Successful Garage Sales

Most husbands are probably thrilled when their wives decide to have a garage sale.  And, what’s not to love?  Clutter outta the house, make some money, and the garage gets a good cleanin’ in the process.  I can neither confirm nor deny this, but I suspect my husbands are quite the opposite.  Clutter outta the house: check.  Make some $: check.  Clean garage: nodda.  Oh, and end up with more clutter than I had to begin with: check.  I am sure this is not the norm, and my parents are to blame.

Oh sure, blame the in-laws.  But that’s just not the case.  A little background information for you: I am blessed enough to have the most laid back, easy goin’, accommodating and forgiving husband ever!  Which is super great for me – a high-strung, spastic, creative sort with energy spent in various directions with no defined focus.  Talk about opposites, huh?  Other than the nature of our personalities, our views and goals in life are the same.  But, enough about that.  Point being that my husband hasn’t complained, nor will he.  And, he has not placed blame on my parents – I have.  But, this isn’t a bad thing.

Our garage doesn’t get the benefit of a cleaning because the sale itself is held at my parents.  And the defiance of logic in accumulating more clutter – that’s a matter of opinion.  I consider it to be “trading up.”  Even though garage sale preparation is a temporary part-time job, it comes with benefits!  Beyond free food, drink, and time spent with family I am allowed the pleasure to ‘shop’ the sale.  By ‘shop’ I mean get free loot my parents have in the sale.  And, they have great stuff too!  Here is my current score (thus far):

 Uhh… what, there’s no pictures here?  Yeah, I know.  I’ll post them tomorrow(ish).

I have heard that the average dollar amount earned in a garage sale hovers around $600.  My parents consistently earn between $2,000-$3,000 per each garage sale they conduct – and that’s just their earnings.  That doesn’t include money earned by other families participating in the sale.  And just so we have the whole cost of living debate settled – we live in the midwest.  Our cost of living is pretty low compared to other areas of the country.  So, it’s not like we live is some high-priced area which would explain the higher amount of revenue generated by our sales.  So, it’s not cost of living.  It’s not a fluke coincidence.  It is a consistent amount because of the planning, preparation, strategy, and promotion done for every single garage sale we ever have.

Alright, getting to the information you came for: how to receive the maximum monetary benefit from your garage sale efforts: 

Because this is quite lengthy, I have titled each section according to topic focused upon.  To further simplify it, I will provide “Cliffs Notes” for each section that merits them under the title.  this should allow you the ability to glance through things, only spending time to read the detailed information on your topics of interest.  I hope this information helps boost the success of future garage sales.

General Information

1. Hosting a garage sale takes a lot of work!

First things first: there is no such thing as ‘easy money’ (unless referring to illegal services solicited on street corners – this is a PG site people!  Plus, that’s a-whole-nother connotation of ‘easy’).  If there were such a thing, wouldn’t everyone be rich?  To have a successful garage sale it takes a great amount of effort, labor, planning and organizing.  The more you invest into your sale, the more money you’ll make.  My family views garage sales with the same view as everything else: dive in head first and give it everything you’ve got!  Just like a good workout at the gym.  If you’re going to drag yourself out of bed at 5 in the morning, it better be for a good reason.  Just walking on the treadmill isn’t going to help me reach my goal, which in that case, I would’ve just stayed in bed.  Get up, run, and achieve your goal!

Set Date and Time

2. Determine finite answers for the following: month, day(s) of the week, date(s), open time, close time, and number of days held.

Second: set date(s) and times.  Pick the month, day of the week, and open and close times well in advance.  With advance knowledge of these factors, you can prepare here and there throughout the year so you don’t have to face the elaborate involvement at once.  I’m not sure if it’s the same across the country, but in Kansas City the ‘garage sale days’ are Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.  That’s not to say you can’t have one on other days.  Those are just the assumed days, which ultimately will yield better results for you.  It’s also important to choose a set time to open and close – post this on the signs you will make.  This way you will not lose customers entertaining uncertainties of whether you’re sale is still open or not – should I drive by?  No.  Designate a clearly defined end, leaving no doubt as to whether you’re open or not.  For a few days you will operate like a retail store.  Open and close times clearly stated.  You will also need to decide how many days you will hold the sale: one? Two? Three?  More?  Our theory is if we’ve put in enough effort to have the darn thing, let’s milk it for what it’s worth.  the hard parts over, all that’s left is opportunity to make some money.  Usually we’ll have it on a Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.  On Saturday we mark everything 50% off – better to get some $ than none, right?  If you are hosting a multiple day sale – make sure the night before the last day you go around and update signs you have out.  Super easy way to do this is to cut out strips with the 50% off verbage, and place clear tape over it.  Cut tape a little past 50% strip, and stick one end to a clip board.  Do this for as many as you can fit onto the edge of the clipboard.  (Like when you place several pieces of tape on the side of a table to use when wrapping gifts.)  You can cut more in the car if you need to.  take two people – driver and gofer.  This will make your process of updating super quick.  If you are only having a one day sale – you can still do this – have sale the last two hours your open.  Place a sign indicating this at the end of your driveway.

