Saturday, June 9, 2012

Garage Sale Reflections

I've never been a big garage-saler.  For a while I did go to them because I was in the "acquisition" stage--kids' clothes, toys, books, games etc.  It was a good way to get some great deals on classic items and try out new ones without a huge investment.  I had some great hits, but also some definite misses.  Now I rarely go to them, because not only is it a nightmare dragging kids along, I'm not usually looking for anything in particular and would just end up buying things I didn't know I thought I needed prior to walking up the driveway.

This year, however, I held my own first ever garage sale June 8 & 9 during the Waverly city-wide sales.  It is something that has been on my life bucket list.  Whenever I do go to garage sales my business mind thinks it would be so much fun to have one despite all the warnings from family and friends about how much work it is.  It turns out I was right and they were right. :o)
Up until this point I didn't think I had enough stuff to make it worth it to do my own sale (I've occasionally stuck some stuff on other people's sales).  At the beginning of this year, though, I finally reached a point where I felt like I was able to start letting go of lots of things I had never been able to before.  I was inspired by the 52-Week Organized Home challenge and further encouraged by the discussions at Mom's Morning Out based on the book Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids.  Not to mention my minimalist, clutter-free husband. ;o)

I had already been systematically purging my own wardrobe, but I started focusing on other rooms in the house.  I would collect a box here and there and start stacking them up in the basement or attic.  As the garage sale date got closer, I stepped up my efforts and started tackling things like toys and books, as well as opening boxes that were still sealed from our move almost three years ago.  I was amazed at how many boxes and bags and loads of stuff I hauled out of our house and into the garage.  And I didn't even have any kids' clothes or real "baby" stuff on the sale!  I did invite a friend from Waverly to join me, and she had some girls' clothes as well as other misc. items to sell.  We also did a bake sale/lemonade stand as an adoption fundraiser for them as they wait for a referral from Poland and raised $150!  (I had been stashing away extra loaves of quick breads and muffins in the freezer for two months in preparation--including several rounds of Amish Friendship Bread in all sorts of flavor combinations.)

Below are pictures when everything was set up (minus a few early sales that I'll discuss later).  The thing that embarrassed/shocked me most is the entire 8' table filled with nothing but picture frames.  I emptied three boxes of them dating back to high school & college.  Our current house just doesn't have as many places to set up frames and I rarely print pictures anyway.  So out they went and at least half of them sold!

