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Basics for a successful garage sale

Updated on May 23, 2012

Get organized

Congratulations! You've taken the first steps to avoiding being featured on the television show "Hoarders." Deciding to have a garage or a yard sale can be a overwhelming, especially starting to decide what to sell. My basic rule was, "if I hadn't used, looked or worn it for months or years, it was being sold." Spend a weekend or a few weeks going through your house and picking out things you just don't need, want or use anymore. I bet you'll be surprised by how much "junk" ..err, another man's treasure ... you have.

Look at everything with a critical eye and ask yourself, "do I really need this moose drinking a beer?" (see picture)

You'll probably find that you also have quite a bit of stuff that isn't sellable but you want to get rid of. Sure, you could make multiple trips to your local landfill but you'll have to pay to dump it. Instead, create a pile of free stuff. You'll be surprised that people will just carry off things that you think isn't worth anything.

Designate a space in your home or garage and place the items in separate areas, such as clothing, sporting goods, tools, DVDs and CDs, books, free stuff, etc. This will help you once you get to the point of setting up your display areas. Don't worry about pricing yet, just focus on gathering your inventory.

Once you determined what you want to sell, then it's time to pick a date. You'll want to pick a weekend day. Saturday is typically when most bargain hunters hit garage sales. Even though you can't control the weather, keep an eye on future forecasts and pick a Saturday when it is most likely to be a nice day. Nothing puts a damper on a successful garage sale than rain.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, on the day before your sale head to the bank and withdraw cash for making change. Garage sales are strictly a cash business and you'll need plenty of ones, fives and tens. I recommend getting $200 and breaking it down like this: $100 in tens, $40 in fives, $40 in ones, and $20 in quarters.

Get the word out

OK, once you've gathered your inventory and circled a date on the calender. It's now time to get the word out. Head down to your local newspaper and fill out a form to place an ad in the classified section. On the form be as specific as possible on the items you'll be selling. People will not show up at your garage sale unless you have what they want, and they will arrive early in order to get it. For our sale, we clearly stated that the sale was from "8 a.m. to 2 p.m., no early birds!!" However, people were circling our street at 7 a.m.

Most newspapers will give you road signs as part of the package for placing the advertisement. On the night before the sale, place the signs along the busiest roads near your home. These signs will help those who saw your ad in the paper find your home, and they will catch the attention of other motorists and hopefully entice them to check you out, also. And, if possible, place a big sign right in front of your house so there's no mistake who's having the sale on your block.

Take advantage of social media. Let all your friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter know about your sale. And, put a notice on sites such as Craigslist and Freecycle.

Men's and women's clothing
$0.25 an item
Baby clothes
$0.25 an item
Leather jackets
$10 an item
DVDs and CDs
$1 an item
DVD box set
$3 an item
Book shelves
$20 to $25 depending on quality
$20 to $50 depending on quality
$5 to $10 depending on quality
Glasses and dishes
$0.25 to $1 depending on quality
Toys, stuffed animals
$0.25 to $1 depending on quality
Wedding decorations
$0.25 to $5 depending on quality
$0.25 paper backs; $0.50 hardcovers
$5 to $15, depending on quality
Board games
$1 to $3 depending on quality and game
$3 to $5 depending on quality

Price to sell

Let's just be upfront. You're not going to get back what you paid for your stuff. That's not your goal. You're looking to price to sell. That doesn't mean you need to just give your stuff away, but you need to be realistic. People go to garage sales for bargains and if you don't offer any then they will head up the street to another sale where they'll spend their cash.

Condition, quality and popularity of items are variables to consider when setting prices. People will literally fight over baby items. So, you can set a higher price on things such as baby clothes, cribs, strollers, high chairs, toys, bibs, swings, bassinets, car seats, etc. Baby items are always the hottest items at garage sales and people will buy everything you have because, speaking as a parent of two toddlers, the stuff you're selling is a heck of a lot less expensive than buying it new at a store.

I've listed what I priced some of the items from our sale, which we made a profit of more than $200. Not too bad considering we set our prices low because our No. 1 goal was to sell, sell sell and de-clutter the house.

Road appeal

The day has come. Everything is priced, the newspaper printed your ad, signs are placed at high traffic areas throughout the city and your social media friends have expressed interest in stopping by. But, all that hard work could be for nothing if you don't have any curb appeal to make those garage sale bargain hunters get out of their vehicles.

The decision on whether to stop at your place often depends on what they can see from their vehicles. Arrange your merchandise so that the most sought after items you advertised are clearly visible from the road. Put bookshelves to good use before they are sold by using them to display smaller items, such as picture frames, decorative pieces and glasswares. Put a table of baby items, which I mentioned earlier as the hottest items at garage sales, near the street with a big sign saying, "get your baby clothes, toys here!"

The goal is to make drivers stop their vehicles and get out and fork over the cash. One fun thing you could do is get out a grill and offer free hot dogs and burgers, plus a cold beverage, for any purchase over $5. Buy some balloons, turn on a radio and create a bit of a picnic/party feel. I admit that this might be a bit much and eat into your overall profits some, but you want to create a fun and inviting atmosphere to help drive sales. Who knows, maybe you'll end up having fun yourself.

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    • smithed profile image

      smithed 5 years ago

      Alphagirl: Kids who don't play air hockey don't know what they're missing. I love air hockey.

    • alphagirl profile image

      alphagirl 5 years ago from USA

      You reminded me of the things i want to get rid of. I have an air hockey table that is 4x6ft in great condition. I tried sselling on Craigslist. Kids don't play air hockey any more. Not one offer.

      Thanks for helpful hints

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 5 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      I'm planning on having a garage sale soon, the balloons are a good ide, I think I'll add some with my signs as well. Thanks and Welcome.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 5 years ago from Florida

      Welcome to HubPages! This is a great Hub filled with good advice on having a garage sale. I'm voting it UP, etc.etc. and I will share with my followers, too.

    • smithed profile image

      smithed 5 years ago

      Thanks. I just signed up this week. I enjoy having a creative place to share my ideas and thoughts, besides my personal blog.

    • KathyH profile image

      KathyH 5 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      Welcome to HubPages! :) You have some terrific helpful tips here! :) You're off to a great start!