Have lots and lots of things to sell.

3. Provide large quantity of items in sale.

Have a large amount of items.  You can’t tell me you haven’t meandered your way towards a garage sale only to drive by in disappointment.  When there is only a pittens of items that are scarcely scattered about the driveway, it leaves potential customers confused.  Is this the house, or do they just have a lot of kids that leave their stuff strung about?  Sometimes it’s honestly tough to tell.  It’s a waste of your time to sit outside all day if the amount of stuff for sale can fit within the parameters of a compact eco-friendly roller skate of a car.

  • Recruit a friend to participate in the garage sale with you!

What, you don’t have that much stuff to sell?  No problem.  Muster all the charm, wit, and convincing ability you have and use it to con your friends into joining you.  If you can’t fake enough enthusiasm to transfer it to your friends, you have a problem.  One, your heart’s not into it.  Two, if you can’t sell the idea of a garage sale as a means for your friends to make money, how on earth are you going to convince strangers to purchase stuff you no longer want?  Fake it till you make it.  We all have garage sales (well – perhaps with the exception of NYC), and we all groan about the very though of having one.  And even though misery loves company, I believe perhaps it’s because when you’re in a miserable situation with the right company it can truly make it fun.

  • Verbalize an agreement that you are here to work, not leisurely reminess over memory provoking items.

When your friends agree to commit to hosting the garage sale with you, make it clear up front to keep reminiscing to a minimum.  repeat after me: “I am here to work and make money.  If the purpose of our gathering was to reminisce and get side tracked, we would not be inside my garage.”  Repeat this as many times and as often as necessary.  Not to say you can’t have fun.  You can.  Just keep working while you chat, and don’t veer off down memory lane with each pricing of an item.

  • The more the merrier. Don’t limit the fun to just one friend, convince them all to participate!

Just because you have conned one friend doesn’t mean you’re done.  We are operating on the ‘more the merrier’ principle here.  I say recruit anyone gullible enough to join you.  The more selection you have, the greater amount of people you’ll appeal to.  The more people you appeal to, the more people likely to swing by.  The more people stopping by, the better the odds of selling your stuff.  Plus more items to choose from can enhance the facade of desirability in items.  (I tried to put it delicately, but I’ll just cut to the chase so we’re all on the same page.  If junk is surrounded by worse junk, it can create the illusion that some of the junk is not junk at all – but something desirable instead.  Similar to the concept men use at bars to label groups of women known as ‘pilot and co-pilot.’  If you have to ask someone what this reference is to – don’t.  You won’t like it.  If you already know, use this most politically incorrect theory and apply it to the stuff you have for sale.

  • No friends?  No problem.  Use Craigs List to create quantity.

What?  Don’t have friends?  That ok, you can replace them with money (for now anyways).  Hop on Craig’s List and look to purchase leftovers from someone elses garage sale.  Depending on the amount left, you may want to obtain leftovers from a few garage sales.  You may need to pay a minimal monetary amount, or there is a possibility of finding some for free – just come get the stuff off their hands!

 Steps that can be completed well in advance.

  • Multi-Family sales require color coded price stickers, keep track of that color and system can be used for years to come.

Enough to sell: check.  Next: pricing.  Stating the obvious just to get it out of the way for those who have never done a multi family garage sale: color coding.  Each family is assigned a color, and that is the color of sticker used on that family’s items for sale.  If you have a group of friends that you’re close with, in which you have no problem have several garage sales together in the future, keep your assigned color recorded in a place you’ll know where to find it later: your cell phone, planner, computer file, or post-its with various passwords scribbled on them.  That way each family will always remain the same color over the years.  In addition to my parents and myself, there are about 3 other families that participate at random over past years.  We all know Nancy is red, Cindy is white, Sandy pink, I’m green, and one-time participants are yellow.

