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How to have a successful yard sale (guest post from my wife Lauren!)
easy steps to sell and donate your stuff while having an existential crisis about your career!
Both Are True readers young and old know that I often write about my wife Lauren. There’s the essay I wrote in the style of a 5th grader about how we met, the one about how close personal friend George Saunders almost ruined our relationship, and the three arguments we had on our first vacation as a family of three.
Now look. I love Lauren as if she was my own wife. She’s practically family to me, which is why I’m so excited to share with y’all this informative how-to guide Lauren wrote on decluttering your home in the new year.
Look out Marie Kondo, there’s someone else in town—Lauren Wilde.
New Year, New You
by: Lauren Wilde
Follow these easy steps to declutter your house, make a little money (🤞), and start the year off fresh! (*inspired by actual events, like in this actual order.)
1. Happy New Year. 2022 was... a lot. Isn’t it about time to get rid of all the junk that’s been piling up in your home? Your job was non-stop and ended rough. A little traumatic, even, leaving you wondering: Do I even want to do this anymore? Sure I’ve dedicated my whole life to this, but - wait! Remember you promised to take some time off for yourself. Relax. Reset. What better way to stay busy relaxing than to clean out your house and finally get rid of some things? Yes - it’s time for a YARD SALE!
2. Go through everything you own, and be cutthroat. The year 2023 is about minimalism! Putting yourself first! Creating a healthy home life that will hopefully create a healthy work life! Move anything you no longer want straight to the garage / studio / laundry room.
3. Realize you have (or have had for who knows how long bc you have been too busy working) a mouse problem in the garage after finding the straps of the infant car seat you’ve been storing for possible Baby #2 have been clearly chewed through. Also, there’s a large pile of mouse turds in the seat.
Be absolutely grossed out by this and go show your husband who tries to convince you that, “it looks fine, like the straps still work fine, right?”- which is much, much scarier than anything the mice could ever do.
4. Keep filling the garage with unwanted stuff until the space becomes so cluttered that you can no longer walk through it to see what’s inside.
5. Spend 30 minutes bringing big items out to the side yard so you can squeeze yourself into the garage, and then 30 minutes at night putting everything back in. Repeat this for a few days until you realize —this is not a productive use of time. Move EVERYTHING you want to sell into the backyard where there is much more space—this will give you a better perspective of what you are working with.
6. This is a tough one, but essential - finally accept that the side-hustle Vintage T-Shirt Mystery Box company you tried to start in late 2021 (appropriately called ‘What’s in the Box?’) isn’t going anywhere and really doesn’t bring you the joy you were searching for. Decide it’s time to shut it down.
7. Realize you still have A LOT of t-shirts that you spent hundreds+ of dollars on that you need to get rid of. Great! You will sell them in the yard sale!
8. As everything gathers in the backyard, become confident you’ll make at least $400-$500 on this yard sale, right? (Have a moment of worry if this is worth it, throw that worry away, of course it’s worth it, plus you really need to get rid of all the vintage t-shirts bc they are just a glaring example of another side hustle that didn’t make it, and your ego and identity are fragile enough after this last year of work.)
9. Take a break because obviously this can’t all be done in one day when you notice it is starting to rain. People on social media are throwing around terms like “parade of storms”, “atmospheric river”, “32 trillion gallons of water pummeling California.” It’s Rainy Season in LA. Unlucky timing, but we can work with this.
10. Go out and buy a couple tarps (-$70 total yikes) to help cover all the stuff you’ve just brought out to the backyard, crossing your fingers this will help against water damage, because there is no way you are fitting all this stuff back in the garage.
11. Spend WEEKS watching it rain, frequently going out to empty the water from gathering in areas of the tarps. Eventually, give up and come to terms that surely some stuff will be water damaged. You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs (as they say, you guess).
