How to host a successful garage sale

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One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. That pretty much explains the mysterious allure of the garage sale, an annual springtime ritual that also serves as a great excuse to de-clutter your home (and make some extra cash).

Of course, you’re not the only home on the block hoping to pawn off unwanted household items this spring. A successful garage sale requires organization, planning and a bit of luck. Here’s a step-by-step guide to making the most of your next junk sale.

1. Trash of treasure? Sorting through your junk can be emotionally difficult for those of us who get attached to their “stuff.” The best approach is to set firm rules for what you’ll keep and what you’ll sell. Some sellers use the year rule – if I haven’t worn it, read it, cooked with it, used it or looked at it in the past year, I’m selling it. Go through every room in your house, methodically sorting between items you absolutely need and items you can live without.

2. Clean up your merchandise A little bit of polish can go a long way toward increasing the perceived value of that table lamp or toaster. Fix up all your items as best you can before displaying them. Clean plastic toys in a tub filled with hot, soapy water. Put fresh shoelaces on shoes and hang clothes on coat hangers. Test electronics. Throw out anything that is broken, damaged or that might present a danger to the buyer. Whenever possible, display items in their original boxes or containers, with instructions and spare parts included.

Fix up all your items as best you can before displaying them (istockphoto)
Fix up all your items as best you can before displaying them (istockphoto)

3. Sort items by price and type Use colour-coded stickers to simplify the pricing process. Use intervals like 50 cents, $1, $2, $5, $10 and $20 to mark items (alternately, you can label entire boxes of goods with this approach). Mark items worth more than $20 with tags. When laying out your garage sale, sort items by where they might be used in the home; kitchen items go on one table, children’s toys and books in another.

4. Choose a date Host your garage sale when you have a full day to dedicate to the cause. Avoid long weekends and holidays when people might travel. A one-day sale is usually sufficient Рshoppers know the best finds are usually gone by the second day. You may want to consider coordinating a group garage sale with your neighbours  Рthe more people pass through your neighbourhood, the more likely people will stop to browse your selection.

5. Advertise at least two weeks in advance The most dedicated bargain hunters plan their trips well in advance, so you need to give them fair warning. Classified websites like Craigslist and Kijiji allow you to post advertisements for free. Consider posting an ad in the classified section of your local newspaper, setting up a Facebook event page, or emailing your friends and neighbours to tell them about the sale. In your ads, give customers some tantalizing glimpses of the great items they might find. (Some of the deals that tend to attract shoppers include wooden or antique furniture, sports equipment, appliances, artwork, antiques and vintage items, silverware and china.)

Use signs to guide shoppers to your doorstep (istockphoto)
Use signs to guide shoppers to your doorstep (istockphoto)

6. Be clear with instructions and directions Set firms hours for your garage sale to keep “early bird shoppers” from knocking on your door at the crack of dawn. On the day of the sale, post signs to direct cars to your home (Organized Home has some free printable direction signs). Make your signs BIG and bright so that drivers can see the address.

7. Be firm with hagglers – at first Don’t accept a low-ball bid on your best merchandise at the beginning of the sale. As the day progresses, it will be easy to see which items are selling and which are not. At that point, start offering better deals – a 50 per cent discount after 2 p.m., buy-one-get-one-free books, etc. Alternately, collect some of your hard-to-move items into “mystery bags” and sell them for a dollar apiece.

8. Ditch or donate anything you can’t sell if nobody else wants it, why keep it? Donate your leftover items to a local charity. If, for whatever reason, the item can’t be donated, dump it.