Monday, April 23, 2012

Yard Sale Mistakes I've Made

I loooove a yard sale.  I rarely go to them, but I often think fondly of them when rising from my bed on Saturday morning...the treasures, bargain-basement-priced treasures: I really should go.

Though I don't go to many yard sales, I host a yard sale almost annually.  And I've learned a few things, most of them the hard way.

When a little boy unzipped his pants and almost peed on several items for sale until his dad noticed and shifted his aim at the last moment.  I was glad nothing took a direct hit.

Mistake #1

Not advertising.  

One year's yard sale was a particularly half-hearted effort.  I threw up a few signs at key intersections close to our house, but they shriveled up after one night and you couldn't read them.  I sat outside for three hours that Saturday, and two people stopped by.

 If you are going to have a yard sale, 1) advertise on Craigslist and 2) make decent signs with large letters, and put them up on Thursday or Friday.  Use pizza boxes or foam board, not poster paper. 

If you are too cheap to advertise in the newspaper, like me, these two advertising avenues are critical.  Having said that, I have plenty of yard sale friends who just drive around and stop if they happen to see a yard sale in progress.  BUT I personally have to map it all out and print out directions from place to place.  It keeps me sane.  I am not free enough in my spirit to wander aimlessly early on a Saturday morning. has some classic examples of bad signs.   She also has a lot of helpful tips.

Good idea#1
Have the yard sale Friday afternoon AND Saturday morning.
This may sound like overkill, but we tried it last year and sold a bunch of the big ticket items Friday afternoon.  If you are going to go through the time and effort of assembling, sorting, and pricing your unwanted items, you may as well go all out for the actual yard sale.

Mistake #2
Putting Rings Where They Could Get Stolen...They Will.
I put out my rings on the far side of the driveway.  They were a pretty easy target.  If you have something that you might still want to hang on to after the yard sale, or something relatively valuable, showcase it on the table where you are working or directly in your line of sight.  I was sad about those rings.

Good idea #2
Keep your money in an apron or fanny pack.
 Hopefully, you will have a lot of money.  Keep it on your body.  I like to wear those tool aprons like you see at Lowe's or Home Depot.

Mistake #3
Never changing your prices.
 My motto is "Someone is Paying Me to Haul Away My Unwanted Stuff."  Keep this at the forefront of your mind.  I price stuff pretty cheap initially, and then Saturday for the last hour I send the kids out with posters that say, "Everything Half Off."  At the end of the day, I don't want any stuff leftover. 

Be willing to bargain with folks.  If you never come down on your prices, you end up stuck (again) with that item that has not left your storage room in five years.  Having said that, price your stuff with some cushion built in, so that when someone wants to haggle, you can drop it down a little and still make what you wanted.  I generally price stuff at about a third of what I've paid; I'll price it at half if it is a desirable item in really good condition. 

You can always go down on price, but you can't come up.

Good idea #3
Let the kids sell something.
I don't give the kids money that we make from selling their clothes, but I let them sell their own toys.  One time I even let my youngest price his own toys, and he sold someone a GameBoy for $5.  Part of me was horrified because I thought he could have gotten more, and part of me was glad because it didn't look like the folks that bought it for their little girl could have afforded much more.  

I used to make cookies and let the kids sell those, but people just bought them to be nice to the kids.  We found out last year that drinks sell better, but even then I usually just break even.  This year I'm thinking of setting out a big water container and coffee maker with cups and just leaving a tip jar.

Mistake #4
Not putting something out because you are sure it won't sell.
Listen, the human mind is a wonderful and amazing thing, and you can't know that Aunt Gina's busted-up watering can might make the perfect lawn ornament for someone.  Put a price on everything, even things that you think no one would ever want.  I am always surprised at what folks will buy.  

Last year we put out an old kerosene heater that was broken and missing pieces.  Several people asked about it, one couple finally bought it, and another person came back later just to see if it was still there!  Amazing.

Potential Good Idea #4
Craigslist/Facebook Pre-Yard Sale Sale
A few things we're selling this year are on the nice-ish side, so I thought I would try listing those items and their prices individually before the yard sale on my Facebook page and on the Craigslist ad for the yard sale.  I can't decide if this is a good idea or not; it may be a hassle.  

Two more weeks until D-Day!  I usually use the money we make for home stuff that isn't in the budget or kids' clothes.  It's not a ton, but every little bit helps. Plus, you get to meet people in your neighborhood and you get rid of things you didn't need.  Worth the effort, I'd say.

Here's how Justin and Will do yard sales. They think it's worth my effort, too.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

God Sometimes Moves Through Insulated Tumblers

I checked my email before heading out for church last Sunday morning.  It's like a nervous tic with me; I have a hard time walking by the computer without hitting the gmail button.

