“Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.”
– Jim Rohn
I’ll be honest—I’m not a huge fan of that all-too-common summer activity: the garage sale … or the tag sale, yard sale or for my fellow New Englanders, the stoop sale!
You know how it usually goes. You pull together piles of stuff that you want to sell, decide what you’re going to ask for each item, sticker them, drag them outside … and that’s just the warm-up.
You pick a weekend with great weather, knowing you’ll be stuck sitting in your garage or front yard.
You set it up so that it displays well … maybe even considering a second career doing display work for a department store … if there were still department stores.
Then, you wait for shoppers to stop by and pick through your things while you watch.
Sometimes, you have second thoughts about selling, and sneak a couple of items back inside hoping no one will notice.
It’s a lot of work for not a lot of return, and you will never get that time back.
WHY GARAGE SALES SUCK
If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you know that I consider time spent looking for—or worrying over—stuff to be wasted.
So let me break down how garage sales work:
First, you schlep your stuff to the front stoop/garage/yard, then you organize and price it, then advertise the sale, then spend a day or more overseeing your stuff as neighbors come by to poke around and bargain hunters haggle you into the ground over your already discounted prices … and when it’s all over, you may walk away with a few extra bucks in your pocket … or not. And then when things don’t sell, you feel crappy AND have to either haul everything back inside OR load it up and donate it.
Does that sound lucrative and fun?!
If you are nodding your head right now, thinking what I just described DOES sound like the perfect weekend, and you truly enjoy chit chatting with your neighbors and get deep satisfaction haggling over prices, skip this part.
If on the other hand, you are with me on this, scroll down to the alternatives below so you know what to do with all the stuff you’ll have left over after your block party/tag sale. Because there’s ALWAYS stuff left over… and a lot of it.
If you are holding a garage sale for any reason other than PURE JOY, keep reading:
If you do the math, the hourly rate is abysmal. Anecdotally, I’ve found the average to be somewhere around $3 an hour.
I appreciate that for some places in the world, that’s not bad wages … and the sad truth of the matter is that in those places, they aren’t having tag sales to get rid of surplus stuff.
So you just have to ask yourself this: what is YOUR time worth? Or better: what could you be doing with that time that would be so much more valuable to you?
Taking your nephew to a ball game? Spending the afternoon having tea with your Aunt Martha? Filling your soul with much-needed rest, looking at art at the local museum, or walking in nature? Or working a second job or building a business?
Chances are, there are many ways you would choose to spend that time IF you were doing the math and not doing what most people do when they think about selling their stuff.
Most people go into garage sales thinking about what they’ll GET for their stuff.
But what do you GAIN by instead reclaiming that time, and focusing it on something that brings more love and joy into your life?
Because even if it IS about the money, my friends—there are probably easier, faster ways to make the same amount of money or more.
The real math comes in assessing what’s most important to you: how do you want to spend your precious, only-get-it-once TIME, versus managing STUFF that is, essentially replaceable?
Or to put it this way, which will you be thinking about on your deathbed: that extra $5 you squeezed out of a dish set by selling it? Or time spent with loved ones, or doing something you truly enjoy?
GETTING RID OF STUFF IS A GOOD THING
While the reality of most garage sales is awful, the concept of garage sales isn’t all bad.
As inefficient as the format is, at their best garage sales are still a form of recycling and repurposing still-useful, quality items at a much lower cost.
So if that’s why you are drawn to them, spare yourself the time and hassle of an actual garage sale and check out these 4 virtual alternatives.
They will accomplish the same thing AND keep your summer weekends free for enjoying the people and experiences you’ll remember for years to come.
This is by far my favorite method, for a few reasons.
For one thing, donating just feels good. You can rest easy in the knowledge that someone else, or an organization in need, will benefit from an item that no longer serves you.
There’s a psychological boost in that, and it’s often worth far more than the monetary value of an item.
And I’ve got a soft spot for veterans. My dad was in the military and his VA benefits were the difference between serious poverty and access to excellent medical care.
While I hope we never have to fight another war, the people who serve get big props from me and I do what I can to support them.
