When we decided to take on the tiny living lifestyle, we knew we had to get rid of a lot of stuff.  We’d managed to fill up our two story, three bedroom home with a large basement, collecting all kinds of things, from hundreds of books to drawers full of clothing to an eclectic mix of meaningful and personal decorations and knick knacks. Deciding to downsize wasn’t easy, but our current lifestyle as renters wasn’t working for us anymore. And with big dreams, adventurous spirits, and lots of school debt from school and credit cards, we knew we wouldn’t be able to buckle down and get a traditional home that would suit our needs.

So once we’d fully committed to downsizing, we (well, I) decided to have a yard sale early on in the process to get a realistic, hands-on idea of how much stuff we really had. I also thought it would help us get an idea of how easy or hard it would be to sell certain items in the market we had access to.

I spent 2-3 hours putting my clothes on racks, 15 minutes putting a post on Craigslist, a half hour flyering, then about 45 minutes setting up the whole thing. 4-5 hours of work, and I successfully made $22.81. But I did get a better idea of what a task downsizing would really be, and I also learned a few things about having a yard sale.

  1. People come early or toward the end. If your yard sale post or sign says that you’re starting at 8 a.m., some people will swing by at 7:45 to see if anything is outside and ready. I started my yard sale at 8, and I started setting up around 7:40. By 8 o’clock, I had had three visitors and made one sale. I asked them where they saw it, and one had seen my sign posted nearby, while the other two had seen it on craigslist. That, to me, meant they had read my post and decided to come early to see if they could get the good stuff before other got there.
  2. People want big and expensive stuff. This may seem obvious, but I was surprised at how many people were vocal about their disappointment with my small selection. They weren’t shy about saying they were expecting more, and many asked if there was more inside. To give you a better idea about what I had, I didn’t have any furniture to sell, and I had a lot of clothing and jewelry. I also had books and DVDs, and a lot of the other stuff were small household items including coffee mugs, curtains, and other decor, but no appliances.
  3. You have one chance to state the right starting price. The best example of this lesson I can think of is from one visitor who was looking at a pretty scarf I had. She asked me for a price, and I told her I was asking $5. She looked at me like I had told her her kids were ugly. After a beat, I told her I’d take $3 and she shook her head and slowly place the scarf back on the rack, mouth still open. I ended up selling the scarf on Swap.com.
  4. Items sell at much steeper discounts than they are “worth.” For example, I had a necklace and earrings set that was clearly costume jewelry, but still pretty. On eBay, similar items sold for $13-20. A man and his wife seemed to like it, and she tried it on and they admired how it looked. “How much?” he asked, and I (having already learned #3 above) said, “$8 for the set.” He said, “No, I was thinking more like $3,” so I meekly said, “4?” and he said, “No, 3.” So $3 it was.
  5. People look for valuable materials as much as they look for cute stuff. When I was setting up my first yard sale, I was nervous about a lot of my things being judged and finding out the truth about my personal style (or lack thereof). I had a lot of clothing to sell, and I had high hopes that people would come say they enjoyed my clothing and buy all kinds of stuff. But that wasn’t the case at all. Most people gave my clothing rack a once-over, decided they’d seen enough, and turned to my table of jewelry. Many people gave that a once-over too, asked me if I had more inside, then left. I think I figured out what they were thinking when a man bought some of my jewelry. I had a sterling silver necklace charm. (On eBay, similar items were selling for $10-20.) He showed interest, asked if it was sterling, picked out a few other pieces and asked if they were sterling, then asked me where all the “good stuff” was. When I opened and closed my mouth like a fish, he said, “You sold it all already I guess.” I just nodded. I asked him for $6 for the four pieces he believed were sterling, and he quickly negotiated it down to $2.50. I *kind of* wish I had hung onto it to sell online later, but when downsizing, getting any money for some of your things can feel like a victory.
  6. Most of your items probably will not sell. I’m not saying this to discourage you from having a yard sale! But it is a reality, especially if you are a novice like me. So many factors go into having a yard sale–weather, mood, your pricing, your offerings, your location, and probably a thousand other things I am not thinking of. That said, I estimate that I had over 200 individual items for sale. I sold 11 things. If you’re curious, here are the things I sold and the amounts I sold them for:
  • Rhinestone-studded silver necklace: $3.61
  • Three rings & sterling pendant: $2.50
  • Necklace and earrings set: $3
  • Sheer tank top: $3.50
  • Men’s pullover: $6
  • 2 Game Cube games: $2 each

Having a yard sale was a fair amount of work, but it was a fun learning experience for me! Have you ever had one? Talk to us about it! We’d love to hear more insights and ideas.

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