By Caroline Bujold
My husband David and I had been decluttering for a while and our donation mound in the basement, A.K.A. potential garage sale, had grown to a size that was making me mad every time I went to do laundry. Exasperated, I asked Dave if he thought we could find some time to go through everything and have a garage sale. I was hoping to make a bit of money in the process but mostly I wanted to get rid of the mess. So we found ourselves in early October moving piles of stuff to the garage and readying ourselves for our garage sale.
Be sure to download a cheat sheet for a successful garage sale from our Printable Library.
How did we get here?
When, like me, you’re great at the game of Tetris Organization and you have space, it’s easy to accumulate possessions bit by bit without quite noticing it. Since David and I moved in together eight years ago, I’ve been on a mission to get down to the essentials. Most people would tell you that our house is fairly tidy and organized already, but I keep finding caches of stuff where I can go deeper: books I never open, a spare set of towels for guests we rarely get and old film cameras for example.
In the process of decluttering our lives, we came up with enough items that a garage sale seemed like the practical and fun solution we were looking for.
I will say though, if you only have a few items or no space to store them for a time, forget about a garage sale and donate them now. Seriously, stop reading right now and go do that instead!
We’ve decluttered our house numerous times and this was our second garage sale. It’s not that all the clutter comes back, but rather that we are progressing in our desire to simplify our lives, peeling back the layers and finding that we’re able to let go of more items we previously thought we should keep.
Don’t get me wrong, there is clutter that accumulates because, you know, life happens. We have been renovating our house little by little over the last 10 years. That process makes for a lot of reassessing of what we own and extra materials that someone else might be able to use. My husband also likes to buy and resell old cars and parts. Two years ago, he bought a VW van to revamp and the thing had been parked in a field for some time. The previous owner had left the remnants of his former life in the vehicle: clothing, toys, books, a record player, records and other knick-knacks. Our original thought was to trash everything. But as we emptied the van, a little sad and curious about what would make someone leave all this behind, I thought let’s add what is salvageable to our donation pile.
It just took longer than I thought to get to the selling part. In all sincerity, we were supposed to have this garage sale last year but found ourselves lacking the motivation to actually get to it. The fact that the clutter was “hidden“ in our rarely used unfinished basement also made it easy to forget. But as soon as we decided on a date, it was definitely easier to find the time to sort through the items we already had marked for the sale and to add a few more items to the pile.
Two weeks before
We knew not everything would sell, and we had decided in advance that we would donate whatever was leftover. We made plans to have our garage sale on Friday evening and Saturday from 9 am to 3 pm, leaving our Sunday free to catch up with life. We had done that the first time and felt it was long enough.
The first thing we did was to go through the garage sale pile and make sure that all the items were really worthy. Then we went through the rest of the basement and cleaned out extra renovation materials, sorting everything into four piles: Garage Sale, Donations, Eco Station/Waste Management, and Trash.
Over the next couple of weeks, we decluttered a few more areas upstairs: books, summer clothes, unloved kitchen items, and some leftover crafting bits and bobs. Dave had also mentioned he would like to have an office space. Part of my (evil) plan, was to get rid of as many books as possible so we could transfer his books to his new (temporary) space, letting me rearrange my own collection.
One week before
Dave cleaned out the garage and moved anything that might have been in the way, leaving us with a big empty space in the middle of the garage. We covered the shelving and toolboxes that are on the periphery of the garage with old bedsheets, so as to keep the attention of our potential costumers on what was for sale.
We also started to advertise. Dave prepared an ad for Kijiji (similar to Craigslist or Gumtree) that went like this: “There are garage sales that look more like a way for people to get others to haul away their garbage, and then there is Garage-Sale-Palooza”. He then listed all the categories of items we had and the time and place. We also shared this with our friends on social media, because rummaging through you’re friends cast-offs isn’t weird at all (insert eye roll here)! But seriously, you never know what people might be looking for. I was responsible to make signs for the neighbourhood. Simple cardboard with some extra thick markers did the trick.
One day before
The day before our garage sale, we made sure we had some change, about $50 worth in $10, $5, $2, $1 and quarters. People usually know to come with change, but it’s good to be prepared.
Being “inside” the garage makes everything easier. At the end of the day, you just need to close the door and you’re done. The night before, we brought everything up to the garage and organized by categories as much as possible. We also priced everything out with round tags made just for occasions like these (available at Staples) and Dave installed our signs.
We opened our doors and there were people in right away. The first evening the weather was great, and we sold many items: vacuum, cameras, shelves, toys, bags, etc. We had wrestling figurines (from that van) and I could not believe how popular they were. Some collector might say we could have sold them for more, but they were not pristine at all and rather well played with, which made me happy and they soon found new homes.
It’s so fascinating to see what people are interested in and what they will bargain on. Some folks are so happy with their finds; they bought more or left us more money than our asking price.
We knew that the second day the temperature would turn cold and windy. To help with our sale and because we knew that we were not going to get as many passers-by, David started creating individual Kijiji ads for some of our better items. This was the best idea ever. Again, people started calling right way. We insisted on not holding any item for a potential buyer, letting them know when we were going to be “open for business”. This helped a lot and we had early risers come to fetch their finds the next morning and all throughout the day.
Your garage sale is done. Now what?
Right after we were done, we took our signs down. Actually, I’m not sure according to our bylaws we were allowed to have signs, but everybody does it. Even so, we didn’t want people showing up at our place once we were done.
We decided to keep a few Kijiji ads up for one more week. These were for more expensive items that were maybe too much money for the garage sale crowd. Dave also hit a few used bookstores to see if we could get money for our large surplus. This both proved beneficial as we sold more stuff.
Once that was done, we loaded our vehicle with our Donate, Recycle and Trash piles. Donations went to three specific organizations: Habitat for Humanity for construction materials, Reuse Centre for crafts (specific to Edmonton, but maybe it exists somewhere else) and Goodwill for the rest. Whatever didn’t get accepted as a donation went to the Eco Station (electronics for example) or got dumped.
Counting our blessings
We made over $500 with our garage sale and I don’t get mad when I go downstairs now.
We created an office space for Dave with all his car books and magazines in the spare bedroom and I rejigged my home office, which I use every day.
Dave can start to envision finishing the basement, A.K.A The Man Cave with a lot of the space cleared. He was also inspired to sort and organize an array of car parts he’s been meaning to sell. Wifey is very happy about this 🙂 . This is what happens sometimes. You just need to decide to declutter or organize one area and the results motivate you to do a little more and little more.
So what’s our plan for the extra cash? Buy a much needed new tent that Dave can actually fit his 6’1’’ self in without having to sleep at an angle! Oh and because we sold our too-small old tent. I’m so excited, I can hardly wait to find the perfect one and enjoy a nice weekend in the Rocky Mountains with Dave.