Clean out closets to create quick cash

Posted May 26, 2008

Do you want to make some money and clear out clothes, toys and other items you no longer use? A yard sale helps you do both. Organizing a sale is relatively easy and can even be fun, involving the kids and your neighborhood.

Sometimes a firm deadline is a great motivator, so decide when you want to hold your sale. If you’re setting the date for a neighborhood sale, realize that no one date will satisfy everyone in a large community.

Next, advertise the sale in your community newsletter and Web site and on other Web sites, such as, or Placing an ad in a print publication helps draw traffic but costs money.

Trying to decide what to sell can be overwhelming, but once you begin, momentum builds and it gets easier.

Rebecca Schmidt, of Streamline Organizing in Raleigh, recommends starting to collect sale items at least a month in advance so you can make several passes through your home.

“If you'd rather have a little money than store it, it goes. If you've never used it, it goes. If it is a multiple or 'just in case' or taking up valuable room, it goes. If it is a nice but useless and an unused gift, it goes,” Schmidt says of deciding what to keep or sell.

But she says “not all rules apply to all people.”

When helping children choose items to sell, Schmidt notes that, unless you have an understood agreement about “toys in, toys out,” don’t expect kids to get excited about selling their things without proper motivation, past experience or a consistent example from a parent.

“If all else fails, tell them they can keep the money from whatever they sell. That way you get free help, and the kids get a retail lesson,” she says.

Jaime Baker, of Raleigh, holds one or two yard sales a year and involves her children, ages 7, 6 and 3, in the process.

“They choose the toys that we sell. Once the kids see all their toys out to sell, they beg for them not to be sold. I let them pick one toy that they can keep, if they want, but if they don't keep one, I'll let them buy a new one with the money they make from the yard sale,” Baker says.

To organize a sale, check out some tips from Baker, Schmidt and Jen Burk, a frequent yard sale shopper who lives in Wake Forest:

  • Stock up on price stickers and mark items as you collect them. Or for “group pricing,” use masking tape to divide the sale area into sections – 50 cents, $1, $5.
  • Designate a staging area in your home for items to sell.
  • Make directional signs with address, time and a large arrow. Check if your city has sign ordinances.
  • Have plenty of tables for sale items.
  • Make sure toys are clean and in working order with batteries.
  • Display items neatly in similar categories and separate clothes by size.
  • Have small bills and coins for change.
  • Provide bags for shoppers’ items.
  • Set up about one hour before the sale begins.
  • Display larger items near the road to attract shoppers.
  • Cut prices during the last hour.

Barbara Gartside and her neighbor, Virginia Schaible, have organized two neighborhood sales in Apex. They said they had plenty of shopping traffic and no problems other than having to repeatedly replace the directional signs outside the neighborhood.

“We were excited by the number of homes who participated,” Gartside says.

To organize a successful neighborhood sale, Gartside suggests the following:

  • Start recruiting neighbors two to three months in advance with announcements on neighborhood signs and the Web site. Also have sign-up sheets in the community newsletter and fliers. Set a cut-off date for signing up.
  • Create an e-mail account to communicate with participants; blind copy everyone to avoid giving out e-mail addresses.
  • Make packets for sellers that include a list of addresses (no names) and map of participating neighbors to give shoppers and a list of suggestions where individuals can take unsold items.

After the sale, don’t move unsold items back into the house. Take them to a consignment store or donate them to a shelter, thrift store or other charitable organization.


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