Sunday, September 8, 2013

Losin' It

As my quest for everlasting organization continued, a small pile of "stuff" started to accumulate in our household. These were things not quite large enough for the effort of Craigslist, but too worthy to just give up and donate to Salvation Army. As I contemplated what to do (yard sales without a yard are a little tough to manage here in the city), my mom happened to complain about a similar issue. She had tons of items for a yard sale, but living back in the Northwoods meant that there wasn't a lot of drive by traffic.

We decided to ask my Aunt Christine (Mom's sister) about hosting us in her Madison neighborhood for a Labor Day weekend sale. Soon enough, we were splitting up responsibilities and I was completing a major purge of every nook and cranny of our house. 

Originally, my plan was to drive up to my parents' house first so we could help transport some of her goods that wouldn't fit in their smallish car. However, after getting all of my own stuff loaded we quickly found there would be no room at all left in the Escape for anything extra!
I prefaced the sale by posting to Craigslist and a couple Garage Sale sites. My mother took care of picking up a few stakes and bright yellow signs announcing Yard Sale that Bob would help punch up and put out at various corners of the neighborhood.

We drove up Friday evening and started unloading the cars by 7am on Saturday, trying to keep things in general categories like kitchen, household, holiday and games. My aunt had borrowed two long white tables from a friend, and Bob and I had taken apart one of our plastic shelving systems from our storage area to use as two separate table options. 
Another shelf we had brought up displayed books and games for about 10 minutes before someone made an offer on it, so the books went back into shallow boxes on the ground!

At my sister's house the weekend before, Bob and I were envious of their glass drink dispenser filled with water and sliced oranges. What a perfect way to keep drinking water all day. I've been at work functions with fruit water of all varieties, I think my favorite was Starfruit water. Seriously, give it a try! We decided to buy one on our own, but in time to have for the yard sale to put out for thirsty customers. If it was really going to be 90 degrees out, we needed folks to stay hydrated if we wanted them to spend more time at the sale! We ended up buying a double dispenser from Bed, Bath and Beyond. With a $25 gift card from our wedding and a 20% off coupon, we spent about $2 on it! We filled one side with sliced lemon and the other with cucumber from my parents' garden. A stack of cups alongside and a box underneath the table for garbage and we were Live.
There was a steady flow of customers on Saturday, but Sunday was much slower. All of the die-hard American Pickers made sure to get there early in the weekend to find the best stuff, I suppose. In the end, we made about $240. Not bad considering most items were capping out at 50 cents or a dollar!  We definitely priced stuff to move. We had tracked each purchase by putting the price sticker in a notebook, or writing down the purchase item, price and initials of owner if no price tag existed. We all used different stickers, so it was pretty clear whose was whose. 

Why yes, those are 150 yarn balls from wedding centerpieces I attempted to sell! I got rid of a few, but still have a large pile at home that I need to figure out something for....
My mother and Christine thought of a good way to add a clothesline for purses and hanging items. A line of jute was strung up from the porch and clothespins kept hangers in place. We didn't go overboard in trying to sell clothes, I had read that clothing doesn't sell all that well at sales like this. I didn't bring any myself, but a Packer raincoat for sale certainly made one guy very happy. He came back later that day with his family, proudly wearing the coat in 85 degree heat.
Throughout the weekend, our Yard Sale mascot was Emmy Lou - my Aunt's tortoiseshell cat. Emmy is pretty much the friendliest cat in the world, and is never shy around people. She made sure to greet each customer and demanded attention. The whole neighborhood seemed to have an Emmy Lou story. 
After driving up to Madison in a hail storm the night before, we were certainly concerned about the weather. We had a few tarps at the ready, but luckily for us the rain held off until Sunday at 4pm. Otherwise known as: 15 minutes after we closed up shop and put everything away!

Tips and Lessons Learned:
- Have a zippered money bag that doesn't leave your sight. We'd put it in the house if we didn't have anyone lining up just yet. Or, if you are very fashionable, opt for a fanny pack.
- Make sure there are enough tables so customers don't have to bend over and dig through too many boxes. Get creative - we used the totes and boxes that we carried our stuff in, shelves we were planning on selling and plastic five-tier shelving broken out into two.
- If your sale is with multiple people, plan an accounting system that works for you and tracks whose stuff is selling.
- Keep an eye on the weather, have tarps ready to protect the goods should a sudden shower hit. This is where Garage Sales have advantages over Yard Sales!
- My parents own a bar, and we found it was the old beer signs, mirrors and collectibles that sold the fastest. We heard more than one mention of, "Man Cave" over the weekend. Books and kitchen utensils seemed to be our most popular items. I'm sure if we would have gotten baby stuff from my sister to sell it would have been a hit, but we were lacking in the toy department at this particular sale.
- Prepare for early birds. We made about $40 in sales before we even had half of our stuff set out! 

Our yard sale weekend coincided with Taste of Madison - so we headed up to the Capitol Square on Saturday evening to take in some sights and food. Vendors from all over the city had set up shop and were selling their unique items. For instance, what else would you expect from a place called Fried & Fabulous?
My aunt enjoyed a gyro, my mom an italian beef, Bob dipped into tacos. I ended up with a bacon cheeseburger slider with peanut butter. Yes, peanut butter. Yum.
Bob and I walked away from the weekend with a nice little profit of about $85. And then we stopped at the Outlet Mall on the way home. The end.

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