Preparing For A Garage Sale, Part I: Decluttering


A couple weeks ago I had a garage sale. I dreaded the thought of cleaning out my house for the months leading up to the big date but I knew it needed to be done. It had come to the point where everything was bugging me, from my messy T-shirt drawer to our family’s supply of outdated medications. Do you know the feeling?

Truth be told, I’m pretty good at purging, and I actually like it once I get started. I feel a sense of lightness. I can move through my home and my life much more easily. So I’ll share with you my basic plan of attack.

+ First, I make my way through every room in the house including the garage. I write down my goals for the week on a calendar (i.e. Monday – bedrooms and bathrooms; Tuesday – kitchen; Wednesday – office, and so on and so forth). I leave no space untouched, even if it means spending hours going through the one drawer that I dump all those difficult-to-organize items like rubber bands, Altoids, and coupons for my favorite Indian buffet.

+ Second, I try to keep my emotions in check. I’ll be the first to admit that I get attached to seemingly random things. There’s the shirt I know would be great to wear at our mountain retreat (even though we don’t have one), the modern rocking chair that will look perfect in a nursery (even though our kids are now in school), and the stacks of old travel and design magazines that I keep for reference (even though I don’t have time to read them).

I try to reason with myself that an item only has value if it is used and enjoyed. Do you ever find something in the cleaning process and say, “Hey, I forgot I had this … I’m going to start wearing this”? But come now … if you liked it that much in the first place, would it really have been buried in a closet for five years? I don’t think so. It’s time to say goodbye.

+ Third, as I’m cleaning out the house, I separate the goods into three piles: a handpicked selection for friends and family to review, a list of “premium” items to put on Craigslist (recent examples include an Ikea bed frame, a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses, and Bose headphones), and the actual stuff for the garage sale.

+ Finally, I organize everything by its specific category – clothing, electronics, toys, etc. – so I can recall what I have and make it easier for the customers.
Now that I’ve sorted through everything, the next task is to choose what will go into the garage sale. You should include everything you want to get rid of (as long as it’s in sellable shape), but there are some secrets to maximizing your yard sale profit. Stay tuned for part two of this series, and in the meantime, feel free to share your own tips for purging–and managing–your household clutter!

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