Plan, organize and sell!

Garage Sales 101

by Sherry B. Hanson


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The biggest obstacles to a successful garage sale are lack of advertising and poor display. Put that classified ad in your area newspapers, and online if you want to, and don't let the cost limit you. You have to get people to come or all your effort is wasted. Some people do this over and over and wonder why their sales are a flop. Here are some suggestions from "experts" like you, other busy people who have put their ideas to work and brought off some great sales. The money they have earned has gone for everything from new appliances to a weekend away, even moving expenses.

Start Now - Set aside boxes labeled "garage sale," and during the months leading up to your sale, put items in the boxes. On sale day, you will have all your sale items in one place. Go through every closet and drawer in the house or apartment; you will be amazed at what you can get rid of and amazed at what will sell. Kitchen drawers and cabinets yield all kinds of things you just keep stashing, like plastic containers, coffee mugs, odd glasses and cups, pots and pans you don't use anymore, water bottles, and spare cooking utensils. Pick a day to go to the basement, attic, garage or storage shed.

Timing - Pick the best weekend in May or June, when weather is improving and people's spirits rise with the sun. Don't choose summer when it's hot and everyone is going on vacation and probably not a holiday weekend either. If you have to have your sale in fall because you are moving, this sale should be advertised as such because moving sales bring in lots of people.

The One-Year Rule - If you have not worn that skirt in over a year, put it in a sale box. It's probably history, but someone else might love it. Consider this for costume jewelry and for small kitchen appliances that were fun when new but just take up space now.

Kid's Stuff - This is really hot at garage sales. Include baby things, clothing, good toys, games and books, bikes and helmets. Wash the clothing and toss any broken toys and puzzles that are missing pieces. Dirty or broken items come across as tacky.

Pricing - Use a system where all like items are priced similarly and make a note of the pricing so you won't forget what you are charging for good jeans. Check out sales in your area to get an idea of what price items sell for. Hardcover books, for example, sell for more than paperbacks, so have a box to collect each type of book during the year.

It Pays to Advertise - Don't ever skip this step! Place an ad in your local paper or papers and online too, and list the biggest draws. Give this some thought. Anything kid-related sells. If you include jewelry and collectibles, people will come looking for those items. Books, CDs and DVDs are hot items, and if you have tools of any kind, including power tools, men will come in droves. Do you have furniture, sports equipment, or electronic items? If so, list them in the ad. Got an old doghouse in the yard? Put it in your ad so someone will come looking for that item. Best of all, mention freebies in the ad, and be sure to have a big sign out on sale day that points to the freebie pile. People love this!

Display Makes the Difference - Plan on plenty of table space; use plywood planks on saw horses or trash barrels if you don't have enough tables. Separate men's and women's clothing, mark sizes if you can, and use a clothing rack. You can make your own with two stepladders and a long pole. Hang up the most attractive and expensive clothing items so they catch attention. Have a sparkly blouse? Put it right out there if you don't wear it; it's an eye-catcher. As items sell, be sure to change up your display; most people don't do this, and after a while, the whole display looks picked over. Large items you really want to get rid of should be out front and visible as people drive by.

Weather - Good weather is nice, and it may be essential if you have no garage or barn. Or consider having a sale with a neighbor that has a garage. You'll have no worries, and you can begin schlepping your stuff as soon as she lets you in. Rent a tent if you have to. It is a real drag to go to a sale on a rainy day and find all the items on tarps on the ground.

The Group Sale - Moving? You really need to sell your things. Consider a neighborhood sale day. You'll have lots of competition, but you'll also have lots of traffic. When people know a sale is a multi-family sale or a moving event, they put that sale at the top of their list. Be sure to advertise the sale as a group event or moving sale.

Afterwards - If you have boxes or bags ready for clothing or household items to go to Goodwill, Salvation Army, a church or a homeless shelter, you can put the unsold items directly into those bags. Books and DVDs can go to a book sale. Have trash bags so your leftovers don't end up back in the house.

Sale Signs - Your signs should be on big, bright poster board. Use large print and include the address and time. Signs close to the sale location can include a big black arrow. Make the signs uniform and place at important intersections.

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