sales here, it just not something that's done very much of. To get rid of items one no longer wants there are lots of oulets to donate to, which is good. And of course, there's always places to try and sell things online--which is a lot of work. As you know, we've been downsizing a lot lately. Most of "extras" have been donated to school flea markets that help raise funs for anything computers, school equipment, band uniforms, etc.--so good things. It is great having less clutter around the house. I think we could be even more ruthless... but still trying to keep hubby on board, so gently at a time... ;o) Less is more, I definitely feel so. Less stuff means more time & energy for the things that really matter in life--not dealing with stuff. Wishing you happy as you go for the Less is More too! ((HUGS))

Marilyn Miller said...

Very good thoughts. Our neighborhood has a huge sale every summer and they advertise and the people come. I have done it several years and it does feel good to get rid of a pile of stuff. Right after the sale I decide whether to keep, go back in next years sale, or take to Goodwill. Then I start a new pile. It is my way of downsizing before I really must get serious about it. I already have a pile and the sale is the end of July. My church also has a sale coming up and I can also donate to the church for their sale. It is alot of work no matter what, but oh how wonderful to lighten the load.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Jeanie! HELLO! This is timely for me because at the end of the month, I am having a sale...what is really useful for me here is HOW TO NAME my is really important to think of how to promote the event so people can at least come to see if they are interested. I like the idea of not putting prices on some things, so we can bargain. I am doing it basically to clean up and get rid of things we have two of!

Happy Tuesday, Jeanie! Anita

Anonymous said...

Furniture and equipment are the ones that sell well? In a yard sale? I think I'll let my heirs decide whether or not to sell my stuff on Craigslist. Lol.

shoreacres said...

There is no way on God's green earth I ever would hold a sale again. I went through that with Mom while she still was with us, and moving from Iowa to Texas.

The way I look at it, my time and my labor are worth a whole lot more than what I'd get from any yard sale, garage sale, etc. After Mom's death, I took many of her good pieces, some vintage jewelry & etc, and some fine furniture to a vintage consignment shop. I ended up getting a couple thousand in the end -- far more than I could have sold the stuff for myself.

As for the rest? I either donated it to a local combined ministries resale shop or dragged it into the hallway and put that wonderful sign on it: FREE. You'd be surprised how fast stuff disappears!

Naturegirl said...

Great post! I have always laboured over making everything look neat and tidy...tables lined up stuff organized and tagged...I guess I am NOT a bin type shopper time I have a yard sale I will have just that scatter neatly of course organized items all over my front yard! So much easier! Looks more inviting too!

Mae Travels said...

I can't say how much I admire you for helping your friends do such a difficult thing, and for learning from it. I find selling stuff so stressful that I only donate now.

PeterParis said...

Good to have a large lawn at your disposal! I missed that when moving from a larger Paris flat to a smaller one! :-)

Arti said...

Lately I've thrown away so many boxes of old stuff, I don't bother getting any money from them. And there are lots more to go, not just my house, but all my parents' stuff in the old family home. I have nightmares thinking about it. Your post Jeanie brings order, peace and calmness. :)

paris parfait said...

It is hard letting go, but it feels like a huge weight off my shoulders when I do! I recently took a carload of things to a local charity. And next week we are taking a quick trip to England and taking lots of things for family members w/ new houses! :)

Bella Rum said...

It's been years since I had a yard sale. It's a great way to pare down, and it's fun to make some money in the process. I don't have the ambition to do it now. :) But I had my day.

Sally Wessely said...

What a lot of work. Downsizing is not an easy thing, and I think it is easier for some than others. Your friends really did a great job of taking that step of ridding themselves of things they know they don't wish to keep.

I had friends help me with this task of getting rid of the "stuff" I had in my basement. They were so helpful in helping get rid of things.

Unknown said...

Wow! That is quite a lot. I hope your neighbors were able to get a good chunk o' change out of all that stuff, though it would be better if they were able to take as much with them as they can because in my opinion, our possessions are like imprints of memories.

Clay Delgado @ World Packaging Inc.

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