The remains of our garage sale towards the end of the morning

  • DH = Dear Husband
  • DD3 = Dear Third Daughter

In the last few weeks, DH and I have been on a mission to get our house emptied of excess stuff. We’re in the midst of moving the office of his home business from a small den to the combined dining room and living room area. The den will become a mini-living room, and what has been the family room will become our dining room. Big, old furniture has had to be cleared out to make way for soon-to-be-purchased smaller furniture, and at the same time, all of the clutter that has been breeding in our home for years has grown more and more annoying, peaking our desire to purge.

Kijiji sales

Getting rid of things is no small deal. We’re selling a number of items through Kijiji, and it takes more effort than I would have guessed.

  1. First, isolate the item and position it so that you can get a good picture of it.
  2. Create a Kijiji ad.
  3. Respond to e-mails and have a game plan in place to respond to offers.
  4. Arrange to meet with the potential customer – sometimes more than once – as he/she decides whether or not to buy.

But Kijiji has been effective. We’ve sold:

  • our piano ($250)
  • a bag of Lego from when our kids were young ($20)
  • our old couch ($20)
  • a weight bench ($50)
  • DD3’s old drum set ($240)

We’re still hoping to sell:

  • two comfy chairs
  • one love seat
  • a large throw rug
  • a set of 3 tables (coffee-, couch-, and end-)
  • a box of wooden Brio train sets
  • a trampoline

Garage sale

And then there are all of the little items that, as I said, have been breeding all over our home. Everything from an old guitar, old books, shoes, slippers, stuffed animals, puzzles, games, toys, containers, dishes, lamps . . . To deal with these clutter minions, I organized a garage sale. It was A LOT of work!

  1. Set a date and asked 2 clutter-challenged friends if they wanted to join me so that it would be a more substantial sale.
  2. Printed off and delivered 78 invitations to all households on my street to see if it could be a street garage sale.
  3. Printed off and delivered 78 notices for all households on my street to let them know there was enough interest to make it a street garage sale.
  4. Put up ads on 2 online sites.
  5. Bought signs and prepared them for DH to put up.
  6. Thursday afternoon had a helpful friend and her daughter over for lunch as well as hours of sorting and pricing.
  7. Friday evening had 2 friends (and the husband of one) who were taking part over for a bar-b-que and garage sale set-up.
  8. Saturday morning, it was time to go!
  9. Saturday afternoon, I boxed up almost everything that hadn’t sold and drove it off to donate it.

The morning was beautiful, and a constant stream of customers kept us busy for the first 3 hours. 25¢ for tops. $2 for a pair of shoes. 50¢  for puzzles. $1 for 2-4 books. $20 for the guitar. $3 for the lamps . . . A fourth friend joined us with her wares, and we had a great time chatting with each other and the people who came to see what we had to sell. The last hour or so was very slow, and we were cheerfully exhausted.

DH and I made what to me was a surprisingly low $110. That’s what happens when you have a ton of sales for less than a dollar. But it was all worth it! We had fun. We de-cluttered. And as one of my friends said, “The whole process of going through my stuff and sorting things out for the garage sale has made me very conscious of every single little thing I buy.” Bingo! I am finding that to be true. When you’ve painstakingly sorted, priced, displayed, and sold – for a couple of dollars or even less – you come to appreciate the burden of things. And you want to avoid them.

Money earned

Add our garage sale earnings to our Kijii sales so far, and we’ve made a total of $690 in our de-cluttering efforts to date – all of which will go towards the emergency fund we are saving as per Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover Step #3. (Step #1 was to save up a mini-emergency fund of $1,000, and Step #2 was the debt snowball to pay off all non-mortgage debt.)

Many people can’t be bothered with a garage sale. It takes a lot of time and effort to prepare, and for the work that is put into it, the amount of money earned is quite low. But there are many side-benefits. A garage sale is a great motivator and focus for de-cluttering. The day itself is pretty well guaranteed to be a laid-back, fun, social time. And it reinforces the wisdom of minimalism and the value of a dollar.

DD2’s Infamous Doll

In a recent post, I asked whether we should keep or get rid of DD2’s infamous bride doll. It’s a porcelain doll that I bought for her when she was 5 years-old and threw a tantrum in the store where we were buying a birthday present for her friend. A very weak moment in my parenting life which effectively taught DD2 to make a fuss to get her way. Ugh! Almost 21 now, DD2 has come a long way – and so has her mother. Most people who responded to my request for advice said that we should get rid of the doll because it represented something negative. Others said we should keep it because it symbolized the positive changes we’ve made. Well, we decided to put it out with our garage sale stuff . . . and it sold. For $2.

