Here in the midwest, garage sale season is in full-swing again, and two weekends ago my mother and I hosted a sale of our own. A couple of other family members and a friend of the family contributed items as well. Although we didn’t have much in the way of furniture or large items to sell, we sold almost everything we had and made quite a bit of money, too, so I’d definitely call it a success.
My mother and I have hosted several garage sales together over the last few years, and I’d love to share a few tips that have helped make them a success. This post is all about preparing for you sale; next week I’ll be posting tips for pricing, advertising, drawing a crowd, arranging your items and hosting your sale.
Preparing to host a garage sale takes a lot of work up front, but a well-prepared sale is much less work to pull off in the long run. Investing some time in preparation will save you effort in the future. Follow these tips to prepare for a successful sale.
Plan Your Sale
Set up a work area. If you have the space, designate an area of your house to garage sale preparations. A corner of an unfinished basement or a little-used guest bedroom would work well for this purpose. If you don’t have the room to set up a permanent work area, I suggest storing items destined for the garage sale in one location. Then work on sorting and pricing items at the kitchen or dining room table as you have the time.
At our previous house, we didn’t have the space for a work area so I stored garage sale items in a box in the guest bedroom closet. I’d add to the box throughout the year, and when the box was full, I priced the items and put them up in the attic until it was time for the sale. Then I’d start a new box in the closet.
Keep supplies handy. I store a small Tupperware shoebox full of pricing items near my garage sale boxes. I include a Sharpie marker, a ballpoint pen, labels for pricing, a small notebook, a few Ziploc bags, rubber bands and a rag for wiping off dusty items.
Keep a list. Keeping a list of items you have for sale before boxing them up is especially important if you choose to price your items throughout the year. When you write the advertisements for your sale, it’s always a good idea to mention specific items that you will have for sale, and, if you’re like me, you won’t be able to remember what you have unless you’ve written it down.
Choose a date, and invite others to join you. If your neighborhood hosts a neighborhood garage sale, picking a date may be as simple as writing the date of that sale on the calendar. If there is no community sale in your area, invite neighbors, friends and family members to join you. Multi-family sales draw bigger crowds. Don’t host your sale on a holiday weekend when many people are likely to be out of town or otherwise preoccupied.
In the midwest where I live, April, May and June are prime garage sale months. The sales die off in July because of the summer heat, and they pick back up again in August around back-to-school time. (By the way, back-to-school time is an especially good time to get rid of kitchen supplies, housewares and small appliances because college students are shopping to get themselves set up in their apartments.)
Set a goal. Is your primary goal to get rid of stuff or to make money? If you aim to get rid of stuff, keeping your goal in mind will help you let go of items you may think are worth more than the price a buyer is offering. If your aim is to make money, choose a specific, reasonable amount to shoot for and, once you reach it, let items go on the cheap so you won’t have to box them up and take them back inside.
Prepare Your Items
Wash all clothes. Other items you may need to wash are bouncy seat covers, bibs and table linens.
Remove stained clothes. Either toss them into your rag bin, place them in a “free” bin at your sale or offer them for free on Craigslist or Freecycle. Shoppers who see one stained item may assume there are more and skip looking over the rest of your clothes.
Repair and clean all other items thoroughly. If you want maximum dollar for your items, they need to be clean. Even if it’s high-quality, a highchair with crusty food splattered all over it is going to fetch a much lower price than a clean one. A little glue or a screw holding together a formerly wobbly chair is also going to go along way in attracting a buyer. You can skip this step if you’re short on time, but price your items accordingly.
Hang as many clothes as you can. Dress clothes, coats and costumes should get top priority when it comes to hanging space, but many people would prefer to look through hanging clothes rather than those stacked on tables or sorted into bins, so hang as many items as you can.
Use tape, pins and bags to keep like items together. Use safety pins to keep two- or three-piece sets together and plastic storage bags for bagging up sets of socks, tights or other small clothing items. Use tape or a plastic bag to keep toys with several parts or a set of place mats together.
Preparing for a sale takes a lot of time, but the better prepared you are, the more likely a buyer is going to find an item he or she wants, and the more money you are likely to make. Tune back in next week for more garage sale tips.