How to have a successful garage sale

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If you've got tons of stuff that needs a good home, as long as it's no longer YOUR home, throw a garage sale. Here are the key tips that will make it a success, from Garage Sale America author Bruce Littlefield.

How to have a successful garage sale Garage sales are a great way to eliminate clutter and make some extra money. Learn these simple steps for hosting your own successful garage sale.

Plan for your garage sale:
  • Select a date. Saturdays and Sundays are the most preferable.
  • Inform your neighbors you are having a garage sale. This lets them know to expect more traffic, and may also encourage them to host a sale as well. Multi-family sales tend to attract more shoppers.
  • Place an ad in your local newspaper. Most communities run garage sale ads on Thursdays. Include key words in your ad to lure buyers (ex: antiques, baby toys, etc.).
  • Hang large signs in your neighborhood the morning of the sale (any earlier you may get ‘early birds’). Include the day, date, time, address and an arrow pointing toward your home.
  • If you want, you can attach helium balloons to your mailbox or place a large item that you plan to sell at the edge of your yard to attract even more attention.

If it rains, there are two options:
  • Cancel the sale, but know that some people will still show up.
  • Hold the sale and cover display tables with clear painting tarps to protect your items.
Garage sale pricing tips:
  • Consult the web to price items that you think may be of value.
  • Group like items together as you would see in a retail store.
  • Fold clothing and display neatly.
  • Simplify your garage sale pricing by organizing tables by cost of item (ex: a table of books priced at $1.00 each).
  • You may not have time to price everything individually. Consider packaging several items together to sell as a unit (example: a bucket full of toys for a set price).

Tips to keep in mind:
  • Remember that you aren’t hosting the sale to get rich. Keep your garage sale pricing fair - shoppers may be offended if a host seems greedy.
  • Have a good sense of humor.
  • Before the end of the day, decide what you will do with the items you do not sell.
Transcript

LISA: Hi, I’m Lisa Birnbach for howdini.com. Garage sales are a great way to get rid of your clutter, and a good way to make some money along the way. With us, to figure out how to start, is Bruce Littlefield, author of Garage Sale America. Hi, Bruce.

BRUCE: Hello Lisa!

LISA:What’s the first step?

BRUCE: The first step is committing to it by picking a date. Deciding when you’re going to have it is the first step, and preferably on a Saturday or a Sunday. The second step is then tell your neighbors that you’re going to have a sale. Why? For two reasons. One, is that so the neighbor will know that you’re going to have extra traffic on the street, and –

LISA:Right.

BRUCE: Two, is that hopefully they’ll join in with you and have, have a sale too because the more traffic, the more buyers, and the more you’ll get rid of.

LISA:And not necessarily to merge sales, but to just have adjoining sales.

BRUCE: Absolutely. A multi-families sale in an area also attracts extra people.

LISA: Here comes the neighborhood, right?

BRUCE: Exactly.

LISA: Now when you do that, do you have to put notices on trees and telephone poles and stuff?

BRUCE:Well the first thing you want to do is put an ad in the paper. Usually on Thursdays in most communities, the paper, the local paper will put garage sales ads because of the weekend coming up. So put an ad in the paper, and put key words that people would want to look for, for example, antiques, mid-century things, baby toys. Those types of things will, will lure buyers.

LISA: Okay. So the newspaper ad is more important than the telephone poles?

BRUCE: Well the signs, you want to do the day of because if you put signs up, as soon as you put the signs up, your yard is fair game. So if you put them up too early, people will come knocking on your door, being early birds and asking if they can take a look beforehand.

LISA:Uh-huh.

BRUCE: But the key to a sign is, I crafted a sign for you. You know, you want to have a sign, and you want to have your dates and your days, you want to have the times, and the address.

LISA:Right.

BRUCE:But the one thing I didn’t put on here is the arrow.

LISA: Ah.

BRUCE: Put this on the pole that its going on before you draw your arrow because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone down the wrong street because the arrow’s pointing in the wrong direction.

LISA: Oh, how funny. Now, what if it’s raining?

BRUCE: Well if it’s raining you have two choices. One is to cancel your sale.

LISA: Mmhmm.

BRUCE: And two –

LISA: But people are still going to come.

BRUCE: People are still going to come, so unless it’s downpours, raining cats and dogs, use some painting tarps, and cover your tables with painting tarps. So that’ll keep them, keep them clear and if somebody’s coming by, you can let them, let them sneak a peak during the sale.

LISA:Okay, now. You’ve decided on the day.

BRUCE: Yes.

LISA: How do you learn how to price things and display them?

BRUCE: You’ve gone through all of your stuff, and you have everything gathered together. You’ve consulted the web for things you might think are more expensive, and I say set up the, set up your tables as if you’re setting up a store. Think about that you’re running a store for a day. Group like items together.

LISA: Uh-huh.

BRUCE: No one wants to rifle through your dirty clothes bags, so think that you’re running The Gap and fold your clothes nicely on the table.

LISA: Uh-huh.

BRUCE: And you can put a book table together, and say, ‘every book a dollar.’ Because when you’re pricing something, you, you, you have hundreds of items at your sale, you don’t have time to price everything.

LISA:Right.

BRUCE: So things that are of general, a dollar for example, you might put all of those on one table. And then, you might do a lot of things, so like this is a lot.

LISA: Right.

BRUCE: Of toys. Meaning the whole thing. So you might price that for one, one price, and people will grab that and be very excited.

LISA: Right. And the whole idea really is to get rid of; I mean that sounds like the idea is more to get rid of then to become rich.

BRUCE: Well, yes. The idea of a garage sale is that you’re getting rid of things you no longer want.

LISA: Right.

BRUCE:And you’re wanting to find a good home for them. So you’re not looking to become Thurston Howell, III, and become the richest guy on the planet. You’re really looking to have some extra spending money, maybe go out to nice dinner with the family, or that kind of thing. So yes, price is fairly because one thing that, that, if you’re out garage sale-ing, if you’re looking to buy things, it becomes offensive when you’re at a sale, when somebody is trying to, looks too greedy.

LISA:Right.

BRUCE: Before the end of the day, decide that the rest of the things that are not sold, you’re going to give to a charity.

LISA: Right.

BRUCE: Because it’ll make you feel good at the end of the day if you’ve made a little money and you’ve given some things to charity.

LISA: Okay, good. Now besides the ad, and the signs in the neighborhood, is there anything else you can do to make your garage sale stand out?

BRUCE: Well, the one thing that I do, will say is that you can put balloons on your mailbox, or put something that’s a big item, like a rocking horse or a vintage car out in front of your house, and guaranteed, you’ll have people stop by.

LISA: Cool. Bruce, it almost sounds like fun.

BRUCE: It is fun, I promise! Let’s have one!

LISA: Okay. For howdini.com, I’m Lisa Birnbach.

meet theexpert
  • Bruce Littlefield

    Bruce Littlefield Design and Lifestyle Guru Bruce Littlefield is a New York-based designer, writer, and restaurateur. Hailed as a "design and lifestyle guru" by Publisher's Weekly, he is the author of the recently published Merry Christmas, America!: Megawatt Displays Across the U.S.A. (HarperCollins 2007), Garage Sale America and Airstream Living (HarperCollins 2007), and co-writer of the best-selling Use What You've Got and Other Business Lessons I learned from My Mom (Penguin Group) with real-estate magnate Barbara Corcoran. The Today more about this expert »

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