Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Garage Sale How-to's - Organized & on Purpose!

  • Supplies to use
  • Organization
  • Free advertising
  • Timing for success
  • More than one family selling
  • A few courtesies to remember
  • A bonus idea!
I have had a new question coming from our readers around the world!  *smile*  People have been asking how to have a hugely successful garage sale! But wait - why should we pursue de-cluttering our homes and expend the energy to put on a garage sale? Well, if you choose to de-clutter your home you’ll have more space for the children to play in, more space for homeschooling, more space for relaxation, more space for company, more space for more children – more space to live in! For example, our family of 11 lives successfully in an 1,100 square foot home, if you would like to view our virtual home tour. In my de-cluttering post you can learn strategies & methods for de-cluttering, principles to keep in mind, where to begin, and how to be careful with others family member's spaces. But after you have de-cluttered and then more easily organized your homewhat do you do with all that cleaned-out stuff?! That is what this post is for.  *smile*


Supplies to use

The most important aspect of a successful garage sale is lots of traffic. The supplies you use can really make or break a garage sale in my opinion. Can people see what you have for sale when they drive-by to see if they want to stop? Do the items for sale look attractive, organized, well-cared for, and priced well? Being prepared does take time. Have a garage sale really takes at least a week to gather items to be sold, gather all the supplies, make the signs, and get items prepared, do some baking for a bake sale if older children would like to, and do a little free advertising through social media. But again, if you invest the time it can really make or break your sale success. *wink* The more organized, the easier it is for people to find what they need, or find things they didn't know they needed *wink* *smile* which sometimes means shopping for friends, daughters in law, grandparents, a local organization such as a womens' shelter, or even a church fund raiser! I had people tell me they were shopping for all of these things when they were at our sale as they were so excited and pleased with what they found.

Here are the supplies we gather in advance to prepare for a great sale:

* Tables. We have some folding ones ourselves, and we borrowed some from neighbors or sometimes you can borrow from your church. We also used plastic saw horses and put wood boards across them. Tables put items up off the ground, which always looks more attractive, and where people can easily peruse them while standing up.  You can also then use the space underneath the tables for appropriate items, such as a booster seat, exersaucer, toddler swing, wagon, or your husband's "high quality" car battery which he's suddenly prepared to part with and is sure some husband will scoop up! *laugh* (Which someone did! Who knew!) I also encourage you to have one empty table to work from as a check out area. A place where people can deposit all they are purchasing and you can spread it out together and add things up. They can set their purse there while they're preparing to pay. You can have plastic grocery bags on location for people to use with a lot of small items, your water bottle, and a place for a calculator to be, and a tablet and pen for notes to yourself. It all just makes things nicer for people to shop.

* Tarps. It's nice to have a tarp on the ground so that items look clean and stay clean. It also serves to highlight that there are items over there on the side so they are not missed. I used upside down clear storage tubs as tables to display wood puzzles, and put other clear tubs on top of so that people can easily see what's inside the boxes. In this case on our tarp we had baby and toddler toys in a few boxes, bibs & stain-free burp clothes, toddler cardboard or plastic books, booster seats, toddler swing, diaper bag, and crib toys.

* Clear plastic tubs. To both display items inside of and to turn upside down and display items on top of, like we did in the tarp photo. I had some tubs that were available because i was selling the contents inside of them, and some tubs I emptied other items out of simply to make them available for use at the sale. If you use cardboard boxes to display items for sale not only can they look like they might be junk, but people can't see inside of them without pawing through them. With tubs people can see even across the drive way what is in them and make their way over there. Everyone appreciates time efficiency! *smile* I had people tell me over and over how pleasant it was to shop at our sale because they could easily find what they wanted and what they did not need without wasting time.

* Hanging rack (pictured in the above tarp photo). Anything you can display very visibly will more likely draw people in to shop. They can easily look through items hanging on hangers, and it even I believe feels more like retail shopping. People love it!

