Your Three-Stage Guide to Hosting a Successful Garage Sale

Got a lot of stuff going unused and cluttering up your house? Do something about it and earn some quick cash in the process by hosting a garage sale (or “yard sale,” depending on where you want to set up shop). Not sure where to start? Or how to succeed? This is the guide for you. Here, our packing and moving experts at Stor-It provide you with tips, tricks, and general guidance on each of three stages of the garage sale: before the sale, during the sale, and after the sale. Your path to less clutter and more cash starts here.

Stage One: Before the Sale

When it comes to garage sales, a little planning goes a long way. Get on top of Stage One — preparation — to ensure a successful sale free of headache and hassle. Here’s how:

  • Choose a date. The right garage sale date can make all the difference. When choosing your date, be strategic and do your research. Drive around to garage sales in your area on different days and see how populated they are. Read message boards (they’re out there!), check the weather, ask your neighbor who’s had a half dozen yard sales themselves for some sage advice — anything to help you collect data on the best time to sell. Weekends are best; holidays are better. The morning is primetime; most shoppers call it quits by afternoon. Want a good place to start? Pick any Saturday in summer.
  • See if neighbors want in on the sale. The more the merrier. This age-old phrase applies to garage sales too. The general rule of thumb is that the more houses on a block having a garage sale, the more people will come to check out the sales. Some people won’t drive long distances for the chance of shopping at one garage sale. Bump that number of garage sales up to 3-4 all within a block or two of each other and you’ve got an event that people will travel miles to get to. Reach out to your neighbors to see what you can arrange.
  • Keep it, sell it, or trash it? How do you decide what you want to keep, what you want to sell, and what you want to trash? Sadly, there’s no right answer to this question. Decluttering is the goal, but there are several ways to get there. If you have a lot of keep-but-can’t-sell items, your best bet may be to invest in a self-storage unit for all of the extra stuff. (Getting a storage unit will also help you keep items that didn’t sell. If you want to keep them, that is.)
  • Advertise as much as possible. Even the most treasure-packed garage sale will have terrible turnout without advertising. Advertising your sale is the only way to get people to know about it, which in turn is the only way to get them to show up. Start advertising with signage around your neighborhood and city. Posters, flyers, and lawn signs are great—as long as they can be seen by passing cars as well as pedestrians. Garage sale forums, message boards, and social media sites are other indispensable advertising tools. If you’re willing to pay, you can also take out space in your local newspaper.
  • Set the right prices. People come to garage sales looking for deals. They’re not going to shell out five bucks for one of your old paperbacks or 20 bucks for a tee shirt. Know your customers and your stuff. Remember: in most cases, getting something for an item is far better than not selling it at all. Price fairly from the get-go to avoid hassle and haggling.
  • Don’t neglect your displays. Great displays sell goods. Take the time to display your stuff in a way that catches eyes and showcases its quality. If you’re having your garage sale in your garage, you’ll be able to arrange your stuff the day before, close your garage door, and sleep soundly knowing that your stuff is ready to go for tomorrow. If you’re having a yard sale, you’re going to have to start setting up a few hours before the time of your sale. Spend some time cleaning your items and be mindful of placement. Show rubberneckers and passerby your sale is worth stopping for. Got a ceramic lamp in the shape of a duck? Great, put it out towards the front of the sale. Have a replica 14th-century painting? Put it towards the front. A pink camo tracksuit? You know where to put it. At the front.

Stage Two: At the Sale

So, you’ve sorted, set up, and advertised. Now it’s time to sell. Here are some tips you can use to ensure that Stage Two — the garage sale itself — is a total success.

