Garage Sale – Lessons from the Past and Present

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on April 29, 2010

Other than the garage sale we are having this weekend, I have only done one other garage sale.  But it was really more of a “street sale.”

Said “street sale” was held in the Dominican Republic, just before we moved back to the good ole US of A back in 2005. It was a “street sale” because there are few garages in the Dominican Republic.  We did not have a garage, so we sold our stuff on the street!

When moving to and living in a foreign country, you are limited to what you can carry in your luggage. (Unless you want to ship a container of your belongings and pay out the you know what. Which I never did, because I’m cheap like that!)  So when I moved to the DR, I had exactly 220 pounds of stuff.  70 for each checked bag and 40 for each carry-on.  I took advantage of every square inch and ounce!

We still managed to accumulate a lot of stuff. Through care packages that were sent to us and other trips back to the States, we ended up with an apartment full of stuff.

But guess what…when it came time to return stateside, all we got was 70 pounds per checked bag. (Thankfully this was before they made you pay for your luggage. Quick shout-out to Southwest for not making passengers pay for their luggage. Now would you hurry up and start flying in to Dayton so I don’t have to drive over to Columbus. Thanks!)

So “street sale” we had!  And a big one too!

A few lessons I learned from selling our stuff on the streets.

1. Emotions – Get over it! – It’s tough to part with your things…because “So-and-So gave this to me for my 12th birthday,” or “But I can’t let this go, it’s too precious and grandma would be disappointed if it wasn’t here next time she visited.”  Well sorry to be non-empathetic here, but get over it!  It’s likely that grandma doesn’t remember giving it to you and your 12th birthday, really?!?  (Please, keep all valuable family heirlooms.  That is not what I’m talking about here!)

2. Be visible – If you are not located on a busy street (as I am not…at the end of a street off the beaten path), then make your sale visible at nearby intersections with signs. And balloons!  Give your address or point to your house with some arrows.  And throw a few of the main sale items or categories onto your sign too.

3. Bargain – Encourage haggling.  Totally not something we are comfortable with in this culture.  But encourage it.  You’ll sell more stuff.  I promise!

And a few lessons I learned from selling our stuff on our driveway.
(Our garage is now our playroom/office and laundry room!)

1. Get it out of the house – Go through your house one closet at a time. Don’t do it all at once!  You will fall over from either exhaustion or the dust kicking up your allergies!

2. Ask yourself - When going through your house and your stuff, ask yourself, “Would I pack this up and move it to a new house?”  (Even though you are not moving, it’s a good question to answer in helping decide what to sell.

3. Stop using reusable grocery bags for a month – I asked for plastic bags during the last few of my last grocery shopping trips, so I could have some FREE bags on hand.

4. Take advantage of FREE advertisingCraigslist, homemade signs (cover up political signs with your sale information!), and participating in another larger sale that will do the advertising for you.

5. Clearly mark the items - Like every other mother around, my short term memory is completely occupied with where toys are hiding around the house and what and my long term memory, well, it’s just shot.  All that to say, I won’t remember how much items should cost. So mark them!  Once you’ve got your “asking price,” you can go from there in your bargaining!

6. “What would you pay” – When pricing, mark the items with a price that you would pay if you saw the items at someone else’s sale.  If you like the price, chances are others will too!

There you have it. That’s all I’ve got.

Bye-Bye stuff.

What have you found works for you when having a garage sale?  Or what doesn’t work?!?

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Amber S. April 29, 2010 at 8:13 am

Any of my children’s clothing gets tagged like it is being taken to sell at a consignment sale. That way when I have to tag things with an index card for an upcoming sale, the clothes will be already ready! I never expect to sell all the clothing even though I price everything low.
Oh and one tip, start your yard sale early. All the hard core shoppers are out on the streets looking for sales before 8am!
We are having our first sale of the year next Saturday. A couple friends are adding in things so its going to be a big one!
I am thinking about having a refreshment table too. Selling water and sodas and maybe some juice boxes. Never know when shoppers get thirsty!

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Cupcake Mommie (Jessica) April 29, 2010 at 8:39 am

I’ve been sorting through stuff too for donations. I’ve been doing 15 minutes a day–and stopping–I could do it for hours! Once the pile starts to get into my exercise “area”, I make a list and take it to Goodwill the next day.

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Bette April 29, 2010 at 8:42 am

My tip: Try not haggle too much with shoppers at your own garage sale. I’ve been stubborn in the past and REFUSED to sell an item at a price that I felt was below what I wanted for it, because I figured someone else will want it. I ended up not selling the item because there were no other offers and ended up not getting any money for it in the end because I dropped it off at Goodwill.

