Sara Noel

Article Summary:

Guidelines for holding a successful garage sale.

Holding a Successful Garage Sale

Hosting a garage sale is a great solution for ridding yourself of clutter and making some extra money. To have an effective, efficient, and successful garage sale, it takes some preparation and basic know-how. Part of the apprehension in having a garage sale is the fear of a negative outcome. Let’s cover the basics to optimize the best results.

First Things First
Before you start planning, phone your local authorities to inquire about any permits you may need and any provisions or ordinances they may have. Some communities may prohibit the sale of food items or used bedding.

Plan ahead what you’d like to do with remaining leftovers that don’t sell. Donations are always welcome at thrift stores, some shelters, and even some nursing homes. Call ahead to these establishments and get information on any items they don’t accept or how and when they accept drop-offs.

Decide if you want to include others. Maybe you have friends or family that would like to add some items to your sale. You may want to consider an entire neighborhood or block sale. This can cut your advertising costs down considerably.

Safety Tips

  • Have a phone handy if possible.

  • Post a sign on any entrance doors that states "Off Limits". You don’t want anyone inside your home or wandering around the perimeter of your home.

  • For safety reasons, consider sitting outside of your garage. Being inside the garage is often remote and not visible from roadside.

  • Keep your cash box in a safe location.

  • Don’t permit any hanging sale items or tables to obstruct your view.

  • Don’t place items right next to the road where they could be easily stolen.

  • If you have a pet, please make sure it’s on a leash.

  • While making change, always keep the money handed to you in plain view. This prevents anyone from claiming they gave you an amount they didn’t.

  • In many areas, it’s illegal to post signs on utility poles because it’s a potential hazard to workers. Check before placing your signs.

  • Be sure the items you’re selling have not been recalled or pose any potential hazards. You should avoid selling older cribs, strollers, helmets, playpens, carseats, and baby gates.

  • Consider not posting your full address in your ads. You can share main cross streets and let visitors follow your signs.

Gathering the Goods
You can start at anytime to declutter and organize items you don’t want to keep. You can start organizing your unwanted items into boxes. There are many practical items that are great sellers, so don’t overlook anything because you think it won’t sell. You never know who might purchase it. Every little sale adds up. You should try to have a wide variety of items. Many collectors and dealers frequent garage sales, so don’t be afraid to include one of a kind type items. (Ex: one single glass or one individual candlestick)
Items to consider selling
  • Baby items
  • Household items and kitchen appliances
  • Toys
  • Books or magazines
  • Craft supplies
  • Linens
  • Plants
  • Tools

Go room to room and start cleaning, purging, and placing all your unwanted "stuff" into your garage sale holding boxes. Don’t forget to go through closets, dressers, basement, attic, and even the garage to haul out your "junk".

As you’re placing items into the designated sale boxes, note if anything is easily cleaned or repaired. It’s much easier to go through this process as you’re slowly accumulating and collecting, than to inspect everything all at once while you’re pricing items later.

Planning the Date
Your best day to host a sale is on Saturday because most people get paid toward the end of the week and are looking for sales on the weekend. The majority of garage sale days are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. You may want to consider hosting your sale more than one day, but you’ll want to have a lot of items if you opt for a multiple day sale.

All is not lost if you decide to have your garage sale on a weekday. The benefit of having it during the week is that the people attending won’t be garage sale hopping and holding out for better deals elsewhere.

Try to avoid a date that conflicts with any major holidays, as they may not be as profitable. Keep in mind that you can’t accommodate everyone.

Be prepared for early birds. Someone always comes early! Decide if you’re willing to accept people arriving any time prior to your advertised time of your sale. Don’t be afraid to turn folks away, if they come knocking too soon and you’ve decided not to permit early birds. You’re better off to be prepared than to have possible regrets later. If you do plan to permit early birds, be prepared the day before your sale or at the very least an hour before.

When planning the date, clear your family calendar for the entire day. You may want to recruit some help, so make sure others are available to assist. Give yourself at least a couple week’s notice to organize well.

