(Note: This is a popular post from our archives. We thought we'd repeat it early in the season so you have time to implement some of these tips if you have a garage sale planned!)
Warmer weather is finally here, and that means garage sales will start popping up soon. If you’re like me, you have a lot of items accumulating (like mountains of kids’ toys), and it would be great to earn a little cash for your efforts to see your playroom carpet again. A garage sale can be very rewarding.
Last year I held my first garage sale. It was very busy with steady traffic and we made a good haul at the end. I did a ton of research beforehand, channeling my retail background to create my strategy, and I’ve compiled a list for you of things I learned from the process.
1. PREPARE YOUR HEART
Before you even put these tips into practice, I want to prepare you that having a garage sale is not for the faint of heart. It takes way more sweat and work than you’d ever imagine, and sometimes there is little return for your investment of time and energy. You need to be prepared with the mindset that this is stuff you would otherwise be donating to charity. When the sale is over, plan to load up everything in your van and take it there immediately. Your goal should be to de-clutter and clean out, with any cash you get in the process being viewed as a bonus. In garage sale world, the value of a quarter suddenly becomes so elevated you can make yourself crazy. Take a deep breath and don’t let it.
2. INVOLVE THE KIDS
The reason we had a garage sale was because our kids wanted (ok, I wanted) a puppy. Having a cause to rally around helped involve everyone in the family. The kids were more willing to part with old toys because they knew the money would bring home “Dyson.” (Yes, we named him after the vacuum). They happily helped me sort, purge and price because they wanted something more than their old junk. Your family could decide beforehand what any money earned would go toward (Disney World?) and you’ll find it enjoyable to work toward a common goal.
3. INVOLVE THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Once we decided what weekend to hold our sale, the kids and I passed out flyers to every home on the three streets surrounding ours. We let them know about our sale and invited them to have one the same weekend. Neighborhood sales have a much better turnout of traffic than individual sales. I gave my phone number and asked for a text if they were going to do it. I made it clear they were totally on their own, but that I would advertise. Four other homes said yes! And we did have a TON of traffic.
4. INVOLVE YOUR FRIENDS
If more than one family is selling items at your sale, you can advertise as “multi-family,” which will also help boost traffic. I had three friends drop off their items at mine, meaning I had more merchandise and variety to appeal to potential shoppers. Just be sure to agree with your friends beforehand about a method to keep income straight. Another bonus of this method is that you’ll have more people to “work” the sale because your friends will stick around. Hopefully!
5. DECIDE WHAT TO SELL
I remember when I took Betsy’s class, on “tips day” she said: “Only keep items in your house that are either beautiful, functional, or you just love them.” That stuck with me, and I have tried my best to live by it. (Read: NOT always successfully. Yet!) This is going to be a wonderful opportunity to de-clutter. Be committed to those three criteria, and you won’t have any regrets.
6. CLEAN IT UP
When you go through your stuff, throw away anything with stains or holes. Don’t bother trying to sell it. It will make people mistrust everything you are selling if they see one item in unwearable condition.
Wash or wipe down everything. Make it as clean as possible.
Put as many items as you can in gallon size or XXL Ziploc bags. They feel new!
7. GET IT ORGANIZED
Bag like items together (for instance six Star Wars figures in a bag, or a baby outfit that includes hat and socks in the same bag).
In your staging area, organize your merchandise by category (kids’ stuff, household items, adult clothes, furniture) so that you can set it up that way on the day of your sale. It will be easier for people to shop for what interests them, and they won’t get frustrated by digging through piles of unrelated items.
8. GET IT PRICED
In retail, “signing” (i.e. pricing things clearly) was directly related to sales. If a customer picks something up with no price, they will often leave without asking what it is. Clearly marked prices lead to more sales.
If you would rather negotiate, put a sign on your table saying “no reasonable offer will be refused,” or “MAKE ME AN OFFER!!!!” (whichever your style). The price tag will help get the process started for your customers and help them feel comfortable.
9. PRICE TO SELL
Infant toys and newborn items don’t sell well. Price them CHEAP. (New parents don’t want used stuff and third-time moms know better than to overpay at a garage sale.)
Feel free to discount items bought in bulk. For instance, “Treasure Toys 25 cents each or 6/$1,” or “Books 25 cents each or $5 for the whole bin.” This worked very well for me to clear out groups of items quickly.
Personal Soapbox: Don’t overcharge. Nothing is more disheartening to me that to arrive at a garage sale full of great stuff and see they want $5 for a kids shirt or $10 for a pair of shoes. Those are consignment store prices. The garage sale is the last-ditch effort to get rid of stuff for a few coins before you throw it away, so price accordingly. Clothes (kids and adults) should be .50-$1 and shoes no more than $2-3 ($5 for unworn condition in a box). The good news is, when you price low, people will buy more. Remember, your goal is to get rid of your stuff.
10. DECIDE IN ADVANCE HOW LOW YOU WILL GO
Of course there are some items that are too valuable to just give away or to let go for next to nothing. Decide in advance what those are, so you won’t have to make a gut-decision with a haggler that you might regret later.
**CHECK BACK ON FRIDAY FOR PART II: GET SELLING!**