Top Tips for Hosting a Garage Sale

Let’s go back about 15 years and there I would be, sitting on my front lawn, attempting to make it rich by selling lemonade concentrate drowned in additional sugar. Too bad I didn’t realize that most adults were at work during that time and my lovely concoction wasn’t that appealing to people. I’m sure even the post man would take the complimentary cup from us just to be nice.

Alright, so maybe lemonade stands weren’t my thing, but I was always interested in making money and am pretty good at organizing. Over the years we have just bagged up random clothes, toys and what-not, giving it to the Salvation Army or Goodwill. We didn’t seem to have enough time to host one between all the summer sporting events. Well, the time came where I could finally host one of my own.

Yard sales are sort of an art of their own – the idea that one man’s trash could be another man’s treasure. What people toss out of their homes is unbelievable – glass jars, purses, clothing. You name it and it’s probably out there and chances are, I’ve purchased some of it myself. (side-dream…I would love to have a house like the ones in Crate&Barrel or PotteryBarn, but would have to get rid of practically everything I own in order to have such minimal decorations)

Even though I spent a few hours browsing the Internet for adequate prices and possible ways to sell the goods, I think I underpriced some things. I’m not going to kick myself over it, it’s just a fact and a learning process. My dad kept telling me his opinion and his thoughts on the whole affair (although he was not present during the yard sale), I would tell him to “let me try it out, it’s my guinea pig.” After all, life’s all about experiments, right?

So, here are some of the top tips I browsed through and wrote up after this weekend’s event.

  1. Categorize – Organize your items by distinct categories (t-shirts, pants, jeans, toys, kitchen, etc.) It’s best to do this a few days in advanced and then price them by category a day or two before.
  2. Price Point Organization – Create sections or boxes for different price points. ($0.25, $0.50, $1) – This makes it easier to calculate when people check out.
  3. Day-of Preparation – Have your set-up ready EARLY! If you are having a sale in the morning, people will try to arrive by 6. We posted ours as 8am-2pm but had people attempting to check out the loot around 6:45. I had barely rolled out of bed around 6:20 and had to get my butt moving about the yard. My mom was great about turning people away, reminding them it wouldn’t start until 8. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be fair, but again, timing and allowing sneak-peeks are up to you.
  4. Cashbox Control – Carry about $40 in singles on hand and that’s it. Make sure to take big bills or a majority of the cash into the house every so often.
  5. Stranger Danger – May be obvious, but don’t let anyone IN your home. Even if they just want to try something on, it’s a no-no.
  6. Understand Your Prices – Recall what you bought your goods for, what they might be worth online, and what people will actually buy them for. This takes some time and research, but helps the bargaining process. We priced a couple machine items at $10 (really, a bargain) and someone tried to buy it for $3. Really now? I had to put my foot down on that one and sure enough, someone bought it for asking price.
  7. Know your customers or be able to gauge them – We had some who tried to cheat us (snooty folk) asking us to cut the prices on a few items to barely nothing. The more they whined and complained, the less willing I was to let them have it. However, there were some who just lovely (they took the time to chat, were genuinely interested/nice) and I had no problem offering a slight discount.
  8. Utilize Craigslist – Believe me, my mom was not so keen on this idea. However, it’s reputation has improved over time. We created a listing about 7 days in advanced and listed the day, time (make sure to emphasize the time), location, and any important items. I included the fact we were selling some vintage Barbies as well as kitchen machines, and am sure this attracted some customers.
  9. Pair up with neighbors/friends – Double the goods, double the fun. Really, the more the merrier 🙂
  10. Donate the rest to charity.

So a little more on #7. There was a couple of people who moaned and groaned about how we priced items. Never been used sandals for $3 and you are still giving me grief? No thank you. But, there was this little boy who wanted an art kit. It was priced quite low and he asked to buy it for a quarter. I then rebutted and said, how about $0.50? He said he would ask his mom and the purchase was made. What we then saw was that he had his own baggie of change to spend as they went from yard sale to yard sale. Too.Darn.Cute.

Overall, the day was a success. We had fun organizing and chatting and I the best memories came from those who walked away with their items, totally enthused and ready to put them to use.

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” – Anne Lamott

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