Introduction: How to Host a Successful Garage Sale!

Do you want to make some extra cash? Do you have stuff you aren't using and want to get rid of? Have a garage sale!

Step 1: Plan

Garage sales are a lot of work. Having a plan makes it a little bit easier. Things to consider when making your plan:

  • When: Date and time? What else is happening then? Will these events help or hurt your garage sale?
  • Where: Do you need a permit? Do you have enough traffic to support a garage sale?
  • What: What are you selling? What do you need? Tables? Clothes racks?
  • How: How are you going to advertise? How are you going to price items? How are you going to deal with the leftovers?

Write down the plan! Not only will this help you remember, but also makes you more likely to follow through!

Step 2: Recruit

Sure you can host a garage sale all by yourself, but why? Recruit your neighbors to have their own garage sale or set up a lemonade stand. The more things happening in the area, the more likely people are to stop. Recruit friends and family to help you. Chances are at some point during the garage sale you will need a bathroom break! Recruit your husband to load heavy items into vehicles. The more help you have the better!

Step 3: Gather

Once you have a date and some help lined up you need to get serious about gathering your garage sale items. Here are couple options, each has pros and cons:

Purge: Go through every room, closet, and drawer and ruthlessly purge. Don't forget the garage, patios, or storage units! Pro: Because you are going room by room, most of the items will already be sorted. Con: Purging an entire house can be overwhelming, especially with a deadline looming.

The Box System: Keep an ongoing garage sale box and add items throughout the year. When switching your closet from winter to spring, pull out all the pieces you didn't wear and add them to the box. When your kid outgrows the high chair and walker, add it to the garage sale box. Pro: This method allows you to constantly discard and declutter. It also provides a "holding period" just in case you change your mind! Con: The Box System takes up space as you gather more and more items over time. Discarding piece by piece also means your boxes will be unsorted making more work at garage sale time.

Collect: Mention to your grandmother that you are having a garage sale, she will have something to contribute. Lots of people are willing to just give you items so they don't have to deal with them! This is free money for you. If you are raising money for a particular reason, like a trip or a wedding, tell people! They may not have the cash to help you but they do have a few things you can sell. Pro: More items equals more money! Con: You may end up with a lot of junk.

Step 4: Sort

Regardless of how you collected your items, you will need to do some sorting. Consider the different departments in a big box store. There are clothing, books, toys, hardware, sporting goods, and home goods. Within each department items are sorted further: women's clothing, men's clothing, children's, shoes, accessories. Sorting items will help you see what you have and what kind of display you might need. Sorting also provides the opportunity to price items and take photos.

Step 5: Price

Pricing is very important and also time consuming. Whether you choose to use pre-made stickers, write your own, or use a color coded price system, pricing items increases sale. A couple ideas for pricing are:

Individual pricing: each item is priced, this is good if you have mixture of high and low quality/value items.

Bulk pricing: all books at set to one price, works well if most items are in the same condition and have similar values.

No pricing: buyers simply ask for a price or make an offer.

Be realistic when pricing items, no one is going to pay full price for a used item. If you are looking to make retail value, perhaps ebay or a resale shop is a better idea. People come to garage sale for bargains. When pricing items, think about what you would be willing to pay for the item at a garage sale. If you aren't sure about pricing check out a few garage sales. What do others have their items priced at? Do they seem to be selling a lot? You are not going to get rich by having a garage sale, but you can make some decent money on things you were going to get rid of anyway!

Step 6: Advertise

Customers can't shop a garage sale they don't know about! If you are coordinating your garage sale with a neighborhood sale or city wide sale, make sure you are on the list or map. Facebook and Craigslist have garage sale groups and sections you can post an advertisement in. Most newspapers also post garage sale ads. A few pointers for your ad:

  • Include the date, time, and address!
  • Give an overview of the items you will have.
  • Post pictures of high value/high interest items.
  • If posting on Facebook, make it "shareable" so that your friends and family can post it as well.
  • Consider posting multiple times leading up the sale, this helps generate interest!

Step 7: Signage

Along with your online and print advertisement it is important to have physical signs. Signs should include date, time, and location. If your address is lengthy, it might be wise to just put your addition name or major streets. Place signs on your street, the entry of your neighborhood, and along major roads. Realistically, most drivers cannot read the small details of a garage sale signs while driving, but they can follow arrows. When it comes to signs, bigger is better, and more really is more.

Step 8: The Day Before...

You have all your items sorted and hopefully priced. You have your garage sale advertised in the newspaper and online. You have signs up directing traffic to your location. Now you actually have to set up for the garage sale. Some things to consider:

  • Make a quick map or layout. This keeps your helpers from asking "where does this go?" every five seconds.
  • Cover tables with cheap table cloths. Doing this builds curb appeal.
  • Hang your clothes. If you have access to a clothes rack, use it! Hanging clothes will sell better than folded.
  • Keep valuables close. If you have high dollar items place them close to your check out station. Put these items out last, so that you can keep an eye on them.
  • Get Change! You do not want to be digging in your car for change when the sale starts. Get plenty of quarters and ones before sale day!

Step 9: Sale Day...

You've already done all the prep and setup work, now it's time to make some money! This is when all your hard work pays off, so make sure you have little fun. Greet your customers with a smile, make people feel welcomed. Funny signs posted around your garage sale will create a sense of whimsy and fun. If it is really hot, consider having free bottled water. If it is cold, maybe coffee or hot chocolate. Customer service can make or break any business. Be willing to haggle. Offer a bag, box, or to help carry items to cars. People will remember your great service the next time!

Step 10: After the Sale...

You did it! You had a very successful garage sale. You made some cash and got rid of bunch of stuff. But what do you do with the leftovers? You have three options, throw it away, keep it for the next garage sale, or donate it. Anything broken or missing pieces can be trashed. Quality and/or seasonal items can be kept for the next garage sale. Sweaters and coats will sell better in the fall, shorts and tank in the spring. If you are just ready to be rid of everything, donate it. Goodwill and Salvation Army accept most donations. Check into local charities that accept donations and support people in your community. Donations are typically tax deductible, just ask for a receipt!