What I Learned From My Weekend Garage Sale
What I learned From Having a Garage Sale
Early in the new year I set the intention to declutter my home in 2018. The plan was to work at this gradually so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed. Working fulltime with 2 young kids at home meant I needed to take the slow and steady approach.
I vowed to declutter at least 1 item a day and then on days where I had a bit more time I would tackle a drawer or closet. As you can imagine this took a bit of dedication, but I stuck to it. Near the end of February, I suddenly had this “brilliant idea” that I would hold a garage sale in the spring. I had collected a large number of bags and totes of items to declutter. However, I had not yet actually disposed of the items (which is an important part of the decluttering process)!
I canvassed a few of my neighbours (who were also busy moms) and they were interested in my “brilliant idea” idea. Throughout the rest of the winter I continued my decluttering mission. At the end of April, I touched base with my neighbours again. A few had lost interest in the idea, their initial excitement about decluttering had gotten away from them; but a couple of us were still ready to have a spring garage sale. We set a date and I continued to prepare.
The date arrived and the weather was great. We held the yard sale as planned and I learned some valuable lessons. The most important lesson being, as a busy mom don’t have a garage sale! My “brilliant idea” was not so brilliant! I wish one of my neighbours had taken me by the shoulders and shook some sense into me before I embarked on this foolish notion. So, this is me shaking your shoulders and saying, “are you nuts?!? For the love of all that is holy, don’t hold a garage sale!”
Let me explain …
Remember the old saying time is money … well in the case of a garage sale it is unlikely you will earn enough money to make it worth your precious time. As I mentioned above, I started my decluttering early in the new year. This continued and increased the closer I got to the garage sale.
I spent hours sorting, organizing, cleaning and hauling totes of items out of my basement. Then there was the logistical organizing with the neighbours, posting on Facebook and Kijiji, making signs for the neighbourhood.
Next, I spent an entire Friday night setting up as much as I could in my garage and pricing as many items as possible. What a way to spend my Friday night – this is not the unwinding I had in mind after a busy week.
Then of course there is the garage sale itself. I started setting up at 6:00 am and ran the sale from 7:00-12:30pm. It took about another hour to clean up, and I still have some items in my garage to dispose of this week.
Along the same lines we can look at time in terms of productivity. For many working moms, being productive with your non-work hours is key to managing a household. This garage sale consumed a ton of time.
When I consider what I could’ve been doing with that time as a busy working mom I cringe. Not just the time away from household basics (laundry, groceries, cooking, cleaning), but more importantly it took a lot of time away from interacting with and playing with my children.
While I tried to involve them as much as I could (selecting toys to sell, sorting items into bins) and they did spend part of the morning outside with me (playing with the toys we were trying to sell) – this is not the quality time I yearn for with my kids still being so young. [At the time of writing my daughters are 19 months and almost 4 years old.]
I could’ve been far more productive this past month had I put the hours I spent getting ready for, running and cleaning up the garage sale into household tasks that would free up larger chunks of time I could spend with my kids.
No one values your possessions like you do. Even the ones you are getting rid of still hold a certain value to you. Whether it’s items you spent $50+ on or items that your kids loved but have outgrown … these things still hold a value for you. But, you must put a garage sale price on them. It can be upsetting and is extremely difficult.
The items I struggled with most were the baby clothes. I know we’re not having any more children and that my girls have out grown them, but as I unpacked the clothing to set up the garage sale I couldn’t help but think about how cute they were in the outfit or the memories we made while they were wearing that particular item.
No matter what price I put on the item I would’ve still been sad, but since it was a garage sale I had to price them really low (even though they were still in mint condition). Then on the day of the sale people want to haggle and get the already great deal for even less money. It’s disheartening. This process that was supposed to bring me relief from stress and help me declutter was making me sad instead.
Joy of giving!
Contrary to the sadness I experienced from some interactions, the best part of my day was when I spent some time playing with a toddler with one of the dump trucks we had put out. His mother browsed and bought about $4 worth of stuff, but I had a great time playing with the little boy (I have 2 girls so it was just a different play experience for me).
As they were about to leave, I gave him the dump truck we had been playing with and he was thrilled! That made me so much happier than any other part of the day. The joy I experienced from giving something away for free to someone who would love it as my kids had is something I will remember for a while to come.
Other things to consider
We had terrific weather – a bit of overcast but no rain. The day did get a bit warm near the end, but we couldn’t have asked for a better day (this is always a concern). The weather is your wild card, you never know how it is going to turn out. You could spend the weeks preparing and then get rained out which can cause you to lose your drive or motivation. If it’s a neighbourhood sale, not everyone will be able to reschedule. You will have to repost and advertise everywhere … this is a lot of work.
I have to say I felt immense relief when the garage sale was over. I didn’t realize I was carrying so much stress around the “big day”. Once I got rid of the leftover items, I began to really feel free! Freedom from the clutter (I now have tons of space in our furnace room). I also feel joy that it’s all gone, and more balanced and energetic (it must’ve been a large weight on my shoulders).
I will never again hold on to stuff to wait to have a garage sale, as holding on to it apparently added this weight to my shoulder and another thing to remember (and organize) in my head. I will just declutter and donate as I go. It’s much better for living a stress-free life.
While we have donated most of the leftover items there are still a couple of things to finish up. I have collected the items into the appropriate recycling bins to go to the curb later this week and have boxed up a few remaining items for donation at our local Goodwill.
My next step is to continue to declutter physical items in my home with each change of the seasons and to really prioritize my journey to decluttering my calendar and the emotional clutter in my life.
The biggest lesson I learned from my garage sale was that it was not worth the time or energy. As a busy mom I want more freedom, more time and less stress. I’ll declutter as I go and release the pressure to hold on to stuff or watch it become devalued by haggling.
I can feel good about donating it to a local charity where it will take on a new life in someone else’s home; someone who needs it and will love it like it’s new again (it is new to them). [Side note: I only donate items that are in good condition, any broken, ripped or stained items get repurposed or recycled.]
I want to end this post on a more positive note by highlighting that all was not lost. It was not a complete waste of my time. I spent some time chatting with my mom, and because I did have my kids with me for part of the morning we experienced a new way of interacting with each other. I also had some time to chat with my neighbour and just watch the traffic and energy of the neighbourhood which is not something I normally took time out of my day to do.
Have you had a garage sale recently? I would love to hear your experience in the comments below.
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