advice please!

it has been 5 years, 7 months and 2 days since we have owned this house. that is 2041 days.

thats really not so many. but now think in terms of stuff-accumulation. still, you might look at that number and think,"how much crap could one tiny family (that values tidiness and abhors materialism and consumption) accumulate in that period that they didnt really want or need and yet still allowed to live there?"

the answer would be: TONS.

as much as i am learning to love living simply and buying less, it hasnt always been that way. i also have a big weird heart and am thrifty. the thrifty side has me saying, "i cant get rid of this! what if i NEED this portable ice cream maker ball one day? what if we have a power outage and i am having one of my dairy withdrawal rages? THEN WHAT!?!?!"

true story though, we registered for one of those balls like insane people and our friends bought us one because they are enablers. we used it once during the winter of 2007 while putting up christmas lights. that was the last time i saw it without thinking, "why the HELL is that still in my way!?!?" but Madame Frugal McWhatifs won out in the end and it was granted a stay of execution until its next appeal.

and then the big, weird heart part of me also projects the emotions that i am so terrible at expressing onto possessions. the Toy Story franchise has not helped me overcome this. when my family had a yardsale when i was 7, i snuck out of the house the night before and into the garage and "rescued" so many of the toys i hadnt touched in years because i couldnt bear to think about how lonely and rejected they might feel by getting cast out of my life.

sure that's cute (and somewhat telling as to why i am the way i am now) when it's a 7 year old and an old stuffed turtle that her grandpa won for her at her school's bingo fundraiser that she trying to retreive. but it's not nearly as charming when it's a 29 year old holding on like grim death to a pack of biore pore strips she last used in 2005 (though clearly not for lack of opportunity).

we are all about personal growth here at dukes farm, so we are trying to lure me slowly away from the bad place where every salad bowl, necklace and old sports bra that i contemplate throwing out/selling/giving away starts to look just like bravely resigned woody and buzz at the edge of the landfill inferno during the climactic scene of Toy Story 3 (which i still cry during, despite having seen/heard it 459 times this year) and i inevitably put it down and promise to play with it more next week. we are moving away from that bad place and towards the happy land where objects are emotionless and i am not insane.

so i spent a sweaty 2 hours in the last night in the attic, that first and final frontier of forgotten things.

this is what the garage looked like afterward:

we're just a TLC production crew away from my shot at reality stardom

my kids have already shown signs that the recessive insane-nostalgic-attachment gene is expressing itself in their DNA makeup by going bananas as they wandered through here today; visiting the graveyard of their babyhoods and begging to grant certain items clemency and let them back in the house. i say NO MORE!

so then i arranged for the godmothers to watch the kids on saturday (a trip to the zoo!) and invested in a pack of neon posterboard.

that's right, people:

it's on.

here's where i need you.

this is our first ever yard sale. never put one on, have only been to maybe 9 in my life. i need tips.

have you put on yard sales? which have been successful and why do you think they were?
as a garage sale buyer, what do you look for when deciding whether to stop or not?
haggling? accepting checks? bathroom usage? when do i post the signs?

i need everything youve got.

so far i have $150 in small bills and quarters, a dozen bright and simple signs (after i took the above picture i added blue dots in the middle of all of the arrows so that there would be continuity between the signs...since they are yellow and pink), a craigslist listing (and a few other online garage sale postings) and a stern warning to jesse that I am captain and supreme mugwump of this rodeo and i MUST be obeyed blindly in all things yard sale.

what am i missing?

i am counting on yall.


  1. To ensure that you reduce the stuff, plan to either deliver any leftovers to a charity or to have them pick it up - No Matter What.

  2. We hold firmly to the yard sale mantra: If you touch it, you take it with you. It is NOT about the profit. It is about getting rid of things.

    Our yard sales also end with a 'FREE' sign at the end of the driveway. It's better to have someone else take it than you hauling it to Goodwill.

  3. You are so funny! Yes, we've had several very successful garage sales. Just know that people want something for nothing. So all the stupid, cheap crap will be bought first. Old ratty t-shoty with mud stains you threw in a box of one dollar items? It will be the first thing to go. They aren't looking for nice things. They are looking to turn your trash into a treasure...or to buy a bunch of outside work t-shirts.

