What to do when your yard sale fails

Typically people hold a yard sale for one of three reasons:

  1. They want to earn some money.
  2. They want unwanted stuff to go to a good home.
  3. They want to pare-down possessions.

In any case, the organizer hopes for success — a few extra dollars in the pocket, some free space in the house, less clutter — however you define a successful yard sale.

Even if you plan a successful yard sale, sometimes it flops — nothing is sold or huge items such as a sofa or credenza are left. It’s the end of the the final day and you’re standing outside with a pile of unsold merchandise. The inevitable question pops into your head, “Now what?”

Let’s take a look at what you can do when your yard sale bombs.

First and foremost, don’t get frustrated with the leftovers. There are many potential variables that could have affected your sale:

  1. You had more stuff than you had time to sell.
  2. Your prices were higher than the typical customer was willing to spend.
  3. The right people didn’t find you.
  4. The weather or timing was bad.

But today we’re not looking at what when wrong (we’ve got a guide for that). Instead, it’s what to do with all the leftover stuff. There are many options.

Right away, before you bring a single item into the house, divide your goods into the following piles:

  1. Donation
  2. Sell online
  3. Free to whomever wants it
  4. Items for the next sale
  5. Keepers

Now, a look at each category.

Donation is self-explanatory. Often doctors’ offices or hospitals will take magazines. Think of friends or relatives who might want what you’ve got. Perhaps there’s a Scout troop, school, or other charitable organization in your area that will gladly accept certain gently used items.

Selling online is a great way to go. My wife and I have had tremendous success holding a “virtual yard sale” on Facebook. It was pretty easy to do. We took one or two photos of each item, added them to Facebook Marketplace and shared them on our walls. Within two days everything was sold and picked up by the buyers. If Facebook isn’t your thing, consider Varagesale. Creating an account is easy and, in my experience, most items sell quickly. Of course there is also Ebay and Freecycle.

Don’t be afraid to try another yard sale. Maybe the weather was bad, or a holiday weekend meant fewer people in the neighborhood. In any case, try again but make some changes. First, wait a few weeks and mark the prices down. Also, set up a “free” table for items you simply want to get rid of. You can even do a raffle at the end of the day. For example, for $3, visitors get a chance to have their names drawn and then the winners can take as much stuff away as they want.

Finally, acknowledge that there may be some keepers may have popped up during the sale. During our recent sale, my son identified a toy that he really wanted. Limit yourself to one keeper, as the idea is to get rid of stuff, but that single item can earn its way back into the house if you’ve really got a good reason for keeping it.

It’s depressing when a yard sale doesn’t live up to your expectations. But there’s plenty you can do with your remaining items. And remember the positive: you conducted a big purge and organize, you got some stuff at least to people who’ll use and appreciate it and you’ve reduced the clutter in your home. I think that’s a win.

2 Comments for “What to do when your yard sale fails”

  1. posted by Daniel @ OneFawnPug on

    Great article! Another reason your sale’s results may not have been as strong as hoped is changing tastes. With many people downsizing or starting off in smaller more casual spaces they may not have the room or lifestyle that would be consistent with your offerings. (I am thinking of large furniture, china, crystal, formal silverware, …)

  2. posted by Greg on

    Garage sale failures are generally due to 3 things:
    1) prices too high
    2) no advertising
    3) crappy weather

    Put an ad on Craigslist. Other garage sale websites use bots to pull your sale onto their websites, which helps get the word out. And garage sales need to have garage sale prices on items, not EBay prices. Nobody cares that you paid $125 for those designer jeans, you are not going to get more than 2 bucks for it at a garage sale. You want more money, sell it on EBay, or put a separate ad on Craigslist, or take it to a consignment store.

    Crappy weather I can’t help you on. That’s up to the dude upstairs.

Leave a Comment