Here are some reflections on the whole garage sale experience:
  • It is a LOT of work.  As mentioned before, I started collecting stuff at the beginning of the year but put in some intense hours the last two weeks.  It took most of three days to get everything set up and organized in the garage as well as making signs.  Then there were the sale days themselves.  I had pretty much checked out from everything else in life during that time, so it has taken me a week to recover and get [somewhat] caught up again (which is why this post is actually being written a week later).
  • It affects the rest of the family.  Austin was not excited about the whole idea at all, but really stepped up to help out with the kids and around the house, including laundry and cleaning.  He & Emily even followed a recipe to make supper on Thursday night.  I'm sure that was a bonding experience! :o)  It also meant that I did not spend as much time with the kids as I usually do.  I could tell this affected Emily somewhat through her behavior.  I also felt guilty about the fact it has been perfect summer weather, and I have yet to take the kids to the public swimming pool or much of anywhere else.  However, after thinking about it, what did the kids do during that time?  They didn't have any screen time because I was in a stand-off with Emily all week about picking up her room (probably brought on by the lack of attention).  She held out for five days until video/popcorn night on Saturday.  Then after some tears and some help she finally got a passing grade.  Instead, they spent hours playing outside on the play set and in the sandbox, climbing bushes, playing in the kiddie pool and water table on the deck, riding around the driveway, playing with toys they hadn't seen in a while thanks to cleaning out the toy closet and countless hours rearranging wooden train tracks for the new Thomas, Percy & James engines Lincoln bought with his birthday money.  So what do I have to feel guilty about?  After all, isn't that what a childhood summer should look like anyway?!?
  • Never underestimate the aggressiveness of early shoppers.  I made a rookie mistake and set out my signs on the main roads in town at noon on Thursday even though I wasn't officially opening until Friday afternoon.  I have decided that putting out garage sale signs is the equivalent of turning on your porch light at night.  Something just sucks them in!  I had two shoppers that walked right up and started looking around on Thursday afternoon while I was still trying to set up.  One lady was a professional picker who resells on eBay and has lots of her own garage sales.  She was really nice.  The other was a foreign couple that started grabbing things out of bags and boxes and tried to dicker with me on absolutely everything, including the grand total.  They totally got me flustered to the point where they actually drove me inside and I was afraid to go back out and open my garage door even though it was 85 degrees in there and I still had a lot of setting up to do.  The first lady recognized the infamous couple and debriefed me after they left.  Now I know better!  I was also baffled by three different vehicles that pulled up on the driveway and people got out after 7:00pm on Thursday when the garage door was closed, everyone was in the house and the 3'x5' cardboard sign in the front yard clearly stated the hours.
  • Garage sales bring interesting people.  There is a whole sub-culture of die-hard garage-salers, including the people mentioned above.  There are also a lot of nice families and fun friends who stop by.  The neatest people were two cousins of the Carver family who built our house in 1948.  The brother & sister arrived 20 minutes apart at the end of the sale on Saturday.  They grew up a couple blocks away (one still lives there) and spent hours in our house and yard growing up.  I gave them tours of the inside of the house and heard lots of great stories and memories.  I love hearing things like that, so it was one of my favorite parts of the whole experience.  
  • People value things differently.  I know that's a "duh" statement, but a garage sale is a fascinating study in this fact.  When my friend & I were setting up we were asking each other pricing advice.  Even though we had similar tastes, sometimes we came up with very different answers.  One item we each had on the sale was virtually identical.  I had priced it at $3 and she at $.25.  I ended up changing both to $1 and sold them both to one of the first buyers.  There are also always a couple items you laugh about putting on the sale and joke about who would actually buy them.  My two things were snatched up by the professional picker on Thursday afternoon.  She LOVED them.  I probably could have sold them both to her for $10 rather than the $1.25 I think she actually paid.  Maybe I need to watch more episodes of Antique Roadshow?!?
  • Garage sales are exhausting in every way (at least for me).  It's no surprise it's physically exhausting to put on a sale.  It's mentally exhausting trying to decide prices.  My business mind gets all caught up trying to guess the market value and cringes when it appears I could have gotten a lot more for an item (like above).  Although I was eager to purge and rid the house of clutter and unused items, it was still somewhat emotional to see some of the items go.  It took several days (and nights) to process some of it afterward.
  • Kids' stuff sells, adult clothing doesn't.  I had three card tables of kids' toys & games plus several larger ride-on toys.  I had half a table left after the first night.  My friend went home Friday night and came back Saturday morning with a new set of inventory from her basement.  She sold a lot of girls' clothes and almost all my other kid-related stuff also sold including almost every book.  I had one long table and a long rod of hanging adult clothing as a result of an intense year-long purge of my wardrobe (at least five large bags worth).  I think I sold 4 tops and 6 bottoms.  However, I counted all the remaining items before taking them to the donation center and the tax deduction will be worth more to me than I probably would have made if I had actually sold the items.  I itemized a few of the other larger obvious items but just let the rest go.  The key is keeping your non-cash donation under $500 so you don't have to fill out a separate tax form. ;o)
  • If you're priced to sell, things will sell.  I tried very hard to be priced to sell rather than trying to maximize profit.  I must have done a pretty good job because things flew off the tables.  I think half the stuff was literally gone by the time I officially "opened" at 4:00pm (I had opened the garage door at 3:00pm).  I also had several people comment on my reasonable prices (including the picker on Thursday).  It helped that the weather was perfect, too. :o)  Although my total dollar sales weren't exceptionally high, it was great for what I had and how it was priced.  It also covered the cost of the new digital camera & accessories I had already purchased this spring. :o)  
So will I do it again or did I get it out of my system?  It depends.  My initial reaction was that I would consider doing one more when I'm ready to get rid of all my baby gear and kids' clothes (I'm still loaning out a lot of it to friends and family).  Otherwise it's more work than it's worth.  However, I can see how people get the bug and do it over and over.  I had thought I had really purged my house to a point I wouldn't have enough stuff to make it worth it.  However, in the past week I've run across lots of things I'm kicking myself for not setting out because I know they would have sold.  So the big question is, do I start collecting items again or do I start making weekly trips to the donation center?  We'll see...

1 comment:

Heather's Henhouse said...

Great insight and comments. It reminds me that I don't think I'll ever want to arrange/do a garage sale. Hopefully you got your $$'s worth!