12. In the meantime, order pricing stickers and yard sale signs to post around the neighborhood pointing hungry customers in the right direction once the big day comes (-$40, total losses -$110). Also realize you’ll probably need more table space to spread out all the knick-knacks you are trying to sell. Hmm…
13. Scroll through facebook and find a couple people giving away desks for free ($0, total losses -$110, that’s a smart business move)! Spend a whole afternoon driving around LA hauling these (heavy) desks into the back of your car (by yourself). It’s raining again. But good news now you have two new big wooden desks (sitting out in the rain) to put all your stuff on to sell (eventually).
14. Rain. The weekend you were hoping to have the yard sale is looking like 70% chance of rain all weekend. Those odds aren’t sounding good. You kinda feel sad - maybe this is seasonal depression?
15. Frequently check in on the stuff under the tent- already the cardboard box holding the “Deluxe BINGO Set” (Sell for $5?) is soaked through. Guess you will have to pack the game into a ziploc bag to sell… now only for $3.
16. Come to the conclusion that you don’t want to do this anymore. ‘This’ being the yard sale, which only later you will realize acts as a perfect proxy for your career as a whole.
All this work organizing a yard sale for what? (Working long hours at a job and never seeing your family for what?)
To make a few hundred dollars one weekend selling stuff? (To make good money from your job, but what about the impact on your physical health and mental well being?)
When you’ve already spent $110 on materials just to make this yard sale happen? (When you’ve put years of blood, sweat and tears working your way up the industry to have dream job positions, but is it even worth it? Are you happy?)
This is crazy. Life is short! Your time is more valuable than this! You consult with your husband who immediately agrees. Okay decision made: YARD SALE IS OFF! Ah the relief. Okay but now what about the stuff?
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17. You decide to be the ever generous neighbor and list most of the stuff on your local Facebook Buy Nothing page! (There are some items that you set aside because surely you can make a little money selling these for real - nice working Window AC unit, mid-century floor lamp, custom wooden shelves you bought from Etsy but never even put up, etc.). But the rest of this stuff you want to give away! You will be the hit of the town! You always yearn for more connection to a community, and this is a wonderful way to start.
18. Spend the next few days taking individual pictures of every single thing you want to get rid of (totaling 116 items). And because you are an artist and a creative, these can’t just be random photos. They all need to be identically staged and aesthetically pleasing to look at, clearly displaying the item.
19. Sit down and begin typing out your epic Buy Nothing post. Cringe as you write things like ‘porch pickup’, ‘claim in the comments’, ‘dm me to confirm’—common lingo for these groups—slowly realizing that this is going to be chaos. You are nuts! But it’s kind of a thrill, and a challenge that you just KNOW you can handle.
20. Take about 30-60 minutes posting each item individually in your long, long thread. Before you even finish, start to feel the buzzes of people commenting and claiming on your photos (you haven’t even gotten to add descriptions of the products yet!). Your post is becoming a hit! An out-of-control hit! You’ve gone viral in the buy nothing group!
21. Most people follow the rules, commenting on the item saying “Me Please” or “interested,” with the veterans of the group commenting “backup” on items that they realize someone else has already claimed before them. But there is the one person who doesn’t follow the rules and just comments a list of the items she wants at, adding that she wants YOU to text HER to coordinate pickup. She sends you a message saying she needs you to text her because she doesn’t have facebook on her phone (jealous), and in the flurry of chaos you respond “Yes! Sounds good I will text you!” Customer service is the most important thing when running a business.
22. Most people want more than one item, but they aren’t good at telling you that clearly, so - again, customer service - you scroll through the hundreds of messages and put aside each person’s items into a trash bag labeled with their name (-$15.99 for trash bags, -$6.99 for roll of name tags, total losses: -$132.98) for them to come pick up. Some people can come that day to pick up (yay!), others need a few days, but you want to be easy to work with, so you can handle that.
23. Explain to everyone that you will put their labeled bags and place them behind the side gate of your house. Keep track of who is coming on what days to set things out appropriately. Some people need extra guidance to let them know how easy it will be to pick up their stuff. So you send photos to each person of you pointing directly at the item so they couldn’t possibly get confused.
