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Yard Sale: a key de-cluttering strategy. Photo: Dano

I love spring cleaning! Well, not so much the cleaning part, but the de-cluttering part. To get rid of things I don’t use gives me a feeling of freshness and a sense of openness to the house and yard. I also love knowing someone else can make use of my old things. One of the best ways to de-clutter is to have a yard sale. Recycle your stuff!

There are a few guidelines to having a yard sale. I learned this through trial and error, so I’ll save you time by sharing what I know.

Start by Cleaning and Sorting

Go through your closets, cupboards, attic, garage and shed and wherever you have things stashed. Decide what to repair, refurbish, replace or sell. My general rule of thumb is to sell or give away anything I have not used in a year. Some of you probably have decades of accumulation, so take baby steps. You can have more than one yard sale! It’s important to be honest with yourself when you do this. Examine your lifestyle and your needs. De-cluttering will be very easy if you are truthful.

Go through your clothes

Figure out what fits and what you actually wear on a regular basis. If clothes are too small and will never fit again, get rid of them. See what is worn out and needs replacing. Do a complete inventory, keep what gets used, and put the rest in a box for your yard sale.

Inspect your furniture

Again, ask yourself what you use. Did you buy new furniture and put the old in the garage? If you’re never going to use it again, sell it.

Go through your entertainment stash

A lot of music and movies are digital these days, but there are still people with cassette players, CD players, VHS players and video cameras. Maybe they have tapes and no player, or a perfectly working player and no tapes. Sometimes collectible movies and music are only available in those formats. Pass on what you will probably never use again, because someone else will want it.

Clean off your bookshelves

What have you read that you are not going to pick up again? What do you refer to on a regular basis? How about magazines?

Do you have knick-knacks that just collect dust? Aside from intentional and maybe valuable collections, knick-knacks are pointless. I ditched all my trinkets a long time ago in the name of simplicity.

Think ‘outdoors’

Do you have gardening items, tools or outdoor furniture? Spring is when people are thinking summer outdoor living, so give them what they are looking for.

How to Hold a Yard Sale

Now that you have gone through your belongings and know what you want to get rid of, get it ready for sale. Give yourself at least a week to do this.

Make sure everything is clean

You will get a better price if it doesn’t look like your items have been sitting in the cellar or shed for ten years. Make things presentable and touchable with a little dusting.

Determine prices

This is completely subjective. Price things to sell, but leave a little room for buyers to bargain. That’s the fun of a yard sale – the dickering. Know the lowest price you will take, then pad that figure to leave room for dickering.

If you have valuable items, do some research on eBay and craigslist to see what people are willing to pay. These sites are good barometers for the second hand market.

Mark everything clearly

When you get busy, you won’t have time to answer questions about how much something is. You know how annoying it is when you’re in a store, and you can’t find a clerk to find out what something costs? Don’t lose customers, because they can’t find a price.

Buy price tags or stickers at a stationery or business supply store. You can also buy masking tape and just tear off small pieces to stick on your items. This is much cheaper.

Decide where to hold the sale

You want people to be able to see it from the road, and you also need room for parking. Be sure people can get around your items easily.

Decide how you are going to display your smaller items

Obviously, furniture and boxes can go on the ground, but you will need tables for smaller items.

photo:besighyawn

Put an ad in the paper, put up flyers, talk to your friends, and tell them to talk to their friends. The evening before the sale, put up signs at nearby intersections, the end of your street, and most important, at your house. Use fluorescent poster board and balloons.

Go to the bank, and get small change

Savvy yard salers will have small change for you, but many people go to the ATM that morning and get a bunch of 20s. Be sure you have $50-100 in small bills and quarters. Wear a fanny pack or have large pockets. Once in a while, take the big bills into the house to make room for more.

What you don’t sell, donate

Take extra books and magazines to the library. You can deliver small items to places like Goodwill, the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, churches or a battered women’s shelter. Sometimes they will come and pick up larger items.

Most of all, have fun!

The weather is warm, people are happy to be out and about, and they share your enthusiasm for recycling. I have made lifelong friends at my yard sales, since we already have a common bond.

Once you count your money, go to some yard sales to replace items that were worn out (remember how you sorted your things as a first step?). Don’t over shop! Finding great deals on second hand things does not give you permission to buy what you don’t need! If you do, you’ll be de-cluttering again next year for another yard sale. Think simplicity, and you’ll be successful.

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.