Friday, September 16, 2011

Crazy or Brilliant: I'm Having a Yard Sale

by Susanne Dietze

Ye olde Yard Sale (alas, not mine)
I’ll be honest: I do not enjoy hosting yard sales. They’re a lot of work and people show up at my house at six in the morning. Yet here I go again, preparing to have a yard sale within the next few weeks, something my family does every so often.

One of my friends thinks I’m nuts. “Donate your stuff to charity,” she tells me. “Saves a lot of hassle.”

Indeed. I’m all for donating to charity. Between Goodwill and our church’s annual rummage sale, we donate (and purchase donated) items every year, and we share outgrown kids' clothes with smaller friends. But we have a few specific reasons why we’re choosing to host a yard sale this autumn, too:

We’re getting to know our neighbors. We don’t know all of them as well as we’d like, and we thought going door-to-door, inviting neighbors to participate in a block-wide sale, might help in this regard. Perhaps new relationships will grow from these encounters (which, for Christians, is always hoped for. We want to bless those around us and lead them to Jesus, if they don’t know Him already). On a financial note, more customers come when more houses join in on the sale, so it benefits everyone who participates. Besides, we’re paying for the ad in the newspaper. They just have to set out their stuff.

We’re selling for a purpose. No, our purpose is not noble. We aren’t saving for a mission trip or to bring clean water to a village. It’s so we can go to a theme park. My children have been saving change in a shoe box for over a year to help fund the expensive trip. We decided as a family that our yard sale earnings would go into our theme park fund, as well.

We’re learning to simplify. We have too much stuff. Clothes we’ve outgrown, wedding presents which baffled us, and oodles of scrapbooking stickers I’ve never used which, if I’m honest, I probably never will. I tend to hold onto things out of guilt, but recently I realized some of my unused items could perhaps bless somebody else. Besides, I don’t want to end up on that show, “Hoarders.” (My episode would be “Buried Alive by Scrapbook Stickers.”)

Should you find you have a goal or want a good way to get to know your neighbors, a yard sale might be an idea for you. Here are a few tips to help you set up.

Choose how—and what—to price. We only put price stickers on a few things, although we put a mental price on everything.  A friend once told me there are two kinds of garage sales, ones where you want to make money, and others where you want to actually sell things. We’ve chosen her “sell things” approach, finding it encourages dialogue and product movement. And haggling, which some people thrive on. Not me. But it’s worked for us, and saves a lot of time on set-up.

Folding tables help. Sometimes people are willing to go through piles on the ground; others aren’t. We’ve also found it’s helpful to set up tables in the garage the night before our sale, and then move them into the driveway/yard when we “open for shop” on Saturday morning.

Have a Dollar Table. Yes, I just said we don’t price a lot of things. But a dollar table is an instant attention grabber and those things will move faster.

Dust your stuff. Items look nicer, but also better cared for, if they’re clean.

Group things together. Put all the kitchen items on one table, boys’ clothing on another, toys on another.

Go to the bank and get change in advance. Stock up on grocery bags, too, for your shoppers’ convenience.

Lastly, smile. Strike up conversations. Like the rest of life, welcome Jesus into the moment—you never know how He wants to touch that person. Maybe they’re looking for a church. Or are new to town.

I’m off to sort my scrapbooking stuff. With any luck, somebody’s been searching for those disco-themed stickers I never knew just how to use.

Do you enjoy yard sales? Have you ever found any deals?

Susanne Dietze has written love stories set in the nineteenth century since she was in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she writes in the hope that her historical romances will encourage and entertain others to the glory of God. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne loves fancy-schmancy tea parties, travel, and spending time with family and friends. Her work has finaled in the 2010 Genesis Contest, the 2009 Gotcha! Contest, and the Touched By Love Contest, 2008 and 2009. You can visit her on her personal blog, Tea and a Good Book,

Photos courtesy of wikipedia.


  1. I'm not a huge yard sale fan. If I go yardsaling, I'm looking for something specific, whereas my family tends to accumulate junk. But it is a fun way for the kids to pick up some new toys, movies, books.

    And I do like holding them for the decluttering purpose, but since they're a lot of work, I usually just give stuff away.

  2. I love yardselling! Well, the going not the doing.

    Great idea to have a goal in mind for the funds made. :-)

    When we had our yard sale last month, I priced 90% of the stuff at 25c each. No joke. Winter coats were individually priced and then I also had a table of various priced items ranging from $1 -$5.