  • Have change ready. Easy transactions are essential for successful garage sales. If you make it hard for someone to buy something, they may just leave it. Have change at the ready to break any bills that come your way and keep things moving. We suggest going to your bank and breaking a few twenties into smaller bills before your garage sale. Empty your coin jar to have coins at the ready, too.
  • Consider cashless options. At any garage sale, most transactions will be conducted with cash. However, with each passing year, more and more people are opting to pay with cards and apps rather than physical currency. Don’t lose out on their business just because you don’t have a cashless way of paying. Venmo is the most common form of cashless payment used by the younger generation, but Apple Pay is also quite popular. Consider taking a few minutes to sign up before your next garage sale. If you think you’re going to be doing a lot of business, you may want to invest in a card reader such as Square for your phone to take credit cards and debit cards.
  • “Hire” an in-house haggler. Some people are natural salespeople with a knack for haggling. Others are not. If you have an expert haggler in your family or close circle, ask them to be your resident haggler for your garage sale. This will help you focus on other things while the inevitable haggling shoppers do battle with your designated haggler. And trust us: your garage sale will get at least one haggling shopper. No matter how great your prices are, some shoppers just love to haggle. If you do too, you can skip hiring help and handle the haggling yourself.
  • Put on a party. Happy shoppers spend more than grouchy shoppers. Elevate the mood at your garage sale by bringing out a speaker and playing music (just not too loudly). Also, consider selling or giving away food and drinks. Everybody loves ice-cold beverages on hot summer days, and most people won’t say no to popsicles or home-made cookies. Free is always the most attractive price, but selling your food and drink for super cheap will entice most people. Throw beverages and snacks in for free with purchases and you’ll be surprised at how many people bite.
  • Be vigilant. Nearly everyone who comes to your garage sale is probably going to be pleasant and easy to do business with. Unfortunately, on rare occasion, a bad seed may sprout up. To prepare for this, it’s necessary to take a few precautions. Keep your house locked at all times. Don’t let shoppers into your place unattended to use your bathroom. Also, try not to keep all of your cash on you throughout the day. Keep small bills in your cash box, fanny pack, or apron, but if you receive a big bill, have a friend or family members run it inside to the safety of your locked house.
  • Don’t hover. While safety is important, let shoppers shop in peace. You don’t like it when store clerks hover around you as you are deciding on purchases, so don’t do it to those at your sale. Monitor your sale at a distance. If you’re bored, we recommend an activity that can be done somewhat mindlessly so you can still monitor. Play games on your phone, crochet, or do a crossword. Just remember to check on your stuff every once in a while, and always be available to answer questions should they arise.
  • Offer deals as the day progresses. If stuff isn’t selling as fast as you want it to, remember that the primary goal of any garage sale is to get rid of stuff. The cash is secondary. Sure, you’d like to make your money’s worth on your stuff, but most of that unsold stuff is going to get donated once the sale is over. It’s better to make a small sum off an item and have someone take that item off of your hands than hauling that same item away all by yourself. With an hour or two left in your sale, take a thick permeant marker and physically slash your prices. That way, shoppers can see just how much they’re saving.

Stage Three: After the Sale

With your garage sale now complete, you’re in the home stretch. Stage 3, the final stage, is all about packing up shop and getting rid of straggling stuff. Here’s how to do it stress-free.

  • Clean up after yourself. Box up your unsold items. Sort the items into “donate” boxes, “try to sell” boxes, and “trash” boxes (trash bags might be more appropriate). Try to keep the trash to a minimum. If you’re unsure about whether to trash something or donate it, donate it. If you borrowed tables, coverings, clothing racks, and other administrative items from neighbors, return them that night or the very next morning. Don’t be the neighbor who asks to borrow something for a couple of days and ends up keeping it for months because you never got around to returning it. Your neighbors will never help you with a garage sale again.
  • Look into other methods for selling your stuff. Maybe your pink camo tracksuit from the ‘80s didn’t find a buyer at your garage sale. Don’t fret. There’s still a market for it. That market is just not five feet from your front door. It is online with websites and apps like eBay, LetGo, Craigslist, and Offerup. Not the biggest techie? Not a problem. All of these websites and apps have simple interfaces and are quite user-friendly. Most can be configured in minutes, though if you’re struggling, YouTube is a great resource for how-tos. You’ll also be able to charge a bit more for your items online since you’ll be reaching a wider audience. For this reason, we recommend going the online-sales route first for unique in-demand items.
  • Garage Sale: The Sequel. Sometimes, even the best-planned garage sales are foiled by inclement weather or slow traffic. You know that given the right sort of day, a large portion much of your old stuff could be sold to the deal-hawking public. You’ve done the initial prep-work to run a stellar sale. It won’t take much effort to do another in a few weeks’ time. All you need to do is re-advertise and reorganize. While this tactic works for many, it’s not the right move for everyone. Having a second sale is really only recommended for those who had some outside force throw off the earning potential of their first sales. Don’t be that person who has a yard sale every other month in order to sell off every last CD that you’ve ever bought.
  • Have a plan for your profits. Getting a nice wad of cash in your pocket at the end of a long garage sale is such a nice feeling of accomplishment. Don’t squander that feeling (or your cash) by just spending all of it without a plan. We suggest building a fun-sized investment plan before your sale even starts so you know exactly where your hard-earned money is going. This will help you use your money for something you really want (or need): a totally paid-off credit card, a better-off college fund for your son or daughter, or that trip to Las Vegas that you’ve been wanting to go on for years.

Learn More and Store Your Excess Stuff with Stor-It

Got stuff that didn’t sell? Stuff you suddenly decided to keep? At Stor-It, we have your solution. As Idaho’s oldest and largest self-storage providers, we have 14 conveniently-located storage facilities in the Treasure Valley and beyond — with more on the way! Contact us with all of your yard sale questions, and learn how storing with us can help you save your stuff at an affordable price. Also, be sure to explore our website for helpful guides and expert blog posts on self storage, packing, moving, and other related topics. Ready to reserve your unit? Book online with our team today!

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