I doubt we would ever get around to having a yard sale if it were incumbent on us to pull it off (life is so full!), but our neighborhood hosts a biannual community yard sale, so it’s a great motivation to go through the clutter and thin things out.
Now if you have kids, you know that yard sale sorting can be pretty painful.
[Mom] “Can this go in the yard sale?”
[Child] “Noo! Mom, that’s my favorite!” or “Ooooh! I’ve been looking for that! No, I love it.”
[Mom] “Do you ever even play with this anymore?” or “You haven’t played with this in months?!”
You know, it’s a losing battle. Suddenly everything becomes sentimental and “needed,” even those little plastic happy meal giveaway toys. Yeesh. [As a side note, can I just say, they come by it honestly. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve
hoarded kept extra supplies left over from a particular craft thinking I might use them again… Hence that little bag of foam crosses that’s been sitting on my dining room table for about a month.]
So here are my tips to help make the sort go smoothly…
1. Ask the right question. Or more to the point, don’t ask the wrong question: “do you play with this anymore?” It’s the kiss of death. You might as well just pack it in and have a lemonade stand because you certainly will not be getting rid of anything at the yard sale. Instead, dump out a pile of like items and ask your child to select their favorite 5, 10, 20, or whatever number you decide to keep. With our middle child, that’s matchbox cars and action figures. So I put all the cars (or action figures) spread out and face up so he can easily see them, then asked him to choose his ten favorites. Then I have him choose another favorite ten. Then I give him an opportunity to compare his two piles so he can make any adjustments or trades between the two. His focus is on everything he’s getting to keep, not on what he’s letting go.
2. Make a trade. My goal with sorting the kids’ rooms is not necessarily to get rid of junk, but to refine their, um, collections. My eldest son still has a shoebox-paper towel roll-rubberband constructed “guitar” that Ba made for him years ago, and we’re cool with that. The question is not really what I love or think we need to keep or sell, but what they really use and enjoy. For Li’l Bro, that’s his trains. That boy is a regular conductor and he builds the most lovely twisty turny tracks. Thanks to last year’s neighborhood yard sale, his collection has grown to a big tub full of wood-tracked choo choo goodness. But there are a few train items in his collection that really don’t go: ones that are too big for his tracks and a couple of narrow Thomas trains and plastic track depots (I have nothing against the plastic, but those trains and tracks are more narrow so they are not interchangeable with his wooden tracks). So I told him that if he lets those things go in the yard sale, we would get him a new battery-operated train. His [only] battery-operated train is his ab.so.lute. fav.or.ite., so he agreed happily. You see when you are just letting go of something you think you might use or “need,” it can be painful, but when you are trading something you don’t use for something you’d love, that is a great deal!
3. Set a goal. For Big Bro (8-yrs-old), setting a goal is more tangible and meaningful than for Li’l Bro (4-yrs-old). And he is VERY sentimental. For instance, he did not want to get a new boxsprings and mattress because the ones he had were “Daddy’s.” Seriously?! Those things were a holdover from his bachelor days. In fact, it’s the set he’s had since seminary, I think, and they were olllllllllllld. [As a sidenote, he felt okay about it once he realized they weren’t his childhood set, like his wood furniture pieces are. Crisis averted.] BUT (I digress), the point is that even if he has not touched something in ages, it is hard for him to let go of something if someone special gifted it to him or if he has a special memory attached to it. So I asked him if there was anything he’s really been wanting. He immediately brought up a knight set (helmet, shield, sword, etc.) that we’d seen a few weeks ago. So I told him that we would use the money from the things he chooses to sell (that he never plays with) to put towards the knight set he’s been really wanting. [Above is Big Bro a couple of years ago–he’s been into knights and police as long as Li’l Bro’s been into trains!]
4. Bless someone. Again, it can feel painful to just get rid of something, so we try to gain a more full perspective on the whole yard sale thing:
a.) You can use all or a percentage of the money you take in to help bless other families, letting the kids help choose a project or cause to which to donate.
b.) You can remind your kids that some other kids might not have many toys, or they might be hoping and looking for a certain toy how they’re hoping for a new battery-operated train or knight set. This actually makes it fun for my kids to see other kids get their old toys.
c.) You can donate whatever’s left. For us, yard sale’s aren’t usually about making money, but about moving out the things that are crowding our space. For us, once it’s designated yard sale, it does not come back in the house. Last year, a ministry supporting unwed moms sent a truck around the neighborhood after our community yard sale, and this year, a local church ministry is sending a truck around. LOVE that we don’t even have to haul our junk somewhere!
So there are my thoughts on how to have happy yard sale campers. what about you, what do you do to help your kids have a great yard sale?