So you want to have a yard sale, eh?

Well before you do, you might want to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. And you may also want to make sure you’ve thought everything through … even scenarios you might not ever dream up.

A few weeks ago, I emptied out a storage unit and stowed some of my belongings in the vacant home of a family member. I honestly had not decided what to do with the odds and end furniture pieces, memorabilia, etc. I hadn’t given much thought to the prices, set-up … nothing. I just thought, “hey, I’ll put this stuff in the house, get my family to add some of their belongings and we’ll make a little money.”

Sounded easy enough.

First thing I did: bought a three-day classified ad in The Meridian Star to announce the sale. First mistake I made: put my cell phone number in the ad. By 7:30 a.m. the day the ad ran I had three phone calls. Good news: the ad worked. Bad news: the ad worked.

Rule No. 1: put good directions and NOT a cell phone number in the ad.

But honestly without this snafu, I would have missed my first taste of the humor of the yard sale. One lady chatted with me for 15 minutes that morning the ad appeared. A conversation that started about my armchair somehow quickly turned into the story of her daughter’s new husband, their baby-on-the-way and his bad habit of drinking too much whiskey on Saturday nights at Whynot Motor Speedway.

That phone call was a good precursor to the Saturday morning sale.

After my phone calls Thursday, I was feeling pretty good about the prospects. My yard sale would be a hit. Heck, I might even sell out before 9 a.m. It would be a breeze.

The morning of the sale got off to a pretty good start. The 4:30 a.m. alarm clock wasn’t too bad. The two cups of coffee prepared me and I was ready to go. The yard sale didn’t start until 6 a.m. (as I put in the ad) so I would have plenty of time to take the stuff out of the house, get in the front yard and mark it with my price tags. I had a list of suggested pricing for items that Google help me find and I was all set. I arrived at the house at 5 a.m. — apparently about 10 minutes AFTER my first customer. So much for having time to prepare.

Rule No. 2: no matter what time you put in the ad, people will show up at least an hour early. It’s like after-Christmas sales at Wal-Mart … customers are always prepared, so you should be, too.

Before I knew what hit me I was being asked for prices that I wasn’t prepared to answer. So what did I do? Panicked. What happens when you panic? Your $70 chair somehow loses nearly half its value and sells for $35.

Rule No. 3: be prepared to answer 100 questions about your goods. Sure, that old CD player may look self-explanatory to operate to you, but to someone looking to buy it, any hesitation in your voice when giving directions may send up red flags and kills the sell. Be prepared.

After the early-morning rush, there was a lull. Traffic slowed down. So much so that I thought it was time to pack it in and wait to give it a go again next week. As soon as we started to move furniture inside, a mass of people showed up.

Rule No. 4: if you put 6 a.m.-UNTIL in your ad, be prepared to stay there all day long. Some may prefer the 5 a.m. rush, but there are just as many others who prefer lunchtime and afternoon browsing. Be prepared. Just when you think the rush is over, it’s probably about to pick back up.

Rule No. 5: when in doubt, go with $1. No matter how much you love that old clock, chances are it's not worth much to a customer at your yard sale. There are few sentimental shoppers. Just remember that $1 is always a good price and, for some reason, it's much easier for someone to part with one dollar than two.

All in all, my yard sale experience was a good one. It was unique and I may even do it again next weekend until all my stuff is sold.

At least this time I will know the rules.

Fredie Carmichael is executive editor of The Meridian Star.

E-mail him at

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