You’ve probably heard the old law that your possessions will increase to fill the space available for their storage. Even if you haven’t heard of it, you’ve probably experienced it in your own home. I currently live here in central NJ with my wife in a condo: 2 bedrooms and 2 baths with living room, dining room and eat-in kitchen. It’s about 1,200 square feet in total. It’s very nice, just too small for all our stuff. Or more correctly, our stuff is too big for our home. Here’s a solution…a yard sale!
Frankly, all my life I have been used to a lot more living space than we have now and that had resulted in some serious space problems. I’m not sure if you will believe me, but we both still have things in the original boxes from the time we both moved into this home. Those original boxes are still taped shut and enclose some things that might be older than your kids or even you who may be reading this post! Literally, almost every square inch of our closet space is totally packed with “stuff”. I complain about it almost every day but I’ve been so lazy about it that that’s all I have done. I’m really good about complaining.
Downsizing My Home But Not My Possessions
In retirement, I downsized my house to the condo but it seems I still have managed somehow to lug almost everything I have ever owned along with me to our new living space. Suzanne, my wife, has done the same and that’s why this past weekend I was really happy to participate in our community yard sale right here at the condo.
Considering the fact that I am a veteran of the flea market concept, having used that as a side hustle for several years and actually making lots of money from it, you would think that I have also been involved in a yard sale many times before. Confession time: not really!
You see, the flea market for me was a business. I went out and bought merchandise that I could resell at a profit. It wasn’t my old, no longer need items that you also see at the weekly markets. It was my sole purpose to make big bucks at the flea market and selling my own “junk” just wouldn’t cut it. The only time I can actually remember having participated in a yard sale was back in 1997 when during my divorce I sold my bike, some old tools, a snow blower, and a few other now forgotten things from my home (“the Ponderosa” as I named it at that time). I did it just so I wouldn’t have to move those things that I knew I’d never be using again after I moved into a new place.
The Yard Sale Answers Our Prayers
When the notice came a few weeks ago that the community we live in was sponsoring a yard sale, we decided that we not only could we participate, but we’d be darn negligent if we didn’t. Having a couple of weeks to plan and get ready was really a big help. Looking though the stuff we have was not only time consuming, but physically difficult too. Staging the boxes and separating the “absolutely must go” from the “must go” and “should this go” from the “I’d never let this go” was agonizing but essential.
What We Found in Our Treasure Hunt
Separating the categories that we knew we’d never use again was our first priority. We had boxes of books that we have saved from years and years ago that was taking up huge space. Now these aren’t the kinds of books that you might leave in your bookcase in the den to impress your friends and family or reference types that you can draw upon every now and them. These are more like the old paperbacks that you read when they were currently trendy like Star Trek “Wrath of Khan” paperback or the 1989-95 Baseball Digests that I subscribed to back then (complete set mind you) that I hadn’t seen the light of day in 22 years.
Then there are those VHS video tapes from back in the day. We haven’t had a VCR since 2007 so that box of about 30 some movies had to go. Even the classics like “Braveheart” and “Titanic” sigh. Hopefully somebody would want them. There was also a bunch of never really used and “why did I ever buy them in the first place” things like a full box of scissors from kids types to shears good for cutting fabric and making clothing! Would you believe 20 assorted types? I probably could have found enough to fill 5 yards, but at some point after opening up about 3 dozen boxes, I got a bit weary and was running out of space to stage all of it, so we stopped. That’s when the real fun began!
Everything Has Its Price
I had in my desk some old stickers perfect for pricing my things. That’s one takeaway I would advise for anyone doing this kind of activity. Save yourself some grief and actually price the things you are going to sell. I wasn’t planning to negotiate or bargain here. My goal was to make this stuff disappear and pricing everything so ridiculously low that they wouldn’t be around at the end of the day. I spent an entire evening in front of my TV watching a ballgame and pricing all of it with Suzanne’s help.
Saturday, the Day That We Said Goodbye to Our Old Friends
Yard sale hours were scheduled from 10 am ‘til 4 pm but I knew that with the ads along the highway and online that some people, the “real bargain hunters”, would arrive earlier and I was right. I was outside by 8:30 am to set up and started to make sales almost immediately. I had set a very modest goal for sales the night before of $75.00 but the real goal was to rid ourselves of as much stuff as possible and any money we got in return was to be considered a find.
We immediately saw some action even before the 20 or other neighbors amongst our community started setting up. All of our paperbacks were selling at 25 cents apiece and any hardback books I was letting go at 75 cents! The videos, old DVDs and cassette tapes went for $0.25, $0.50 and $1.00 each. Household handy items went for 50 cents to $3.00. I even sold an old blood pressure machine for several bucks (I have 3 of them, primarily because I can never find one when I need it and keep buying a new ones…try not ever to do that!).
A few handmade signs and some brightly colored balloons around us and we were in full business mode by 10 am. Oh and by the way, make sure if you try this, get some change in advance for those with big bills and also making change for your small sale items from a dollar. We went to the bank the day before just for that reason. We also had old shopping bags from the supermarket to offer customers a bag for their purchases.
It was a really nice day it turns out, temps in the 80’s and mostly sunny with a nice breeze. Getting some fresh air and having my radio out with me playing the oldies was quite enjoyable. When either of us needed a break, the front door was literally 25 feet away. We had ice water and our sunglasses and if we used our imagination we felt like we out on a mini vacation soaking up the rays and meeting some new friends. We even have the sunburn to prove it (PS – don’t forget the sunscreen!).
The results, as I am sure you are just dying to know, was a total of $101.70. Yes, we are happy about that. It averaged about $15.00 per hour which made it at least worth the time we spent out there. But, more important than the money was this: we actually emptied almost a whole closet worth of junk! Amazingly, we now have about a 40 square ft. (4 ft. wide x 10 ft. deep) space that we can use for whatever we need, and I’m sure we will find out soon enough.
In fact, as I was putting things away at the end of the day, I heard a crash from the other room. The shelves and hanging rod in my other closet came crashing down. I think it’s a sign that it’s time to clean that closet now!
If you have some larger, more valuable items, you might want to consider selling them separately online, using eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace. We have a tailgating set (canopy tent, 2 camp chairs and a bean bag game) that didn’t sell at our sale, so we’ll try to sell it online next. Yard sales definitely draw bargain hunters, so if you want to maximize your sale, try selling your big items separately.
If you’re fighting a battle for space like we are, a yard sale may be the perfect cure. Have you thought about selling some of your old stuff to clear away some of it for space? Do you have clutter coming out of your eyeballs and could you use some fresh air? Perhaps you can join in with a neighbor or two and make it a community event. We had about 2 dozen neighbors joining us and that was a big draw. Maybe you can do it too? Good luck!