All Jumbled Up! Organising a ‘Good Old Fashioned Jumble Sale’!

jumble sale

So we have just organised our first school jumble sale – apparently the first in our village for about 50 years!  There were mixed reviews – the professional ‘jumblers’ who had been queuing since dawn were disappointed that we didn’t sell adult clothes and that our prices were ‘high’! If you call 5op expensive for a top quality Boden dress then I would have to agree with them, but most people walked away with armfuls of fantastic stuff and smiles on their faces.

Most importantly of all, we made over £1,000 for our school funds, whilst also putting an entire village’s ‘waste’  to very good use!

The idea came to us just after Christmas as we waded through the latest in-take of generous gifts and tried to make space!  As an obsessive recycler, the thought of gathering everyone’s spare stuff and ensuring it be funneled to the benefit of not only our school, but others as well, and going nowhere near landfill just ticked every single box.  Money for charity, quality items for affordable prices, responsible recycling and a community event that appeals to all.

And the fringe benefits were many. Everybody got to have a really good clear out, knowing that their excess stuff was being put to good use!  Who doesn’t love a good clear out!

Parents who had previously felt unable to get involved in PTA events for whatever reason showed up in force to fold,  sort and sell, probably because the concept of a jumble sale is such a simple one that everybody can relate to.

It also served to bridge the generational gap in our village community – with increasing amounts of ‘young families’ moving in, and older residents sometimes viewing them with suspicion, a jumble sale was something that everybody could work together on – and appealed to the ‘waste not want not’ mindset of the seniors, who, bless them all, turned up with some absolute vintage gems.

The main benefit of a jumble sale of course, is that it is pretty much all profit.  There were almost no expenses – a little bit of flyer printing, a few sundry items, but essentially no risk at all.  We used the school hall, social media and our own energy to get this show the road, and we were delighted with the results.

As a small school, we enjoy many benefits of our intimate environment, but funding is a massive issue.  Like all schools, we are funded per head of pupil,  but in West Sussex, we are currently embroiled in a battle to adjust our funding which is lower than any other county in the country per pupil – you may have seen the WorthLess campaign in the media.   But campaigns take time, and the financial need is very immediate, so as parents and a PTA,  we do our best to bridge the funding gap and ensure that our school is adequately equipped.

It is important to remember that, when you are running an event with a limited window, you really need to maximize your money making opportunities. You only get one bit of the cherry, so make sure it’s a juicy one! We did this in a few ways. As well as providing us with jumble, we asked parents to plant up seedlings to stock up our plant stall, we set up, or rather one of our very talented parents set up, an amazing ‘Pop Up Vintage Tea Room’ which in itself made £200+, where parents donated cakes.

We ran a raffle with hampers made up of  ‘brand new’ items donated’.  We charged a £1 admission and sold leftover cakes at the local football match on the Green after the event. And we had a ‘Colouring  & Craft Table’ to keep the kids occupied whilst the parents browsed, manned by our on-site pre-school who took voluntary donations. All of these served to boost the coffers just a little bit!

It is also a good idea to plan in advance what you are going to do with your leftover stock particularly if you can’t store it for future jumble sales, but also to ensure the benefits are reaped by the wider community. We were lucky that our village Scout group had organised to have a book sale a few weeks after our jumble sale, so the books went straight to them. We arranged for the bric a brac and toys to be collected by our local children’s hospice charity shop, Chestnut Tree House, and the clothing is going to Bags of Support, to the benefit of both our school and that charity which helps underprivileged children across the world.

We also pulled out items suitable for the other events that our PTA run, such as our Christmas Pop Up Shop.  Some of the puzzles, games, and books went to the school and pre-school to supplement their stocks.  At the end of the day, we can honestly say that every item from the mountain of stuff that was delivered to my carport, has not only served a second useful purpose but is likely to go on to serve a third and possibly more!

Now, as I sat surrounded by ever-increasing amounts of boxes of stuff to sort last week, I vowed never again, but that was before the vision came to fruition, and the money started rolling in! Everyone had a great day, and in actual fact, of the many events I have personally organised over the years, it was probably the least stressful.  I must, of course, say a massive thank you those that helped out, both pre-event and at the event itself.  As they say, we could not have done it without you.

I would definitely recommend it to anybody contemplating giving it a go, and to give you  head start, here is my

Handy Guide to Organising a School Jumble Sale

At the Start

  1. Choose a date and pick a venue for your jumble sale, preferably the school hall because it is free!
  2. Decide what you want to collect and sell – you may want to exclude certain items such as electricals, glass or even adult clothing.  We took that decision based on the space we had.
  3. Make sure you have a clean, dry and accessible storage facility – you will have lots of sorting to do.
  4. Start to warn people as soon as possible that you are having a Jumble Sale.  Just after Christmas might be a good time as people are having a clear out.
  5. Start collecting boxes and supermarket crates for sorting – the more the merrier!! It makes sorting much easier.
  6. Think of additional ways to generate income from this event such as an admission fee (we had £1, with kids go free) refreshments, raffles, craft tables, etc. You get one bite of the cherry – be sure to maximize it.
  7. Work out what you are going to do with the excess stock. We donated our books to a local book sale, we had a charity shop pick up the bric a brac, and Bags of Support took the clothes and some other items.

Six Weeks Before the Sale

  1. Design a poster/flyers – possibly with a theme to stand out from the crowd.
  2. Come up with a publicity plan to include your school, the local area, social media.
  3. Organise some collection dates, in the school playground, but also somewhere bulk loads can be dropped off.  People will inevitably leave it until the last minute, but if you are in need of more of certain items, you have a chance to ask for them.
  4. If you can, flyer your local area asking for donations.  It adds to the community feel of the event.
  5. Ask for help – you will need lots of it on the day, to put items out and man the stalls. Use your school comms and PTA reps to the max to recruit helpers.
  6. Come up with a rota across the stalls, and make sure people know what they are doing.

Just Before the Event 

  1. Sort out transport – how are you going to get your stock, if it is off-site, to the school hall and back again.  We had a relay of cars and a couple of dads with trailers. We had a lot of stock!
  2. Make sure everything is pre-sorted. We sorted after every collection and nearer the time, every batch delivered to keep on top of it. Some jumble sales don’t do that, but we found that a lot more got sold because people were able to go directly to what they were interested in.
  3. Organise floats for each stall and come up with a pricing policy!  Make sure prices reflect the quality of the items, but also what people expect to pay at jumble sales.   Make sure you research what some of the more valuable items go for on e-bay and come up with a minimum price for those for somebody to buy on the day.  You can always eBay afterward if they don’t sell.

On the Day

  1. Move your stock in plenty of time! We started at 7.00am.
  2. Set it out in good order on the tables, under tables, in boxes, etc.  You may want to get some hanging rails to hang school uniform, coats, dresses and fancy dress.
  3. Set up and mark a queuing system!! The pros will be there in force, and need to know there is order!
  4. Think about reducing prices for the last hour, especially if you have a lot of stock.

At the End

  1. Pack up the excess stock and either store or distribute to the places you have pre-determined!
  2. Sell any leftover items you think are worthwhile on eBay.
  3. Count the cash!  And give yourselves a pat on the back!


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