Downsizing and Real Estate

9/26/2023 | By Donna Brody

Whether downsizing, holding an estate sale, or simply clearing out clutter, a successful yard sale offers a way to get a little cash for items you need to offload. These tips can help.

I held a yard sale recently, and I was surprised to make almost a $200 profit. Not a bad return for things I would have otherwise thrown away or donated. Here are nine tips for anyone wanting to host a successful yard sale.

1. Advertise your sale.

Community websites may allow you to advertise your sale for free. Upload a flyer with the date, time, and place. Then, place signs around the neighborhood. My husband stapled them high up on utility poles in strategic areas. Just five signs brought lots of local people to my yard on sale day.

2. Prep your sale items.

Take the time to wash, dust, polish, iron, or whatever else it takes to make your sale items desirable. Furniture polish can cover scrapes or nicks. Make sure clothing isn’t wrinkled and no buttons or belts are missing. Throw away clothing with stains or rips. No one wants to buy damaged goods.

3. Organize your merchandise.

A picture of a successful yard sale with plenty of shoppers. By Joe Sohn.

I strung a clothesline between two trees and hung most clothing on hangers, making it more visible. Some assorted tops and bottoms priced at one dollar per piece were placed in plastic bins. Several customers bought five or more items. Not bad for clothes I might otherwise have donated. Housewares were arranged on tables with tablecloths for a more pleasing display.

4. Enhance your curb appeal.

A successful yard sale depends on drawing in plenty of shoppers. Placing colorful, attention-getting items nearest the street can help. I placed two very large Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls on a chair next to a bright red wagon, and placed some colorful luggage sets near the curb. Several people remarked they stopped just to check out the luggage or the toys.

5. Keep most prices low.

Most of our possessions are definitely worth more to us than to potential buyers. If you are serious about getting rid of things, price them at a dollar or two, even though you paid much more for items originally. You no longer need it, so let it go. On the other hand, if you have truly valuable items, like that Waterford serving bowl or first edition “Pride and Prejudice,” reach out to a local appraiser for valuation and advice.

6. Talk to your customers.

Greet each potential customer and don’t leave the yard during the sale. In my past careers, I learned to start a conversation with almost anyone, so I chatted with each potential buyer. This keeps them looking around while talking (even about the weather) and leads to more sales.

7. Make sure to have enough change.

Don’t expect buyers to have exact change. Be able to change even large bills. Go to the bank to secure enough singles and quarters beforehand, and keep the money in a safe location. I used a fanny pack, but a locked cash box could work also.

8. Take down your signs.

Be a good neighbor and remove your signs after the sale. Also, you don’t want people at your door a week later looking for bargains.

9. Donate leftover items.

My husband and I made a deal to take leftover items to the local resale shop right after the sale. Otherwise, we knew, we would be tempted to store things back in the attic.

Alternatives to a successful yard sale

A yard sale can be a lot of work, but there are other options.

Online sales. Used items can be sold through websites such as eBay and Facebook marketplace, posting an image and description. Most ads can be placed for free or for a small fee. Some items can be shipped to the seller, or for a local marketplace, the seller and buyer can meet for the handoff. Be careful to avoid online sales scams, though!

Downsizing specialist. These specialists may work with realty companies to provide services to clients selling a home. Decluttering experts also provide an unbiased opinion to help clients decide which things they no longer need, which belongings to keep, which to pass on to family, and which to simply give away. Companies that specialize in packing and moving can be as involved in the downsizing process as their clients want.

These professionals may also facilitate sales of some like-new items, in consignment stores or through managing the hard work of yard sales and estate sales. The commissions they charge can be worthwhile, not only for the work they save you but also because they tend to know the value of items you might undersell.

Whether working with a downsizing expert or hosting your own yard sale, one thing for sure: the results mean less clutter and a fresh start!

Donna Brody

Donna Brody is a former community college English instructor who retired to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She enjoys freelance writing and has self published three romance novels. Besides writing and traveling with her husband, she keeps busy visiting her seven grandchildren.

Donna Brody headshot