So you've got too much "stuff" in your house and it's time to unload. You'd like to make a little money in the process. It's garage sale time!! Garage sales always seem like a great idea - but sometimes it's the little things that decide whether a garage sale is a success or a bust. I've spent a lot of time browsing garage sales and almost as much time preparing for my own. Here are a few things that I've learned along the way:
Check The Weather
If you are blessed to live in an area where the weather is balmy year round, you can schedule your garage sale almost any time. However, most of us encounter prohibitive weather at least occasionally through the spring and summer. Clearly, you don't want to schedule a garage sale during hurricane season. But living in Kansas, I'd never given a second thought to the weather when I started gathering my junk to sell. We marked our calendars for the middle of July, scheduled vacation days to man the tables - and no one came. Why? Because by 10am it had reached 95 degrees and no one wanted to be outside - not even us. We hardly sold a thing because of the heat. If you do decide to sell during a heat wave, be sure to set up a booth with cold water (you can charge for this, people will pay) and make sure to have lots of fans blowing cool breezes on your shoppers. If the forecast predicts showers, either reschedule or make sure your items are easy to drag inside in a hurry.
Signage Is Key
If people don't know you're having a garage sale, they won't come. If they have to hunt through winding neighborhoods, they'll give up and leave. Make sure you put up plenty of signs. One in front of your house, one at each end of your street, and one at every bend in every road between your home and the closest major streets. If someone hits an intersection or a T and there's no sign, they'll probably go home. Don't forget to check your signs occasionally, as they are easily carried off by wind, rogue cars, and roving teenagers. Signs don't need to be expensive - I've seen everything from painted diaper boxes to old t-shirts marked in Sharpie - but big, bold and colorful will get the most attention. Bunting in front of the house is a huge plus - people can spot your sale from the end of the street and don't have to hunt. You might even draw in people who missed the signs at the street corner but want to know what all those little flags are about.
I hate to say it, but start your prices low. If someone can buy a similar item brand new at Walmart for the price you've put on your used item, they're going to walk away. Similarly, if I arrive at a garage sale and clothing items are 25-50 cents each, I'll likely spend $10 and buy a big stack. You make money, you move stuff. If shirts are $3 each, I'll walk away without spending anything. You'll probably end up giving these clothes away. Of course there are exceptions. A worn-once prom dress that cost $95 new will sell for a lot more than the t-shirts your son wore every single day. Adult clothes in excellent condition can sell for more than baby items. And if you're super at Ebay and are just trying to save shipping costs, start the prices wherever you like. Just remember that the lower your prices, the more likely people are to hang around and fill their arms with items. And in general - brand names don't make that much of a difference. I'm still not willing to pay $5 for a used Abercrombie shirt if I can buy my kids a new shirt at Target for the same price. Call me cheap, but that's why I'm at a garage sale in the first place. Haven't sold anything in a while? Put up a % off sign. We often moved the most stuff and made the biggest sales on Saturday mornings when we simply said "make an offer."
Label Things Clearly
Make sure that items are clearly marked with prices and (if applicable) sizes or other important information. Usually, I'm too lazy (or too busy chasing my kids) to bother to ask the price of something unlabeled. It's also great not to have to peer into all the clothes to find out the size. If several like items (clothes, books, etc) are all the same price/size, one big sign is fine as long as it's clearly marked and located near the items it describes.
Group Like Items
This one's a bit of a no-brainer, but I have actually attended sales where the items were distributed with almost no thought to category. Make sure the clothes are in one area (sorted by size and gender please), the toys in another, the books in another, kitchen items together, etc. I usually go to a garage sale with an agenda and if I can't spot what I'm looking for quickly, I'll leave.
Place Items On Driveway
It might be a pain to drag items in and out of a garage, but items on a driveway are a dead giveaway that you're having a garage sale. In fact, my kids now assume that every house that has an open garage and/or stuff in the driveway is a sale - even if it's only trash day. If you can't get the signs, bunting, balloons, etc outside your house, then you definitely want lots of large items right out front. Big furniture, large toys, tables full of items - anything that will catch the eye from far away will bring people in.
Just like some of the most successful retail stores, some of the best garage sales I've been to offered little incentives to endear us to them. Free cookies while we shop. A box of freebies for the kids to rifle through (think Happy Meal toys) while Mama looked around. Buy-two-get-one-free books. Rounding down the last quarter so I didn't have to hunt for change. I even attended one estate sale where I bought two items and took home three for free! (They were stacked to the brim and really wanted to get rid of things). A couple of times I've left a sale, gotten more cash, and come back to continue shopping. Did they have better "stuff" than the next guy? Not really. But their customer service was fantastic.
So, are you ready to have your sale and turn your trash into someone else's treasure (and some much needed cash for yourself)?