How to Hold a Garage Sale (or Not!)

Holding a garage sale may seem like an overwhelming task, but with some forethought, hard work and preparation, it can be a nice way to make some money and get rid of stuff.  Here are some tidbits of advice from someone who has already done three and is planning a fourth this summer!

PLANNING

Choose a date.  Give yourself at least 2 weeks.  I recommend 4-6 weeks.

Tell your neighbors, family and friends.  Big garage sales attract more people and allow you to “share the load” with others.

SORTING & PURGING

Start sorting and purging.  I recommend a “top down” method if you have not done this in awhile.  Begin in the attic (if you have things stored there) and work all the way down to the basement (if you have things stored there).  Don’t forget the closets and the garage!

If you plan to sell appliances, toys or furniture and you have the owner’s manuals, put them inside a Ziploc bag and attach it to the item.  It will sell for more $$ if you do this.  Plus, you do not need the manuals if you no longer own the item!

Getting rid of stuff can be hard to do.  I am genetically inclined to be a pack-rat and have a hard time parting with things, but as I age, I am learning that fewer things to take care of, look at, move around, clean, etc. reduces my stress level and frees up time and energy to do other things.  If you think you need help in this area, I recommend a book called “Clutter’s Last Stand” by Don Aslett and http://www.flylady.net/ for information, helpful insights, tips and ideas.

When sorting, ask yourself some questions. 

  • Have I used this in the last year?
  • Is this taking up space or collecting dust?
  • Do I really need it?
  • Do I have more than one of these and could part with one or more?
  • Could I get along without it?
  • Do I need space more than I need this thing?
  • Do I need the [50 cents] I could get for this more than I need this thing?
  • Do I even like this thing?  (It is important that you feel no guilt about parting with things you don’t like, even if they are brand new or gifts from others. [If the gift giver is helping with your garage sale, consider directly donating the item to a charitable organization!]  Again, they are taking up space and energy in your life.  Let them go!)

Store all the things for the sale in one place.  There is nothing more frustrating than finishing the garage sale only to find that you have another pile that should have been out there!

PREPARATION & ADVERTISING

ADVERTISE!  Make signs to post around town (if allowed), put an ad in the newspaper and tell your friends.  If you do not live on a well-traveled street, but know someone who does, ask to borrow their house.  Drive-by traffic can make big sales.

If you are not familiar with the garage sale “climate” in your area, ask someone who would know.  In our town, garage sales do best if they run for one day.  Two day sales are twice the work with little pay off.  Friday nights make big bucks, but the following Saturday morning sales tend to be puny by comparison.  If you are not able to do a Friday afternoon/night sale, do a Saturday morning sale instead.  People often figure that there is nothing “good” left on Saturday morning if there was a sale the previous afternoon.  Your town may be different.

Be aware that some people will want you to start early.  Decide in advance if you are willing to make a sale an hour or two before the sale officially starts.  Once you begin making sales, others will come and you may be unable to finish adequately preparing for the sale.  Posting a sign that states the start time of the sale, “No early sales” or “Please join us at 3 pm” is a good way to communicate your desire to begin on time without early sales.  There have been sales in the past where I stated a start time of 8 am and had people at my house at 630 am.  Ugh.

If you have children (or spouses) who may want to return some of your sale items to the house, make a rule.  “You may choose two things to bring back in the house.”  Then, enforce the rule.  You might consider making them “purchase” the item with their own money.  Another option is to mark several items with their initials and give the profits from the sale of those items to them.  It allows them to make money and gets things out of your house.  You might be surprised how many things end up in the garage sale that you would never have put there!

If you plan to advertise in the newspaper, you will probably pay per word or have a word limit for a set price.  Use your words wisely.  Include your address, date and time of sale for sure.  Highlight things that will draw people.  Furniture, appliances, antiques, books, baby items, exercise equipment, tools, etc.  If you have a really unique item, be sure to get it in the ad.  That “one person” who has been looking for your item may see it and come to get it!

PRICING

If you are sharing the sale with others, be sure to use unique colored stickers, tags or markers.  Mark your price tags with your initials if you use the same tags for several families.

When setting the price on items, consider this: Is it more important to get that price for the item, make it go away or make a little money (versus a lot of money)?  For example, is it more important that your old dining table and chairs go away and you make $50 OR that you may end up keeping them (or giving them away for free) because you wanted $150 for them?  Keep in mind that things require attention, space, cleaning, maintenance, etc.  

If you are willing to negotiate, make a sign stating that you are willing to negotiate and then DO IT!

If you do not want to label each individual item, consider making a sign with blanket prices.  For example, it could say “Kids Clothing 50 cents per item.  Kids Shoes $1 per pair.  Adult Clothing $1 per item.  Adult Shoes $1 per pair.”  It saves much effort and frustration.  (Stickers have a tendency to fall off or be removed.)

Consider offering a deal if people buy more than one of something.  For example, if you have a lot of books, make a sign that says they are $1 for each hardback or 12 for $10.  Paperbacks can be 50 cents each or 12 for $5.  People are inclined to buy more (and take them home) if you make it look like a deal.

