Hints and Tips to Execute a Successful Garage Sale

Elli Davis Garage Sale sign

Elli Davis Garage Sale sign

So you want to hold a garage sale? The first question you want to ask yourself is why? There are many reasons why people hold sales; maybe you want to clear out all that clutter that has been accumulating in your drawers and cupboards. Maybe the children’s bedrooms are full of toys they have outgrown, or maybe you are downsizing your home and unable to fit all those possessions into your new house or condo. Whatever the reason this type of sale takes careful planning if you want a successfully, pleasurable, stress free event. Let’s start by looking at the preparation involved.

Preparations: The Time and Place

The key to a successful and profitable day is meticulous planning and research. Start off by deciding whether you want to hold it by yourself or join forces with family, friends or neighbours. By doing this you have more items to sell, a wider range of inventory and generate more traffic. The other benefit is that costs of running and advertising the sale can be split between you, therefore reducing overheads.

Set a date and time, try to avoid the holiday periods, it’s unlikely anyone is going to turn up 2 days before Christmas or Canada Day. Also check with your local government office or home-owner’s association to see, what, if any restrictions may apply to the sale and any advertising you may want to do. Consider the items you want to sell and try and arrange the sale in the lead up to these events, for example children’s toys sell well on the run up to Christmas. Speak to your neighbours and ask them if they have any objections – you would be surprised how this common courtesy could avoid a potential conflict and bad feeling over cars parked in front of their driveways, or someone walking on their lawn. When you set a time, don’t make it too early in the morning – you will have enough to do, setting up, without having potential customers arriving. Make sure you stipulate an end time; the day will be long enough as it is!

Preparations: Items for Sale

photo by Jonathan Youngblood

photo by Jonathan Youngblood

Now you need to start going through your home and deciding what you want to sell. Cast a critical eye over each item in your home and decide if you really want to keep it. Look in your drawers and the back of cupboards for those items that have been stashed away for years. Ask yourself if you are really going to use it again. If the item hasn’t seen the light of day for over 6 months then you or your family are unlikely to be using it in the future. Go through your clothes closets, any clothing or shoes that you haven’t worn for months, or you kept promising yourself you would diet into, is just taking up space. Stand firm when you find a toy, that all of a sudden, after 2 years, is now your child’s favourite possession in the whole wide world – it’s not!

Once you have your items to sell, make sure they are clean and in good condition. Repair any damage, wash and iron clothing, wash crockery, clean items such as lawnmowers and polish, remove stains and brush down any items of furniture. Label items such as clothing so the buyer can easily identify the size. Box items such as books, CD’s and DVD’s with their spines showing so the titles can be easily read. Bundle towels together to make a nice gift package, maybe adding a lavender sachet so they smell nice. Any sharp objects such as knives need to be secured safely with a cover over the blade to avoid accidents. Put items that are broken or have pieces missing in a large box labelled ‘spares or repair’ – you never know someone may have been looking for this item for a long time.

Consider cutting out an advert showing the price for the same item you are selling from a magazine or print the details off the Internet – people can’t resist a good bargain. Another sales gimmick is BOGOF or ‘buy one get one free’ offers. Price the items clearly. Finally, source spare tables and chairs to use to display items or for your rest area. Plywood between two garden chairs makes an excellent table, cover these with plain sheets to make them attractive. Also collect cheap hangers to display your clothing and newspaper and grocery bags to pack the items once they have been sold. Make sure you obtain plenty of change in coins and notes.

Consider what you are going to do with any unsold items – are you going to pack them away for a future sale or give them away? If you are considering giving them away, ask a local charity to call round an hour after the end of your sale to take away any unsold items.

Preparations: Advertisement

Next, you need to think about advertising. By choosing these signs you can be confident that the signs will tick all the right boxes and generate the traffic you need, to make your sale a resounding success.

If you go ahead making your own, how are you going to word your advertisement? Always use clear, large and concise writing, block capitals can usually make a sign easier to read. Include the date, time and venue. To stop people turning up days before hoping to catch an early bargain just include the street name, on the day you can signpost it more clearly. Use recyclable materials if you can, a large piece of cardboard stapled to a wooden stake is eco-friendly and can be used again at a later date or disposed off without harming the environment.

Place adverts on bulletin boards in your local shopping mall, church, community hall and school. You could even place the ad in your local paper or on the Internet; there are many free sites out there. Where you can, include more information such as the type of goods for sale, the times, whether you are offering refreshments, maybe where they can park their cars easily and those all important directions.

A few days before your sale make sure the area you are using to host the garage sale is clean, tidy and free from rubbish. Mow the lawn and remove any items that are not in the sale so you have a clear area in which too work, it also avoids the risk of items being sold which are not in the sale. Remember if the area you are using looks dirty and untidy people will think the goods for sale have been given the same lack of care and regard and avoid your sale. Rally friends and family to help on the day and arrange a time for them to arrive.

The Day of the Sale

So today’s the day. If you haven’t set up your tables and chairs already then this is the first thing you need to do. Designate a rest area where you will be serving drinks, you could involve the children and ask them to manage a drinks stand, an empty trash can nearby is also a good idea. Another thing you could involve the children in, is putting out the final signs giving directions to your yard. If you have help, set up a table that can be used by customers to pay for the items, make sure there is a calculator to total up the goods. Discuss with your helpers the amounts you are willing to negotiate on each item so everyone is clear right from the start. Cover the tables to make the area presentable and inviting, make sure the area is hazard free by taping down any electrical cables or filling in any holes and removing objects people could trip over. Make sure you have access to an electrical socket and batteries to prove that your goods work.

photo by Stephen Korecky

photo by Stephen Korecky

Set out all your items; try to group them together for example clothing on one table, crockery on another. Hang clothing from chains if you have room to set them up, also try to avoid putting boxes on the floor or under the table as many people won’t bend down to search for items.

Use the area wisely, put interesting items at the front and try to make sure they can be seen from the road as too draw passer-bys in. Consider putting up a large sign that says ‘all sales are final’ to avoid someone trying to return an item a few days later.

Be prepared for early arrivals, even if you state on your advert you will not sell to anyone before the designated start time; it won’t stop people from turning up hoping to snag the best items. Be polite, friendly and engaging with all your customers, people will hurry away if they are faced with someone who looks like they just sucked on a lemon and be prepared to negotiate on the prices. Most of all have fun, however tired you may feel, think of that lovely cash at the end of the day.

It’s Finishing Time

It’s finally over, or you thought it was! Ask last minute stragglers to politely leave as you are clearing up for the day. Pack away any of those unsold items so they are ready for the charity to collect or put them away in storage for a later date. Fold and put away your tables and chairs and clear up any rubbish left lying around. Send the children out to pick up all the signs that you put out.

Now comes the good part. Make yourself a nice cup of coffee or pour yourself a glass of wine, put your feet up and count your money. I would suggest taking your family and helpers out for a nice meal to celebrate but you will probably all be too tired. So relax, enjoy the company and order a take-out.


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