* Plastic grocery bags. If you can save up a bunch of paper or plastic disposable grocery bags for people who purchase armloads of items, that is really nice for them! Especially if you're selling a lot of little items, such as children's clothing, shoes, toys, books, etc. And I found that not only are people appreciative... but they're inclined to do more shopping if they can carry all their items easily and don't have to rush back to their car. *smile*

* Kitchen apron with pockets. This has been one of my favorite supplies! *smile* I use it to keep the money in while I'm working. Bills in one pocket, change in another. Then the money cannot be stolen when your back is turned (and unfortunately this does happen), and you are quickly and easily prepared to assist people with their purchases.

* Small bills and change. Be prepared to make change for people. We get $100 in one's  to have on hand, plus another $100 in 5's and 10's with my husband inside the house. I know it sounds like a lot, but you really can't be without it. And you can re-desposit it later with the rest of your sale money. Shoppers often do so spontaneously and they are not prepared with small bills necessarily. If you cannot break someone's bill they may not be able to shop. Also I encourage you to periodically deposit some of your earned income into a box in the back of the garage so that you are not walking around with hundreds of dollars on your person.

* Calculator. You probably won't need this unless you are selling larger items, however it does look good on the table beside you and helps people trust that you're careful with their money when they're purchasing.

* Neon poster board signs. These can be found at the dollar store! We use full size poster board for "Garage Sale" signs on streets around the neighborhood, and I also cut up some of this poster board for labeling clothing sizes or other things around the sale itself. Again, time efficient for people which they always commented on appreciating, and enables them to shop for what they need plus more. 

I also prepare full-size posters for later marked "50% OFF", and "FREE". More on that later. But I encourage you to have them prepared in advance so that you can simply hang them up at the appropriate time.

One warning about posting garage sale signs on the streets by your house. I encourage you to check your city's ordinances by calling the city building department about how signs are allowed to be posted. In our area, for example signs aren't allowed to be posted on telephone poles. They can only be on free-standing signs like sandwich boards, or on sticks stuck in the ground. We bought very cheap wood sticks, two per sign; one for the post, and one cut in half for cross bars to keep the sign open and flat. Shaped on the back like a 'T' with a cross stick across the middle as well as the top. And in our city there is a $250 penalty on each sign that is attached to a telephone pole! *whew!* It's worth checking in to in our opinion. 

* Huge black permanent marker. I cant' encourage you enough to write with a super-huge-thick black permanent marker on your street signs. The pens I find are about 1 1/4-inch in the outside diameter. And I write "Garage Sale" with 5-inch letters, and 3-inch letters for the times, date, and a few bullet points of what type of things are for sale. We also leave room for a large solid black arrow at the bottom pointing which direction people should turn to find yours sale. An address is too bothersome and requires too much thinking on my part while I'm driving, and by the time I've thought about it for a minute I've long passed the garage sale. But an arrow anyone can follow quickly. *smile*

People need to read the entire sign in one glance as they are driving that there is a sale and when it is and what is there. They need to determine in about 5 seconds if they want to pull in or not. If they cannot read it (and I can't read about 98% of garage sale signs while I'm driving) I don't even consider trying to find them. It's not worth my time.

* Balloons.  Mylar or laytex, helium or not. We put these only on the street signs. It seems to make the signs highly visible and people do come in droves!  *smile*  You can get even the mylar ones at the dollar store! Our Dollar Store helium mylar balloons last for up to 3 weeks, so these can easily be purchased days in advance and kept until they're ready to go onto signs.

While gathering your supplies I then encourage you to plan a little free advertising as well!

Free advertising

A week in advance and then again a few days in advance of sale weekend I post advertisements on free social media, I use both Craig's List and Facebook. We didn't choose to advertise in the newspaper because that costs money and we didn't feel it would necessarily reach more people.

I use a Google-images picture like the one at the top of my post because that catches my eye personally more than just text, and I post the dates, times, and what types of items I'll have for sale. *smile* Many people plan their weekends in advance, and are proactive in garage sale shopping - let's give them a planned destination!


Okay! So you've gathered your necessary supplies and advertised that your sale is coming. Time to organize your driveway and tables.

If you are selling children's clothing, I encourage you to group clothes by size and label them. Clothes should be folded, clean, and stain-free. We did start with piling the clothes on the tables a bit because there were 45 boxes worth of sizes 0 - 4T that we no longer needed! But as things sold we continually spread them out then on the tables for more visibility and re-folded and organized them through out the sale. The more pleasant it is for people to shop, the more they will buy.

