Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Garage Sale!

Last Saturday was our neighborhood's Spring Garage Sale. We do a neighborhood-wide sale twice a year, and even though I am actually prohibited from having my own garage sale whenever I darn well please, I don't mind this restriction quite as much as the other HOA rules. Don't get me wrong, I still mind a little, but taking part in the neighborhood sale means I don't have to plan it, pay for advertising, and get the benefit of the extra traffic that a yard sale in a neighborhood of over 300 homes brings in.

Sometimes we don't participate, even though we always have tons of crap we could get rid of. In fact, it was non-participation last Fall that caused things to finally come to a head in the Great Allowance Debate. Ryan was SO disappointed we weren't going to do a garage sale and went up to his room and cried and cried because he really wanted to earn some money. So, in addition to settling on an allowance plan, we told him that we'd do our best to sell stuff in the next sale.

During my decluttering frenzy back in March (complete with rented dumpster, huzzah!), I did find some things that I couldn't just hurl into the abyss. A thorough cleaning out of the closet in the Guest Room/Sean's Room resulted in some classic garage sale treasures--old games and puzzles, some duplicates of ones we already own. I also gathered up some books I'm not going to need anymore (mostly in the pregnancy/breastfeeding/infant genre), and of course I revisited the need for every stick of furniture we own, concluding that at least for now, we really do use it all (sigh). We also decided to get rid of our cartop luggage thing, since we've used it all of three times, and can use that space to store the canoe.

(Incidentally, if you see something you've given us in the following pictures, please know we enjoyed those things very much and/or have duplicates. And understand our including those items in our sale is more a reflection on us having too much stuff rather than stuff we don't really like. Excluding the Ricky Martin jigsaw puzzle, although it has also brought me much amusement.)

So in the middle of last week, I started talking to Ryan about the Garage Sale, and the things I was planning to sell. I tell you, nothing gets this kid to pay more attention to what I am saying than words like money, peopleguy, supplies, prices, and pay. He was on the plan, and I told both of the big kids I'd pay them to help me get things ready. Morgan still doesn't quite get the inherent appeal of MONEY, but she is becoming more interested in it lately, simply because of Ryan's interest. I expect she'll get there pretty soon--probably over the next year.

We bought price stickers, and the night before the sale, Ryan and I brought down all of our products (we had to call them products, you know) to the Designated Staging Area. By the way, go me for being so organized about the garage sale this time--I had a list of things I wanted to include and knew just where they were, which is something I thought to do during the decluttering process a month ago.

Our discovery of BrainPOP couldn't have come at a more opportune time, since both kids had been watching a little video about money on the site. I gave them each a couple sheets of price stickers, and showed them how to make the symbols for dollars and cents. Then I gave them each assignments for stickers and they wrote them up (I figured if our customers were confused by their handwriting, it would be an easy thing for Brendan or me to interpret for them).

I don't know if it's possible to capture how much fun we all had.

  • "Morgan, I need you to make a 50 cents sticker! Ryan, give me one for 1 dollar! Okay, put yours here, and yours goes here. Now let's move the priced merchandise to this part of the room so we can keep track of how many more items we need to price. What do you think we should put on this game? 25 cents? Go for it!"
  • "Mom! Mom! Here's my 50 cents sticker! I made the cents sign and look at my '5'!"
  • "Mom! I moved these books over here and priced them already. Whaddya think?"

Sigh. My own little sweat shop. Good times.

Now you need to understand that part of the reason we choose not to participate in garage sales is due to the insistence by our HOA and the general garage-sale-going public that garage sales must start at an ungodly hour of the morning, before anyone in their right mind, let alone anyone with a baby, ought to be awake and organized and sitting in a folding chair out in the front yard. Many's the year we've been more or less prepared to sell some of our crap lovely, useful, gently used items and we've simply decided it was so not worth it on Garage Sale morning when faced with the daunting task of, you know, rolling out of bed.

But those were the days before we hired Ryan to be an integral part of the team. Bright and early Saturday morning, he was up up up up up and ready to go! I don't remember which of us he woke up first, but suddenly Brendan and I found ourselves standing outside in the sunlight. The guys set up some tables and began to haul our products out, while I fed the baby.

The kid was SO excited and full of ideas: "I'm going to make a sign with the name of our company!" And he did. It read: "Garage Sale Team." He elaborately detailed a plan to steal customers from our competitors (only he didn't call it that). He merely suggested that he ride his scooter up and down our street, visiting our neighbors' sales and informing their visitors that we had "games and a car top thingy and a big picture." I explained to him what advertising is, and he was DELIGHTED with himself. And then he got on his scooter. :o)

He helped us price and re-price the cartop luggage holder (which didn't sell, alas), and scrubbed it clean to make it more attractive. He greeted our visitors with a "Hi! Would you like to buy something?" and he helped us "face" the games so that more of them would be visible to our potential customers.

He made himself a nametag and carried around a pen hooked to his shirt, in case any last minute price rollbacks became urgently necessary.

My budding little capitalist, working at our garage sale! #fb on Twitpic

He was so excited that he actually missed our first sale--a boy just a little bit older than he is bought a Simpsons chess set for $1. But he cheerfully took the dollar from Brendan and then proceeded to create a foolproof plan to safeguard our money from Bad Guys (complete with Scooby Doo style booby traps).