So whether you contact any of the nonprofits above or find a local thrift store, find one where you can schedule a pickup, hopefully online, and they should be able to come by within a week or two to grab everything right off your curb or porch. Easy peasy.
A few clicks, and that clutter is out of your life.
Bonus: there’s no last-minute regret as you watch people pawing through your stuff, either.
2—ONLINE FURNITURE SALES
Thank goodness for technology. I wrote an article a few years back about how to sell antique furniture online. (If you have any vintage or valuable pieces in great condition, check out the resources I share there. Most are still up and running.)
Today, you’ve got even more options—literally dozens of online outlets where you can sell your furniture.
Here are a few:
Letgo is an app that lets you list and sell your furniture for free—so you can’t beat the price. You don’t have to set up a storefront the way you do with some other furniture sales apps, so it’s easy to use. Just snap a few photos and you’re basically done!
Nextdoor isn’t just a place where you can go to watch your neighbors squabble over fireworks. It’s also an online marketplace where you can sell just about anything, no garage sale needed. It isn’t limited to furniture, either. Plus, there’s an added benefit—unlike some other marketplaces, with Nextdoor you get to skip the hassle of shipping.
Bonanza is a popular alternative to eBay or Amazon, if you’re looking to go that route. Because it’s a more formal online marketplace, you’ll pay a percentage of sales in commission to the site if a piece sells.
3—ONLINE CLOTHES AND ACCESSORIES SALES
ThredUp is one of many sites that allow you to sell clothes, shoes, handbags, and other used fashion items. They’ll send you a “clean-out kit” for your saleable items, which you mail to them up front. They take care of listing and marketing your goods, and you get a commission when your things sell.
TheRealReal is one of your best bets if you’ve got designer items to sell. And while you’ll never make back all the money that you spent in the first place, this site will get you MUCH closer than a garage sale will. Once you chat with them about your desired pricing and other details, they take care of the rest.
eBay is another classic online spot for selling items. If you choose to do the work of listing your items yourself, pay attention to the time cost. Clothes and accessories add up fast as compared to big-ticket items like furniture, so consider hiring an expert to do the heavy lifting for you.
Just remember—the last thing you want to do is spend hours of your valuable summer in front of a computer, or making constant trips to the post office for shipping.
4—ONLINE AUCTION HOUSES AND CONSIGNMENT SHOPS
Estate sales and auctions have also gone virtual, too. Check out platforms like LiveAuctioneers or Heritage Auctions for large collections or special vintage items that require a more specialized eye. If you’ve got mid-century modern pieces to sell, look at Rago Auctions—that’s their specialty.
These online auction houses will typically ask you to send them several photos so they can evaluate your stuff upfront. If they’re interested, they’ll contact you about selling your item(s), and they’ll do the listing and marketing for you in exchange for a percentage of the sale price.
Also, if you’re a New Yorker just looking to get rid of a whole batch of stuff in one fell swoop, check out Every Thing Goes on Staten Island. Their mission is to keep “another man’s treasure” out of landfills, so they’ll make a flat rate offer on the lot.
THE BOTTOM LINE
My go-to advice for anyone looking to sell their unwanted items is—in general—don’t.
The money you’ll make is almost never worth the hassle of selling your stuff, even online.
However, if you’ve got a lot of stuff that you’re committed to selling, or valuable vintage pieces that are worth a lot of money, my next recommendation is this:
Hire an expert to do it for you.
Yes, you’ll lose some of the sale price in the reseller’s commission, but never forget the value of your time. It’s also likely that an expert can sell your items for more money than you can.
It’s their area of expertise, and it isn’t yours, so consider just letting them handle it.
eBay has a whole section of their site dedicated to connecting people with resellers, so good help is only a few clicks away.
In the end, it comes back to this: people and experiences over stuff. Always.
This is another reminder to clearly and frankly focus on the value of your time, and the energy restored to you when you shed clutter.
And always remember, you don’t have to do it alone! If you’re ready to let the stuff go and get your time and life back, but don’t know where to get started, join our next FREE 5-Day De-Stress Your Mess Challenge. It’s starting soon, so register today!