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Tianna April 29, 2010 at 9:26 am

When you put up the signs, be sure to put the date of your sale! Also, be sure to take down your signs after your sale. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the same signs up for weeks. Signs without dates. Which means when I see a sign without a date, I assume it’s probably old and the sale is over, so why should I go out of my way to find a yard sale that probably isn’t even there? Great way to lose potential customers.

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Michelle K April 29, 2010 at 10:15 am

I love the tip of covering up political campaign signs with the garage sale signs. Those are all over the place here this time of year in CA. We’re hosting our 1st sale June 12 and I’ll be sure to use your advice!

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Andrea Castor April 29, 2010 at 10:46 am

How you had time to post before your sale started this morning, I’ll nver know! But I hope you find that it was a grat fun money making experience. In all my yars of Garage Sale-ing….the city wide sale is THE BEST!

My only two tidbits of wisdom to add though:
1. For children’s items, you’ll do MUCH better if you look into selling at local children’s consignment sales. I’ve been selling with one for three years now and it’s SO much easier and lucrative than having a garage sale!
2. Clean your items up! I couldn’t tell you how many sales I’ve been to with all the items covered in dust and cobwebs, or the kids stuff still has food stuck on it! Take a wet rag to it and you’ll get double the price as if you tried to sell it dirty!
3. (just thought of one more)…check city regulations about signs. In our city, they actually have someone who drives around at 8am and takes down signs. Instead, put sign IN your car windows and park at the end of the street! ;P

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Amy April 29, 2010 at 12:18 pm

What you don’t sell take immediately to Goodwill.

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Kristia@Family Balance Sheet April 29, 2010 at 1:16 pm

We had a sale last weekend and it went fairly well. We had ALOT of little things that I put on a big table and made a sign on the computer ’50 cents each or 5 for $1.00′. That stuff went fast and by the last day (the sale was 3 days) I added pretty much every thing that hadn’t sold by then. I don’t have the patience to tag every item.

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Lori April 29, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Ok, so this was a good post for me to read today. I’m gearing up for 3 garage sales and I started getting teary eyed when putting some baby toys in a box. I’m just not sure I’m ready to get rid of them *this year* (my twin girls are 15 months), but hopefully by next year…

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Karen April 29, 2010 at 10:42 pm

I had a garage sale last year and am getting ready for another one this year. It is hard work and takes a while, but I take all my baby clothes with price, how many pieces if more than one and size. I would love to go to a garage sale and not have to sort. I had people complement me last year on everything being priced like that. They even found one or two items that I didn’t price and told me since I priced everything else so nice they bought it anyway. I to am annoyed when people don’t price things or just says make an offer. I also have a babysitter for my kids. Last year I had a 4 year old, a 2 year old, and a 4 month old with me. My family helped alot, but this year I am going to have my husband watch them the whole time.

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Lynn April 29, 2010 at 11:13 pm

While I wholeheartedly agree on the Craigslist suggestion, I would also recommend advertising in a local paper’s classifieds. My mom and I went garage saling for years and never went out without buying the paper first thing to find sales in geographical groups that we could hit efficiently.

I would also recommend checking your jewelry really quickly before setting it out to sell. Very frequently, I get absolute steals on pearls and sterling. Though it isn’t worth tons of money, you might get quite a bit more for it at a jewelry store that buys precious metals. I just always end up feeling like a jerk when I buy a pearl bracelet for $2.

I would also prefer if people did not cover political signs. They are political speech, and there’s a reason that that is protected.

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Sarah April 30, 2010 at 1:46 pm

I’ll comment from the other side – i love garage sales and since getting married, I’ve stocked my house full of furniture/ baby clothes from them!

Some things that really bug me you mentioned in your post. I’ll just re-emphasize:

Please allow for haggling!! Nothing irritates my husband and I more than a “set price.” Sorry, but not in the garage sale world! You are not a retail store so don’t pretend to be one. A garage sale isn’t really there to make you money. That’s a nice side effect. The real purpose is to declutter and get rid of unused items. Be realistic that the price you are asking is just a starting price. People also place different values on items.

Also – put a price on it! That way I have an idea of what you think the item is worth so I’m not always asking you what you want for it. Lots of people in the area where I frequent garage sales don’t put a sticker indicating a cost.

Don’t forget to be friendly and let your patrons know you are the person selling the items! Sometimes I’m confused who to ask and sometimes I’ve even been asked at garage sales how much an item is! Let your presence be known!

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