Amidst the groupons, ebates, and helpful tips from Martha Stewart in my inbox was an etsy convo.  I opened a shop on etsy a couple months ago...what, you would like to visit it?  Just click through any of the items in my etsy mini on the right.

A potential customer wanted to know if I could put monograms on fifteen insulated tumblers.  I was super-excited. Fifteen! I've never had that big of an order, and I was excited!

BUT it was Sunday, and I had already made up my mind not to work on Sunday. So I didn't respond to her email, and hoped she'd still be interested in placing an order when I got in touch with her on Monday.

Monday morning after I took the kids to school, I drove to three different stores, gathering up the supplies I would need to fill her order.  I was home by 9:30 a.m., and I messaged her back to say I could set up a custom listing for her.  She wrote back to say she really liked my work, but she had decided to go with someone else.  I wasn't totally surprised, but bummed none the less.  Why did that email have to come on Sunday?  Should I have gone ahead and written her back? 

I mentally shrugged my shoulders.  Oh well, there was nothing I could do about it, and I'm not going to work on Sunday.  I already wonder if some of my Sabbath practices are that God-honoring anyway.  I'm pretty sure that applying vinyl to plastic cups does not come under the "works of mercy and necessity" exclusion clause.

Well, God had a little something up his sleeve, because on Tuesday, I received another etsy convo.  This one was for the same tumbler, but this customer wanted seventeen!  I guess it could have been a coincidence, but it was a remarkable one.  I believe that God was telling me in a crystal clear sort of way not to worry about sales lost in Sabbath observance.

It was a little thing really.  But it meant so much, that God cares about little things that mean something to me..because He cares about me.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Food Matters: 30-Day Nutritional Throwdown & Balding Guys with Glasses

Anybody ever heard of Mark Bittman?

That is a picture of Mark above.  He is the author of one of my favorite cookbooks, How to Cook Everything.  I've blogged about it before here.

The man pictured below is Dr. Tim Keller.  He is the pastor at Redeemer Church in New York City and the author of several awesome books.  He can preach like nobody's business.  (Most of his sermons cost money to download, but  here is a sampling that you can get for free.)

My number one preacher to listen to is, of course, my husband.  All of his sermons are free.

Anyway, Dr. Keller is a side note.  I was just struck by how similar these two fellows look, and how I trust both of their advice implicitly. The above white baldish man with glasses is my nutritional mentor, the below my spiritual (well, he's one of them. Most of them are already in heaven).

My husband is not balding (yet), but he does wear glasses occasionally, so I guess I kinda trust him.
Anyway, not too long ago, Mark Bittman wrote another book called Food Matters.  The book was birthed by his realization that as a nation, we are filling up on junky food and it's bad for us and our planet.  It's a clarion call to return to vegetables and minimize our intake of meat and processed foods, and he includes 75 recipes and a two-week meal plan to get you started.  It's like a kinder, gentler, more practical version of Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, which says a lot of the same stuff, but makes you feel guiltier.

Here's Michael Pollan, by the way:

OK, Michael Pollan is also white, balding and wears glasses.  But I only have room for so many mentors, and he's too nutritionally dogmatic for me.  We would not be a good team. If Mark Bittman caught me red-handed with a Snickers, he may be disappointed but he'd let it slide; Michael Pollan would probably wag his finger and lecture me about high-fructose corn syrup and industrialized agriculture.

Here's another "by the way":  Michael Pollan was once on NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, which I love to listen to on my iPod.  And my favorite, hands-down favorite moment EVER on that show was when Michael Pollan and Paula Poundstone faced-off over her favorite food, Ring-Dings.  You can listen to it here

All of this to say that, even though I sided with Paula, Ring-Dings are really not the answer to all of life's problems.

And even though I whole-heartedly agree with Mark Bittman's approach to "sane eating" (as he terms it), my personal food choices do not reflect what I believe to be true nutritionally. Just ask any of my pants.

So what to do?

Well, I'm revving the blog back up, and one of the reasons I'm doing so is to journal my way through a self-imposed month-long challenge of eating like Mark Bittman would, using the recipes found in The Food Matters Cookbook (a follow-up to the original Food Matters).  Maybe I'll make myself a WWMD bracelet to remember my commitment to nutritional excellence when I find myself staring longingly at the Oreo Cakesters I drop in the kids' school lunches every day.

I hope to discover a balance.  Life would be a hard, empty shell of its former self if I could never again eat a Giant Chewy SweetTart.  Birthdays would lose a bit of their luster without a trip to Chick-Fil-A for a Peppermint Milkshake in the middle of December.  But, I don't think it is good to hate vegetables (and drinking unflavored water, for that matter), and I kinda do.  Vegetables and whole grains and water are our nutritional BFFs!  I treat them like red-headed step-children.

Will I love them one month from tomorrow?

I would like to find out.