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.
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.
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.
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?