In summer, garage and yard sales blossom like wildflowers all over our neighborhood. I bet it's the same in yours. If you're thinking of getting in on the action, go for it! It's a great way to clean out your house and make a little money on the side. Here are thirteen steps to garage sale success:
1. Know your local laws. Make sure you understand where you can put up signs, for instance, and whether you can have a garage sale at all. Some subdivisions have ordinances forbidding them altogether, while some towns have restrictions on time, place and duration. Check it out first, before you get too far into your plans.
2. Purge purge purge. Go through the house and really get rid of stuff. Remember that even if YOU can't imagine what someone else would do with something, "One man's trash is another man's treasure."
If you can go through the whole house and get rid of stuff, great. But if you don't have the time or strength, don't let that stop you. Go through one area of the house--say, the garage--or one kind of item--say, your children's clothes--and be sure to advertise a special sale of children's clothes or sporting goods.
3. Pool resources. If you can, organize a block sale, or recruit a couple of other families you know to sell their cast-offs along with you. If the families don't live near one another, hold the sale at either the house most likely to attract traffic--or the one with enough storage space!
4. Think beyond your cast-offs. Crafts and produce do surprisingly well at garage sales, too. If it's hot, go by a cash-and-carry grocery supply and buy a case of bottled drinks to sell--just put them out on ice with a cheerful kid to collect the money.
5. Know what you've got. Anyone who's watched Antiques Road Show knows about the 50-cent garage sale buys that turn out to be worth $50,000. If you suspect a piece might actually be worth something, get it appraised.
6. Price it right. At the same time, don't be a dope. No one cares that the fancy occasion outfit you bought your daughter was $50 originally. It's used. No one's going to pay you even half of what you paid for it. Deal with it. You can either have the $5 for it that someone's likely to pay, or it can sit, outgrown, in the back of your daughter's closet until you send it to the thrift store. For free.
7. Pick the right date and time. Garage sale experts say Thursday, Friday and Saturday are the golden days, and not to bother with Sundays. (Plus also? You'll need a day to recover! See #9.) They add not to sell on holidays, either; most folks aren't in town or are in a barbecue mood, not a buying mood.
8. Decide on early bird policies and make them clear in ads and signs. Some people don't mind early birds, some people hate them, but whichever you are, be sure you're ready for them one way or the other.
9. Know your physical limitations. It's hard work holding a sale. If you're not in the greatest physical condition, you can still hold a sale. Just get help. Hire a neighborhood teen if you need to.
10. Advertise. Be sure to put your ad out on your local Craigslist, for starters. Look into newspaper ads, local bulletin boards, local mailing lists, and so on. Put up signage--keeping in mind your local regulations--and be sure to take them down when the sale is over!
11. Display your items well. Consider putting up a clothesline or other rack for clothing--nothing is less attractive than pawed-over piles of clothing. Have electrical cords or outlets available for testing of small appliances, to prove they work. Have tables available to display small items like plates and cups (and make sure you mark any display pieces "not for sale"). Make sure you mark prices on everything clearly. Rope off areas of your home and yard you don't want people wandering into.
12. Get your till in order. Make sure you have adequate change on hand and keep your till in a safe place with someone watching it constantly. The cash box is not the place to put your child in charge, unless she's old enough to make accurate change, to never take her eyes off the money, and to deal with pushy customers who might try to pull a con.
13. Plan for take-out dinner. You're going to be pooped! Make plans in advance to have some kind of ready-made dinner, even if it's out of your own freezer. Just make sure you have a dinner plan made in advance.
Some excellent links:
The Yardsale Queen has really detailed tips for garage salers, bordering on professional garage saling.
Sara Noel gives good advice at The Sideroad, including what to do with what doesn't sell.