Tip of the Day: TOTD

TOTD: Throw a Yard Sale!

If you’re feeling discouraged on your minimizing journey and need a little kick in the pants, throwing an impromptu yard sale can be a great way to quickly clean out your house and earn some extra cash. I decided on a Sunday that I was going to have a sale the following Saturday, and it worked out pretty well! We made over $300.

Benefits to organizing a sale quickly:

  • The sooner you do it, the sooner the stuff is out of your house.
  • There’s no time to spend debating over whether or not to keep something. When it doubt, put it out.
  • Some people struggle with deadlines if they are in the distant future. If you work better under pressure, throwing together a quick sale might be a good idea.

Downsides to throwing an impromptu yard sale:

  • They are a lot of work. In order to do it quickly, you need to have a lot of spare time. All in all, I’d say the sale took me 40 hours of work start to finish. If you have a full-time job, you’ll probably need more than a week to get everything together. (and that’s okay!)
  • After the sale, your house might be torn apart as you frantically rip apart each room looking for sale items. Have a plan for putting your house back together again.
  • If you’ve never thrown a yard sale before, you’re going to need to do research if you want the best yield for your work. Quickly organizing a sale means you need to research, plan, and prepare all at the same time. I did pretty well at my sale, but I would have done better if I had more time to plan.

Ultimately, you need to decide for yourself which option is better for your situation, but here are some tips:

CREATE A PLAN

  • Here is a handy yard sale checklist from Organized Home. Here are some other fantastic resources for planning your sale:
    • Yard Sale Queen. She truly is the queen of yard sales! Her tips are amazing.
    • 10 Tips for having a killer garage sale from the House of Hepworths. There are tons of photos on this post that mine is lacking. Check it out!
    • Organized Home has some great tips, as well as some useful printables. This is a thorough post with lots of good info.
  • After checking out these sites, yourself these questions:
    • When will I hold my sale?
    • Where will it be? (front yard, garage, driveway, someone else’s house)
    • How long will it last? (early morning or later? several hours or all day?)
    • Who will help me? (Do not attempt to hold a sale alone! You need at least another person, but a team would be ideal)
    • Will I need child care?
    • What supplies will I need? (tables? stickers? signs? markers to make signs? posterboard? calculator? boxes? etc)
    • Where will I advertise? (online? how many signs?)
    • How will I handle leftover items? (donate, curb, trash, sell online etc)
    • What is my time line for gathering items? (What day and time will I be gathering items? Pricing them? Making signs? Posting my advertisement?)

 

GATHER INVENTORY

  • Designate an out-of-the-way spot to gather your inventory.
  • Divide your house into zones, like flylady suggests, or just take it room by room.
  • Go through each area of your house and collect items to sell. Don’t waste too much time debating over individual items, as you’ll have another chance to look them over when you price them.
  • Don’t forget closets, attics, basements, garages, sheds, cars, or nooks and crannies where the odd knick-knack may have been shoved over the years.
  • Take a trip out to your storage unit if you have one. After this sale, you shouldn’t need one anymore!
  • Once you’ve gone through every space, do a last minute sweep and gather any random items you wish to sell.

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Infants are exceptionally helpful at gathering yard sale items. I promise.

ORGANIZE AND PRICE

  • Decide how you’re going to handle pricing your items.
    • Will everything be stickered individually?
    • Will you be grouping similarly priced items together on a table or in a box?
    • How will you handle haggling?
    • Are you going to offer any deals? (5/$1, fill a bag, buy one get one free, everything half price after noon, etc)
  • Organizing similar household items together can be helpful (e.g. all kitchen items together, all knick knacks together etc).
  • Make sure your items are as clean as possible and not broken. If it’s broken or hazardous, throw it out. Safety first!
  • To speed the process, I had a few boxes labelled with various price points ($.25, $.50, $1). As I was sorting my junk, I just tossed it into the corresponding box.
  • If you’re not so great at math, stick with easy price points! I didn’t bother with $.75 or $1.50 because I wanted to make it easier for myself. I just rounded up to the even dollar amounts if the item cost more than $1.

