The business principle that will convince you to have a yard sale.
Running a home isn’t the same as running a business. The goal at the end of the day is not to generate as much profit as possible, but rather to take care of basic needs and hopefully provide some enjoyment. In fact, cozy is our house rule. It's a great rule for home, but it's not exactly the kind of mission statement that would make a solid foundation for running a business. Despite the differences, there is one business principle we can apply when thinking about all the various stuff that fills our homes… we can think of our things as inventory.
In business, there are several disadvantages to keeping excess inventory on-hand. It takes up space that can be filled by more valuable products, reduces profit margins, generates storage costs, and ultimately leads to waste (Neil Kokemuller, Chron). In fact, Lean Performance Management (a model that is all about efficiency) specifically calls out excess inventory as one of seven major types of waste to be avoided.
Not everything in our homes can be considered excess inventory. Some of that stuff is practical or provides immense value to the customer (us!) and should be kept. (This is why Marie Kondo's test of "Does the item bring you joy?" works so well). However, the stuff that is unused and unloved is excess inventory (no matter how well organized we keep it), and good business sense says it should go.
When a business decides to purchase or create inventory, it puts it's money into a product. This money can no longer be used flexibly to cover other expenses. Too much inventory can make it hard for a company to kick-start greater growth (Maxwell Murphy, Wall Street Journal).
The same is true for us and our stuff. Except, unlike a business, the things we keep in our home are unlikely to ever generate a profit. Most household items (with rare exceptions like collectibles) rapidly decline in value as they get older, dustier, and further out of date. Because of this, it makes the best sense to identify our "excess inventory" and convert it back to cash sooner rather than later. We can then put this cash to work on a thing or purpose that does enrich our lives (like earning interest, paying off debt, or funding a visit to see lovely friends that relocated to Sandpoint, Idaho). As a secondary benefit, we are also left with a cleaner and tidier home.
There are lots of ways to sell stuff, and I've used many of them over time (Ebay, Craigslist, OfferUp...). However, with the number of unused and unwanted items beginning to stack up in our garage, I decided that it was time to try hosting a yard sale.
We're preparing now for a summer sale. After a quick sweep through the kitchen turned up way more unused/unneeded items than I imagined existed in our generally orderly home, I was glad that we'd gotten started in advance. Beginning weeks ahead of time allows us to declutter each areas of the house in small pieces over time, making it a much more manageable task.
Bigger is better (AKA, Making a yard sale fun!)
When I was young, my mom's side of the family (aunts, uncles, grandparents, and more) would come together to host one big yard sale. The large array of items was more appealing to potential customers and many hands made lighter work out of the event. In the same spirit, we've invited friends in the area (especially the apartment dwellers who don't have the option of a traditional yard sale) to come out and participate in our summer sale.
Here's how it'll work:
- Participants bring over their sale items (priced and marked with initials or a special sticker) before the start of the sale. (TIP: We're doing Friday/Saturday, as those are traditionally busiest in our area).
- Participants will put their trust in whoever is assigned to collect cash (sale amounts will be logged), but they can otherwise go enjoy their weekend as they please.
- Participants will be available by phone in case someone wants to bargain and we need to reach them.
- Everyone will return on Saturday at 5pm to help pick up and take unsold things to the thrift store (TIP: To build community and reduce our trips to the thrift store, we will also allow folks in our Buy Nothing group to take unsold items in the final hours of the sale)
- We'll distribute everyone's cash, and enjoy a potluck barbecue and good company
Help and/or good company is accepted at any time over the course of the sale, but it's not required.
As we declutter, I'm already enjoying the benefits of a more streamlined home, but I'm looking forward to learning from our yard sale experience.
Thinking of hosting your own yard sale?
Yard sale pricing, signage, organization, and more tips are just a click away: We've collected a bunch of yard sale hacks and how-to's on Pinterest.
Author's Note: I must confess... Today's post photo is not from a yard sale at all! I took it in an amazing shop called Tinkertopia (Tacoma, WA).