Planning Your Garage Sale

by Cheryl Gochnauer


Here in the Land of Opportunity, we're now in the thick of Garage Sale Season. Figuring out what to part with is easy. You're tired of it. It hasn't fit in two years, and never will. The color is wrong; the style is wrong; it's just not you.

But hang a sign on it, and somebody's sure to think it's perfect for them.

With the right spin, trash miraculously transforms into prime merchandise. Flame your entrepreneurial spirit with these tips for your upcoming garage sale.

Presentation really is everything. Appear disorganized and dirty, and buyers will drive right by.

Instead, mow the grass; sweep the sidewalk. Advertise in the local paper and post bright signs at nearby major intersections, leading buyers to your door with arrows. Tie balloons to your banister. Move large, eye-catching items like furniture out on the driveway. Open all garage doors; turn on all lights. Make everything easy to see.

Smile at visitors, but don't hover. Stand at their shoulder, and you'll lose sales. Instead, sit at a table on the driveway, with pop and cookies.

Divide your garage and driveway into clearly defined zones, like baby clothes, household items, children's toys, bedding and linens, etc.

  • Thumbtack sheets to hang from the ceiling, then stash "not-for-sale" items behind the curtain.

  • Have an extension cord ready to prove electrical items work.

  • Don't lump 50 stuffed animals together, hoping someone will take time to sort through them. Instead, place an elf next to a sparkly Christmas dress...position a cowboy peeking over a pair of boots...have a huge teddy bear "read" one of a series of books piled beside him.

  • Know your customer. Used prom dresses are a hard sale to adults, but take those same chiffons and hawk them in the toy section under "Dress-up Clothes" and a mini-ballet dancer or princess will clean you out.

  • Play jazz or easy listening music, giving your sale ambiance. Instead of stacking pictures on a table, display them in appropriate areas: a still-life by some dishes, an angel positioned over a crib.

  • If something is dated, come up with a new way to enjoy it. For instance, don't display an old Selectric with your office supplies. Roll in a piece of glow-orange paper, set the typewriter with the kids' stuff, and plug it in. Watch a preschooler fall in love with its tap-tap-tap.

  • Put cars, trucks and other "try before you buy" toys on a sturdy area rug. While Mom shops, Junior will bond with something, then take it home.

  • Don't pack clothes tightly on rods; separate them by size and type. Hang dresses; put shorts and tops in clearly marked boxes or baskets: "Boys 2T-4T;" "Girls 10-12." Display frilly baby outfits on ladder rungs.

Playing garage sale limbo: How low will they go? That's the question on shoppers' minds as they spring from cars. Don't keep them in suspense; post prices prominently. Color-coded dots work well; stick one on every item and let shoppers check a chart for prices: yellow-25, blue-50, red-75, etc.

  • Garage-salers are looking for deals. Don't demoralize them with $10 toddler dresses. Know what similar items are selling for at other sales, then charge slightly higher prices. When merchandise is clean and attractively displayed, shoppers are willing to pay more. (But not ten times more.)

  • The first person up your driveway will try to negotiate, but don't drop prices before noon. If someone makes an offer, write down their phone number.

  • Build in perceived value. If books are 50 cents, offer "3 for a dollar". Toss in free sheets when you sell a bed.

  • Start the day with plenty of change so the first shopper doesn't clean you out, using a $20 to pay for a 75-cent purchase. Keep money in a fanny pack, and immediately take large bills in the house for safekeeping.

Garage-saling is a combination of fun and sport. Tailor your sale to please your customers, and stuff will fly off your shelves.


Cheryl edits "Homebodies", a weekly ezine for stay-at-home parents. You can e-mail her at Cheryl@homebodies.org, or visit her website at www.homebodies.org. Her book, "So You Want to Be a Stay-at-Home Mom," is available at your favorite bookstore. Copyright 1999 Cheryl Gochnauer.)

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