  4. I vote no on checks and on bathroom usage. You not the corner Chevron with security cameras and corporate insurance coverage. Furniture and Baby or Kids stuff seems to always draw a crowd so if you have it let them know. Also keep the not for sale items out of sight. Good luck. ~ WG

  5. We usually do a few 8x11 signs with prices for clothes that don't really need haggling over (t-shirts, jeans, etc) and put prices on all the big ticket items.

    Put your big items (furniture, baby toys, etc) out for maximum frontage, you want to be able to catch people driving by and entice them into your yard. And if all they see is tables stacked with little stuff and clothes, they aren't going to stop.

    If you have access to tables, split your stuff by like items (all kitchen stuff, random junk table, kids items, etc). If you can get it all out where its easy to see, people are more likely to buy - they don't want to have to dig through half unpacked boxes)

    If its really about getting rid and cleaning out, be prepared to let things go for less than you value them. If its really only a difference between you and the buyer of a few cents or dollars, let. it. go. (I have to tell myself this ALOT)

    Price as much stuff individually as you can. Mailing labels cut into thirds make a TON of price tags. This keeps you from guessing prices or having to answer price questions a million times.

    We always tell people when they walk up, if they find something they like but don't like the price, let us know and we'll strike a deal!

    I would also suggest having a plug/extension cord so that things that run can be tested (lamps, clocks, etc)

    (can you tell that we do this a good bit? We've done the living on less challenge for several years and we STILL have stuff that goes into yard sale... there is also a 65-mile yardsale in our area annually, so we go in with our families on that too!)

    Also, plan your sale for the first Saturday of the month!! That's usually when people have the most cash on hand!

  6. Keight- we're twinsies! This weekend is our neighborhood yardsale and we are totally giving that whole "cleaning out the garage" thing another whirl.

    My best advice - don't let anything come back in the house. If it's out there, it's because you don't need it inside. Do NOT bring anything back in.

    And with that in mind - remember that anything you don't sell goes to Goodwill anyway, so don't get to hung up on haggling. My rule: if someone touches it, it's theirs. You are putting on this sale to clear things out - that's your biggest take-away, not cash. Plus, it's fun to see people excited about something you've lost interest in. It's fun to bless people with a big pile of free stuff! We usually just put a big free sign after the first few hours, head inside for lunch and let people take what makes them glad.

    That was my book. Your signs look great - I would totally turn in!

    Congrats on the mighty purge!

  7. We go to a lot of garage sales, and we have a lot of garage sales. Here are few tips off the top of my head:
    - most important thing is to be organized. A lot of people are looking for certain things. If they can't easily see that you have it, they will leave
    -nobody likes to dig through other peoples stuff, mostly people just walk around and look with out touching anything, so have everything laid out and easy to see
    -if you have electronics, prove that they work, or most people wont buy them
    -i like when people price things, or have signs with prices, i don't want to have to ask the price of everything
    -i hate "name your price" it's too intimidating
    -people at garage sales are seriously looking for good deals, don't price stuff too high, or you will be left with a lot of the same stuff at the end of the day.
    Hope this helps, good luck! (you should give the sale info to your blog readers, if I lived close I would for sure stop by)

  8. From my experience:
    Be sure to post the signs several days early (as long as no rain) and put on them "NO EARLY BIRDS" unless you want the creeps of all creeps showing up at 4am to get the "good shit". I am so not kidding. Second, DO NOT accept any bills over $20. Some dick paid for a $2 item at mine and shocker, it was fake :( boo. I wouldn't accept checks but that is just me! Good luck and man we need to have one so bad! This may be the inspiration that I need!

  9. Haven't put one on myself, but as an avid sale attendee:

    I would think put signs out the day before. I know some towns have rules and guidelines about this (can only be a certain number of hours before and have to come down in a certain amount of time afterwards - may want to check on that). But I like to see them on my way to/from work the day before they start, so I know which route to take/how quickly I have to leave work to get there before they close the next day.

