Monday, May 19, 2014

How to host a College-wide yard sale

A view of our College Yard sale from several years ago.  It's hoppin'!
This post is going to be very boring unless (as Penn requested) you happen to work at a college and want to figure out how to sell things that students would otherwise throw in the dumpster.  If you don't care about this, you can skip it (although if you skim down to near the end and see the price that I set for "Toys", you might get a chuckle.  And yes, I do make sure that kids who leave the sale are smiling!).

Our sale has been run entirely by student volunteers, with some cheerleading and day-of-sale check-out help from me.  I'm trying to convince our facilities and cleaning staff to take this on, because the students have graduated and this event is on the verge of dying if we don't figure out how to add some support. But here, for what it's worth, are the details of how our event ran in the past, with a few suggestions I've tossed in for the future.


Time and people:

In 2014, our student organizers reported this amount of staffing time required to haul, set up, and sell the items:
  • Thursday:            2 people 14 hours each 
  •                            1 person 1 hour 29 hours
  • Friday           2 people 8 hours each
  •                            1 person 2 hours 18 hours
  • Saturday:         12 people 12 hours each 144 hours
  • Sunday (sale day)          7 people 7 hours each 49 hours
  • total 240 hours

  • Signs: (to go in the dorms, to ask for donations of stuff). 
  • Boxes to collect/store/haul donations: We get these from our local waste management company.
  • Carts: We maintain a fleet of 4 garden carts; these are invaluable for hauling things before the sale, and also on the day of the sale for helping customers get their goods to their cars.
  • Tape: Painter’s tape is essential, not only for putting up signs, but also for pricing odd items (electronics, furniture, etc).
  • Tables: For set-up, it would be nice to have at least 15 tables. We get these from our facilities office.
  • Racks: In 2014, we had 3 clothing racks; we could easily use 6 more.
  • Signs: (outdoor) We have a few large cardboard signs, but need better signs to advertise the sale and direct people to the sale. A good sale should have at least a dozen professionally made signs.
  • Signs: (indoor, sale day) See the list at the bottom of this post. Also, see “scales” below, which would change the signs we’d need.
  • Scales: Right now, we price many things “per bag”. This makes it trickier than you’d imagine to price purchases (does a grocery bag count the same as a laundry bag?). I propose a new pricing scheme: food is 50¢/pound; linens and clothes are 25¢/pound. If we do this, it would be nice to have several scales for the event.

  • $75 Newspaper advertisements
  • $25 tape and paper

Suggestions for the future
1. Ask whether cleaning crews can move full boxes to a central location in each dorm and replace these with empty boxes.

2. Ask whether Facilities can provide transportation of boxes from the dorms to the gym where the sale happens.

3. Appoint some office on campus to hire a manager for the event and possibly one or two Associate Managers.

4. Purchase a dozen new outdoor signs, to advertise the event.

5. Rework the on-campus advertising and promotion of the event.

6. Scavenge several bathroom and other scales for weighing goods; redo indoor signs.

What would Managers do?

Set the date of the event and reserve the gym

Get boxes from Waste Management Authority

Maintain contact with concerned offices on campus:
  • Campus Housing 
  • Facilities
  • Residence Association
  • Sustainability Center
  • College Communications 
  • Student activities
Publicize the event on campus, to get donations

Publicize the event off-campus, to get customers

purchase ad from local Newspapers

Arrange volunteer schedule

Put out boxes and signage

Arrange “The Great Sort” on Friday, Saturday, Sunday

Price the furniture, electronics, etc

Get cash box from student activities before sale; return it after the sale

Return supplies to a designated storage closet

Write a short report (suggestions for changes for next year, money made)

What would Associate Managers do?
act as sounding board/trainees for manager
help find volunteers
assist with sorting, sale, and clean up

Signs for the sale day, and our current price list

• College Yard Sale – starts at noon – All proceeds benefit [name the Charity]
• College Yard Sale– In [Name] Gym; follow the signs
• Rugs $2 small (less than 3’)/$4 medium (less than 6’)/$10 large
• Linens: $1 sheets, towels individual/$5 bagged/$1-2 pillows/$5 comforters, foam pads
• Storage: shelves $2/storage bins 50¢
• Lamps: $2 desk/$5 floor/ other electronics priced as marked
• Household items: priced as marked/OBO
• Knick-Knacks: 50¢
• Books 25¢
• Accessories: $1 item/$5 bag
• Accessories: $1 item/$5 bag
• Suitcases: $2/other bags 50¢–$1
• Clothes and shoes: $1 per item/$5 per bag
• Clothes and shoes: $1 per item/$5 per bag
• Clothes and shoes: $1 per item/$5 per bag
• Women’s bottoms: $1 per item/$5 per bag
• Women’s tops: $1 per item/$5 per bag
• Socks & underwear:  Free
• Men’s bottoms: $1 per item/$5 per bag
• Shirts: $1 per item/$5 per bag
• Dresses: $1 per item/$5 per bag
• Sweaters, hoodies, jackets: $1 per item/$5 per bag
• School & office supplies: 50¢ per item/$2 per bag
• Food: $5 per bag
• End of Sale Clearance:  Name your Price!
• CHECKOUT – all proceeds to benefit [Charity]
• Toys:  Free to cheerful children/$2 to whining people
• one price list for food/office supplies/clothing/rugs/linens/pillows/lamps


  1. Awesome! Thank you for all the explanation. I think my big hurdle will be people to volunteer at this sale. Maybe former students home for the summer, since they tend to get done with college classes before we do . . .

    This is on my to-do list to organize for next year, and this post will be helpful in pitching the proposal to the powers that be.

  2. It's moveout time here, and I miss this SO MUCH. Broadway is lined with all the stuff students throw away and it's really sad. I acquired a few things last year, but overall there's so much stuff being thrown away. One friend got a cast iron skillet out of the trash last year!! How does someone throw that out? I'm glad this sale is still running strong, as much work as it is for the volunteers.

    1. Oh, and Steph, *I* miss *you*! Let me know when you are going to be back in town!