Garage sales represent different things to different people. The bargain hunter, screeching to a halt at the first sign of a garage sale, is looking for a good deal on a useful item. Dedicated garage-sales, armed with maps of advertised garage sales and steaming cups of coffee, set out early in the morning to scour the sales for the best merchandise and earliest deals. Others wander by and see a gorgeous potted plant that they simply must-have, while some drivers circle the block slowly, scouting the sale for potentially “stoppable” items.

So how can you turn your garage sale into a “stoppable” sale? By using the combined assets of preparation, presentation, and completion.

  1. Prepare well. A week or so before your sale date, gather all of the items to be sold. Make sure they’re in good condition – cleaned, washed and polished. Stuff shoes with newspaper to “plump” them up. Wash glassware and knick-knacks in the dishwasher. Clean and press clothing. People are more likely to purchase something in clean, good condition than the same item in its unwashed state.
  2. Prepare your home – the outside, anyway. Make sure your lawn is mowed, your sidewalks swept, your garage clean. Many garage sale holders use large curtains or sheets hung from the ceiling to keep buyers out of certain areas and to place “sold” items out of the way. This also works if some parts of your garage are messy or contain valuable items, such as tools.
  3. Don’t forget the supplies! A week or two before your sale, stock up on supplies. Have at least $20 in change and a small cash box. Other supplies include poster board and markers (for making signs), ribbons and/or balloons (to use as directional markers), price tags or color dots, extra coat-hangers, and/or rods for hanging clothes, tables for displaying items, boxes for books, etc.
  4. Organize your merchandise. Ever go into a store and find books next to towels next to shoes? Use a logical setup when arranging your garage sale so visitors can find what they want and hopefully see something as well. Keep shoes, belts, purses, and other items near the clothing. Display books near craft supplies and office machines. Holiday merchandise should be grouped together and next to the most appropriate section – Christmas merchandise, for example, can go almost anywhere, while Halloween merchandise might best be arranged near the toys and gifts.

Divide and hang clothes on rods or racks with marker signs, such as women’s clothing, girls, men’s, etc. Use some of the better clothes as “displays”, outside of the rack to show what kind of merchandise you offer. On tables, neatly fold and group clothing according to sex and style (i.e., women’s shirts).

  1. Throwing a bunch of anything into a box will only attract die-hard bargain hunters. Instead, display items on a table or arrange them in a basket. Spread a large blanket or play mat on the ground and display toys where adults will see them most – at ground level. If you’re using boxes to display books, make sure they’re spine-side up so buyers can read the titles, and that prices for books are clearly displayed.
  2. Don’t start too early, but don’t start too late, either. Most garage sales begin at about 8:00 AM; you can be on-hand a bit earlier or, like some hosts, specify no earlybirds in your advertisement. (If you don’t mind earlybirds, be prepared: some ardent garage sale shoppers can come as early as 7AM.) Garage saling peaks at about noon; if you’re not planning to continue the garage sale the next day, mark your merchandise down and start accepting low offers.
  3. Be a hospitable host. Keep lemonade or water on hand for hot days with small disposable paper cups. Greet buyers and then busy yourself re-arranging, cleaning, doodling on a pad… whatever it takes to keep you from bugging the buyers. Let them browse the merchandise and be available when they’re ready to buy or ask questions. If you need to use the restroom, have your spouse or someone else on hand to keep an eye out (but hurry back, as husbands are notorious for taking the first bid on an item).
  4. Don’t overprice. If you haven’t sold most of your merchandise by noon, chances are the $10 Baby Gap clothes and $150 coffee table have scared off potential buyers. If you’re not sure of the going rate for your items, check out the local Goodwill, thrift store or children’s resale shop for an idea.
  5. When your garage sale is finished, remember to remove all of the signs and other directional markers you posted, including ribbons, balloons and arrows. Nothing makes a garage-sale more angry than following a maze of signs only to discover a quiet lawn and closed garage door. Garage-sales have long memories and you may find your next garage sale the subject of a boycott by some of your potentially best customers.

If you find yourself with a few leftover items that you don’t want but not enough to hold another sale, consider donating them to your favorite charity. They will give you a receipt so you can take a tax deduction on the items. Another option, which typically works best for higher-value items, is a consignment shop. Consignment shops will sell the item for you (usually clothing) and take a “cut”, or percentage, of the sale price. This is especially useful if you don’t need that expensive business suit or your children have outgrown their spendy winter coats.

Above all, remember that garage-sales are your customers. Treat them the way you would want to be treated – with fairness and courtesy – and you’ll have a successful garage sale every time.

Above all,

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