    My goal was GET RID OF IT ALL and try to make a little $ in the process.

    RIght now I'm craigslisting things. Last two weeks my stuff sold like crazy. Made $37 on $5 to $7 dollar things. This week . . . nada. So I figure I either have things priced too high or too low or I need to include pictures.

  3. I'm in the mood to get rid of stuff. Sounds great to me. I've been donating rather than selling since we moved to such an isolated area. I hope you are successful for all your work. They can be fun!

  4. G'morning, Inktropolis! I confess that writing this post, I kept hearing Woody's (Tom Hanks) horrified yell from Toy Story 2, "Yard Sale!"

    Dina, we've picked up some great deals on kids' things, too. When my kids were younger, we found some hardback Magic Tree House books for a dime each. I almost felt guilty buying those.

  5. Gina, I haven't tried craiglisting. Is it easy? Sounds like you've had great success.

    I've sold a few things on ebay before. I used to have an at-home business and I'd like to sell my kit; ebay may be the best audience for that. Hmm. Let me know about craigslist, though.

  6. Hey Deb! Donating is a fabulous way to go. It's quick, easy, and you can truly bless somebody. I love it when a charity (like Amvets) comes to your house to pick it all up!

  7. I have a love/hate relationship with yard sales. I love the deals and the bargains, but it's so PERSONAL to go to one and pick through people's stuff while they are sitting there! Ditto to HAVING yard sales... love the cash, can't stand having people in my driveway asking how much I want for this or that.

    Funny small town truth: It is not at all uncommon to see the same item at a different yard sale the following year. In fact, the early bird/aka old people who show up at 6 a.m. have been observed picking things up, and then having a conversation about the complete ownership history of the item. Scary.

  8. Hey Susie,

    I remember having a garage sale many years ago when my son was little. He was maybe four or five, and he put all his "baby" toys in the garage sale so he could buy some Legos. But whenever someone would want to buy something of his, he'd run after them and want it back. Needless to say, the people were all happy to take their money back and give him back his See 'N Say or Tonka truck. That was my one and only garage sale. It's a lot of work. Good luck with yours. I think it's pretty awesome to use it as a tool to get to know your neighbors.

  9. Niki, that recycling of yard sale stuff sounds like a white elephant! How funny.

    I don't expect to make much on our yard sale, but it can't hurt, right? But you're right; it is so weird having people haggle over your personal possessions.

  10. Suzie, what a sweet story about your son! To a degree, I want to act just the same and hold onto my stuff.

    I do hope we can get to know some neighbors better through the sale. Praying this works!

  11. Yes, Gina, on Craig's List, you need pics. I discovered that in the couple of things I tried to sell there. Pics are a must. I was giving away something that had been fairly expensive. I just wanted someone to haul it away. People wanted pics before they would take a freeby exercise bike.

    I haven't been to a yard sale in years. Always enjoyed going with my mom when I was a little girl. Got a bicycle at one for $10.00.

    Have never given one or participated in one. Moved so much I haven't accumulated a lot of excess stuff. Before we moved to Texas, I did donate 200 books to a used bookstore that provides scholarships, though.

  12. Hi Laurie Alice! I commend you for not accumulating a lot of stuff. We've moved a few times, and each time I've been astonished at how much we've amassed in the past few years.

    The recipients of your 200 books were blessed, indeed! I'd have loved to visit that bookstore after your donation.

    Thanks for coming by.

  13. Hey Susie, good job on the yard sale. I used to have them when we lived in town and the city, but no one will come out to our farm for one. A couple years ago I hauled all my stuff to my sil's place in the city and worked out of her garage but her husband didn't like it. Our best chance now is to grab a table when the community puts on a sale in the arena.

    You have a good list to follow. About the only thing I can add is to add some of your items on your posters and ad. I found that books, baby clothes, jeans and Tupperware usually brought customers in. We couldn't sell a dishwasher in the city, but an outboard motor was snapped up in the small town.

    And Niki - you're right about recycling items in a small town. That's too funny even though I see it all the time. :)

    Great post, Susie.

    Anita Mae.

  14. Thanks, Anita Mae! Good idea to advertise product. I'll make a note to do that.

    I also forgot to add signage to the list, but that helps, too.

    Too funny about the outboard motor! Glad you sold it quickly!


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