  • Recruit items for sale room by room.
  • Organize and price items as you go, after each room.

In the process of going through your home to select what’s headed for the garage sale, price and organize things as you go.  Typically I go room by room through my house.  I always start with my childs room since it’s the most time consuming.  His room contains a large amount of the items we place in the sale between clothes, books, and toys he’s outgrown.  I’ll use his clothes as the example.

  • Break it down into smaller tasks like completing only one room in a day.
  • Sort items into categories.

I will choose a day to do nothing but go through his room.  After I’ve gathered up everything he’s outgrown, I find myself a comfortable place on the floor and turn on a show I like casually watch.  I then proceed to separate all the clothes into piles in a circle around me.  Categorized by size, type of item, and style (my son apparently has way too many clothes to be able to have this many subcategories!).  So, size 3 toddler shirts would be divided further into polos, button downs, sweater vests, sweaters, jackets, and coats.

  • Example that justifies importance of meticulous organization.

This may seem like overkill, but place yourself in the shoes of the shopper.  Victoria’s Secrets provides the perfect example.  Every year they have a huge annual sale.  You’re all excited, call your friends, and head to the mall to take advantage – only to arrive and quickly sober from your mere anticipation of a ‘shoppers high.’  Oh yeah – ‘the bins.’  Each of you swims their way with hesitance through the rummaging crowd surrounding the round tables.  Half heartedly digging through the containers of granny panties tangled with what seems like floss.  You all keep eyeing each other in hopes your eyes will meet.  Once they do it’s a matter of who verbalizes the obvious of ‘I’ll stay if you wanna stay, but I’m ready to go when you are.’  After ditching the sale and deciding ice cream is now an option with skimpy undies out of the picture.  Dishing over the creamy treat that the money saved is not worth the dumpster dive-esk experience.

  • Presentation counts!
  • You need to do the work, not the customers!

Presentation is everything!  Even in your garage.  Your shoppers want cake, and they want to be able to eat it too.  Save money without rummaging.  I don’t know how many times I’ve been to a garage sale set up with clothes in one box, toys in another, shoes in yet another forcing anyone looking for stuff to have to work to find something.  You’re the one making the money – you do the work.

  • Placement of price stickers.
  • Importance of pricing each item, and keeping stubborn tags attached.
  • Price things with reason and logic, not emotional attachment.

Once all the clothes are separated by size, type, and style it’s time to price.  With my assigned color of stickers, I place the price on the tag of the clothing article.  I have chosen that specific place for two reasons.  One, it’s typically a fairly protected area which helps lessen the odds of the sticker coming off onto the first thing that brushes against it.  Second, tags on clothes are the one thing people look for to confirm the size.  Win, win.  I love that!  When placing the stickers on clothing, if you come across fabric stubborn to adhere to the price use a safety-pin to secure it.  Again, this may seem excessive.  It’s not.  Nobody wants to turn clothes inside out in efforts to find a price only to discover there isn’t one on it.  This leaves a moment of decision: do I like the item enough to ask the seller and wait for them to either hem-haw around in an indecisive manner to determine a price, or for them to call another participant in the garage sale to get approval of a price for their item.  Even then, there’s only a 50/50 chance of a purchase since most times people price things too high.  Bottom line find a way to keep the price secured to the item.  Speaking of appropriate pricing – that something we need to quickly touch upon.  Do not over price your stuff.  Just because something is valuable to you via sentimental attachment, do not translate that into increased monetary worth to other people.  If you’re not attached enough to keep it, emotionally let it go.  Price it purely from a standpoint of logic and reason.  I believe I have read somewhere that people are typically willing to spend a quarter of the items estimated original value.  If you paid $1, ask $0.25.  It’s better to have something priced under value with higher odds of selling, as opposed to holding out waiting for an ideal time the item will bring in prime dollar.  Wouldn’t you rather get less money and be rid of the item than to continue holding onto it with unrealistic hopes and decreased sale odds to sell the item at what you deem it’s worth.  Things are just like houses: just because you paid way more for it doesn’t make it worth that much.  an item is only worth what someone is willing to pay.  Release any emotional attachment and view the pricing of items from a purely business standpoint.  Black and white pros and cons visibly listed on paper.

  • Educate yourself on the value of your items.