Remember, the point of having a yard sale is to move your stuff quickly, not make millions of dollars. Price fairly. Think to yourself “What would *I* pay for this at a yard sale? You can always inflate the prices on more valuable items a little bit, and then allow people to haggle you down. Make sure that everyone involved in the sale is aware of the pricing plan.

ADVERTISE

  • Do your homework and decide how and where you want to advertise your sale. Here are some websites you can post a summary of your items, along with a handy map for out-of-towners.

By using Craigslist, we were able to unload some pricey musical equipment to a random fellow at the very beginning of our sale. It’s unlikely that anyone would have spent $150 on a pair of cymbals without previously knowing we had them. Likewise, if you have a lot of particular items like baby gear, or clothing, specify the sizes and conditions to attract customers. The more specific your ad, the more helpful it’ll be for yardsalers looking for something specific.

Another important advertising tool are good signs directing people to your sale. Make sure your signs are clear, legible, and bold!  The Yard Sale Queen has some great signage tips here. Don’t forget to take them down once your sale is over! I used recycled cardboard boxes, leftover fluorescent posterboard and acrylic paint to make my signage.

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Make sure to plan your arrows ahead of time so they’re pointing in the correct direction!

YARD SALE DAY!

  • Make sure you’re ready to open by opening time. We were missing a couple of tables and things were still a little disorganized in the beginning. You want to take advantage of the punctual sale-goers.
  • Having items laid out on tables helps customers see what’s available. Even laying things out on sheets on the ground is preferable to random piles in boxes.
  • Become a salesperson! Talk to people. Be friendly. Be outgoing. Don’t sit in a chair like a grumpy lump.
  • Make sure to have plenty of change, and use a fanny pack or money pouch.
  • Have plenty of plastic bags or boxes on hand for customers to use to gather items.
  • Consider serving refreshments, especially if it’s a hot day. Happy customers shop longer.
  • Be prepared for hagglers. You don’t have to sell your items for a lower price, but consider the benefits. If you’re selling old linens for $.25 a piece, and someone wants to buy the whole box for $5, do you really think that there will be 20 people looking to buy your old pillowcases? Probably not. Consider the item, the time of day, the quantity someone is willing to buy, and how much you want to get rid of the item. And yes, people will haggle you over $.25.
  • Have fun!

 AFTER THE SALE

  • Take down your signs!
  • Take the time to pack up the remaining items for donation, and don’t bring anything back into your house!

Schedule a pickup with one of these organizations, or do a quick google search to find community specific organizations to which you can donate. Check out each organization’s website (and research the local ones in your area) and decide which one best suits your needs.

Because I’m in Boston, I personally donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters with a whopping 6 trash bags and 6 big boxes!

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Take pictures, have fun, and treat yourself with the money you make from your sale. Good luck! 

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TOTD: Vinegar!

Three words: Distilled. White. Vinegar.

Seriously, there are 1001 uses for a single jug of the smelly stuff. You can clean with it, cook with it, ward off bugs in your garden with it, seriously. The possibilities are endless. And best of all, it’s CHEAP, environmentally friendly, and non-toxic, unlike many commercial cleaners on the market today. I’ve already replaced much of my vast collection of specific cleaners for one big jug of store-brand distilled white vinegar.

We clean mostly everything in the house with a solution of vinegar and blue dawn (recipes here), but here are some specific tips that I’ve tried with success in my own home (these tips come directly from the Vinegar Tips website:

“To shine chrome sink fixtures that have a lime buildup, use a paste made of 2 tablespoons salt and 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar.

Clean the shelves and walls of the refrigerator with a half-and-half solution of water and white distilled vinegar.