I believe we made the right decision. Out with old makes room for the new. Soon enough, we’ll have a new office and some new furniture. But already, we have a renewed sense of the direction in which we’re heading. Towards the destination of freedom from debt. Freedom from clutter. Freedom from purchases that represent or become a burden. I was dealing with small change this morning in the busy rush of our garage sale. But in so many ways, I was dealing with big change.

Do you find that garage sales are a lot of work for a little money? Do you think they’re worthwhile? Your comments are welcome.




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    1. Well, we didn’t rake in a fortune, but we sure sold a lot of stuff! I boxed up 95% of what was left over and donated it. SO great to have a ton of clutter removed : )

    1. Too bad! We’re really eager to sell those tables. They’re attractive but too big and heavy for our room switch-up plans. We couldn’t believe the response to our Lego ad. 7 e-mail inquiries within an hour of posting it on Kijiji!

  1. I don’t understand how my comment got up there. This is the first time I read this post! Am I time tripping again? 😛 ANYHOO! Nice job, Ruth! I know the money’s important, but for a minimalist, the getting rid of stuff is the real thrill! I’m so happy for you! 😀

    1. You wrote that initial comment when I had just put up a notification that I was doing the garage sale and that I would write about it later : ) You are absolutely right about the getting rid of stuff part. The fact that it was fun and a sunny morning didn’t hurt either : )

  2. A garage sale is a lot of work. Thankfully, I have a few friends who are willing to accept my stuff for their garage sales, so that’s the route I’ve been taking. I get frustrated about the amount that I take out of my house, but honestly so much of it was received for free or carefully thought out at the time, that I’m learning to forgive myself a little more for hanging onto clutter past its due date.

    1. I’m also astonished by the amount of stuff that accumulates in our house. Much of ours has been in the form of gifts that have come in for our kids over the years. It’s really hard to keep on top of it all in the busy-ness of life. I think that the secret is to do it “on the fly” – but not everyone is an on-the-fly type. (I’m not.) It’s great that your friends take in your stuff for their garage sales. I hope you join them some of the times – as my friends joined me. It really is a fun time!

  3. We missed the deadline to participate in our neighborhood garage sale this past year, but I’m determined to get in next year! We have about 4 to 5 old bikes, more glasses than we can drink out of, and a ton of kid stuff we can get rid off. I’m sure it has to feel good to have all of that lingering clutter out of your house!

    1. I have missed many garage sale opportunities, Gina! It’s so easy to say, “Next time . . . ” The grunt work involved in organizing a garage sale is just not appealing. But I hope you do get in on your neighbourhood’s sale next year. The money pay-off is not the main advantage – the de-cluttering and resulting mindfulness about “stuff” make it all worthwhile.

  4. Yes and yes. People will generally make very little money from a garage sale in my experience. However, we have had two during the seven years we have been in our home, the most recent just two weeks ago. Our intent with garage sales is not to make a ton of money but to make a few bucks – maybe for a nice dinner – and use them as a means to get rid of stuff … clean house. After this last garage sale (we made about $325), we simply took the remaining items to the Goodwill and made a donation. No point in dragging any of that stuff back in the house!

    1. $325 is a good amount of money to earn! I made the mistake of “dragging” stuff back into the house the last time I took part in a garage sale. I was thinking, “I’ll just bring it our of the next garage sale.” But I don’t think that most of it sold the second time around either! I was wiser this time around, and donated it as you have done. It’s a good idea to have a planned destination for money earned. $325 would buy a VERY nice dinner : )

  5. I’ve had a few. Some as a kid because our neighborhood would have an annual one. One when I sold the rooming house and had to pare down my stuff as I moved into a two-bedroom apartment. And one before we moved to Phoenix.

    That last one was tricky because we were in an apartment building, so we had to set up on a patch of grass by the condos next door. That didn’t end well when one neighbor went from pleasant to nasty as our sale ran over the time, and he was trying to show buyers a place. (Because clearly, one sale is going to turn them off?)

    I was pleasantly surprised by what we made that time. It was around $300. Then again, we were getting rid of some decent priced items too. Nothing over like $20 (most of it significantly less), but it was a boost to the moving fund.

    Congrats on your profitable decluttering process so far!

    1. How disappointing that your neighbour became annoyed! My (limited) experience with garage sales has been that they can be great community builders. But I guess there are always exceptions. De-cluttering has definitely been the most “profitable” aspect of our garage sales. And you’re right in saying “so far”. The taste I’m getting of clutter-free living makes me want more.

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