    As far as if I will stop...I don't have kids, so if a sale looks like it's all kid stuff, I usually don't stop. So, while that stuff is big attractions, if you do have other stuff (kitchen stuff, dishes, house items), I'd make sure it's also visible from the road, not hidden in the back of the garage, behind all the kid stuff. Try to attract as many different kinds of buyers as you can, ya know?

    Don't underestimate looks and organization - I'll look through clothes if they're hung or folded in only one layer and organized by size, but I get impatient if they're mounded on a table or there is no organzation to it. Sometimes this is a turn-off from the road too.

    If your kids (especially Judah) are going to be around, maybe bake a batch of cookies or something and have him sell them for a quarter. Or even if the kids don't have the patience for it, I've been known to want a snack while I'm making my rounds, or a cold drink on a hot day. Don't put too much work into it, but it is something that may bring people in, especially with a cute kid sitting there.

    The other thing that bugs me is when people either aren't realistic about how much to sell things for, or won't sell if you offer a bit under. Aren't you trying to get rid of this stuff? I know $5 on a shirt that you probably paid $40 for is a good deal, but my budget for the day is $10. Not going to spend half of it on a shirt. Etc.

    Anyways....if I think of anything else, I'll come back. Good luck!

  10. good luck! i'm sure it will be great. try to group things by price as best you can. a box or a table full of $1 or $2 items is usually popular. also, one time i got a fake $5 bill at a yard sale. beware counterfeits.

  11. Girl, I love a good yard sale! For real. As I prepare to downsize from my $1257 studio loft (hello, California rent prices) to renting a room in some married friends' home for $200 (hello, people who don't need a roommate/money and are massively blessing me!), I am also preparing a yard sale. Here are my expertish tips:

    1. I know you already said this, but have change, and be prepared if need be to have someone run to the store or bank if possible to break the large bills you gather. People are absurd and pay with twenties and even fifties at yard sales.

    2. If people want to buy a lot of stuff, it's cool if you give them a deal on prices, but be careful because a lot of people will be like, "Oh, I'm spending $25 on your stuff. Why don't you throw in that thing you want $10 for free?" Um, no. At the end of the day you might just be ready to get rid of the crap, and that's fine, but early on... be firm. People at yard sales are dirty manipulators.

    3. People WILL show up early. Your signs say 7? Oh, hello crowd of people showing up at 6:30 or even 6 as you're setting up. These are people looking for real deals, hoping you'll be flustered by their intrusive inability to be somewhere on time and as such, give 'em a huge bargain just to get them to leave, and/or looking to buy something cheap from you and then upsell it at at their own yard sale. True story. I have had person experience with this. One thing I read online is, if you're not willing to really start selling things actively before the advertised start time, to tell people prices are doubled until the start time. That way if they really want it, you can make sure you get something for the trouble of having to tell it while you're setting up.

    3. No weird people using your bathrooms. Period.

    4. Don't be alone. It's really hard if you're the only person there and there's an onslaught of people.

    5. Try to organize things in a way that makes sense. Keep books together, women's clothes on one sheet/hanger, men's clothes (NEARBY!) on another, kiddo clothes (also NEARBY!) on yet another, bric-a-brack on a table... It's annoying to go to a sale where everything is ultra-disorganized.

    6. If you are selling anything with a powercord, please, for the love of God, have an extension cord handy so you can prove it works. I did a yardsale at my parents' house with several friends, and one girl sold a tv, and then went home (like two hours away home) afterward, and the man who bought her tv came back and was like, "Um, this doesn't work." He should have asked to try it before he bought it, but she should have made sure it worked. So be prepared for that.

    (TBC... apparently there is a character limit on comments!)

  12. Part 2:

    7. I think this is a nice touch, but have some music playing if possible. It's a nice little bonus.

    8. Plastic grocery bags for people buying a lot of stuff -- go the extra mile. :)

    9. Be sure there is ALWAYS someone at your cashbox. I don't live in a bad neighborhood, but we have a lot of people who come from neighboring cities for sales like these, and it makes me nervous because you can make a lot of money and who wants that stolen?

    10. Be reasonable and realistic with your prices! At the same group sale I mentioned above, one girl tried selling a jewelry box for $250. It was a super nice box, but at a yard sale? Know your audience. That's a Craigslist kind of deal.