I just love this kid so much, I almost wish we could have a garage sale every weekend, just to see him in action!

Morgan awoke at her usual time, and wandered out into the yard in her footie jammies. She looked cute, which I'm sure was an attraction to our customers, but really couldn't be bothered with the whole business, and spent the majority of the sale inside watching Mary Poppins on The Big Wall. Sean was not helpful in any sense of the word, and so he played Pass the Baby with Brendan and me most of the time. Ryan was particularly annoyed with Sean's interest in rearranging the products and touching all of that glorious money.

Financially, this was one of our worst garage sales ever. I think we made about 10 bucks, and I gave Ryan half of it for all of his help and enthusiasm. We did not get rid of the cartop thingy or our big flowery picture or most of the games. I always say I'll eBay stuff, but I know I really won't, because that involves taking pictures, downloading them, uploading them, posting an ad to eBay and then making a trip to the post office and that's just too much for me to really ever be bothered with. So I'll probably take most of it to the donation center, although if you're in the market for pregnancy/breastfeeding books, or know of a place I could donate them to, I'd be happy to help out.

But in another way, this was our most successful garage sale ever in the universe. Both older kids assisted in their own way, and learned quite a bit, too. They learned how to write prices and place the stickers in a spot for customers to easily read. Ryan in particular learned all kinds of good things about running a business--from marketing to price-setting to operations to customer service.

As a Homeschooling, Capitalist, MBA Mommy, I couldn't be prouder of that!


Kelly Elmore said...

Wanna donate some games to us? Which ones are left?

Mrs. C said...

I'm really, REALLY surprised someone as independent-minded as you are is in a HOA house! How did *that* happen??

Very cute pics of the kids and their garage-salin' ways! Just precious! But wow, that *is* a lot of work for $5 net profit there. :]

Rational Jenn said...

Kelly--sure, come over and take your pick! We've got quite a few jigsaw puzzles and many kid games.

Mrs. C--yes, the decision to purchase this home--actually, we built it--was very difficult because we did NOT want to join an HOA. But other factors we valued more led to our decision to put up with silly HOA-ness: location, price, a great wooded lot, floor plan. And we were young!

It's a great house, but I think we'll place a higher value on avoiding HOAs in the future, especially since ours was run by someone who embezzled our dues for many years. :o( (Search "HOA" on my blog and you'll see my write up about THAT one.)

Also, I just think it's silly we're not allowed to have a shed (Shhhh! We do!) and have to get permission to paint our house the SAME COLORS (Double shhh! We didn't!).

brendan said...

My favorite part was the full-focus attention I got from him when I was demonstrating the features of the car-topper. From that point on, every "customer" that came our way was given an earful by Ryan:

"This is Sears' best model of car-toppers. It has a high capacity, and a hard outer shell to protect the things you put inside. And the arms lock in place so that you don't have to hold it up while you're loading it!"

I only said that to him once, and he repeated it VERBATIM to everyone who showed up. Awesome!

Mrs. C said...

Jenn, we bought a house in a HOA, too, but we were young LOL!

When we moved here to Kansas City area, that's one of the things we did *not* do. Even though some of those houses were way nicer.

I think what really bothered me most about HOAs were the uneven application of the rules. If I'm living there, and Old Lady nearby lets her yard go to poo and keeps her car parked on the street, don't give me that "but she's an old widow" thing when you deliver me certified mail about *my* yard which isn't nearly as bed.

Just sayin'. Off to read your link. :]

The Queen of Fifty Cents said...

I am just sorry your sale wasn't in my stomping grounds--I would have loved to see your son in action. He's a pip!

Kevin McAllister said...

You may want to consider one of those ebay consignment shops, or a regular consignment shop. At least for the car topper thingy. I think that way you can actually make a buck or two and not be bothered with all the things that makes ebaying very ellusive to the quite busy.

Another option for getting rid of crap if you don't feel like hauling it anywhere, and it's not worth the effort of selling, is freecycle. People are happy to drive hundreds of miles to haul away your clutter to add to their own. With just a little internet time you can move a dumpsters worth of stuff for free. This of course assumes you are comfortable with strangers coming to your house looking to take your stuff.

And often there are some huge finds in there. Our office has a working air-hockey table thanks to freecycle.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jenn - I'm 7 months pregnant and very much in the market for breastfeeding books! What titles do you have? please contact me at sabowely@aol dot com. thanks! Samantha

Amy said...

Great story! I can just imagine Ryan and how excited he must have been. I loved Brendan's note too.

I second Kevin's recommendation of the eBay consignmetn shops and freecycle. I've used both and they were an excellent way to get rid of the bigger items like an old lamp and a huge potted plant.

Rational Jenn said...

Queen of Fifty Cents: Thanks for stopping by! You have a nice blog, too. :o)

Yessir, that boy of mine is something else. :o)

Kris said...

I can so relate to that "ungodly hour" stuff. Many are the items that have been donated to the thift store rather than sold for extra cash just so I wouldn't have to price, organize and get up early on a Saturday to sell them!

Thanks for submitting your post to the Homeschool Showcase!