Chances are, your garage is piled high with clothes and boxes and gadgets and obsolete electronics. Are you going to donate everything, call a consignment store, have a yard sale or put ads on Craigslist? Let’s discuss each of these options.
If you are comfortable financially and don’t have much spare time, you may want to go the donation route. With detailed records and your tax professional’s help, you might end up with a very nice income tax deduction. Be sure to make a list of everything you’ve donated and get a receipt. Attended donation stations like this one make it easy to drop off stuff.
Or call your local thrift organization and request a pickup. Be aware that most will not accept items like used mattresses or even sofa beds.
Perhaps, like Mike (my husband) and I, you want to help fund your new small-scale furnishings purchases by selling your discarded ones. That’s a smart and very green choice. Consignment stores, like this one near our home, are popping up everywhere. I suggest you spend a day checking out the stores in your area. Pay attention to whether or not people are coming in and out. Look at the prices. Would you pay that for that piece?
Then, in a week or so, retrace your steps. Are the same items still there, or has the inventory turned over? Pick a consignment store for your furniture and accessories where the pricing seems reasonable and items seem to be selling.
Note: A good consignment store is choosy about what it accepts, so don’t be offended if it doesn’t take everything you offer. Being selective indicates savvy selling, even if it means you have to take a different approach for some of your stuff.
Holding a garage sale is another option, but one that can be fraught with peril. You can end up making almost no money in spite of days and days of effort, while having to put up with some very interesting characters. Take, for instance, the young man who approached the person running a garage sale and said, “I heard on the radio about this guy who bought what looked like a worthless rock collection, and in it was a sapphire worth $2 million. You got anything like that?”
If you still want to brave a garage sale, here are some suggestions to help make it worth your while.
Before you post any signs on light standards or electrical poles, check with the local authorities for any ordinances concerning signage. Mounting your sign on a sandwich board is a good way to avoid getting in trouble. And please take down your signs after the sale. Don’t you hate having old, peeling, torn garage sale signs hanging from every post and pillar? Be a good citizen and remove them after your sale.
Last suggestion on your garage sale: Open early; close early. Honestly, I have done enough sales over the decades to know that anything that is going to sell will sell fast, probably in the first two hours. You can stay open all day, or even two days, but any sale worth making will happen first thing. Give yourself permission to not drag things out.
Craigslist has the potential to be the most financially rewarding way to sell your goods. But it can also be a serious pain, and you must be cautious.
Mike and I have used Craigslist for years, with fabulous success. But times have changed. Here are some keys to being safe and successful:
- Never reveal your email address in your ad, and do not exchange emails with potential buyers outside of Craigslist’s email system. Unfortunately, hackers and scammers use Craigslist to harvest email addresses. Insist that any responses come by phone call, text or Craigslist email (which hides your personal email address).
- Never respond to anyone, no matter how serious the person sounds or how much money is being offered, who is not local. Face-to-face is the only secure way to sell on Craigslist.
- Always meet on neutral ground if the size of your item makes that possible. We use Starbucks parking lots very happily. There are always lots of people around, and we have not revealed where we live.
- If your item is too large to readily transport, show it in your garage, not inside your home.
- Update your ad regularly, following Craiglist’s instructions. You may have to wait a bit for just the right buyer, but eventually it will happen.
- Finally, accept cash only.
Having said all that, most of the people shopping Craigslist are honest, friendly and just looking for a good deal. So take care and sell at a fair price, and you should do well. Including pictures and dimensions with your ad makes a sale much more likely.
In my next installment in this series, we’re going to talk about my favorite key to successful downsizing: double-duty rooms and double-duty pieces.
Until then, happy selling!