OK, so you're: A) getting ready to sell your home, B) going Zen and finally recognizing that less really is more, or C) your stuff is multiplying at night in the dark and slowly taking over your house and it's YOU that will soon be living in the POD that you're now considering placing in the driveway.
Here are some tips that will make the job (and trust me...it is a job!) of de-cluttering your living space a little easier!
Rule #1: Don't do this on the spur of the moment. A good garage sale takes planning and organization. Set a date for your sale a month in advance. Plan your yard sale for the first weekend of the month. Buyers on lower budgets will have the most cash at that time.
Rule #2: Once you set the date, check with your local city and see if a permit is required. Ask friends and neighbors if they'd like to join in with you. Group or neighborhood yard sales get more foot traffic when they're advertised this way. However, to avoid mass confusion and frustration the day of the sale, make sure all participants agree to be prepared and responsible for their own items.
Rule #3: Go through your home, room by room with a note pad. This is the first of many times there may be family "disagreements". This is the time for tough love and brutal honesty. At all times remember your ultimate goal: an uncluttered home and a little loot in your pocket! The rule of thumb is: have you used it or worn it in the last six months? Does it still fit? Is it broken? Can it be fixed? If it can be fixed, will you use it again? (My husband has had a broken clock in our garage for 25 years that "he's going to get fixed". Yeah, right.) Legal exception: family heirlooms or antiques. I would suggest having these appraised. You may be pleasantly surprised. Aunt Edna's hideous teapot may actually be worth something and your family member may be more willing to part with it. If you want top dollar, you may want to try selling at an auction, on Ebay, or in a consigment shop. If you do decide to keep such an item, then have it added to your homeowner's insurance policy.
Rule #4: Here's where things start to heat up! Now you're going to allocate space for two piles. One will be for garage sale items. The other will be for those broken, unfixable items that absolutely NO ONE would buy at a garage sale. These will go directly to the land fill. Trust me, it will take a discerning eye to tell the difference between the two piles at times! Depending on how many family members are involved, there may be "time outs" required. At our house this is also known as happy hour. For the items you're unsure about selling, ask yourself these questions: 1. If I didn't already own it, would I buy it again? 2. Do I care what happens to it or who buys it? If you're worried about who gets it, you aren't ready to part with it. 3. If you regret selling it, can it be replaced?
Rule #5: Now that you have your "For Sale" pile, you can begin the arduous task of pricing. Again, plan on more "discussions". Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is value. Remember, people go to yard sales for a bargain. It's your job to give them one. Price your items accordingly and at the end of the day, everyone will be happy. Use neon colored price stickers and a Sharpie so your buyers can easily see prices. If you're not certain about price, go to a couple of local garage sales and watch the shoppers and check out the prices. If the items look good, but buyers walk away without buying, then prices are too high. Make sure you have everything marked with a price. In spite of this, expect your buyers to "haggle" with you. It's just part of the game. It does not mean that should mark items UP to cover the cost of haggling! If you're not willing to negotiate on certain pieces, write the work "Firm" on the tag. Some will still want to negotiate, but not as many.
Rule #6: Use neon colored poster board and thick black sharpies to make signs. Place them at main intersections around your neighborhood and at all turns leading to your house. Make sure you have directional arrows so buyers don't get lost. It's best to put the signs out early the morning of your sale. (By early I mean 6:00AM). Plan on using internet advertising as well. Place Craigslist ads a week in advance and make sure you give the address, dates and starting time. If your HOA or neighborhood has a Facebook page, post your sale there as well. There will be professional shoppers (i.e. antique and second hand store owners) who will show up before your starting time. These are serious shoppers! They come with cash. Be especially nice to them. This means smiling at them even though you may still be in your pajamas and you haven't finished your first cup of coffee.
TONI'S HOT TIP: I always put out a plate of homemade cookies during our garage sales. Please note: homemade, not store bought. People will notice the difference, linger, browse longer, and hopefully, find something that they absolutey can't live without.
Rule #7: At the end of the day you will be exhausted. You have two last important steps to complete before you can kick back and count your profits (if you haven't already!). First, be sure to take down all the signs that you posted in the morning. Nothing is more annoying than old Garage Sale signs. Secondly, do not drag any unsold items back inside your house. Make a binding pact with all family members that any left overs get loaded into the car and are driven to the charity thrift shop of your choice. Always make sure you ask for a tax receipt for your donation. You may not have sold these items, but you'll be happy to see those deductions on your tax return nex year!
There, now it's time to enjoy your newly de-cluttered space and get on with your life! Whatever the future has in store for you, whether you're selling and moving, or just simplifying, remember, as a great Feng Shui practitioner once told me "all that clutter stops the flow of positive energy in your space and ultimately in your life". The real challenge now becomes how not to go out and replace all of the old stuff with new stuff! Good Luck!