How to organize a “dock” yard sale

yard sale sign on a mail box Photo by Suzanne Tucker

Got a lot of clutter at the cottage, but no driveway to host a yard sale? Try a boat-in dock sale instead. Better yet, get together with your neighbours and get the whole lake involved for community-wide fun. Here are our best tips.

Do a little research

Some communities have strict rules about yard sales—even if you’re not technically using a yard! Swing by town hall or take a look at your municipality’s website to see whether any permits are required.

Pick a good date

Long weekends are likely to be popular since more people tend to be at the cottage on those dates. Scheduling the sale for the Saturday of a long weekend gives you the Sunday as a possible rain date.

Let people know in advance (then remind them)

Once you’ve decided on a date and time (morning to early afternoon is best), create a simple flyer, post it in the supermarket or local marina, canvass your neighbours, email the local cottagers association, and set up a public Facebook event so people can communicate about the sale easily. Sites like Craigslist and newspaper classified ads are also good spots to advertise, as are popular tourist stops that may be close to your cottage.

To drum up interest (and participants), share the event on any Facebook pages or websites related to your community. Keep track of who’s signed up to participate, and be in touch with them regularly before the sale—you don’t want people dropping out at the last minute.

If there are things for sale that might be particularly interesting, like vintage kitchen dishes or collectible toys, highlight that in your advertising.

Let people know where the sales are

Create a Google map with each participant’s location on the lake. (Depending on where you are, Google may or may not be reliable—so confirm locations beforehand!) If high-tech isn’t your thing, draw up a map of the lake with the locations plotted out, then distribute it to houses around the lake and post it wherever you posted your flyers.

Make sale locations visible from the water

If it’s a sunny day (or your lake is big), it can be hard to see what’s going on from the water. Encourage participants to catch participants’ attention with a large, bright flag or sign visible from across the water. Tie something bright to the area where you’d like people to dock.

Organize things for smooth selling

Make it easy for people to browse by organizing items by type or function — put kitchen stuff together, group CDs and DVDs, and use a rack to hang up any clothes for sale. Put prices on everything, but be prepared to haggle a little — no one really expects to pay the sticker price at a yard sale! Also, put anything that’s not for sale out of sight. You don’t want someone inadvertently selling your patio set. Finally, keep plastic grocery bags on hand for people who buy multiple items.

Don’t get hung up on the price

Yes, price things, but be prepared be flexible about costs, at least a little. Remember, the purpose of the sale is to get rid of stuff, not to pay for a new motor. Just be aware—cottages can be treasure troves of things that seem like junk, but are actually valuable. If you have any questions about an item’s value, look it up online before you put it out for sale.

Offer something extra

Everyone likes food, so offer snacks and drinks for sale, as well as your yard sale items. If you have a large coffee maker, early birds will appreciate a hit of caffeine. (Just remember to get cups, cream and sugar!) Publicize the fact that there will be food—all the better if you can tempt folks with homemade treats like butter tarts or baggies of caramel popcorn.

Be safe

Advise participants to keep their doors locked, especially if their cottage is also accessible by road. Put up signs advising people that there are no washrooms available, and keep an eye out for anyone wandering farther onto your property than they should. Use an apron with plenty of pockets to keep money—it’s far too easy to lose sight of a cash box in a flurry of activity.

Celebrate afterward!

Invite participants to a potluck afterwards so everyone can share stories and bond over the event. After all, you may make a little bit of money with your community dock sale, but building community is even more important.