Introduction: Yard Sales and Garage Sales - How to Have the BEST One

About: I love to stay home as much as as I love to travel, I've been to 49 states (missing Alaska) and 31 countries. I have two wiener dogs now and a cat. We all live together in a house in the woods. With no roaches.
This Instructable will help you to have your own profitable, organized and successful garage sale. It's fun (you meet great people) but it IS a lot of work, making the maximum amount of money possible at your sale will make it worthwhile.

Step 1: Designate a Place in Your Home to Store Future Sale Stuff

Pick a closet or a room or a large box and use that space to store the items you intend to get rid of, if one of the items is your son who is playing too many video games, make sure you have packing tape to shut up the box. Throw some gallon size zip lock bags in there to hold smaller items. Those small items then can be sold together for a great price for the whole bag. Such a deal.

The point here is that when you finish a book you are not going to lend out - throw it in the box. Can't find the saucer for the cup? - put the cup in the box. Aren't going to wear that sweater again? - throw it in the box. Just bought a new iron? - put the old one in the box. Did you receive a gift you are never going to use? - in the box it goes. Do your really need 3 watering cans? - put at least one in the box.

This serves two purposes - it keeps clutter down and keeps you organized.

Step 2: How to Find Stuff for Your Sale

If your grandmother is blind like mine is this is really easy - just kidding. Anyway do ask her and other family members if they have stuff, offer to give them the money of course and maybe they can give a few bucks for the ad in the paper, we'll get to that later.

In my town there is a designated day each month were you can put big stuff out on the street to get picked up by the city's trash trucks. I call this Bulk Trash Sailing Day and I acquire a lots of great stuff this way, I always tell people I'm an artist if anyone gives me a weird look. You can say you are an artist too - the word needs more of them anyhow.

Get your kids into this early on and it makes an impression - my son wrote an essay on Bulk Trash Sailing to get into a new school.

Another great source for things is FROM other garage sales, I often buy something I know is a steal and keep it for awhile and then in a year or two I sell it for double what I paid for it and it's still a deal to the next person. This is an intuition thing maybe from "sailing" for over 30 years.

Step 3: What Sells and What Doesn't

Your trash is definitely someone else's treasure but it works the other way too - something you really like, something unique and ever so special, well it may only be special to you. Even if you've had it so long it feels like a part of you...

And this is a good time to get rid of any reminders of your former husband of 18 years who bought you, and you don't know how many other women at the same time, Steuban glass trinkets that declared his love - of Steuban glass trinkets.

Step 4: Pick a Date

General rules here would be NOT to pick a holiday weekend, Superbowl weekend, the rainy season, the hottest day of the year or thereabouts, or a day when a marathon is being run down your street. I wouldn't have a sale in the summer here in South Florida or in the winter if I lived in NJ. After Christmas is better than before.

Decide if you have enough stuff to have a two day sale - if you really think you do you can be sneaky about it and advertise it for one day and put up a ton of signs for the other day. Leave town after you are so sneaky.

Read your local paper and see when most of the garage sales start. Then pick a time that is different than that time.

Step 5: Make Signs

DO NOT USE 8 1/2" x 11" paper with a sharpie marker. Get some cardboard and some dark paint and do it right. Just the facts; the time/the date/the address. Big letters! Arrows are wonderful and probably even better than an address if you have enough cardboard for enough signs.

Put them up early on the day before your sale so people see them coming home from work. I use wire to go through the sign and the street sign I am attaching it to. Duct tape all around a poll works great if the duct tape sticks back to itself.

The more people that come to your sale the better you will do, so do what it takes to get them there. People who see people at a garage sale tend to stop themselves. If no one is there and you have tons of stuff people will just assume the good stuff is gone - even when it's not.

Step 6: Place Your Ad in the Local Paper and Craig's List

It is really important to word your ad to attract the most people and even more important not to discourage the most people. This sounds weird but if I read an ad that lists a phone number I won't go to that sale because I will think that all the good stuff is gone - gone to the people who called the number and convinced the dude to let them in early. Hey I know this to be a fact because I used to do it.

