I went to a yard sale this weekend that was disappointing, to say the least. Everything on sale was either broken, damaged, dirty, or trash (one half-used crayon, a moldy mattress, a shirt so faded and tattered that it would only suffice for rags, and board games missing most of the pieces and with the decals peeling or missing from the base). I was there right after the sale opened, so I know it wasn’t a case of all the good stuff being snapped up already. Making matters worse: Things were just strewn on tables and tarps on the ground without any sort of organization. Needless to say, this person wasn’t making a lot of money.
If you’re going to have a yard sale, you need to sell stuff that people want to buy. Sure, you can sell some things that are broken or damaged. You don’t want to try to sell your trash, however. How do you tell the difference? Ask yourself these questions and answer honestly. (Note that you should ask yourself these same questions before donating an item to charity. If no one will buy it at a yard sale, a
charity isn’t going to want it either.)
Can the item be repaired at all, and for a reasonable cost?
People will buy things that they think they can repair for a reasonable cost. However, if the item cannot be repaired or it will cost more to repair than to buy a new one, most people won’t buy it. The broken toaster at this weekend’s sale is an example. Toaster repairs today cost far more than just buying a new one. Unless the buyer is skilled in toaster repair, you aren’t going to sell that item.
Is the item collectible or valuable?
If the item is a collectible or valuable, people might be willing to repair it knowing that they will get more out of it in the long run. If the toaster mentioned above had been from the 1950’s, someone might have purchased it and paid for the repairs, hoping that it might be worth more ten years from now. Or, they might have a use for it in a themed B&B. Otherwise, it’s garbage.
Can the item be used for anything other than its intended purpose?
You might be able to sell some battered clothes if someone can use them for the fabric. Maybe a quilt maker will buy them. However, the fabric needs to be in good condition and it had better be a unique pattern. You can also sell things like broken generators, mowers, or computers because someone might scavenge them for parts. If there is no other use for the item, it’s probably trash.
Is the item hygienic?
A dirty, moldy mattress isn’t going to sell. Neither is badly stained (upholstered) furniture, used underwear, well worn shoes, used hairbrushes, or smelly or stained clothes. If the item is of a personal nature or carries a lot of “personal” stains or smells, it won’t sell. People won’t buy things that are gross and unhygienic. These need to go in the trash.
Is the item still useful?
Is the item damaged in such a way that its usefulness is compromised or it is unsafe, even if it might still work? Cups with the handles broken off aren’t very useful anymore and should probably go in the trash. So should things like pots with broken handles, Tupperware without lids, and desktop picture frames missing the arm that makes them stand up. Technically these items still “work,” but not well or safely. They should go in the trash.
Is the item an odd bit?
Things like one crayon, one game piece, one empty CD case, or one magazine aren’t likely to sell. These things sell better in large lots, if at all. If you have just one odd bit, it’s probably better off in the trash.
If you have an item that you think is on the border between trash and useful, see if you can repair or clean it before putting it up for sale. If you can spruce it up or restore its functionality you’ll have a better chance of selling it. If you do try to sell something that’s broken or damaged, be honest about the problem and price it accordingly. For example, don’t try to sell tattered clothes for full price. Price them as rags or fabric scraps. Price an old, obsolete computer for the parts, not as a fully functional unit.
No matter what you try to sell at your yard sale, display it attractively and in such a way that it’s easy for people to browse. Don’t make your buyers crawl on the ground to view items or paw though piles of junk. Clean things up so people don’t get dirty wen browsing your sale. An attractive, well set up sale will go a long way toward enticing buyers.