Kill germs all around the bathroom with a spray of full-strength white distilled vinegar. Wipe clean with a damp cloth.

To remove grime and scum from the tub, tile, shower curtain or door, wipe with undiluted white distilled vinegar. Rinse with water.

Get rid of stubborn bathtub film by wiping it with white distilled vinegar and then scouring with baking soda.

Clean up pet accidents by first blotting up the area and then adding a white distilled vinegar-and-water solution. Blot until it is almost dry. Then sprinkle baking soda over the area and let it dry. Vacuum up the residue the next day.

Clean and deodorize urine on a mattress with a white distilled vinegar and water solution. Then sprinkle the area with baking soda and let dry. Brush or vacuum the residue after it is dry to the touch.”

There are endless combinations of vinegar, baking soda, water and in some cases, ammonia or other basic cleanser. You can experiment with different strengths and recipes in your own home, but remember to never use vinegar on your fancy marble countertops, since the acid could ruin them. Also, I’m jealous of your fancy marble countertops. Happy cleaning!

Tip of the Day: One in, One out.

While getting rid of stuff is awesome, don’t underestimate the allure of a place like Target. Of course, we needed those decorative coasters and four new towels! I just forgot I needed them until I got there! Believe me, it takes a strong willed individual to resist the siren song of Target’s never ending aisles. So keep this rule in the back of your mind: one in, one out.

If we throw out an old towel, we can replace it. If we bring home four new towels, we need to ditch four old ones.

This rule can apply on an item-for-item basis, or you can use it as a blanket rule to help with our purging projects. Bring home a new shirt? A book has to go.

If you have a lot to ditch, multiply it. One in, five out. Etc.

Miss Minimalist explains it like this:

To keep your stuff level from rising, live by the following rule: every time a new item comes into your home, a similar item must leave. For every drip into the bucket, there must be one drip out; this ensures that your household won’t flood, and threaten the progress you’re making. -Francine Jay, Miss Minimalist

And in case you’re wondering, you don’t need the coasters. Put them down. Trust me.

Tip of the Day: Pick a Surface!

This tip comes straight to you from the UFYH playbook: if you’re feeling overwhelmed, pick a surface to declutter and clear. It could be your coffee table, your kitchen island (like mine!), bedroom dresser, or even a floor. Throw away all the trash, donate anything that needs to be ditched, and put everything else in its rightful home. Take a before/after picture if you need motivation!

The benefit to this type of challenge is it takes relatively little time and provides instant gratification. Just try not to fill it back up again!

Today is top of the dresser day for me. What about you?

Tip of the Day: Love it? Display it!

When considering whether or not to toss, donate, or keep an item, ask yourself this: do I love it?

Does this item bring me joy every time I look at it?

If it does, why isn’t it proudly on display in your home? (If it’s a useful item that serves a function in your life, it can get a pass and live in a drawer). Why hide special keepsakes in boxes in the attic? What purpose do they serve there?

Pinterest has tons of ideas for displaying keepsakes, from shadow boxes to DIY repurposing, so put the things you love out for everyone to see! Then you can love them every day.

Most important to remember: forgive yourself if you can’t part with a special item. And celebrate your progress when you can!

Tip of the Day: Avoid Burnout

Instead of marathon cleaning once in a blue moon, employ the following strategies from the folks at UFYH: declutter or clean by using a 20/10, or a 45/15. That is: set a timer for 20 minutes, clean, declutter, or organize until it goes off, then set it again for a 10 minute break. Repeat as often as necessary. You’d be amazed what you can accomplish in 20 minutes! I prefer the 45/15 for smaller jobs (run of the mill bathroom cleaning, for example), or time sensitive jobs (aka “oh shit” jobs. E.g. “Oh shit! My parents/boss/girlfriends/boyfriends are coming over in two hours!”).

Also, make sure to check out UFYH (http://unfuckyourhabitat.tumblr.com/). You won’t be disappointed!