Something to consider when pricing your stuff is your knowledge of the ‘current going rate.’  Everyday things are generally not a problem.  When in doubt, check out pricing of similar items at your local Good Will, and price your items a bit lower – remember, the intention of Good Will is not to sell out the store within a few days.  If you come across items in your home that you are unfamiliar with, take the time to research what it is.  Craig’s List, Ebay, and several other sites are very helpful resources for this.  This is not to get top dollar for the item, but researching should prevent you from practically giving items with hidden value away.  Use the dollar amounts found for the product as a starting point – price your item 20-30% less to help it move.

  • Make signs for each section, and place signs between items for storage allowing quick category identification at time of sale.
  • Neatly fold, organize, and store items as you wish them to be displayed at the sale.

After pricing each item, it gets neatly folded and stacked in tidy little piles of all the like items sorted as previously mentioned.  With a sharpie and paper kept on hand, the specifics of each pile is written in a large legible letters across the top (or it can be typed and printed off which I tend to prefer).  Lay the paper atop the corresponding pile as each pile is completed.  When you have finished sorting, pricing, and folding everything you’re almost done (with this part anyways).  With a box medium in depth and overall size, place clothes inside in an orderly fashion.  Size from smallest to largest, and subcategories within each size placed in the same order under each size.  I prefer to display tops first, then bottoms – with each beginning with ‘warm weather’ styles to ‘cold weather’ styles.  My non apparent logic behind this method is that the warm weather clothes tend to be smaller and less bulky than the cold weather clothes, providing for more visibility when laid out on a table.  For example: size 3 toddler clothes I would arrange the tops in the order of t-shirts, polos, short sleeve button downs, long sleeve button downs, jackets, sweater vests, sweaters, coats.  Even though they are all the same size, each style is a bit larger than the previous allowing for better visibility when shoppers are quickly scanning the table.  I also make sure if there is an ‘outfit,’ all it’s pieces remain together.  If you invest the effort now, and store the clothes organized as you would like them displayed, it will pay off later.  Continue with a similar method for all items to be placed in the garage sale.

Repeat after me: my efforts invested now will pay me money at the sale.  Repeat this as many times as it takes until you believe it.

  • Maintain and update inventory of items for sale throughout the year as things are added. 
  • Use inventory list for promotion information.
  • Open Craig’s List account if you do not already have one.

Keep a running list of the inventory you’ve got set aside for your pending sale. This will come in handy as the sale nears. Use it as a reference to write-up promotions for the same. Flyers, Craig’s list, newspaper ads, or whatever promotional medium you choose to utilize use it to detail items available and create any promotional items possible ahead of time.  If you do not have an account with Craig’s List, now is the time to set one up.  It’s free.  Seriously, you have nothing to lose but stuff you want to sell to people who will pay money for it.

  •  Make lots of signs.
  • Signs should maintain continuity amongst them.

Make signs.  Lots and lots of signs.  Make them similar in appearance so they are easy to follow.  Why?  Have you ever decided to follow the arrow of a sign pointing in the direction of a garage sale?  Only to drive around far longer than anticipated because you either a. didn’t see another sign, or b. saw another sign, but it looked nothing like the one you originally decided to follow?  Case in point on why you need to have tons of signs that all look similar.  If you choose to use a florescent pink poster board – use it for all of them.  The easier your garage sale is to find, the more people that will come.  When I say a lot of signs, I mean it!  I would say between 20-30 – seriously.  Place one at every major intersection around town, and then at every turn that needs to be made to get from those points to your driveway.  Make it idiot proof.

  • Create strong, durable signs able to endure a variety of weather.

Another key to creating good signage for your sale is to make your signs sturdy.  Weather proof.  It might be assumed this will cost more money, which it might.  But, if the signs are built well they can be used for many years to come.  It’s very irritation to see a garage sale sign, but inability to read it since it’s bent in half from the wind that’s currently blowing.  Weakling.  Steaks (wooden ones), and lots of them.  They should be strong enough to slay a vampire if need be.  Use them not only to ground your signs, but also to provide support across the back if needed.  You can very easily use spare wood lingering in the corners of your garage for the signs, and cover them with paper containing the verbage.  If rain is in the forecast as even a slight possibility – neatly tailor covers for the signs with syran wrap, opaque plastic, or clear packing tape.

  • Keep signs simple.

Last component regarding garage sale signs.  They need to be short and sweet.  People are driving, and only have and instant to glance at your sign.  Make sure it registers.  Arrow/address and perhaps four bullet points of most popular items: furniture, toys, antiques, boys 5T & under using large neat block letters.