I also encourage you to price items by group. It can take a ton of time to price items individually! If you are having a sale with more than one family then items will need individual pricing (more on that later), but if it is only your items then they can be group priced. I sold children's shoes for $2 each, and most all children's clothing for $1 each piece (regardless of brands; I don't have time to individually consider everything). Two or three-piece outfits I pinned together and did individually mark at $2, children's coats were $3-4 each. I priced newborn tiny items such as hats, socks, and onesies at $.50 each. And I marked these prices on the neon sizing signs. For shoes I marked a size range, such as 0-7. I did not mark gender on the signs such as "boys" or "girls" because that was already obvious.

I encourage you to also wipe down and clean off everything you are selling. *smile* Take a damp cleaning cloth and even some 409 if necessary to the toddler swing, booster seats or highchairs, the children's wagon, exersaucer, plastic toys, stroller, anything that can have spit-up or food or dirt. If people look at it and say to themselves, "Yuck...", your item is staying on the driveway. Now some people can see past that at a good deal. I can nearly always tell what things can be washed off and come clean and which ones can't. But many people will walk away and not look back. It is an extra effort, but it's an investment in time which you can offer in order to earn money for your family. *smile*

I love to use Saran Wrap to cover things like wooden puzzles, to keep the pieces all in place so people can see that all the pieces are there. I wrap the puzzle both directions north and south, and east and west. It also keeps children of shoppers from playing with the puzzles and losing the pieces.

Also we keep our garage door closed down two-thirds of the way. Then people cannot see inside and try to shop there, but we could still come and go as necessary. Some people hold a garage sale on both their drive way and inside the garage sometimes due to weather, so it can be understandable that people may try to shop inside your garage. We just avoided that completely with this strategy.

Timing for success 

It turned out to be a great idea for me to call my sister who is a master garage-saler in the area and who knows what time people are out and about and looking for garage sales in our area. She said the serious garage-saling people will be ready to show up at 7:30 am on a Friday, but not to put our signs up until were totally ready to sell because as soon as the signs were up people would start showing up, and we didn't want to still setting up! So we were ready for the day and setting up the sale on the driveway by 6:00am and were barely ready on time. It was early! But we were serious about the whole thing and didn't want to waste our time on a half-hearted sale, and make a half-hearted amount of money. On Saturday we opened at the same time, however people did not really start rolling in until more like 9:00 am or so.

Now for those who are trying to de-clutter their home, I encourage you to determine that nothing from the sale will come back into your house after the sale. From the very beginning, price everything to "walk". Set the prices low enough that people will make purchases quickly. *smile* 

Here's my 2-day plan. On day day one I let the sale prices stand. Around 11:00 am on day two I mark everything 50% off by hanging up my pre-made sign at the front of the sale somewhere. And around 1:00 or 2:00 pm I mark everything "free", also with a pre-made sign posted in front. Whatever little is left, we donate. Ev-er-y thing is gone. *sigh*

More than one family selling
Here is a great plan for if you would like to include more than one family in a garage sale, which can be a very effective plan to greatly increase the size of the sale and therefore the amount of people who will come by. My mom always did this with neighbors. Everyone did have to individually price their sale items, but each family had a separate color of sticky dots to label with. Each dot simply had a price marked on it.

My mom had a 3-ring binder prepared with 4 tabs if there were 4 families participating. Behind each tab were a few sheets of lined notebook paper. Then as purchases were made during the sale, the colored dot was removed from the sale item and placed on the page of notebook paper behind that family's tab. This way she kept track of who sold how many items, and how much money each person earned at the end of the sale. At the end my mom simply added up all of each family's colored dots and paid them that amount of money. *Smile* So simple, and so effective!

A few courtesies to remember

Often garage shoppers still try to push the prices down even if they're already low. If people pull the, "Will you take $10 for this whole pile?" question then I still add it up and consider, but usually it only takes a few dollars off and I say, "Sure." They feel like they got a deal, and I made some money on items I don't need and will eventually give away if they don't buy it. I will nearly always come down on my price if asked, unless it's totally low-balling then I may come down a bit but not as much as they're asking for. And I'll explain that the item is in great condition and does have value. 

