The Virtues of a Virtual Garage Sale

You promised yourself that this is the summer you will get to it. This thing you dread. You will go down to the basement and drag all of your retired stuff to the garage. You will buy price stickers and borrow folding tables. You will dedicate your beloved Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. to sitting and waiting for people to come and negotiate for your belongings. But wait! Unless you are someone who just loves this traditional approach, there is another way—the virtual garage/yard sale.

A virtual garage/yard sale is basically a garage sale without the garage or lawn. You showcase what you want to sell on the web. If you’re up for doing it yourself, you can create a blog or a website. Come up with a great name and, just as you would if you were holding it at your home, label and price everything clearly.

The most important step is to take great photos and post a description of each article that will make everyone want to buy it. You will have to maintain the site and update it and arrange for pickup or shipping.

If you want to join a site already in progress, there are apps like Shpock (shop + pocket = Shpock) where you can post whenever you feel like it. This one is great because you can post on the run. Say you have one item to sell, take a photo, write a brief description, price it and post. It’s a great local resource too, as only people in your area will see your post. You negotiate right on the app and arrange for shipping or meeting in person. If you’re the one looking for something specific, the search alert will email you when that item comes up.

And here’s one that comes with community spirit: Facebook.

There are virtual garage sales hosted on Facebook in communities all over the North Shore, including Evanston and Winnetka. Margo Chambers created the “Virtual Yard Sale of Wilmette” Facebook group in January of 2014. It was a cold winter day, and she started cleaning out and decided she didn’t want to wait until spring to hold a sale. She had heard of these virtual sales in other parts of the country but none existed here yet. She decided to go for it but had a clear objective: to keep it local and open only to people who live in the community.

Chambers created a Facebook group and became its Administrator. She invited her friends to join. She set rules about how to post, how to bid, and generally how to participate. “It is my job to approve membership and make sure everyone is local,” says Chambers. She is also part policewoman, making sure everyone is following the same set of rules and closing the site to anyone acting inappropriately.

To get into the group someone already in the group must friend you, then Chambers will vet everyone before approving membership.

Ashley Krupski joined Chambers’ “Virtual Yard Sale of Wilmette” group.

She likes the idea of being part of a group limited to her neighborhood and feels there is an element of safety built in.

And here’s where the meaning of “friend” really comes in. Cecilia Cannon, owner of Staging and Interiors in Wilmette, loves virtual sales on Facebook.

“People look out for each other,” Cannon says. “If a friend sees an accessory I may want for a home design or staging project, they will let me know and vice versa.”

Cannon has found everything from antique brass knobs to ceiling fixtures for her customers. “People in this area love to be current, so they change things out seasonally,” Cannon says. “The quality of the merchandise is amazing.”

Chambers has seen everything on her in her group from designer handbags to Hannah Anderson clothing, even cars. There are always lots of kids clothes and seasonal wear. Look for bicycles in the spring, and snow pants come fall. Furniture is popular, with Pottery Barn abundant. Chambers looks at her group as a community bulletin,, and her motto is: “Reduce-Reuse-Recycle.”.

Now, if you decide to go this virtual route there are some considerations. You have to take pictures of all your items, price and describe them accurately and communicate with your buyers. You also need to check your post and keep it up to date and arrange for pick up, sometimes a few times a week (if you hit the jackpot).So there is some work involved, but it sure beats carrying that heavy load in and out of the basement when instead you could be basking in our long-awaited sun.