Piggy Backing: Learning from Walgreens and CVS

  • Planning sale to correlate with a larger, more highly promoted garage sale in the area.

Ever thought Walgreens and CVS were an oddity of the retail world in the form of conjoined twins?  You never see one without the other.  Their  marketing plan is essentially based upon the old adage of keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.  Frenemies.  With the same target audience, offering the extremely similar products nad services they piggyback off each other.  Patrons to one are most likely patrons to both.  This year we plan to harness that same strategy.  Where we live there are several areas that have ‘Neighborhood’ garage sales.  A specific date and time set for anyone in that neighborhood that wants to participate.  This year, my neighborhoods garage sale date lands upon the same date set  for my families garage sale.  Opportunity has knocked, and I plan to answer!  Because of this, we are placing a large sandwich board in our driveway advertising the garage sale at my parents home.  We will also have a cylinder attached with flyers inside for people to quickly grab and refer to if they are interested.  The neighborhood has already spent their own energy and finances with the promotion of it’s sale – man that’s great for us to tap into.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

 Preparation to complete within a week of the sale.

  • Post sale specifics on Craig’s List one week before date.
  • Relist again the day before.

A week before the garage sale post an announcement on Craig’s List.  List date, time, extensive list of items available and general pictures to emphasize quantity of stuff available.  I’m a tad leery about posting the address.  Obviously you can post this if you choose.  We provide an intersection that should be known by anyone who lives in the area, and tell them to follow the signs.  We haven’t had any complaints.  Listing the sale ahead of time will allow for the hard-core garage salers to incorporate your sale into their strategic plan.  The morning before your sale, get on Craig’s List and ‘delete’ the post.  Immediately repost listing, which will remove its placement buried 7 days and who knows how many pages deep to the prime coveted front page location.

  • Solve issue of having more stuff than available space with Craig’s List and Presale.

Depending on the sheer amount of stuff you have to offer at your sale you may want to do a couple of things before hand.  We always seem to have 10 tons of garage sale stuff to shove into a 5 ton garage.  Because of this we do two things: Craig’s list large items, and conduct a pre-sale.  If you plan to Craig’s list some of the larger items, you will want to do that a week ahead of the sale too.  This should provide plenty of time for people to view, contemplate, contact, and arrange to see the item all before the sale begins.  That way should Craig’s List fail you, you still have the garage sale to try to sell it.  Additional benefit of advanced Craig’s List posting is anyone who takes the time to come take a look at the item will see what you have for your garage sale as well.  Chances are if the person shops Craig’s List, they enjoy garage sales as well.  For the pre-sale, we typically have 5 generic signs for this very purpose.  After several tables begin to fill with things, we’ll put the signs up at a few close by stop signs.  This is usually a spontaneous decision made on a day we plan to be working in the garage preparing for the sale.  This too can be listed instantaneously on Craig’s List.  Also it’s imperative that you list it as a “Presale” not a “Preview.”  We made that mistake one year.  People came and looked at things, but didn’t realize they could actually purchase stuff then.  That was an amusing lesson learned.

  • Experimental utilization of the internets promotional opportunities beyond Craig’s List

Speaking of Craig’s List – we’re conducting a little experiment this year.  As I list things, I am providing a web address to this page.  As much as I love Craig’s List (which I really do, can you tell?), I feel it’s visually limited by its 4 picture max.  Disregard everything I mentioned earlier about quantity and shift gears to quality.  It doesn’t matter how many people come to your sale if you don’t have what they’re looking for.  I theorize that an abundance of images should provide a clear idea of what people can expect to find here – and given that, odds of purchases made should increase.  We also have many similar items which should likely peak interest of a person interested in any one of them.  But, unlike Ebay where you can see other items offered by that seller, that is not a feature provided by Craig’s List.  My hopes are if someone is interested enough to view the listing, and further interested enough to head to the web address provided, chances should be high they have a genuine interest in items similar to the one viewed on Craig’s List.  We’ll see.  Never know till you try.

  • Additional experimentation pertaining to the promotion of garage sales.

In addition to the other two experiments I’m conducting this year concerning our garage sale, I have yet another unconventional idea to implement.  Discovering several blogs that up cycle, recycle, repurpose, or embrace all that is shabby chic I plan to print off several of these posts and display them by items as a means of inspiration to potential customers.  Don’t worry – I’ll update this post with inspirations found and items for which I hope they promote.  😉 Have a post of something you’ve created using old farm equipment?  I would love to share it on this post.  To have your blog featured, contact me here.

