Rightsizing Your Home– with a Tag Sale

Even the so-called “Rightsizing Queen” has dirty little secrets like millions of other Americans who put the stuff they can’t use currently in an off-site storage locker. I’ve had one since our “empty nest” family moved from 4000 sq. ft. in Southern California to our current 1200 sq. ft.-and-holding in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I’ve been so busy promoting Rightsizing Your Life for three solid years, that I couldn’t get it together to finally clear out things I haven’t set eyes upon in all that time.

So!  This month I finally bit the bullet and dragged out boxes and boxes of our earthly possessions that had been packed professionally by the moving company my husband’s firm had chosen, and which we had left in storage because we’d “rightsized” into our current charming cottage that didn’t have room for the seven couches I once owned…

Over the last decade, we’ve whittled things down to what remained in the off-site storage, and when I brought it all into the light of day, I decided to band together with some near neighbors and hold the “Mother of ALL tag sales.”

Well, here’s some wisdom gleaned from our Rightsizing Household Sale & Flea Market adventures this past weekend:

Step 1: pull out all the stuff from your closets and anything that’s in off-site storage and see what you’ve got.

Step 2:  Beg a frind who was in retail to help you realistically price your goods–or look it up on Craigslist or eBay.  Example:  I thought a Ralph Lauren jacket I’d worn as a TV anchor was worth at least $25; my friend Linda, here, said, “Ciji, this is used merchandise. I’m tagging it $2.50.” I gulped and let her do it. I also wore a fanny pack to keep my money close at hand (I had change for $200 in 20s,10s, 5s, and ones) and then never worried if it was safe during the sale.

Step 3: Combine with other near neighbors and share the expense of making clear, readable signs, as well as sending a “Save the Date” email to all your friends a week before the sale, and a “Sale Reminder” two days before the Saturday you plan to hold the event.You can also run ads in local papers or on Craigslist.

Step 4: Having your “sale partners” nearby means sending business in both directions! Our group also went in on a $85 permit charged by our city; a “donation” to a nearby church to use their parking lot for customers; supplies to make our signs and “Stop Here” helium balloons.

Step 5: For big items,  just display pictures–as I did with our oval glass dining room table you see here–so you don’t have to drag it out to the site of your sale,  assemble it, and worry about  having to disassemble it if it doesn’t sell.  (At $250, my glass table didn’t garner any interest except from a lady who wondered if I would be willing to “cut it down to fit my niece’s breakfast room.” I politely declined, muttering to myself, “That table originally retailed for $1500! –which gives you some idea of depreciation of consumer goods in America…)

Step 6: We had lots of compliments about our tidy displays that were off the ground. I had a 6 foot folding table and borrowed two others, plus used an old round patio table, covering them all in cheap black cotton sheets for a “uniform” look.  I also borrowed a black plastic bookshelf from one of my friends putting stuff in my sale. Each person was in charge of getting payment for her stuff from browsing customers.

Step 7: Be cheerful, friendly (including dogs, in the town I live), and don’t be offended when someone offers you a tenth of what the price is.  We grouped some “Items under $1.00” and made sure the titles to the books were facing out so people could grab what they wanted. One friend and her brother send books to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and so we gave them a few extra for free. We felt good the books would actually get read again, and they felt good that we’d been modestly “generous.” Win-win all around.

Step 8: Put brand name merchandise up front and ‘plumped”– like this Burberry tartan purse, and the red Liz Clairborn I bought and never once used. Be sure everything is marked and be prepared to happily discuss “offers.”

Step 9: Be sure to display “like-with-like” as you see pictured below with the two mirrors that were on sale.  The big one from ZGallerie (and cost about $100 originally) sold for $25; the white one ended up in our Salvation Army “post-garage sale” pick-up, which we’d pre-arranged for the Monday after the sale.  Goodwill Industries and many other charities offer the same service, but you must bundle things properly in plastic bags or boxes, and in good conscience, pass on only what is usable to the next person in the Universe…

Step 10: When all else fails, there’s always a “FREE TO A GOOD HOME” section that gets a lot of laughs and engenders goodwill with your potential customers. Believe it or not, I unloaded two dozen Harvard mugs from a charity event held in 1985!  I kid you not!

Post script: And as my dear co-Rightsizing cohorts pointed out, we had fun trying to out do each other with the craziest items we were each selling (Susan won hands down with her plastic fish “water feature” never out of the box), and how we each found things in each other’s sales that we couldn’t live without–to wit: Leigh’s howl of pleasure when she found a coffee grinder she was going to use for chopping herbs and a very swell-looking “Island hat.” After expenses, each household netted about $300! Not bad, and we liberated ourselves from the burden of possessions we no longer needed, wanted, or suited the lifestyle we are living today!

Let me know about your “Rightsizing Tag Sale” adventures.  Hope you have as much fun and profit as we did.

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