So, in your ad on Craig's List you can get all wordy and talk about your free coffee, your grandmother and your friends who are bringing stuff. The magic words are: Moving sale, collectables, estate sale, multi-family, old stuff, tons of stuff. The words that will scare most folks away are: baby items, apartment (how much stuff could you have?), your phone number, designer brand whatever, size 24 clothes.

Your ad in the local paper should be without frills (read as desperate), not overly long (read as desperate) and should use the magic words. Try to get it to run Friday and Saturday if your sale is on Saturday. Friday sales are discouraged as that is read as desperate also - unless you live in a town where that is normal. Again, to find out what is normal read the ads that are in the paper.

Step 7: Tags

Please spend a little bit and get some cool tags, make you own or use painter's tape because it is so easy to remove. Tags are great because you have room for a description.

I believe the reason the husband pictured here did not end up selling was because of a lack of perceived value. I think if his price had been $74.99 he would have sold in the first hour. I price everything with .99 at the end. For example $14.99 sounds like less than $15.00, it seems like a bargain. I makes people laugh - and spend money. No one actually wants the penny back though I always try to give it to them.

You are allowed to use a sharpie here - I encourage it as anything else is hard to read in the early morning light.

The most important rule for making the most money is PRICE EVERTHING before the sale starts. Work on it for days and days, you will only loose money if you are put on the spot to come up with a price as either it will be too high and the customer will walk or too low and you loose potential money. I can't stress this enough.

Don't let your friends who are bringing stuff over show up with unpriced stuff as you will be the one the customer comes to for the price. Being organized lets you schmooze with the customers, talking up an item; how long your grandmother owned it, how much it was new and how happy you are to see it go to a good home.

While you are diligently working away on this pricing thing (I think this is the hardest part), decide at this time if you want to bargain - and price your stuff accordingly. If your prices are good and fair and you don't want to bargain just tell the customer (as I do) that the price is right, it's a good price. All the customer wants is reassurance that he is getting the best price. Reassure them in a way that does not insult them for asking.

Practice saying this: "I sure don't blame you for asking but my prices are good, you ARE getting the best price". Alternatively, price everything 20% higher than you really expect and you may do even better. It 's all about how comfortable you are with bargaining and interpersonal relationships, psychology, peace talks in the middle east etc.

Step 8: When It All Comes Together

Stuff placed on the ground looks like it should stay there - it looks like trash. Run around to all your neighbors and ask if they have a table to lend you, get more tables than you even think you need.

How much change to start with? You will need a handful of change but not much more than that, most people come with change. Try having 20 one's, 3 twenties and the rest in fives to make up $100. Make change even for the guy who wants something for 50 cents and he only has a twenty.

Respect your customers by not letting in any Early Birds. If you let folks in early then when people show up on time they will think the good stuff is gone and not be much interested even if there is a ton of good stuff left. This is the paradox of yard sales in that perceived value is everything, a table with only 3 or 4 things on it looks picked over. The 3 or 4 items may be great but the perceived value is not there.

The price does not matter as much as the perceived value. As you will see at the end of your sale there will still be fantastic bargains left but no one wants them if they think no one else wanted them. Store them for next year or donate them. So how does this work to your advantage? - in the weeks before your sale, shop at yard sales late in the day for stuff to sell at yours. Lots of times people are so tired they just give the leftovers to you for free.

Step 9: The End

Basically it boils down to the following:

1. Hunt and gather before the sale

2. Price everything before the sale

3. End your prices with .99

4. Try not to put items on the ground

5. Pick an odd time to start

6. Don't let in early birds

7. Make big readable signs and put up lots of them

8. Make a big pot of good coffee (or iced tea) and offer a cup to everyone - it's friendly and it's what they do in Kansas City, MO, which I thought was so sophisticated, oh, and they had donuts too.

9. Let your son out of the box

10. Please rate my instuctable