Some people consider the value of what they're getting and they find it very fair. But many people want to get things for almost nothing and they do not consider the person selling the item at all. That can be very frustrating. But I try to determine in advance that I'm going to smile and usually just let the item go anyway.

If some larger items such as a crib, exersaucer, or booster seat can be sold elsewhere else easily such as on Craigs' List, on Offer Up (a free app on smart phones!), or consignment then sometimes I will know how much money I could get for it there and I will hold the price without going too low. If I feel like taking it in, or feel like holding on to it waiting for it to sell. Sometimes I don't and I just need it to go.

When your sale is complete, a courtesy which I think is important is to go back out onto the streets near your home and take down the signs you put up earlier. It has become such an irritation to me that most people in our community do not do this that I have ceased to even follow garage sales signs around our house because most people leave the sign up when everything is over and so I never find it! Uuh! What a waste of time. So please, remove your signs when you're finished.  *smile*

May I also say, please don't sell garbage at your garage sale. Certain items probably had value to you at one time, but eventually all things do wear out and they simply need to be thrown away. People will be turned off immediately by your sale if they come and see junk. I mean this in all humility. *smile* 

One more tip which may seen kind of random but it can be important, and it came up often at our garage sale. Consider your shopping population's nationality. We have a lot of Hispanic families come to our area to garage sale, and if they do not speak fluent English it can be a difficulty for you if you are not prepared. For example, when I made signs I wrote "Garage Sale" not "G-Sale". We had the back side of our garment rack that had coats on it which were not for sale, but were necessary to keep there to keep the rack balanced. We had a blanket covering these items from view, and a sign on these coats saying these items were not for sale. But after a while we had to Google how to say the message in Spanish and make another sign! Because the Hispanic community continually tried to buy those coats. I also put on our poster marking items as "FREE", below that in Spanish the word for "free". You may be tempted to think that you shouldn't have to take this extra step. But it can determine whether or not your items sell, and whether or not you have the continual headache for hours of well-meaning people trying to buy items that are not for sale. 

A bonus idea!

Our girls had a blast hosting a bake sale simultaneously with the garage sale! *beam* They baked and baked (and baked!) the week before the sale, then individually wrapped (which people really appreciated) their items and froze them to keep them fresh. Melanie made our famous banana bread recipe, and Anna Marie baked two types of cookies: Snicker Doodle and Oatmeal Raisin. We elected to make the cookies huge - because we like huge cookies. *laugh* But also because I think people like to buy a "real cookie", and we wanted to charge a decent price. Anna Marie sold her cookies for $.35 each, or two for $.60 (I think Melanie's prices were similar), which people also loved and nearly always purchased two with a big smile. Adults purchased for themselves, and for each of their children with them. *smile* They loved supporting the girls who were so cute, and the girls did make great products. Soft and chewy cookies and bread.

They did not put out all of their cookies and bread at once simply due to space, but had some in a cooler beside them. And Melanie wore a pocketed apron like I did so that she could make change for people and keep her money directly on her person.


I don't think I charged the girls money for their cookie ingredients this time. I just let them enjoy the experience. But that is certainly something that could be done if one wanted have some extra education. They made $20 and $35!

So! *beam!* I suspect that this probably all sounds like a huge effort and very time consuming! *smile* And it is! *laugh* But I'm telling you - it is worth hundreds of dollars. You can bless your husband and your family by investing your time and energy in earning money to the best of your ability. And in my opinion it is a huge waste of time to not have a successful sale simply because it was not done well. We made $850 on this sale alone by implementing these principles! *cheer!*

Also, I must give credit where it's due! *beam* My mom is a master garage-saler and she taught me these ideas while I garage-saled with her growing up. *squeeze hugs* to her! And my sister-in-law also coached me on how to do the timing successfully in our area - thanks! *smile*

Blessings on your frugal efforts!

Some of my related posts you might enjoy:
De-Cluttering: The First Steps to Organization
Orderliness - A Closer look 
Mom Tips - For Around the House, #1 
Rotating Seasonal Clothes - Large Family Style


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