    11. I know you already posted on Craigslist, which is good 'cause it's free, but if possible and if you think you'll recoup the costs (and if it's not too late) get a small add in the classified section of the paper. People really look there!

    12. If you have anything for sale in the garage itself, know that people will wander around and ask you things like, "Oh, is this hammer for sale? Are you selling the dogs' crates? How much for this bike?" So my advice is if possible, don't keep things in your garage if you don't want creepers touching your stuff.

  13. My family has had at least one yard sale a year for my whole life. And we are yard sale shoppers.

    We put up our signs the evening before..in as many directions that people could possibly drive by. If people don't see the signs, they won't come. A dozen signs sounds plenty.

    We live in a small town, so we post our yard sale in the newspaper. Your craigslist listing and other postings sound sufficient.

    Our yard sales are always successful. People like deals! There are people who do nothing but go to yard sales every Saturday morning, so it will be successful. One thing that I think contributes to how successful it is, is the prices that you ask. If you are asking higher prices, people might not be willing to pay. This is a yard sale, price accordingly. Don't price it by what you think it's worth. Price it to get rid of it.

    And anything that is not sold (unless it is a really nice item AND you plan to have another yard sale), we take to the local donation center immediately. You do not want to bring that stuff back in your house or garage. No, no, no.

    Be prepared to haggle. Yard salers always haggle you. Depending on the item and how bad you want to get it rid of it, be flexible. Also, combine deals..."I'll give you all 3 of those for $" or "If you agree to take all of that, I'll do it for $."

    I've never taken checks or heard of that. Too risky..it's just a dang yard sale. If someone really wants something and they don't have the cash on them, tell them that you will hold it until a certain time and they can go get the money. That's happened before on items that are a little more expensive. Someone didn't plan on buying a new dresser, so you hold it for them for an hour and they go get cash and a truck.

    The question of deciding whether or not to stop at a yard sale definitely comes up. Some houses look sketchy..like there's no possible way that you would ever want anything that came out of that house. I assume you'll be fine with this one. Sometimes if it doesn't look like there's much to look at, I may not stop. Just make sure to lay out all your stuff so that it looks worth someone's time to stop.

    Don't know if you've already done this, but I don't put prices on anything. I guess it doesn't matter either way. Seems like a waste of time. If I see someone looking at something, I just call out "I'll take $ for that."

    You've already got the change, which is very important. The first few people will undoubtedly pay for a .50 item with a $20.

    No one has ever asked to use the restroom. That seems weird.

    Don't take too much time hanging up clothes, etc. Most people don't mind to dig around. I lay out a tarp and dump a bunch of clothes on it. Anything on the tarp is $1.

    If you have any grocery bags, those will come in handy. If someone's bought a few items, they usually like a bag.

    Then just sit back in a chair, call out prices, and collect money. You will probably have to organize things a few times during the morning, as things are bought and kids pick up items and drop them later in random places.

    Good luck! Wish I could come peruse your stuff. You're making money and purging things out of your life...it's a good thing!

  14. Start earlier than 8am... the true junky-hecklers come out early! They are so serious. It'll all be done by 10 or 11am, I swear. Have grocery bags for shoppers. And just be ready to bargain with people. Getting rid is the goal. I never put price tags on stuff because EVERYONE barters with you. I do like having a $1 section. Good luck!!!

  15. I'm giggling at the thought of you & jesse sitting back in a chair calling out prices! I wanna come just to watch! Good luck my friend! (the signs always get me in and yours are straight to the point, nice and not too many details!)

  16. I've never done a garage sale before but the other day a friend of mine, who is an expert garage seller told me it is best not to put price tags on things that gives you the opportunity to go either way on the price or even bless someone with free stuff. Good luck!

  17. I am having my first this weekend too! Looks like yall have a lot more in your garage than we do though.....Good luck!