Getting the Word Out
You need to advertise your sale. You can advertise your sale in community papers, signs, local newspaper, word of mouth, laundromats, and grocery stores.

Advertising tips

  • Displaying balloons at your house is an eye catching way to show where you’re located.

  • Your garage sale sign(s) should have arrows, be simple, readable, and bright.

  • If you live on a side street, a few signs leading to your house is a good idea.

  • If posting a printed ad, be sure it’s printed on a weekend and offers a couple days notice because most garage sale buyers check out the ads Friday thru Sunday.

  • It’s best if you can mention the best items in your ad to show that you have a good variety available and to attract the most people.

  • Please remember to take your signs down after your sale too.

Pricing and Money Matters
Every item should be priced and easy to read. Label anything damaged or questionable "as is". I recommend using easy to remove price tags. Stickers and string hang tags work best. There is nothing more disappointing than finding an item at a sale and the seller has added the price directly on the item in black marker. Color coded stickers are great if you’re holding a group garage sale with others.

It is sometimes beneficial to have current prices of what your items cost new. This can serve as a comparison to how good your prices truly are. Pricing can be set at about 1/2 the retail cost to you.

Prep tips
  • Post a sign if you’re not accepting checks and that all sales are final.

  • Don’t hold items without a deposit.

  • Be sure to have lots of change for your sale, a calculator, paper or sale’s slips for receipts, bags, boxes, and newspaper to wrap things.

  • If holding a group sale, plan with others the lowest price they’ll accept on their items.

Display Tips
  • Neat displays and groupings are recommended.

  • Long narrow portable tables work great.

  • Display large merchandise and some good items for both men and women visibly appealing from roadside. Items like tools, lawn equipment, weights, and electronics, furniture, baby gear, and bikes are good examples. If it looks like junk from roadside, people will drive right by and not bother to even stop.

  • Have an electrical source. This is for people to test any electrical items you have for sale. Maybe consider having these items plugged in already.

  • Place breakables towards the back of tables or higher for protection against breakage.

  • Leave enough walking space for shoppers.

  • Clothing can be difficult to sell. You should arrange them neatly. Consider displaying them by color or size. Hanging clothes is best, but you can also fold items neatly or try a "filling a bag for $1.00? special. You can also try box lots. This box for $5.00 or everything on this table $1.00.

  • Make sure that items that aren’t for sale are set aside, so buyers don’t try and buy them.

Smart Selling
Everyone loves a bargain. Be prepared to haggle and set your prices accordingly. Greet visitors and be friendly, but let them browse freely too. You don’t want to be a high pressure salesman, so I suggest you sit someplace out of the way, yet still accessible. You want to give your visitors some space to look items over, but be ready to answer questions, if they ask. You can share any information you have about items they are interested in.

Don’t allow anyone to intimidate you. Be firm and don’t reply in an uneasy or uncertain tone. If they offer you less than an item is worth, just nicely mention your price is firm on that item. If you’re flexible but hoping someone else will purchase it for your asking price, you can always ask them to swing by later and if it’s still not sold, you’ll accept their offer.

Boredom Busters
Plan some activities to keep yourself occupied, in case of slow times. Consider a good book, crossword puzzles, crochet, or cards to keep from being bored. You can play some music for yourself and the buyers. You can also offer refreshments for a small fee too.

After The Sale
After your sale be sure to divide the money, if it’s a joint sale. Put your money in a safe place.

You can take down your signs and start packing up your items that didn’t sell. You can decide if you want to donate your items or keep them for your next sale.

It all makes "cents". We’ve covered all the basics of running a successful garage sale. Hopefully, your sale will be profitable and it will encourage you to have more sales in the future. If nothing else, you’ll clear out some clutter , organize your home, and have some fun. You can then decide what you want to do with your cash from "trash".

Sara Noel is a freelance writer and the Editor/Publisher of both and of Visit both these sites for information on getting back to basics through frugality, gardening, lost arts, simplicity, and natural family living.

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