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'Tis the Season -- Garage Sale Season, That Is!

Spring Cleaning is a wonderful accomplishment. Everything is fresh and clean. The house is decluttered. But what do you do with all those junky doo-dads (I mean "treasures") rescued out of the closets and garage and now need to find new homes? Making a few extra pennies by holding a Garage/Yard Sale could be just the ticket.

Last year I held a four day Garage Sale that was successful beyond my wildest dreams. I thought I'd share some of the ideas I used during my sale last year in case anyone else is thinking about holding a Garage Sale or Yard Sale now that Spring Cleaning and Summer weather is well underway.


To begin with, I planned the sale for more than the typical one or two days. For my most recent sale, I decided on four days -- Wednesday through Saturday. I'm glad I decided to go for the longer sale starting earlier in the week. Many shoppers stopped by just out of the novelty of seeing a Garage Sale being held on a day different from Friday/ Saturday.

Also, holding a Sale on an "off" day when there aren't other sales going on is beneficial because people aren't holding onto their pennies, waiting to see if there's something better at the next sale down the road. If you're the only game in town, they buy rather than browse.


I placed two separate ads in the local paper. The first ad covered the sale for Wednesday and Thursday. The second ad was for Friday and Saturday. I thought that if I had just one ad that said the sale goes from Wednesday to Saturday, fewer people would show up on the last two days of the sale. From reading the ad, they'd probably think all the good stuff had already been picked over.

Be sure to double-check your ad when it appears in the paper. One of the days my ad ran, the newspaper misprinted some information. I called the paper about it and they refunded my money.

Also, the longer your ad, the better. Most Garage Sale ads are fairly short, but longer ads stand out better amidst long listings of Garage Sales. Try to list types of items you're selling individually: furniture, clothing, small appliances, toys, baby items, blankets, collectibles, etc. If there's anything special about your sale, mention it. I put in my ad that my sale contained five generations of "treasures" because my children, my husband and I, our parents, my grandparents, and even some things from my great-grandmother were included in the sale.


I collected bags and boxes full of all sorts of stuff from family and friends. I just told people I was going to be having a Garage Sale, and if they had anything they were going to be getting rid of, I'd be happy to come by and pick it up for my sale. Everyone I approached was more than happy to contribute some of their "gently used" and not-so-gently used items to my sale.

When choosing what to display at your sale, don't sort things out according to what you think will sell and what you think won't. Try to sell everything! What's junk to one person is often someone else's treasure! Even broken appliances can be sold for parts. And don't throw out your old magazines. Stick them all in a box and sell them for a quarter a piece.

You'll be amazed at the things that sell. The hot items at my last sale were tacky (to me) costume jewelry, children's clothing, assorted gift items, and sheet music from the 20's and 30's. At my suggestion, customers were buying the sheet music to frame for wall decorations. Then later in the day, a collector came along and offered to buy all the remaining sheet music for a sizeable amount.


Think "store" when you're setting up your sale. Try to think of how traffic patterns of browsing customers would walk around your garage. You want people to feel comfortable as they browse and shop. You don't want them just running in, glancing at a mess of junk, and running right back out the door.

Before my sale, I emptied out the garage, swept it clean, and then set up three long tables in rows running from front to back of the garage. Since I had so much junk (treasures, I mean), I also had two long rows of tables out in the driveway, plus multiple boxes filled with odds and end (i.e.: "Everything in this Box - 25 cents"). I borrowed folding tables from family and friends, made makeshift tables from plywood placed over large cardboard boxes, etc. Then I covered all the tables with light colored sheets (preferably plain colors with subtle or no patterns). The sheet- strewn tables looked nice and also helped to show off the items displayed. Make certain your garage is well lit for the sale day.

Arrange your tables according to categories: all kitchen stuff on one table, bedding on another, clothes on another, gift items grouped together, jewelry displayed next to a mirror, etc. Decide in advance which categories of stuff you have, and then sort your items. It's so much easier for people to find things they want if they can look at a table and think, "Ah, ha! Kitchen stuff!" or "Oh! How nice ... a table of gift items!"


Be sure to display your clothing nicely. If you have a free- standing clothes rack, put it in the garage for your sale to hold nicer items. Clothing on a table should be sorted according to general sizes (baby things, kids clothes, adult men, adult women), and folded and stacked neatly. I had to go back over to the clothing table several times each day and restack, refold and resort the clothes, but it was worth the effort (almost everything sold -- even stained stuff and things with holes in the knees). People don't enjoy digging through piles and piles of mix-n-matched junk clothing, but when they see everything looking nice and neat -- displayed like they'd see it in a store -- they quite happily stand there and sort through the items.