  18. We have had only 2 and here is what I learned:
    -the big things will go quick, those are what lure people in
    -put the word out with friends. I told our network of navy wives and we had a GIANT GAGGLE of people show up.
    -don't waste time labeling, but have some prices in mind.
    -what you don't sell, donate. We arranged for a pickup with the Vietnam vets the following morning so we left things boxed up on our porch for them

  19. Add photos to your Craig's list ad.

  20. say it is all going to charity -- then people will feel like jerks for trying to ask for the item for less -- that is lying but they are such cheap fools and two wrongs are still just two wrongs

  21. When we did garage sales we never took checks, you never know if they are fake, and try to steer clear of large bills unless you have a counterfeit bill handy then go nuts! Put the signs out at least the day before and plan to be open early, like 6am...thats when they crazy avid garage sale people are out looking for the good stuff. Try and mark everything with a price if you can that way YOU remember what you wanted to try and sell it for. Watch people closely because there are some pretty dishonest people out there that will just straight up steal...but if your goal is just to simply get rid of stuff then i guess you probably wont mind that last part.

  22. Oh girl, when I get to Georgia I would love to take you under my garage-saling wing. Mine and Nate's only income last summer was buying at garage sales and reselling on Ebay. Nate's actually hassling me right this minute to get out the door for the ridiculously early Thursday morning sales in our neighborhood. What a wonderful little subculture you're venturing into!
    Anyway...everyone else has mostly said the things that I was going to say. But here's a few thoughts.

    1. Allow me to highlight this quote from Erica: "Don't price it by what you think it's worth. Price it to get rid of it." Yes, yes, yes. There is a certain etiquette to these things, and unrealistic prices violate it. If I get to a sale and the first few items I look at are priced too high (i.e. $2 for a pair of baby pants), I'll just leave. I have thrift stores if I want to pay those kinds of prices. It creates bad karma and annoys people. On the flip side, if you have good prices, I'll be so excited about the deals that I'll probably end up buying and spending more than I would have if you'd priced things higher.

    2. I am ALL ABOUT the "everything on this table is $1" approach. So easy and simple for everyone. YES, have clear prices for items, but I am adamantly against individual price tags on things like clothes, toys, and other items which come in groups. It's much more buyer-friendly to just have a sign that says, "All shirts 50 cents, all pants $1," etc. Easier for you, easier for them. Save individual pricing for larger, one-of-a-kind items. This also encourages people to take more things and offer you a bulk price..which brings me to my next point.

    3. DO offer bulk discounts. Remember the guiding principle: you are trying to get RID of stuff. Someone taking a lot of stuff is actually helping you.

    4. Let people browse in peace. I'm sorry, but I strongly disagree with your friend who told you sit on a chair and call out prices. Maybe it's my introvert nature, but I find that approach intrusive and annoying when I'm shopping around. I want to be able to see for myself what things are priced at, and then decide whether it's worth buying and/or haggling. (Another reason to price things low at the outset.) If someone looks seriously interested in something, then maybe initiate conversation about it, but if they're clearly just surveying everything, just let them look.

    5. Organization = YES YES YES. You'll sell so much more this way. Keep things in their clear categories.

    5. Let me emphasize AGAIN: yard sales are to get.rid.of.junk!! Let this be your guiding principle, much more so than profits. People are doing you the favor of paying you to haul your junk away. Do not get hung up on a couple bucks. So not worth it in most situations, unless you're talking about truly big-ticket items (like, say, a jogging stroller) that you know you could easily sell on Craigslist later.

    Have a fabulous time! I wish we could come and hang out for the morning. Can't wait to hear stories about all the interesting characters who show up.

  23. well I've never had a garage sell and don't think i ever will as we DONT have a garage and Elliot makes us get rid of things we haven't used every 3 months. so annoying. ANYWAY, I'm am just chiming in to discourage all this chatter about starting before 7am. As the official watcher of the kiddos on Saturday pleasedontstartbefore8. that is all. cant wait to hear how it goes!

  24. My sisters and I had a garage sale when we graduated from college and were all moving. Needless to say, with three girls in one house, we had a lot of clothes to get rid of. We put them all on a table with plastic grocery bags nearby and offered everything they could shove into a bag for something like $3-5 (can't remember). We'd advertised sizes of clothes, so people knew what to expect. That system seemed to work pretty well in a small college town.

  25. In town for the bro home from afghanistan! Aaand, saw your signs!!! Lookin good! Hope it goes GREAT!