Whether you’re trying to get out of debt or just need spending money, there’s something eerily satisfying about selling your unwanted “stuff” for cash. Your old picture frames, unworn or outgrown children’s clothing, and forgotten home décor may not hold a place in your heart any longer, but that doesn’t mean someone else won’t gladly swoop these items up – for a price, of course.
Because I’ve always been obsessed with earning extra income, I’ve had a rolling garage sale my entire adult life. What I mean is, I start planning the next garage sale the second the last one ends.
For years, I kept totes of “yard sale stuff” in my garage, just waiting for the next time I could roll it all out. Each time a garage sale ended, I would pack up all the stuff in the totes and stash it away. Then, throughout the year, I would add more unwanted stuff and clothing to the totes. By the next time summer rolled around, my garage sale was mostly ready in totes – just waiting for pricing and set-up in my garage.
All in all, garage sales offered an easy way to accomplish two important goals – getting rid of the merry-go-round of stuff we accumulate and earning money. For someone who hates stuff and loves money, it doesn’t get any better than that.
Why I Quit Having Garage Sales
Somewhere along the way, though, something changed. A few years ago, I found myself dreading the idea of having yet another garage sale. I had the “stuff” tucked neatly away in my garage, and I had a few empty Saturdays on my calendar. But for some reason, I just wasn’t feeling it.
Call me lazy if you want, but the massive amount of time it takes to prep for a garage sale started to feel more like a hassle than an investment. Even if you don’t price everything, it can take several hours or weekday evenings to organize a sale.
When I prepared for garage sales in the past, it always took me weeks to get ready. Sure, I had a lot of “stuff” packed away in organized totes, but I still had to go through our belongings. That often meant digging through my children’s clothing to see what they had outgrown, questioning my kids about their unwanted toys and gear, and imploring my husband to pare down his possessions, too.
On top of that, you have to sit out in the heat and deal with whoever shows up. Sometimes garage sale attendees are pleasant, but other times, not so much. I’ve had people enter my garage smoking a cigarette (nope!), and even had someone try to leave their flat tire in my driveway. Then there are those who want to negotiate prices on everything, even items that cost as little as 25 cents. That part of the sale is always exhausting to me, mostly because it seems so unnecessary. If all prices were negotiable, I wouldn’t have bothered pricing everything in the first place, right?
Another reason for my change of heart is the fact that I never earned a lot of money with my sales – at least, compared to some people. While a lot of my friends boast earnings in the $500+ range, my garage sales typically netted $200 or less. This is probably because our stuff isn’t that nice. I mean, I don’t spend a lot of money on stuff, and most of our belongings were purchased from garage sales and secondhand stores to begin with.
Regardless, I had finally had enough with spending weeks to prepare then wasting an entire Saturday to earn $200. So, I stopped having garage sales altogether.
Getting Rid of Stuff Without Garage Sales: What We Do Instead
While halting my garage sale efforts was definitely the right move, I still needed to find a way to get rid of unwanted possessions and clothing. This is especially true when it comes to my children’s belongings. They’re still young and maturing rapidly, so they’re almost always outgrowing their clothes. And since they get toys on their birthdays and the holidays, our downsizing efforts will probably need to continue for years to come.
With that in mind, here are some of the ways we’ve cleaned house and made a bit of money without our annual garage sales:
#1: We sell nice clothing ‘lots’ on Facebook and Craigslist.
Garage sales are pretty much a free-for-all when it comes to clothing. Normally, I would set up a few tables and sort clothing by size, then charge $0.50 to $2 per piece, depending on the item.
But, you can’t really do that on Facebook for a few reasons. So, instead of trying to sell everything, I’ve been grouping together like items and selling them in “lots.”
For example, when my youngest child transitioned into summer clothing earlier this year, I sold all of her 5T jeans in a single lot on Craigslist. It was easy, and I earned $4 per pair. That’s a lot more than I would normally have charged at a garage sale.
#2: We make regular ‘donation sweeps.’
While I used to gather our “extra” stuff and store it in totes in our garage and attic, this is no longer the case. Instead, I make regular sweeps through the house, gathering unwanted stuff to donate to charity.
While my husband and I don’t accumulate a lot of stuff, this makes a big difference when it comes to my children’s rooms and their play area. Regular donations keep the interior of our home neat and tidy while also helping local charities. (And if you itemize your deductions, it can help lower your tax bill, too.)
#3: I sell the nicest clothing on Poshmark.
I’ve written about my obsession with Poshmark.com before, but that was mostly from the perspective of a consumer. The thing is, Poshmark.com is also a great website to use if you want to sell high-end clothing.
Lately, I’ve been using the website to post and sell a lot of my children’s nicer clothing, as well as my own. While there is additional work involved in taking pictures, creating a posting, and shipping items, you can earn a lot more per item, too.
For example, I’ve sold a few nicer dresses on Poshmark for $25 or more. That’s a lot more than I could have earned at a garage sale, if I could have sold those nicer pieces at all. I’ve also sold several pieces of children’s clothing for $10 or more, even after accounting for shipping costs.
#4: I post ‘curb alerts’ online all the time.
While I once saved everything for our garage sales, I finally gave myself permission to stop a few years ago. So, when I have something bigger to get rid of and don’t want to bother selling it, I typically post a “curb alert” online and let someone pick it up for free.
This strategy works well with items that are difficult to resell for any reason. For example, I recently gave away some older lawn furniture that I knew wouldn’t sell unless I cleaned it up. Since I didn’t want to spend time refurbishing it, I set it out on the curb instead. When I posted a “curb alert” on my city Facebook page, it was gone within an hour. You can list free stuff on Craigslist and Freecycle, too.
The Bottom Line
While I haven’t tallied up the numbers, I’m willing to bet I earned more money by not having annual garage sales than had I continued the tradition. That’s because many online resale sites make it easier to charge what your item is actually worth, whereas garage sales are pretty much the bottom of the barrel.
More importantly though, I’ve saved time and I’ve saved stress. I no longer spend a week of my summer sorting our belongings and pricing things out, nor do I waste a summer Saturday haggling over stuff I don’t want anyway.
While garage sales can absolutely help you earn money, they work best when you have time to spare and plenty of good stuff to sell. In our current season of life, I have neither of those things.
Earning extra money is important, but sometimes, time matters most of all.
Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of Zero Down Your Debt. Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at ClubThrifty.com.
- The Diminishing Returns of Garage Sales
- The Life-Changing Magic of Buying Used Stuff
- A Guide to Selling Unwanted Items
What do you do with your unwanted “stuff?” Do you still have garage sales? Why or why not?