How many of us have garages so full of stuff that the cars remain in the driveway? How many basements are full of boxes containing who knows what? Or even worse, how many of you are paying money to a storage facility because there is no room in your home for all your stuff?
In the Bible from Luke 12:15-21, we read: “Then he said to the crowd, ‘Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.’” Many of us are caught up in accumulating stuff yet those possessions don’t have any lasting meaning and they clutter up our life.
One of the best ways to eliminate excess clutter is to have a garage sale and use the proceeds to build up the emergency fund or pay down debt. And if you have an emergency fund and no debt, donate the proceeds to charity.
Garage sales should not be done on a moment’s notice. Like everything else, they’ll run better with planning and organization.
The most popular days are Friday and Saturday mornings, but you can add Thursday if your schedule allows. You’ll get a larger crowd if you start early because people won’t have to interrupt their day to attend your sale. Late Spring, early summer or fall are the best times to have a sale. Check the local calendar and avoid special weekends in your area—such as a local festival or college football games.
Once you have a date, check with your local city government to see if a permit is required. Talk to your neighbors to let them know you are planning on having a sale and invite them to participate.
Decide how to advertise your sale—newspaper, fliers, and social media. Take advantage of local advertising such as the homeowner’s association newsletter, or a community events page in your local newspaper. Be sure your ads include your address as well as the dates and times for your sale. The most popular garage sale items include furniture, kids’ toys, and collectibles, so highlight those in your ads.
Gather your sale items well ahead of time by going through each room, the garage and the basement. Pick up anything you don’t want or haven’t used in months and put it in a staging area.
Don’t underestimate the value of what you find either; people will buy anything from old CDs to unwanted bottles of perfume. After all, the worst case scenario is that something doesn’t sell.
Before pricing your items, visit other garage sales in your area to check the going price for certain items. Price your items individually rather than grouping them into a box with one price sign. As the garage sale progresses, people will get the boxes mixed up and you’ll have a hard time keeping up with prices. Make sure the price is clearly marked on each item. Don’t set prices that are too high, thinking that people like to haggle on the price, as you may lose some customers.
Plan ahead for markdowns. Whether it’s for an individual item or an end-of-day sale, be prepared to reduce prices at some point, especially on items that are not selling.
Set up (as much as possible) the day before the sale. It will make the first hour less hectic. Remove all non-sale items from the area. Have an extension cord handy for testing electronic equipment.
Make your sale easy to find. Create signs with directions to the sale. Large bold black letters on a white background with very few words are best for visibility. What looks large when you have it on the table can be hard to read from a car. Make sure your sign says “Garage Sale” and include your address or an arrow pointing towards your house.
Make your stuff easy to find and easy to see. Keep like stuff together—all the clothes, garden equipment, toys, or tools should be displayed together. Tables are a great way to make items visible. Set up the tables so there is not so much stuff that the table is a mess as soon as the first customer looks through it.
Use the sturdiest tables for the breakable items, and keep those breakable items off to the side and up against the house or a fence to keep people from knocking that table over.
If at all possible, have clothing on hangers. It is easier to look through items on hangers. You can use a garment rack or a clothes line. Most shoppers don’t enjoy digging through piles or boxes. Create a dressing room using a shower curtain or sheet in the corner of the garage.
Make sure you have plenty of cash on hand to make change, otherwise you may lose a sale. Decide how you’ll manage the money. A carpenter’s apron gives you lots of room for money, notes and your cell phone. Or you may want to set up a check out table where you take the money and hand out change. Either way, keep your money safe.
Grab a comfortable chair and put it in a visible location. Greet people as they walk up, but don’t hover over them as they shop. In an ideal world, a garage sale would work like a mall. People would come in, peruse what’s available, grab what they wanted, pay, and leave. However, garage sales are as much a social event as a shopping event. People are going to ask questions, and they’re going to pick through everything. Let them shop at leisure and don’t act pushy.
Have a supply of old newspapers and grocery sacks to wrap and bag customers’ purchases.
Set up a 10-cent table for children to look through. They may have brought their allowance and want to spend it. Plus, it keeps them busy while mom or dad are shopping. If your children are willing to sell some of their toys, games or clothes, have each one of them label their items with different colored stickers.
Have a free table for broken items or things with missing parts. Remember one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Post signs in strategic locations that say “Everything is sold as is” and “all sales are final.”
No matter how successful your garage sale is, you’ll probably have leftover stuff. Before the sale, investigate charities where you can donate leftovers that are usable and in good condition. Don’t drag leftovers back into the house. Before you go to the charity, be sure to list everything you are donating and ask for a receipt. File the receipt and use it for a charitable tax deduction on your income taxes.
Garage sales are a lot of work, especially if you’re not used to holding them. You’ll probably spend several hours organizing and pricing items, writing ads, and getting your supplies, plus more hours on the day of the sale.
But after it’s over, you’ll hopefully have extra cash instead of piles of unused stuff. And you can free yourself from putting too much importance in all the stuff you have accumulated. Remember, Jesus said “Your life does not consist of your possessions” so be aggressive in clearing the clutter!
Join us on the Compass Catholic podcast for more ideas about having a successful garage sale.