There is an art to selling items in a garage sale. I’m slowly learning this as I’m sitting in our family garage, waiting for the next customer to come walking up the driveway. Our neighborhood is having a community garage sale today and tomorrow. What better way to get rid of all the crap…I mean, unused stuff in the basement. Of course it’s not really crap. It’s just not useful to us anymore because we’ve either replaced the item up for sale, or outgrown it, or upgraded it, or broke it (yikes), or etcetera. This was my first attempt to pull off a successful garage sale. So I thought, why not offer all of you interested readers a narrative of how I helped to put it together.
My first step was to enter, what I like to call, “The Enchanted Forrest.” It’s otherwise known as the crawl space in the basement. I call it “The Enchanted Forrest” because it is home to all sorts of fascinating things, some of which can be found in an actual forest; things like insects, spiders, spider webs (huge ones), trees (mostly the kind you put up around Christmas time) and wood (possibly left-over 2×4’s from abandoned projects). But also in “The Enchanted Forrest” you’ll find treasures; the keepsakes you hid away, money (usually coins but we’ll get back to that in a moment), documents you couldn’t find but desperately needed years ago, and all of the wonderful items that will enthrall your neighbors, as they search through your garage for that one special thing they’ll specifically be looking for. So don’t throw anything away that you find in your crawl space, because as the old saying goes, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.
After I sorted all of the items from the crawl space that I thought were worthy of consideration for our garage sale, my next step was to check with everyone in the house to see: a) whom the item belonged to, and b) if they were okay with selling it. The last thing you want to do is sell a painting that belongs to your mother which was given to her by a dear friend, who was a dear friend of the artist. (Trust me!) Next I lugged the soon to be merchandise up the stairs and into the garage. Then I lugged the soon to be merchandise back out of the garage and into the kitchen. Why? Because I forgot to sweep the garage first. So remember to sweep the garage first before you bring out the merchandise! Your back will thank you.
Okay, so back to the money that you will find in your enchanted forest of a crawl space. That’s important because you’ll need change for all of your customers. They’ll be carrying cash but not necessarily one dollar bills, let alone pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. Again, make sure it’s your money that you found and not one of your family members’. The last thing you want to do is cash in your brother’s stash of pennies that he’s been saving over the course of the last 10 years. It’s down right selfish and he might have been waiting for the right moment to take all of those pennies, roll them up, and buy a pizza. By the time I rolled up all of the pennies I had saved up, it amounted to $16. Not bad huh? As they say, a penny saved is a penny earned. So I took all my pennies to the bank and exchanged them for one dollar bills-enough to give change to customers who wanted to pay with $5, $10 or $20 bills.
Next, together with my family, we created an itemized list of all of the garage sale merchandise so that we could agree on a selling price. We contacted my Aunt Theresa, who is an expert with garage sales, for advice on how much to charge for each item. Here’s a list to give you an idea of what we came up with:
Microwave – $20 Dishes – 50₵ Glasses – 25₵ TV’s – $10 TV Stand – $7 VHS Tapes – $1 Lamps – $2.50 Steamer – $10
Vase – $1 (large)/50₵ (small) Iron – $2 Ironing Board – $2 Typewriter – $10 T-Shirts – 50₵ Dresses – $2 Hats – $2
Jeans – $2 Hangers – 50₵ Mirror – $5 Electric Skillet – $2
There were more items, but you get the idea. In our case, our neighbors will be doing us a favor by taking these belongings off our hands. We’re never going to use them anymore. They can go and buy this stuff cheap at Walmart or Kmart, or wherever. But we are giving them a real bargain. And they are saving us the trouble of having to store it in our basement for more years to come. It’s good for the environment too, because this stuff won’t end up in a landfill. It will end up in the home of someone who can actually use it. It’s a win-win situation. And the best part is that when they buy it, they’ll thank you and be happy that they found such a great deal!
Okay, not much time before the garage sale starts, and we have a few more important things to do. Next, I plugged in all of the electrical appliances and entertainment items to make sure they worked. Check√ Then I made 2 signs that said “Garage Sale” and placed them on both sides of our mailbox so that our neighbors could see it, no matter what direction they were driving past our house. (I had to learn this the hard way after a man walked up to us in the garage and said “you should have a sign out so that we know you’re having a garage sale”-oops!) Check√ Fortunately our neighborhood organization publicized the community garage sale on craigslist, and put out signs by the main road so that anyone passing by could see it.
Now, I’ve been told that having refreshments to offer your customers is a good idea. My cousin P.J. who also has experience in garage sales says that water, sodas, hot dogs and chips can go a long way to boosting your profits. Ours was a rush job, but in the future, I think that would be an excellent idea, and a nice touch to add in making your garage sale stand out from all of the others. But I’ve also found out that a good conversation can go a long way in making a sale. I’ve engaged several customers about their family, sports and other interests so far today. More than not, the conversation has ended in a sale.
Whatever we don’t sale today, we plan to donate to the Salvation Army and the Kidney Foundation. However much money we make from our garage sale, our family plans to split evenly. A neighbor told us she once made $250 from a garage sale. We don’t have quite enough items to sell in order to hit that mark. But so far, on this first day of the community garage sale, we’ve made $28. Not bad for our house being on one of the side streets of the residential community. All of the houses on the main road get people’s attention first. Then, if they’re still hunting for deals, they venture down the side roads. That’s that old rule of where to place a business if you want to be successful-location, location, location. We still have tomorrow to go. In fact, tomorrow is Saturday and is being advertised as the “main day of the community garage sale.”
So for the time being, I’ve got a garage full of great stuff to sell, and I’m surrounded by loving family members and fond memories. Not a bad way to spend the weekend. Have you ever had a garage sale? If so, how did it go and what did you do to make it successful?