Sunday, July 8, 2012

Capitalism, Red in Tooth and Claw

The Yard Sale was a success!  We made a comfortable profit (and I felt smug as I was within 3% of my financial projections), and Maj C and I decided donate 50% of our proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project. Not a huge sum of money, but a good thing to do with a bit of extra cash.

  • I spent time with my friends: it was lovely to spend time with the Ms LiteraryFirefly, her daughter, Ms W, and Ms J-- I can't imagine a better team of women to do such a labor intensive project
  • No more clutter in my house or garage
  • Many items are being used in their new homes-- I love that I did not have to throw away usable items
  • I learned I could donate all our old books to the library book sale starting 1 August.

But then there was the Bad

  • Labor intensive.  I shudder to think of my actual hourly wage (cleaning up the house, sorting stuff, cleaning, labeling, and the sale itself) and juggling a baby at the same time was tough.
  • Early birds.  The sale was advertised to start at 9AM. People showed at 7AM as I was setting up but before my coffee
  • I'm a control freak.  Thankfully my friends tolerate my control freak tendencies.


  • Almost all the customers were lovely people.  I really enjoyed talking and meeting so many interesting people, especially my wonderful neighbors.  I also got to meet many nice people in the neighborhood whom I did not know.
  • It was a lovely surprise to see some old friends who came to browse and visit, including one who was in town from the UK.
  • We met a local family who just adopted 3 teenage boys from the Ukraine.  My amazing sister-in-law (Ms LiteraryFirely) promptly gathered two huge bags of clothes to donate to them.
  • But there was bad: I had a cranky neighbor who was annoyed that I was having a sale at all, claiming it degraded the neighborhood.  However as I had previously notified my neighborhood association about  my sale and my signs, I felt he was unjustified. Ah well.
  • We had one other rude, possibly drunk customer.  Thankfully, another customer told him to leave.

Lessons learned
  • Yard sales are a good project for a tight knit group of people whom you love.  However, I can imagine that such a project would not be fun with people who are not team players.  Also, someone has to take responsibility to keep track of what's happening when.
  • Multi family sales are efficient as they spread the labor of the yard sale (making 10 yard sale signs takes more work than you would expect.  Then you have to go hang them up).  When someone was tired, they could take a break inside.  Also, we shared costs of the permit and and thus got more bang for your buck for our signs (in addition to spreading the world of mouth to our friends). Clean up and hauling away the left overs to thrift shops, the service center, and consignment stores goes much faster among many hands (and cars).
  • Also, by teaming with your friends, it is easier to get that critical mass of stuff that encourages browsing.
  • I'm convinced that an attractive and organized yard sale sells more stuff.  Ms W borrowed tables from the yacht club and that made it easier for the customers to look at everything.  
  • Good signage is key.
  • Work with your neighborhood association
  • You never know what will sell and what will not. Seriously.
  • My system of color coded stickers worked!  At the end, we only had 3 dollars which were unaccounted for.  (Each person was assigned a color coded price sticker and all sales were noted on a piece of paper)
  • Give away your stuff to your yard sale mates.  I think everyone felt that they more gained from the stuff that they got (see loot) than they gave away.  It is not worth scrapping over a few dollars among friends.  My stuff went to friends who would use it, and I got some awesome loot.  
  • Give away your left overs, you will feel great!

My Loot (from with the Yard sale crew)
  • Fire escape ladder from Ms J
  • Lots and lots of books (including classics such as Dr. Seuss and  Polar Express) for Bunny from Ms W
  • Toys from Ms W
  • Maxi skirt, cute tops, kimono top for me from Ms Literaryfirefly
  • A Falmouth Clippers Underarmor sweatshirt for Maj. C from Ms Literaryfirefly
  • A lion costume for Bunny from Ms. W
  • A work bench for Maj C (Ms W), and mitre box (Ms. J)


  1. Sounds like this was a SUCCESS! These things are so much work as you have seen but totally worth it after!!! I really think it is great that you donated 50% of your profit to the Wounded Warrior Project! Thank you!!

  2. I am so happy to hear that your yard sale went as smoothly as possible. There is always 1 rude neighbor, I swear. You just can't make everyone happy these days. It really is fantastic that you donated money to the Wounded Warrior Project!

  3. It's nice you raised some money for the WWP. But I still find this mystifying - as I find 'car boot' sales mystifying in the UK. If I want to get rid of something that is not yet ready for a final destination of recycling centre or (God forbid) scrap heap, I put it on the local freecycle site. It puts people who want to get rid of stuff in touch with people who want to acquire same stuff. Within days, someone lovely turns up at my house and takes it away. Simples. And, similarly, I get stuff for free when other people want to get rid of it. Why all this hassle of having to get licenses, put up signs and faff about with money? As I say, mystifying...

  4. Rose, it's an efficiency thing: a yard sale was the most efficient way of rehoming objects. It's simply more convenient to do it all at once: If you have a volume, it all goes quickly and once. I don't think I could have lugged all that stuff to various different thrift shops (they are picky around here), esp with Bunny in tow.

    If you have many small objects (ie a weird crystal cat the former owners left in the house), freecycle doesn't make sense. I had dozens of weird found objects. I tried giving stuff away on Craigslist, but it did not work-- I would rush home from work/or leave late, only for people to flake out and never show up. Moreover, working the hours that I do, I don't like answering the door to lots and lots of people (ie ringing the door bell each time) with a sleeping baby in the house. Finally, you have to live here. Craiglist/Freecycle in the summer brings out some weirdos. . .again, not fun when you are alone with a baby.

  5. I think it's great that you donated some of your proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project. I regret not doing that myself. Perhaps it's time for me to have another yard sale!