Fall is a great time for a garage sale because the weather is cooling off and the holidays are around the corner so shoppers are on the lookout for potential gifts.
I have broken down the project into three stages: planning, pricing and organizing, so that you can successfully trade your unwanted items for cash.
Choose a date and apply for a sale permit (if your city requires one). Learn the rules about signage and frequency of sales allowed in one year.
Advertise the event by word of mouth, flyers, signs, ads in the newspaper, and online posts on craigslist and social media sites like Facebook. Specialized sites like yardsalesearch.com and garagesalestracker.com allow vendors to create free postings for sales.
Ask your friends and family to help by attending and maybe even bringing their own items for sale. Besides adding to the merchandise, having multiple sellers involved will widen the circle of potential customers. Theft is always a concern, so you want a few other people there to help you protect the items and the cash.
I recommend pricing items beforehand or at least knowing what you plan to charge. You can price each item individually, price each table of items at the same amount ($5 table), or price each category of items together (all pants $4).
Deciding what to charge is often one of the most challenging aspects of the project, so be flexible and realistic. People come to sales looking for a bargain. I have read that a basic rule of thumb is to ask 25% of what the item originally cost. Oclytis Johnson, a life-long vendor and author of Business Success Tips, states that the bulk of the items should be under $20. There are also several books and online resources that list amounts to ask for certain items.
Gather necessary supplies such as extra price tags, signs, markers & paper, calculator, and either a cash box or apron with $50-$100 in coins and lower bills to make change. Collect as many tables, shelves, and clothing racks to display items. Another option is to use tarps or sheets on the ground. You will also need extension cords (for appliances), a stereo (for ambiance), bags, boxes, and packing paper (for breakables that are purchased).
Keep your merchandise tougher in one area of your home and clean anything that is dirty. Label things accordingly with relevant information on stickers or index cards.
The best way to setup a sale is to get all or most of the items in position the night before if possible. If you have a garage you can just open the door and sell. If you have a car port or driveway you may want to setup and cover the items with tarps.
Setting up can take hours, depending on the amount of merchandise.
Try your best to make the store look organized with similar items together. Sales usually have sections for furniture, clothing, shoes, purses, jewelry or accessories, children’s clothing, toys, kitchenware, appliances/electronics, holiday items, assorted home decor, books, DVDs, sporting goods, hobby supplies and tools.
Make sure the most appealing things are visible and that the most valuable items are protected near the register. Leave space for shoppers to walk around the displays. You may want to leave books and other small items in boxes, bins, or baskets to keep them from spilling all over the place. I also suggest taking pictures of your final setup so that you have a record of what you started with.
When the sale begins, it is your choice to either remain firm on your prices or lower the prices for haggling customers. I prefer to do a bulk mark-down when a customer buys numerous items because I can just add up the original prices and apply a discount to the final total.
If someone offers a price lower that what you are willing to take, offer to save their contact information and call them later if you change your mind. Once you get to the closing hours of the sale you might want to offer a 50-75 percent discount on the remainders.
Dave Hlavac, author of How to Run a Successful Garage Sale, places a big emphasis on watching the money at all times and recommends periodic cash drops inside of the house so that all of your money is not in one place in the event that there is a theft.
As the sale progresses, you will have empty spaces in the displays after items have sold. You will want to move things around to fill in the gaps so that the tables still look full. Consolidate tables if needed. After the sale ends, the easiest way to wrap things up is to schedule a charity to come collect the remainders. I have had positive experiences with the Miami Rescue Mission (800-817-HOPE) and the Slomin Family Center for Autism (888-9-PICKUP) in my area.
When all is said and done, I hope that your efforts will be rewarded when you look around at your newly de-cluttered home and count your cash!
Tatiana is a Miami-based Professional Organizer who appears on Lifetime’s “Designing Spaces”. Call (305) 502-6391 or visit www.neatwithknight.com for appointments.