Consider a half price or bag sale after a certain hour.  Post signs (or say in your advertisement) that clothing or books remaining at 11 am are $5 per paper grocery sack.  I have even seen $5 a load sales.  That means that anything you can carry in one armload is $5.  You can always mark some things as ineligible for that sale.

SET UP

Make sure to have plenty of tables (or other flat space) available for your items.  People are more inclined to purchase things they can see and get their hands on than if they have to search or find them in boxes and bags.  You may also consider putting items out on the lawn on tarps or blankets.  Being able to see something that “catches the eye” can create bigger sales.

As much as possible, put your items toward to street so they are visible to passers-by.  However, you might also consider the weather.  People are more likely to linger, and therefore spend more money, if they are comfortable.  If it is hot, place items in the shade, inside the garage, etc.  If it is cold, consider placing items in the sun or inside the garage.

Clean up your items.  Dust them off.  Wipe them off.  Vacuum them off.  Make them shiny.  Dirty items will either not sell or will not sell for the price they would if they were clean.  Dirty items send the message that the item may or may not be in the condition befitting the price you have put forth.

Put toys towards the front.  Toys draw children who bring their parents.

Group “like” items together.  For example, try to put kitchen items together with kitchen items.  Consider an area for bath, kitchen, books, toys, decorating, hobby, holiday, tools, furniture, clothing, bedding, electronics, videos/DVDS/CDs, etc. 

Go to the bank to get change for your sale.  I always try to keep at least 5-$10s, 5-$5s and about 20-$1s, plus a roll of quarters on hand.  Make a decision about whether or not to accept checks in advance.  People will ask.

Find a calculator, paper or notebook and several working writing utensils to have on hand.

I also like to have scratch paper, sharpies and tape to mark things sold until their owners come for them.  You can’t fit a couch in a Neon, no matter how hard you try!

DURING THE SALE

As people “check out”, you have a couple of options for keeping track of sales.  If you are doing the sale by yourself, with no profits to divide afterwards, you have no sale tracking to do.  Rejoice!  If you need to track sales, consider making a page with a column for each family/person.  As sales are made, write each person/family’s sales in their column.  You could collect the stickers from each item and stick them to a page to count later OR you could just make a list of things as you go (marked by owner) on each line of notebook paper.  Make a plan with each other to cover the costs of advertising and other associated costs.  Then, take that $$ from their profits.  [Some cities require a garage sale permit.]

As you negotiate with people, if you are unwilling to take their price, offer to take their name and phone number and call when the sale is over to negotiate or accept their offer.  This can allow you to continue to try to sell the item for what you ask (or more than the first person offered), but still have an option to get rid of it later if it remains.

During down times, re-organize and re-arrange items.  It is amazing that how items will sell once they are put in a different location or pulled out from the bottom of a stack!

AFTER THE SALE

When the sale is over, do yourself a favor and take everything to your local charitable organization as soon as possible.  You might try to sell some of the items on craigslist, but don’t let them linger long in your house.  Don’t forget to make a list of what you donate for tax purposes!

If all this seems like too much work, go through the sort and purge stage and take it all to a local charitable organization.  You can itemize your things to claim on your taxes or just hand it all over and be done with it!  

I am sure there are lots of readers who have lots of other great ideas about preparing for, organizing and holding a great garage sale.  Please use the comment section to share your wisdom and experience!

Kimberlee

Comments

  1. 1
    Amy T. says:

    Great post! I’m currently staying at my mom’s place for the month to help her purge her cluttered filled house. I’m planning a garage sale for the end of the month and I’m going to copy this post to my computer to remind me of all the great tips you gave.

    Thanks!

  2. 2
    Derek says:

    “Genetically inclined to be a pack rat.” I love this line. I think I’m going through post-traumatic-garage sale withdraw syndrome right now.

  3. 3
    Sari Berry says:

    Great post! I used a lot of these tips when holding my garage sale and it was great success! Thanks for sharing!

  4. 4
    Sarah B says:

    I’m hoping to have a garage sale next week! I’ll have to put some of these ideas into practice. Thanks for the tips!!

  5. 5
    sarah says:

    organize your clothes by size, otherwise people may not look through them since they will be overwhelmed.

  6. 6

    hoping to have a garage sale soon.. these are great tips.. i am definitely going to bait my older son into giving up some toys he doesn’t play with, but refuses to let go of, by giving him the profits!!

  7. 7
    Karen Hand says:

    Great tips. I really enjoyed the tip about putting the toys in front to draw the children’s attention, thus bringing their parents. This works! Thanks for the suggestions.

  8. 8
    Thomas Murphy says:

    Great tips, I have to have a garage sale soon.

  9. 9
    Daily Woman (Lacey) says:

    Great Information coming into the springtime. I want to have a yard sale soon.

  10. 10
    Debbie Welchert says:

    I would love to have a garage sale this summer and get rid of a lot of stuff I don’t use. All of your tips have helped me a great deal. Now I won’t be walking into it blind.

  11. 11
    David Smith says:

    Thanks for the info. We had one yard sale earlier this year and we need to have another one when the weather warms up next spring. We have a bedroom that is stuffed full, floor to ceiling, wall to wall. Also the garage is full too. Time to get rid of stuff we don’t need anymore.

  12. 12
    shoelove says:

    Really nice tips thanks for the article. Its very useful for selling garage.

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