Marie Kondo is a Japanese organizing consultant whose popularity has taken off in recent years in North America, by instructing consumers and hoarders alike to rediscover joy by decluttering and throwing away stuff (Green, 2014). At 19 years old, Ms. Kondo started working as a professional tidier in Japan when she founded her organizing consulting business (Maguire, 2016). Her approach to cleaning has been dubbed the “KonMari” method. One of her most well-known books, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and her Netflix series, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, has people frantically organizing their living spaces in their attempts to spark joy and rushing to the nearest thrift store and garbage dump to offload their junk. Under normal circumstances, this would be considered a positive change. People are donating unwanted items and decluttering their homes. But, as all things North American, we are taking this to the extreme.
I’ve come across many newspaper articles lately, especially in the US, where perfectly good items have ended up in garbage bins, or, even worse, lying next to overflowing bins. Plus, while non-profits have always gladly accepted donations of unwanted, quality, items, many charities have recently issued public notices that they don’t need broken or damaged items (Pannett & Hoyle, 2019). Basically, they don’t want your junk! These charities are usually staffed by volunteers who need to focus on the organization’s core operations. Instead, they end up spending countless hours rummaging and sorting through donated items, the majority of which end up in garbage bins regardless. In other words, instead of taking out our own trash, we’re giving it to a non-profit to take it out for us (Spring, 2019).
What are we supposed to do, then, with all the things we need to get rid of? Now that the weather is warming up across the country, we’re all getting into a “spring cleaning” frenzy, so there’s nothing wrong with wanting to declutter and thinking some things might be useful to someone else rather than going straight to the garbage dump. Once again, I have the answer for you—it’s going to be even warmer out in a few weeks and that means garage sale season. Signs will be spotted in almost every neighborhood. This is a great way to not only burn some calories setting up shop, but it can also mean fun times with friends and family. A garage sale is also the fastest route to meet your objective—getting rid of excess clutter. These reasons alone, along with making some moolah, are just the tip of the iceberg.
Cash, bread, dough, bucks, cabbage, green, moolah, legal tender
Any way you want to phrase it, you can obviously make some quick cash for items you would have otherwise taken to a non-profit or the garbage dump. But the hidden advantage to this is that you don’t have to take your unwanted things any further than your front yard. The customers literally come to your doorstep. You will not only end up making extra spending money, you’ll also save gas money, time, and the effort required to try and properly dispose of everything. If you think I’m exaggerating, think of the multiple trips a yard sale could save you. Trips to the recycling centre for your electronics, to the battery centre for each item’s batteries, to the local thrift store for the clothes, to the appropriate city or town facility for various hazardous waste (e.g., used paint), to the local library or public school for those unused binders and school supplies, and, finally, to the garbage dump for the remaining items. That sounds like a project that never ends to me.
Yes, you read that right. Obviously, the turnout at your yard sale will depend on other things, too, like the weather. But, if you advertise effectively, nothing can stop that local garage sale aficionado from getting to you—especially, if they know you’ll be selling something they’ve had their eye on! With a little bit of planning, you’ll be a pro and sharpening your marketing skills in no time.
Think about this in terms of a course project. At a bricks-and-mortar university, students work for organizations to complete their co-op programs—sometimes, with no pay. For this project, you won’t be working for free, you’ll be making money with the final results. You can apply all the theory you’ve learned at AU and be your own boss at the same time. Which means you won’t be restricted and you can get creative. Don’t think of advertising simply in terms of putting up a “Garage Sale” sign at every intersection within a two-mile radius. You should do this too, of course, but you should also think about your target audience and who you’re trying to sell to. Advertise on Facebook’s Marketplace, VarageSale, Craigslist, and the local library and leisure centres. If your used items cater to a niche market, for example, old baby clothes, hang some posters up the week prior at a local maternity yoga studio. Or if you have plenty of old fishing rods and lures collecting dust, hang a poster up outside of Cabella’s (honey, if you’re reading this, it’s just to get my point across, please don’t lock me out of the house tonight). The point is, this is your chance to get creative and think outside the box with your marketing tactics.
Another advantage to yard sales: you get to meet your neighbours and other interesting folks. Larry from down the street might stop by to chat, and your neighbour Susan could come over to browse through your vinyl collection. You remember Susan, the one you usually avoid in the grocery aisles. It turns out she’s the hiring manager at the company you just applied at last week. See where I’m going with this? Yard sales are an extrovert’s dream. But, if you’re a hermit by nature, like me, you’re gagging right now. I don’t want nosy neighbours knowing my business either, or having to make small talk about the weather. Being on good terms with your neighbours, though, can be a blessing in disguise if you need some help some day.
Make it a Party
Now that we’re past being a recluse (myself included), you can invite friends, family, and neighbours to sell their things too. This won’t only bring out a larger crowd, and a better feeling of community, but think of it in terms of honing your organizational skills. Hey, no other project management, on-the-job, training allows for drinks while working. And, the bigger the event, the more appealing the garage sale. We all know that one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure. Your neighbour might be interested in that moose-head you had hanging over the mantle that’s now just taking up space in basement storage. Just don’t end up buying other people’s junk and end up with more clutter than you originally started out with—that would be taking a step backwards.
For those of you with children, summer holidays can be fun at first, but most parents I know start counting down the days for school to start again within the first month. Trying to find an escape from the constant “I’m booooored…” echoing from depths of the living room, seems like an impossible task. Well, this is a great (and free) way to give them something to do! You can inspire your kids to get involved in all this—but they will most likely not be impressed, at first. Especially, when you tell them they won’t be getting that new Xbox they want so badly, just to get them off your back. Tell them, instead, they get to keep the profits from selling all their discarded toys, games, and clothes. Whatever they make, they can put toward their wish list. And then, on the day of the yard sale, just sit back and watch George Jr. turn into a six-figure car salesman overnight. This is their chance to practice the negotiation skills they’ll need as adults. We all know negotiation skills are critical in every aspect of life and yard sales are a great chance for the kids to start practicing theirs. It’s easier to talk someone down from a $2.00 Pokémon Go t-shirt than a $25,000.00 car. Want to teach them another lesson on adulting? Take away 25% of whatever they earn – for rent, taxes, and operational costs.
Cleaning house can be exhausting. It’s also definitely not an enjoyable task, I don’t know how Marie Kondo does it with a twinkle in her eye and an elated giggle. What I do know is that mature students have limited free time outside their professions, schoolwork, and taking care of their families. Sometimes, it can be a chore just to brush your hair, get dressed, and step outside the house to run your errands. Theoretically, none of us have time for a yard sale. Realistically, though, at the end of the day it’s nice to unwind, get our faces out of those textbooks once in a while, practice our soft skills, and get some fresh air. After locking ourselves up in the office for days, it can be nice to have some human interaction. After all, humans thrive and flourish through the help of their community, not just by listening to Sal on Khan Academy talk about statistics for hours.