Pandemic Spring Cleaning & Estate Sales

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What an amazing entrance! I wish this was my house! This is the entrance to my friend Kim’s grade school BFF. Lucky!

If we’ve cleaned out one drawer during the pandemic, we’ve cleaned them all out twice.  Along with putting away the sweaters and pulling out the shorts and flip flops, it’s been the perfect time clean out the closets, drawers and garages!  Let’s talk about what to do with those items you have sprung clean (ok, spring cleaned!)!  Let’s also talk about estate sale conduct if you are out looking to see what others are spring cleaning!

Start by taking a look at fliers like the one above for donating items you are clearing out.  Selling a bunch of stuff on EBay or Facebook Marketplace may take time and money.  If you have some of these items listed in the St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital Foundation flier, you can set it out that morning and donate it! Better yet, it’s tax deductible.

IMG_5274When we lived in California, Los Gatos gave households a special push in the month of May.  On June 1 – they hosted their annual Clean-Up.  You could put an unlimited number of items on the curb and they will pick it all up for NOTHING!  If that doesn’t motivate someone, I don’t know what will.  If you don’t live in Los Gatos, check your trash collector’s website. This annual day has become very popular around the country.

IMG_3741Pretend spring cleaning is done – let’s talk about those items and your proposed garage sale!  Before you get ready to print up 100 signs to hang around town, make numerous postings on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor, etc. — decide what you hope to get from having a garage sale.  Do you hope to clean out the garage and make $10,000? Unless you have one of those first generation Apple computers, don’t count on it.

My husband and I love to go to good estate sales.  Key word there is good. I do the research on Craigslist and Nextdoor, making a list of addresses. We are primarily looking for furniture that we can fix up that is more than 20 years old.

Here are a number of tips on attending sales as well as hosting your own.

  • Some people want to sell items for close to what they paid 20 years ago.  Once we went to a sale where the woman was selling her mom’s furniture.  She had all the receipts on the furniture.  One receipt was on a stereo rack that they bought in 1991. They paid $410 for it and they were asking $200 firm.  First, no one uses stereo racks anymore! Second, you used it for almost 30 years and now you want half the cost of the item for something you actually should be selling for $30 tops?  Be realistic about what you are selling and why.  Are you trying to put your child through Harvard with this sale or just trying to get rid of an old truck?IMG_2682
  •  Take a good look at what you are selling. You spend all this time making and hanging signs with arrows and directions all around town. You also put an ad on Craigslist, NextDoor, etc. You get up at 4 am to put all the items out and make sure they are all marked.  Your sale starts at 8 am and by 8:30 am, the balloon has popped and it’s crickets.  Why?  Because you have a yard full of stuff that you should have taken to the dump, given to the Salvation Army, or donated elsewhere. If you think it’s junk or past its prime – it is junk.  If you have 2-3 really nice items, sell them on Craigslist or Moot Loot and call it a day.  Don’t waste two days messing around with a garage sale of items that should could be donated or worse, taken to the dump.  Some people might think I am being hard.  I have been going to sales for years – trust me. I am trying to save people time and energy!IMG_9255
  • If you don’t feel like pricing items, then don’t be surprised or offended when people offer you $3 for an item you paid $50.  People aren’t going to garage sales to pay retail. We are going for bargains. If it hurts to sell items for a bargain, then keep it in your garage!  Always throw out a low price if things aren’t marked. If they want to make more money on it, they will let you know the price. When we go to a sale where the prices are 1000% of where they should, we zip the lip and bounce.
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  • If you have valuable stuff you are selling, make sure someone is in the room keeping an eye on the item and the buyers.  We have heard from many people that there are people who go to sales to steal the seller blind. It’s sad but true. IMG_4151
  • Watching people buy all the furniture from your childhood home for pennies hurts. We went to an estate sale where the man’s 104 year old mom had passed away.  He was tied up with grief.  He just sat in a chair and looked out the window.  We cleaned out the drawers of the items we bought and put things in boxes neatly.  While he wanted to sell everything in the house, he just didn’t have it in him to be social or helpful.  But he left tax returns, valuable personal records and more in the drawers.  We put those in a bag and handed them to him personally.
  • Ask the husband for deals or suggest the price. Men don’t want to lug the crap back into the garage at the end of the day, so they are more willing to give you a better deal!  Women want full price or close to it. IMG_5140
  • When you go in to sales, go in with a smile and have fun!  Don’t be a jerk if the place isn’t in tip top shape. If you buy a number of things, ask them for a package deal. We once bought the most amazing hutch for our kitchen (left below). The wife also wanted the armoire gone so we bought it for $25 as well (right below). God knows what we will do with it, but we got this amazing hutch for our kitchen for $125!
  • Have some vision! No vision ? Look the item up on Pinterest on your smartphone and see what others have done with it!  My husband used to shake his head no, but now when I see something cool and he doesn’t understand, he will say “Find it on Pinterest first!” Read my blog about a drafting table we paid $20 for and then turned into our kitchen island!IMG_2650
  • Just because there is a scratch on a piece of furniture or a table, don’t turn your nose up to it.  Annie Sloan chalk paint can cover many wounds on vintage furniture.  Check out everything I’ve done recently!IMG_5146
  • The idea of the sale is to get rid of things, not haul them back inside!   There are a lot of places online that will sell clothes and purses for you. Read this article on how and where.IMG_5235
  • Cleaning out your closets is therapeutic.  Believe it.IMG_3747

Done reading? Go open up that bottle of chardonnay and get to work!  You can do it!




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