  • Evidence supporting power of promotion.

I am a very serious advocate of fully promoting your sale.  My parents live off the beaten path.  It’s not like they live on a super busy road with tons of passers-by.  The live just outside city limits is what little is left of the ‘country’ in the area.  There are cars that drive past it, just not tons.  They do not live in a neighborhood.  The home is set back far from the road.  I am convinced if they can rangle enough traffic to their home in a semi secluded area, proper promotion of a garage sale will yield plenty of traffic.

Last minute prep: beyond cleaning the garage.

  • Gather all available tables to use for sale.
  • Consideration of traffic flow to determine arrangement of tables.
  • Avoid dead-ends, and allow ample space between tables for people to manuever.

Find a new home for your cars for the next 5 days – driveway, street, friends house, whatever.  Bring every folding table you and your friends own into the garage.  Taking the size of the tables into consideration, create an easy to navigate traffic flow.  Garages are small when it comes time for garage sales.  Tables overflowing with stuff.  Obviously garage space is high dollar real estate at this point.  Even so, you want to make sure tables are wide enough for people to maneuver between – perhaps even two at a time, without the embarrassment of bellies knocking things off the table.  Make sure tables do not lead to a dead-end.  If something catches someones eye it needs to be easy to get to.  Not to mention getting out of the dead-end area with someone following their footsteps behind them.  Don’t forget to have a table designated for checkout.  This should be at the front of the garage, so just like a retail store, people can checkout on their way out.

  • Limited number of tables?  No problem.  Be crafty and resourceful.

Out of tables?  Get resourceful.  Use plywood or something with a large flat surface.  It can be propped up on buckets, saw horses, on the rungs between two ladders, between two pieces of furniture for sale.  Get creative, think outside the box, and utilize the things around you.

  • Assigning locations to categories based on strategy similar to grocery store layout.

Once tables are arranged in a fashion conducive for traffic, the actual set-up can begin.  Assign categories to different areas.  Think of it like a grocery store.  Place the items most sought after towards the back so customers have to walk by everything else to get to them.  Categories deserving of prime locations include toys, children’s clothes, home goods (glassware, plates, serving pieces, etc.), or whatever’s popular for garage sales in your area.  Valuable items, not necessarily popular items, like antiques should be strategically placed on the table neighboring the checkout.  Although we’d love to see the best in people, it’s inevitable.  People steal.  Even at garage sales.  Chances are lessened when your higher dollar items are located next to the cashier.  Antiques and collectables are good item categories for this location.

  • Location for large space consuming items.

Furniture and other space consuming things should be displayed on the driveway.  Not only do they aid in confirmation the sale’s at THAT house, they also spark interest.  Not to mention their placement outside conveniently frees up garage space.  After everything is out and arranged into its final position on the tables, the larger items can be brought into the garage to rest in the isles created by the tables.  This is beautiful for two reasons.  1. If it rains, you already have a plan and space for your larger items.  2. If your garage sale will be held over multiple days, items can be brought in at night.

  • Utilization of ALL space available.

As items are unloaded, and unpacked into the garage drop off items into the category they best fit into.  Once everything is unpacked, arrange each area in a nice orderly fashion.  Tidy rows, like things next to each other.  Get creative when displaying what’s for sale.  Utilize every ounce of space that’s available to you.  Under the tables you can have shoes neatly lined under clothes, small furniture pieces can set tucked away underneath.  Use space above you.  Hang things from the ceiling like large inflatables, hats, wreaths, clothes.  Same applies to wall areas – display wall art, posters, pillow covers, rugs.  Shelves can be used in addition to tables.  Free standing shelves can even be placed on top of deep freezers, or upright refrigerators.  Don’t worry about inaccessibility.  Place what you deem to be your best loot in these spaces.  Use them to showcase and feature stuff you have.  If you choose to do this, plan ahead ways of accessing things when people want them.  Handy step-ladder or ladder should be fine.  Think of clothing stores with the clothes hung well out of reach.  Just because it’s located out of reach doesn’t discourage people from buying it.  The magic hook on a ten foot pole is within grabbing distance ready to provide instant access to those very items.  Even though it’s great to make use of all the space available to you, don’t junk it up.  It needs to have clear defined order to it.  You don’t want it to look cluttered and junked up.

