On Sunday, we survived our first yard sale, so here are my top 10 yard sale tips, to make a success of clearing your clutter.
1. It pays to advertise
Rather than sticking stuff outside and relying on passers by, we paid a fiver to take part in the Hadleigh Yard Sale along with 40 other houses.
The organiser, Trev Clarke, put a map on his website with addresses for all the yard sales, so people could wander round Hadleigh tracking them down.
He also did a good job publicising the yard sale on local websites and Facebook groups. We ended up with customers not just from Hadleigh, but further afield from Colchester, Manningtree, Sudbury and Ipswich.
However, we were aware that our house was rather out on a limb, compared to the concentration of yard sales elsewhere. I tried to drum up some trade by putting posters outside a few days before. On the day itself, I got busy with pavement chalks, co-opted the children’s easel and we hung up a bunch of balloons.
I’m sure we got fewer people through the door than the yard sales in the centre of Hadleigh, but several people mentioned the signs encouraged them to stop by. We’d probably have had more customers at a big car boot sale, but setting up in our own garden was a lot less hassle.
2. Selecting stuff to sell
Part of the reason we took part in the yard sale was because I had piles of items I’ve been meaning to sell on eBay, without ever doing so. I therefore seized the chance to sell it just by putting it outside, rather than wrestling with listings, photos and postage.
Sadly, the stuff I most wanted to sell (piles of outgrown children’s clothes, three outgrown bikes) wasn’t what most people wanted to buy. The first flurry of customers were obviously professional resellers, looking for specific items – watches, jewellery, small antiques, garden furniture, even vintage video games. The items that went were mostly brand new unwanted presents, vintage items, electronics and craft stuff.
As a side note – when you’re digging out things to sell, try not to let your children rifle through the bags beforehand. Otherwise they could remove items you were hoping to get rid of!
3. Team up
Our garden is big enough that we could ask another family to set up stall with us. It meant the children could play together, and we could all chat between customers. Even if people weren’t interested in buying our belongings, they might find things on the other stall. It definitely helped make it a more enjoyable day!
4. Setting up your stall
Think how much shops spend on displays, to entice people to buy. OK, so you might not stretch as far as Selfridge’s Christmas windows, but it’s worth going beyond a few tatty cardboard boxes.
We borrowed a wallpaper pasting table from Paul the painter and a couple of clothes rails from a mum at school. As it was a yard sale, rather than a car boot sale, it was easy to drag some coffee tables and storage boxes outside, and bring our garden furniture round from the back garden.
I also used bright throws to cover the tables and a wipe-clean tablecloth to display toys on the ground.
Don’t forget if you’re around for several hours, you may be grateful for a few folding chairs!
5. Check your change
If you don’t have any change handy, you can bet your first customer will pay for a 20p item with a £20 note.
Instead, make sure you have a float of coins, plus a few fivers and tenners. If you can’t get to a bank, try asking a local business. The lady in Hadleigh’s fabulous traditional sweet shop, Sweet Memories, very kindly bagged up £20 in coins for me to collect.
The kids enjoyed sorting the money into a plastic box with compartments, but in practice I just used a mini shoulder bag with a zip
Make a note of how much you start with, so you can work out how much money you earned at the end. And always keep an eye on your float, so no-one walks off with it!
6. The price is right
Pricing at yard sales and car boot sales is always a tricky one. Our priority was getting stuff out of the house, rather than making the most money possible. We sold a lot of things for £1 or so, but I asked a bit more for the brand new items still in their original packaging.
Think the most expensive item we sold was a tenner for my daughter’s Hello Kitty bike. Sure, the bike originally cost quite a lot more, but seeing a four-year-old pedalling out on stabilisers, grinning from ear to ear, was a lovely moment.
7. Don’t spend too much of your takings!
If the priority is making money from decluttering, try to avoid buying loads of other people’s stuff!
I did end up buying a Christmas present for my sister, and my son set his heart on an enormous electronic transforming dinosaur. Otherwise we emerged pretty much unscathed.
8. Watch out for the weather
My heart sank when the heavens opened the day before the yard sale, but luckily the rain soon cleared up.
We were lucky it was sunny on Sunday, so more customers showed up. As a seller, be prepared whatever the weather – think sun cream and soft drinks for the heat, and raincoats and plastic sheeting to cover your stalls, should the heavens open.
During the day we were glad of our garden parasol. By the end of the afternoon we had to clear up in a mad rush, before a thunderstorm hit.
9. Make extra cash on refreshments
As a veteran of many a summer fete, I know that the biggest money spinners, apart from a decent raffle, are food and drink.
I decided to advertise tea and cake, as our yard sale was so far from most others, and I hoped it would lure people in. I made some flapjack the night before, and then a Victoria Sponge (recipe and tips here) and some marble cake that morning. For drinks I offered tea, instant coffee, squash and some Coca Cola left over from weekend visitors. As we were in our own garden, we could drop an extension lead out of the window for a kettle, and keep washing up mugs and IKEA plastic beakers as needed.
We put the blackboard (pictured near the top) out on the pavement, and definitely attracted some extra people keen for a drink on a hot day. It made a little extra cash, and encouraged people to spend longer looking at our stalls.
On the family food front, I was glad I stocked up on picnic stuff for lunch, and bunged some pork in the slow cooker for later. It meant we had something to eat at the end of a long day, when I couldn’t be faffed to cook.
10. Clearing up
No matter how low your prices, or how slick your selling skills, there is bound to be stuff left unsold.
My last tip for a successful yard sale is to bag up anything you don’t want back in the house, and get it straight round to a local charity shop.
After all these years of kidding myself I would sell stuff on eBay, I also accepted it was highly unlikely to happen. I therefore passed on some clothes to a family with a child the right age.
All in all, we cleared just over £50, after deducting the £5 to take part, and got rid of a certain amount of clutter. We also enjoyed a day outside in the sunshine, catching up with neighbours and chatting to newcomers. Highly recommended!
If you live locally, check here to find the next Hadleigh Yard Sale.
Now over to you – what are your top tips for successful yard sales and car boot sales?