I also washed clothing and stuffed animals before putting them out for the sale. It not only makes the items more attractive, but you can also get a higher price for these items if they look as close to "new" as possible.

Rather than pricing each piece of clothing individually, I just put a big easy-to-read sign over the table (I hung mine on cardboard from the garage rafters at lower-than- eye-level right over the clothing table). I sold clothes for "50 cents each, or three for $1 (unless otherwise marked)." I priced nicer clothing and things like winter coats higher.


One of the most important tips (you're probably going to think it's crazy -- but trust me!) is playing quiet background music while people shop. Set a mood conducive to shopping. Don't play music that's loud or too lively -- it'll make people a bit hyper and more apt to shop too quickly. You want them to relax ... shop ... take their time ... enjoy the process. Probably an easy-listening station that plays familiar songs from the 70's and 80's would be ideal. People would hum and sing as they shopped at my sale -- maybe not even leaving until after their favorite song's over. Ever notice the background music in many restaurants and stores? Usually just easy listening, easy-to-hum-along-with songs.

I personally chose a Classical music station for a large portion of the day (it's the normal station I listen to) since I had to sit there all day for four days listening to the music, too -- I didn't want to lose my mind listening to music I don't normally play (although I'm sure a lot of people would lose their mind listening to Classical all day!). My customers enjoyed the music, though, and several even commented about what a nice tone it set to my sale.

One morning I was noticing that people weren't browsing like they had been earlier. They were just running in, looking quickly, and then running out again and not buying anything. It seemed strange since that hadn't been the tone of the sale during the previous days. Suddenly it dawned on me that I'd forgotten to turn on the radio. Within just a few minutes of playing quiet background music again, the shoppers slowed down, took their time, and started BUYING things again. That quiet, soothing music completely changed everything.


1) On those large colorful signs that you post around town for your sale, be sure to list some of the items at your sale: tools, baby items, clothing, housewares, collectibles, etc. (and please don't forget to take your signs down after the sale is through!).

2) Stock up on bags from the grocery store so you can offer to bag up purchases for those customers with armloads of small items.

3) Another quick tip: make people comfortable. Since I've worked for many years in "people" oriented jobs, this practically comes as second nature to me, but I've been to so many garage sales where the people holding the sale just sat there and glared at you as you shopped. I wanted people to be comfortable and feel welcome at my sale. They weren't an inconvenience to me ... they were actually the entire reason I was sitting out in my garage all weekend!

4) Say "Good morning" or "Hi!" to everyone who comes to your sale. We were experiencing a heat wave the week during our sale last year, so we chatted a lot about the weather. This is definitely the time to make just idle small talk ... don't get personal ... just greet them, SMILE (!!), make a comment about the weather (or some other innocent remark), and maybe ask them if there's anything specific they're looking for. If someone comes and goes without buying anything, still say as nicely as possible (with a smile, of course), "Thanks for stopping by! Have a great day!" Not only is it a nice thing to do, but other customers will overhear you and it'll make them more comfortable, too.

5) Consider providing coffee if it's a cold day (offer it free by "donation only"), or ice cold lemonade if it's weather like we had last year (your kids can man the refreshment table -- my daughter made some extra money for a trip to Mexico she was planning with the church youth group).

6) I personally think it's better to price things a little bit on the high side, rather than too low (I'm certainly not talking about setting prices comparable to the local antique stores, but you don't have to price things for ten cents, either). If someone really wants an item that they feel is over-priced, they'll make an offer. This gives you room to come down a bit with your price. But lots of people won't haggle over prices -- they'll just quite happily pay whatever you ask for things (within reason, of course).

7) Since I planned on doing a garage sale again in the future, I didn't come down on my prices too much since everything that didn't sell the first time around will just find it's way into my next sale.

8) If your goal is to clear out as much stuff as possible (and make a few pennies on the side), offer some sort of great deal on the afternoon of the last day such as: everything a customer can stuff into a shopping bag for $1, or half price on all items after 12 noon on Saturday, or Freebies in the late afternoon of the final day of your sale.

I hope these tips give you some motivation to try holding a garage sale this year. It's definitely a great way to make a few extra pennies, and clear out clutter at the same time!

Deborah Taylor-Hough is a free-lance writer and author of several popular books including Frugal Living for Dummies(r) and Frozen Assets: Cook for a Day, Eat for a Month. Visit Debi online for more frugal living ideas and information on ordering her books at:

(This article was excerpted adapted in part from the book, A Simple Choice: A Practical Guide for Saving Your Time, Money & Sanity, by Deborah Taylor-Hough)

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