Here are a few pics from a past garage sale set up:


  • Think outside the box when creating displays.

If there is access to clothing racks, use them.  Obviously you can hang clothes up for display, but if you don’t have clothes for sale think beyond that.  Hang linens, small 2×3′ rugs, pillow cases, purses, bags, posters – whatever you can think of.  Our standard practice is to have clothes hung on the racks, purses and bags hang on the end poles, hats displayed on shelf above, and perhaps shoes lined up underneath on the floor.  On a table next to it we’ll typically have gloves safety pinned together and placed a shoe box neighboring other shoe boxes filled with scarves, goggles, and socks.

  • Create easy navigation for customers.

After the garage has made its transformation into a temporary retail store make a list of all the different categories you have.  Home goods, clothes, glassware, holiday decor, toys, books, etc.  Type up and print a sign for each category is large easy to read font.  Place each sign made into a sheet protector, and hang in clearly visible place – up on wall, hung from ceiling, whatever.  It just needs to be clearly visible to people just arriving to the sale can take a quick glance and head towards the area they want.

  • Check list for the check out.

Stock your checkout table.  You will probable want three paper bags.  One filled with plastic bags, one with newspaper, and one to place hangers in after clothing purchases.  Tape, scissors, garage sale stickers, sharpie’s and extra pens should be kept in a handy catch-all container.  Lock box with $100 of change inside – emphasis on the quarters and singles.  Second in importance after the lock box with money for change is ‘the notebook.’  This is essential – dually so if there are multiple families participating.  I’ll elaborate on this in the next section.  Phone (smart phone for entertainment source if you have one), fan, and at least two chairs.  Save any boxes previously used for storage, and tuck them into any remaining space under the tables.

  • Provide customer service.

Offer boxes to those buying lots of items. Sacks to anyone who prefers them. Wrap breakables with newspaper, and secure with tape. If you’re not busy, carry stuff to the car for the person. Utter the iconic ‘have a nice day’ just as a cashier in a department store would. If you are available, have the time, and have the energy provide any customer skills you can think of. Again you’re thinking I’m crazy – and you’re probably right. But, it’s not this that supports your theory. Just like a retail store, it will create repeat customers for you. Not only will they return a few times during this years sale, but the will most likely stop in at every garage sale you have in the future.

  • Occupy bored children, and let their mommy spend money!

Should you have time, there’s one more thing we do during the set up phase.  I will usually get two boxes – small to medium in size, and place them under the checkout table.  Don’t know what to do with all those stinkin’ happy meal toys?  Boy, do I have a solution for you!  Now is the time to get all those toys out that you’ve hidden and snuck away from your children over the past several months and put them in one of those boxes.  If you have old Ranger Rick magazines, Lego mags, or any magazine geared towards children put them in the other box.  I hand these out to each of the children that attend the sale.  The longer the child stays happy and content, the longer their momma will shop and spend money.  Plus, it’s reusing – or is that re-gifting?  Who cares.  Happy child = more $.

  • Don’t be afraid to use humor in creation of  large visual attention grabbing display confirming ‘it’s your house.’

One more task that’s nice to tackle if you have the time is to set up a fun display at the edge of your driveway.  Our driveway is super long, so it serves as an unmistakable sign garage sale seekers have arrived at the right place.  Lots of times we’ll use a maniquin and dress her with clothes we deem humerous with he hand point towards the garage.  You could just as easily make a scarcrow out of old clothes in the garage sale, and prop him up in a chair for sale.  Don’t be afraid to use humor – it helps set your garage sale apart, makeing it memorable.

When open.

  • Be aware of possibility that people may be waiting for you to open before scheduled time.

On the day of your garage sale, be sure to wake up well before the time listed for the sale to begin.  We religiously list ours as beginning at 7am.  Provided we have good weather, there are always people there early – sometimes even up to a half hour early.  You do not want to drag yourself outta bed at last minute and throw yourself to the wolves.  Give yourself a bit to come to and become mentally alert.  these people are awake and excited with no regard for your lazy self to mentally catch up with their inquiries.

  • Sale ‘positions,’ and problem prevention.

