Community Street Sale, Repeat

By Rose Kudlac

Especially since covid, many people need more space at home. We want to let go of some belongings that no longer serve us, but the hassle of doing this is often a roadblock. What if your community was having a street sale and all you had to do was put your stuff out in your yard and lots of people came by? That’s what happened in our neighbourhood. It started when an acquaintance and I met in the interest of selling stuff that was taking up space that we needed in our homes, after she put out a call on social media.

We took inspiration from an adjacent neighbourhood where there had been an annual ‘block-wide’ community yard sale for 33 years running! Blocks here are measured in subway stations. When I went to check out the event, it was like Hallowe’en with trick-or-treaters out on every street, lemonade stands, and musicians. And I, who was decluttering (actually cleaning out stuff in storage), got some wonderful pre-loved treasures which I actually use, including the chair I’m sitting on.

The key enabler for our sale was to get critical sponsors on board – realtors. For a community yard sale, realtors are your best friend. Local realtors have advertising budgets for their target neighbourhoods. We approached several realtors, and two who worked for the same firm enthusiastically agreed. With just a couple of weeks to go before our target sale date, their marketing-tech friend created a beautiful poster for us with a QR code pointing to a short video. We asked for modification to include an online landing page with a map1 with markers of sale locations and a link to a form for participant signup. Our sponsors printed hundreds of colour copies and as we put up posters in the ‘hood and on social media with just a week to go, the form started filling and by the time of the sale, we had 30 participants. On sale day, our sponsors put their signs up, with posters on top, at the main intersections of streets with sales and the boulevards.

The first sale at my place was of a very large plant that urgently needed a new home to someone who was clearly in love with it. There was a small frame gifted to a small child who had taken a shine to it. A bike helmet with a broken chin strap to someone willing to fix it. Relatives had come to help. Friends stopped by. The day was rich with experiences. Even our local councillor showed up in campaign mode. There were three more sales right around me. My collaborator, on the next street, declared success – most of her stuff had been sold.

It was a well-attended neighbourhood event, and with more lead time, and a few more volunteers for postering, follow-on events will be bigger and better. With a community sale, scale and regularity are win-wins – for sellers hauling their stuff out to their yards, to sponsors (it needs to be large enough to be worthwhile for them) to people coming from far and wide, and for the goods that can be upcycled, repurposed, repaired, re-homed and treasured one more time.

We know that our Industrial way of making stuff is generally extractive – take-make-waste. Doubling the useful life of a widget effectively cut its impact in half. How do we make that happen? At a zero-waste workshop I attended years ago, the key performance metric was not how much weight is diverted from landfill, as municipalities often use, but the value that is diverted.

There are many paths to the Circular Economy, and this is one. Start a Community Street Sale tradition in your neighbourhood. This is an ideal project for existing neighbourhood groups, but if you’re not in one of those, I suggest finding at least one other person to work with. My collaborator and I agree that this is critical, and more fun.

1. Google mymaps. We added the markers manually, though there’s probably a way to automate this. The area was a rectangle with two subway stations at the lower corners and a major roads on the other sides.

Want to see Rose’s yard sale in action and learn more about how to organize your own? – the PLAYTER DANFORTH STREET SALE is happening on September 16, 2023.

Last year’s map.

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