24. Stress out a little about when exactly to give these customers your home address for pickup. Ideally you’d want to give it to them just 30 min or so before they want to leave to come over. But some people want the address days in advance. Why? This starts disrupting your sleep a little bit. You start thinking you are hearing things at night. Nothing happens though, all the free junk is still there every morning. (No don’t worry, it wasn’t someone sneaking in to steal all the stuff that you are trying to give away for free, which honestly would have been a quicker solution to the problem.)
25. As customers start picking up their items, realize this is going to be a very traumatizing experience for your dog. Every time the side gate opens with a new customer grabbing their items, your dog loses his mind barking, protecting his house from the possible intruder, despite all your coaxing and screaming to make him understand that these people coming to our house and taking our stuff for free without paying aren’t criminals but Members Of The Community.
26. A couple days into it, after several back and forth messages with a woman debating if she wants to take your plastic produce cutter and questioning if it can really fit and cut an onion, she says she will pick all her items up later (passing on the produce cutter though since it’s too hard from her to tell from the picture, but she thinks an onion would roll around too much in there). The evening grows late, you get into bed at 10 PM (way later than normal, but business is booming!)
27. At 10:15 PM she messages you “I can come right now, can you set my stuff out?” For one brief second you start to get out of your warm cozy bed thinking about trudging into the pitch black, cold backyard to scrounge around and find her items to place out front of the house (no way you are involving the side gate and your dog barking this late at night)- and then you catch yourself and remember I’M GIVING THIS STUFF AWAY FOR FREE WHAT IS HAPPENING, so you respond, “no I’m sorry I’m already in bed, I’ll set it out tomorrow morning and you can pick it up anytime tomorrow” (yay learning to set boundaries) to which she responds “Okay…. I hope I’ll be able to come get it tomorrow”. Did you upset her? Is she mad at you? Fall asleep full of anxiety that the community is disappointed in you. (Ugh this is starting to feel like your job).
28. Wake up with a feeling of hope - the pile is dwindling, you’ve got lots of happy customers, and it might all be over soon. One woman is coming to pick up her items later which include a tea kettle, a Brita pitcher, and a set of plastic drawers stuffed with lots of random small organizing containers. You insisted in the post whoever took the drawers HAD to take everything in it, and she still wants it, which you are shocked and super thankful for.
29. Keep sending messages to people reminding them to get their free stuff. A lot of people are forgetful, but hey - that’s part of running a successful business!
30. Receive a message from the woman who is going to pick up the drawers saying she drove by your house but didn’t see anything on the front porch. You try to politely point out that you told her in your very detailed message that her items would be on the side of the house behind the side gate. You wonder if that generic “porch pickup” lingo you were slinging around was misleading. You don’t even really have a porch. Who are you?
31. Realize too late that you’ve scheduled a couple pick-ups right around your son’s bed time, and as you try to rock him to sleep all you can hear is your dog losing his shit over possible intruders. Make a note-to-self to not allow pickups after dark anymore.
32. Have a couple great interactions with two different people who are brand new to LA, excited to be here and gathering items for their new homes. Pray they don’t ask you if you like living in LA like you used to ask people when you first moved here. (Just like when you run into work buddies and they ask “how’s it going!” And you want to respond “not that great, kind of having an internal crisis over whether I want to do this job anymore or not, and I’m considering a career pivot of some type, but that could mean big big changes and that’s terrifying, is this a midlife crisis?” But instead you just say “I’m good!”). Smile big and hand off your stuff to them.
33. Drawers Lady has read your message but not responded. You send a photo of exactly where all her items can be found to pick up behind the side gate. Do you need to draw out a map? Will she ever come? God you really don’t want to have to deal with those drawers full of stuff, you know they will just end up back in the garage. Look at all those bags of things people still need to come get.