We always have two people manning the sale at all times.  Not only does this assist with detouring the boredom factor, but there will be frequent occasions where both people are utilized.  Generally one person (in our case, it’s always my mother) is the designated cashier.  It eliminates any monetary confusion or misunderstandings.  Using our ever so pertinent notebook, each families sticker color is placed at the top of each page.  Underneath a running tally is kept.  Usually my mother handles any conversing regarding the sale with the customer, rightfully distributes monetary values to appropriate families, provides customer with a dollar amount for all items purchasing, and accepts cash/provides change.  My job entails removing stickers from each item as I place it in a bag, lining price stickers along edge of desk in order removed, wrapping up anything fragile, finding a box if needed, and carrying to customers vehicle at appropriate time.  There are two very important things to give attention and care to: 1. when customer hands you money – do not place it immediately in the lock box!  Instead set it deliberately and visibly next to it, and ensure the customer notices (not in a horribly obvious or judgemental manner).  This should eliminate the chances of someone trying to hoodwink you with ‘I gave you a hundred, not a ten.’  I want to remain optimistic towards people, but in a realistic way.  Reality is this is something a few individuals will try, and it only takes one person to create a real sucky situation.  By doing this you can prevent that from occurring and avoid it all together.  2. Do not immediately throw your stickers away.  Again, this is for your own protection.  It eliminates the possibility of any ‘misunderstandings’ of the cost of an item.  It’s one thing to haggle on a price and mutually agree upon something.  It’s another when people lie to you, and you just end up thinking you’re crazy.  I only advise of these since we have learned from past experiences.  My father is quite meticulous by nature, so it’s only natural his job is to tidy and straighten anything moved out-of-place throughout the day. This way everything remains as appealing in appearance as it did when you opened the (garage) door.

  • Better safe than sorry, a friendly reminder so I can sleep at night.

Even if you do not think you need people, do it anyways.  It’s safer.  Even if it’s the middle of the day, and you live in a neighborhood – it only takes a split second for someone to create a dangerous situation unbeknownst to anyone else.  The lockbox with money only provides further motivation for those people.  Do not let anyone in your home for any reason.  With your phone beside you like previously suggested, they can use it for a call without you having to go into the house.  If they need to use the bathroom – give them directions to the closest gas station.  Even if they deem it a dire situation, worst case scenario the best offer I have for them is the grass in my yard.  Gee, this is really painting a picture that I live in an unsafe part of town – which is truly not the case.  I was however a probation officer for a couple of years, and prefer to be safe rather than sorry.

  • Closing on last day of sale: be a peach and go pick up your signs (not only is this environmentally friendly and just plain polite, you can use them again next garage sale!).

As the garage sale comes to an end, go get your signs. Honestly, the sale really doesn’t even have to be ‘oficially’ closed. An hour or two before closing time on, the last day is fine – but if your choosing to do that, begin with the signs furthest away from your home. Not only is it in ‘good garage sale etiquette,’ but now you have your signs for next time. Just recover with updated information.

  • Determine fate for remaining items.

Discuss and decide ahead of time – I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunity during the sale, the post sale plan.  What are you going to do with everything that doesn’t sell?  There are a few options.  Donate it.  All of it.  Load up the truck, head to the local Good Will, unload and mutter ‘good riddens.’  Don’t ring and run though.  Make sure to get your receipt so you can utilize your unsold goods as a tax write off.  Another option is to pack stuff back up in a somewhat orderly fashion and reserve for the next garage sale (don’t worry, it’s like child-birth.  It’s currently fresh in your memory how much garage sales suck to have.  But, after you’ve looked at your baby -in this case counted the cash -you quickly forget any unpleasantness associated with it.   Not to mention the hard parts done – stuff’s already priced and organized.  You can add another posting to Craig’s List.  Why?  List it as garage sale remnants/leftovers.  Either for free or small reasonable amount of money – there are people who want your leftovers.  They will go around to garage sales or find listings for leftovers – gather up all these things and host a successful garage sale themselves.  Or you can donate stuff to a local church that hosts is own garage sale as a fundraiser.  Typically we do a little of each.  Separating everything into piles according to future destination breakdown of this sale monstrosity is shockingly quick.  Approximately 2-3 hours tops.

This is the point in time where your efforts come to fruition.  Pour yourself a cocktail if desired (after money has been counted), sit back and be content.  Knowing in your heart you gave 110% effort, rid your home of unnecessary items, and played match maker between people and things in search of each other.  Ahhh.

Looking for craft and DIY ideas for things you find at garage sales?  Check out these fabulous places for amazing inspiration!

Right now, I’m taking my garage sale and heading over to:

Tutorials and Tips @ Home Stories A to Z

Antique Farm and Horse Drawn Equipment


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