Simple Yard Sale Becomes Eye-Opener

All of us can relate to the ever-growing piles of stuff in our homes and I am no exception.  One day, you’re forced to do a double-take as you scan a room and realize, “Oh my, when did this happen?”  It hit me a couple of months ago and I decided to gather it all up – all the stuff I’m not using or haven’t used in the last couple of years – and have a yard sale with a good friend of mine.  Why not sell it at very reasonable prices to those who want it or need it, and make a little extra money while thinning out my home?  It sounded like a win-win to me.

Most of you know I got my start as an estate liquidator and have been in this business well over 20 years, so this would be a slam dunk for a pro, right?  My friend and I got together all kinds of goodies ranging from antiques and collectibles, to vintage items and some nice household items too.  None of it was junk.  Since both of us wanted to sell these items, we made sure these items were priced very reasonably.  So reasonably, in fact, that you couldn’t even buy them new at Wal-Mart for the prices we set on clothes with tags still on them, kitchen ware, etc.

Since both of us know the industry well, we put on a great spread.  The tables were perfectly lined up and the items were displayed nicely.  So many unusual items that dealers would have loved to buy and resell on Ebay.  The advertising went out flawlessly to 1,500 of my personal client emails, as well as the local newspaper and Craig’s List.  Everything was set to go, or so we thought ….

Much to my surprise and chagrin, when we opened at exactly 7 am, only 9 people were in line.  Only 9!  I remember thinking how weird that was, justifying in my mind that attendees must be at other nearby sites and would come in flocks later on.  As is the personality of a sale, people first come in droves, then a quiet and steady flow, then a little slower, then another wave.  I could predict by looking at my watch when each phase would occur, just by observing the flow of people.  It’s been this way my entire career … until today.

A few here, a few there.  No major groupings of buyers.  People trickled in all morning, but very few bought much; certainly not the frenzied energy of sales in the past.  Something was very wrong and I tried to figure it out while sitting next to my friend.  It was a drawn out, painful process, since we knew we had great items at great prices, did our due diligence with advertising, the location was desirable in my city.  From running down the mental check list, everything was done correctly.

Suddenly my friend turned to me and said, “What’s going on, Julie?  Something doesn’t feel right.  Where is everyone?  Why are they struggling to part with a dollar?”  (A woman just bought a new shirt with the original price tag of $39.99; we sold it for $4 but she wouldn’t pay more than a dollar.)  My friend and I just sat there, scratching our heads.  It wasn’t our sale or the things we had.  We did everything right, but what wasn’t right was the energy people brought into the sale.  It was sad and low, and not the usual jovial energy these treasure hunters normally exuded.

You could tell the dealers were not there in large groups as usual, and the dealers who did come did not buy much because “we aren’t selling much.”  I had seen it with my own eyes.  After all these years, the economy, while appearing to hold on, was in deeper trouble than most realized.

You could see the worry and anxiety on everyone’s face and the struggle to part with just a little bit of money, even though they were getting great deals.  There were a handful of buyers that were serious and clearly had the money to buy large quantities of items, but most could not.

People will always buy, and things will always sell, but just not for the prices they used to … at least not at the moment.  As an intuitive individual, I am sensitive to others’ energy and I know that what I felt and experienced from them was real.

People are in real trouble out there.

Life always amazes me.  You can go into something with a certain mindset, like having a simple yard sale for things you no longer need.  You come out of it a kinder, more understanding person, because you had firsthand exposure to those less fortunate than yourself.  I don’t know what will happen, but my prayer is for everyone, and for things to improve rapidly.

©2013 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising.  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at

3 thoughts on “Simple Yard Sale Becomes Eye-Opener

  1. Agreed. Very few people have money to spare and those that have a little are worried about spending too much in case they need it for something else later on.

  2. It is yet another dark indicator pointing to the instability that lies close to the surface. The real-life vibes that the numbers crunchers in Washington would have you believe differently. Indeed, harder times are upon us, before they are going to get easier. My gut tells me so.

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