34. Almost one week since this post went live, and it feels like things are slowing down and you can wrap this up soon (hopefully). You send more reminders to the people needing to grab their stuff. Most are appreciative and give a time when they will swing by. But not Drawers Lady (hello?? Did I miss my shot?? please respond.)
35. Decide to take the rest of the stuff to Goodwill, which, as it so happens, is literally one block from your house (could have been the quicker and easier option this whole time, but you don’t need easy, you need community! and also, you’re running a business! (total losses: -$132.98)).
36. Evening comes and you start to relax, seeing the light at the end of the Buy Nothing tunnel, when you suddenly get a message “hey! I never got a text.” Shit. You never texted the woman that first day after you eagerly said you would. Feel the pit of your stomach drop. A disappointed customer.
37. Consider digging around your house for new exciting things to offer this person as a condolence prize. But then just decide to be honest and respond with “I’m sorry! The thread was super busy and all the things you asked for had already been spoken for before you. I’ll take the blame though, it’s so hard to manage giving away a bunch of things like that.” Crisis averted.
38. She never reads your honest response. And your response will haunt your thoughts for at least the next month or so. (Why so long? Why even feel like you had to respond? Why take the blame? She was trying to go against the rules you established.)
39. Ready to finally wrap all this up until - shit - remember that you set about 25% of the items aside to try to sell on your Facebook Mom Group, which only allows sales on the weekends (nice boundaries!). So you still have a large chunk of items under the tarp in your backyard that you now need to deal with.
40. Start taking individual photos of all these items, but make the photos even BETTER this time because you really just want money at this point to justify the previous few weeks of your life. (total losses: -$132.98)
41. Realize that even though these items probably won’t sell in the Mom Group, and you’ll be back giving away on the Buy Nothing group tomorrow, this experience has given you a purpose that has nothing to do with your career.
In fact, you completely forgot about work stuff for a little while. And, ya know what, you LIKE the process of listing, managing, and organizing everything. Who knew? Sure, the business might be hitting hard times (total losses: -$132.98), but that’s natural.
42. You’ve learned a lot about yourself in these past few weeks trying to have a yard sale. And you’ve learned there’s not much difference between the onion cutter and your career - both are simply things you’ve gathered up over time, filling your house and mind until finally you take the time to follow these simple “yard sale” steps to see if you want to keep them around:
take stock and see what makes sense to keep, and what to give away
question the stuff, question yourself
find out if the person you have become still wants the stuff you have accumulated (you are allowed to change!)
make some decisions about what stays and what goes
provide exceptional customer service throughout
43. Take comfort knowing that no matter how long this process takes, no matter how many times you go through your house and get rid of all the stuff, it will all be okay. Because it already is okay. There’s no way to get around the process, so trust in yourself, ask the hard questions, you are on the right path, regardless of where it goes.
44. Take a deep breath and enjoy starting out 2023 with a fresh, clean slate. New year, new You!
45. Shit but what about all the t-shirts?
And there you have it! Proof that Lauren is funnier and more talented than me, even at the specific things I’ve spent my whole life on!
I did ask her, “laur how should I ask for people to become paid subscribers after your post?”
And she was falling asleep but sorta muttered something like “maybe if I coulda sold Both Are True subscriptions at the yard sale, I wouldn’t be $130 in the hole right now.”
So there ya have it! If you would like to support this newsletter and specifically my wife Lauren and also our family, please do become a subscriber asap:
To share is, of course, to care
I look at the numbers and they tell me that this newsletter keeps growing because you guys keep sharing it. So don’t stop now! Let’s share this thing until it gets to anyone who has ever been a President of their Country or homeowners association!
Ok comment time. Some prompts:
have you ever pulled off a successful yard sale?
are you part of any buy nothing groups?
have you left your career or switched careers? how’d that go lol?
any advice for me re: how to handle when your partner is more talented than you at everything?
how are you who are you and most import: WHEN are you?