7 Easy Steps to Organize a Garage Sale

Whether you call it a yard sale, a garage sale, or a moving sale, there comes a time we have to downsize or let go of too much accumulated stuff. What better way to ensure your items are recycled and to make a few bucks than to sell them, and here are 7 easy steps to organize a garage sale.

I’ve held garage sales twice, gearing up for a move. The first time I was still with my ex and the property we’d been leasing had been sold, and we’d bought a house to move to. At the time we lived on acreage, called it a barn sale, and held it over a weekend, but by the second day I’d say all the good stuff was gone. We made around $1700, but we did have some high priced items such as a horse cart and a saddle that were both several hundred dollars each. A couple of friends heard we were having a sale and asked if they could bring some things over, and hang out and help with the sale. It’s always great if you can organize friends and family who have items to downsize and want to help out.

The second time I held a yard sale, technically in my driveway. A local realtor sponsors a huge community garage sale each year at no charge to the sellers. All I did was phone up and say “I’m in!” I registered my address and the realtor marked it on a map that was given out to buyers. The realtor dropped off a yard sign to all participants plus flyers of the map showing the address of all the garage sales. It was a specific section of town, and only houses within about a one mile square area received the advertising. This community garage sale brings out a lot of people because the realtor does huge advertising. I received a lawn sign – advertising for the realtor! By this time I was single again, the house had been sold and I was renting it back, and looking for a new place to live. There were tools and stuff that my ex had left behind that I either needed to sell or toss. I made about $80 over a few hours. Believe me, my ex had already taken the good stuff that would have commanded a higher price tag!

From my experience and evaluating a friend who’s held several garage sales, things that sell well are sports equipment, pet stuff, camping gear, tools, gardening items and seasonal things like Christmas decorations. Things that don’t sell so well are books, music, clothes, plates, cups, and  mugs.

Let’s get to it. Here are my 7 easy steps to organize a garage sale:

  1. Set the date

It goes without saying that garage sales are going to do better during the summer months! No one wants to fight through a snow storm and stand in your driveway shivering. Saturdays are best, but sometimes holding a sale over to Sunday works out pretty good too. Just choose a day and start organizing everything you need to do ahead of time.

  1. Spread the word

Place ads on Kijiji, Craigslist, and Facebook in advance. You might have to keep coming back to delete the old ad and put up a new one to bump it up. List some of the things you have for sale, and you can also post photos to go with the ad.

  1. Make a float

You don’t want to get caught short if a buyer has just been to the bank machine and only has $20 bills. Visit your bank the day before and load up on tens, fives, and coins. You can always deposit your float back into the bank.

  1. Set up shop

Are you planning to put a price tag on everything? What about a table or box where everything is the same price. Buyers like to know the price instead of just asking you outright, only to find the object of their interest is higher priced than what they’d like to pay. Or dicker on. You can either buy paper tags with string to wrap around the item, use paper and tape, or write the price on masking tape.

  1. The night before

Most people stick up signs on telephone poles the night before the garage sale. Many municipalities have bylaws against doing this, and hire fast moving bylaw officers to tear them down, so wait until darkness the night before. Don’t put up only one sign on the pole right before your street. Shoppers don’t want to slam their brakes on and come back. Put a sign on the pole down the street for some advance warning.

  1. Decide about early birds

Some people love early birds – a sale’s a sale! – and other’s hate them. It’ll take some time to set up all the things you have for sale and early birds will be cruising the neighborhoods looking for garage sales. If you’re firm on the starting time, ask them to come back. You should also note this in your ads and on your signage “no early birds”. If you have a garage, or a barn like we did, set up your staging area there and don’t open the doors or the gate until you’re ready.

  1. Haggling

Figure out what’s more important. Getting a better price or getting rid of the object. Do you really need another dollar or two on that old lamp? Or would you rather not drag it back into the house and take it to the thrift shop the next day? We’d all like to make as much money as we can, but bargaining too long or stubbornly leads to a lost sale.

Big warning: by opening your garage or yard you also invite undesirables to come onto your property to “case it out”. We were the victim of theft after the barn sale. We had a gate that was locked when we weren’t home and overnight. That doesn’t stop people from climbing over. Part of the barn, the workshop, was locked and doors were kicked open and some of the things leftover from the garage sale were stolen. Someone used our wheelbarrow, loaded up, and went through our back pasture to an adjacent, vacant property. I noticed a scuba fin outside the barn and walked through the pasture until I saw the missing wheelbarrow next to the fence. I was able to recover some of the stuff that had been tossed over the fence. Guess they were coming back later for it. You never know who is showing up preparing to “shop” at a later date.

Have you held a garage sale? What tips do you have for organizing a successful day?


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