garage sale

make your sign creative.

I can still remember very clearly the Saturday morning garage sale excursions that my mom would take my siblings and I on. She and my best friend’s mom would pack us all in our Suburban, have breakfast at Hardy’s, and then be busy for hours digging through other people’s junk for treasures.

At the time, I was only mildly entertained, and mostly remember being really bored. However now that I’m older, I understand the value in not only having a venue in which to rid yourself of your unwanted clutter, but also having the opportunity to riffle through other people’s crap for something you might want/need and would otherwise have to pay double, sometimes triple for, brand new.

I’m a person who takes shopping very seriously, especially second-hand shopping. I consider shopping without a strategy, like going out in public in pajamas. It’s just something that no self-respecting grown woman does. In order to make any shopping trip a success there are some key rules to keep in mind. Knowing what you’re looking for and recognizing value will go a long way towards getting you the best finds. Likewise, retailers across the world sink literally millions of dollars into strategy and technique to help sell their wares. There’s an almost ridiculous amount of thought and planning that goes into every detail, the packaging, the lighting of the store, the position in which the product sits, the verbage used to describe the product. Why? Because it works. And while a garage sale may not be that serious a business, the fact is it still is business and with a little attention to some specific details, you can be sure that getting rid of your crap will be a profitable experience.

Garage Sale Rules of Engagement: A buyers guide

  • Ditch the dowdy dress code. It seems to be an unspoken rule among the garage sale shopping elite that the slouchier you dress, the better deals you find. Not only is this an ugly myth, it just isn’t necessary. I know very few people who’d walk into Nieman’s wearing their drop cloth-esque lounge pants and ball cap. Why? Because when you walk into Neiman’s you expect to find a specific quality of product and service, and Nieman’s expects a specific quality of client. If you insist on dressing like you’re going dumpster diving, you can expect to be treated like someone who riffles through trash. Even though the “products” in question are things that the seller no longer wants, these have been their personal belongings and I feel that they deserves a certain level of respect. Put yourself in the right frame of mind for truly finding hidden treasure by carrying yourself like someone who expects to find something good. I’m not asking for black tie, people, just don’t use garage saling as an excuse to dress down, trust me, it makes a difference.
  • Shop in a group. 3 people should be sufficient… depending on what your shopping goals are you’ll want to be prepared to be able to lift or move your purchases, and you have the benefit of extra opinions when it comes to the value of a certain piece. Most importantly 3 pair of eyes are better then one. The good stuff goes first, the more people you have on your team, the better chance you’ll be the one going home with the goods. Which brings me to my next point.
  • The early bird really does get the worm. “Get there first” should be your mantra.
  • Have a plan and stick to a budget. Try to shop for a specific project and decide ahead of time how much you want to spend. When you have a specific goal and budget in mind it helps you more objectively asses the value of a piece before you purchase, which means you have a greater chance of walking away with -exactly- what you’re looking for and not a whole heap of junk you have no use for, but thought was too good to pass up.
  • Chose your neighborhoods with care and do the drive-by. With people it’s important to not judge a book by it’s cover, but garage sales are a whole different matter. If you’re shopping with a specific goal in mind, run-down neighborhoods are probably not going to yield much of interest, however you’ll probably find things for really cheap. On the flip side, shopping only upscale neighborhoods will most likely insure better quality, but you can expect the prices to be higher. This is where priorities come into play, and I’ve found that the middle of the road is the best place to be. No matter where you end up doing your shopping, doing the drive-by scope out is a wise decision. Cruise by your target slowly and scan the area. If you feel self-conscious, elect your assigned shopping buddy with the darkest tint on their windows as your designated driver and wear your stunner shades, who knows, the mobster vibe might get you better deals. Incognito or not, if you can’t tell if there’s a garage sale going on or if someone is just cleaning out their garage, move along. Digging through heaps will only be a waste of your time. If the owner doesn’t consider the merchandise to have enough value to set out neatly, chances are you’re not going to find anything in decent condition.
  • Take rope. Just do it.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions… especially when it comes to buying furniture. There are a LOT of ways to hide wear and tear. Everything has a life span and before you invest, you need to know how many lives your chair, couch, lamp ect. Has left. With just a few friendly questions you can determine whether or not the piece you’re interested in is going to live a long and happy life with you. Put your small talking talents to work and engage in some casual friendly conversation with your seller. Ask them how long they’ve had the piece, from where they purchased it, and how many children or pets they have. If you’re extremely smooth find out why they’re selling it. Listen for things like “it’s just the wrong color for a house with children” to determine what the wear and tear on the piece has really been.

Garage Sale Rules of Engagement: A sellers guide

  • Take some time to set things up. I know that most likely you can’t wait to be rid of the stuff, but consider how heaps of clothing piled on a make shift table looks to someone shopping. You can actually afford to ask a little more for that junk you just want out of your hair if you’ll just organize it and display it in a way that suggest it’s worth having.
  • Price everything clearly and reasonably. While setting things up neatly entitles you to ask less than dirt cheap prices, it doesn’t mean you’re hosting a 15% off sale either. In my opinion used, is used. You’re asking people to buy your stuff off of your lawn…be realistic. People who’re shopping garage sales are looking for bargains, high prices and/or no price tag opens you up to a lot of haggling which can be frustrating, exhausting, and leave you feeling cheated in the end. If you can’t bring yourself to price a piece down by at least 60% or more, you may want to consider selling it in a more specific venue, like Ebay for instance, where buyers will be shopping for that specific piece and will be more likely to understand the value.
  • While it’s fun to gather with friends on your lawn with coffee and chat while making a few bucks, remember you’re having a garage sale and not a garden party, don’t invite too many friends to sit in. One or two available to help answer questions or load things is fine, more than that and you run the risk of making shoppers feel extremely uncomfortable. They’re venturing into your personal space and digging through your personal property, it’s in your best interest to make them feel as comfortable as possible. Be friendly and engaging, let them know you and your crew are there to help or answer any questions they may have and then back off and let them look. And by back off I mean, busy yourself with something else but still be available, and not stand in a corner with your friends and whisper.
  • Don’t, I repeat DON’T let your friends sit on items you’re trying to sell. Simply put, no one wants to buy a chair out from underneath someone else’s bottom.
  • Be honest with yourself. If it’s trash, trash it.
  • Consider having a group sale. A larger sale tends to attract a bigger crowd and will draw those drive-by shoppers in, just be sure to keep it clean and well organized.
  • Make your signs creative. We’ve all seen the telephone pole with 12 different yard sale signs stapled on. Make yours stand out and maybe even grab some people who weren’t on the yard sale circuit. Cut out the titles that imply that you’ll be shopping off of the ground or out of a dirty garage and opt for a more positive vibe with a title like “new to you sale”, or something that will make your shoppers chuckle. A little creativity could result in a better turn out.

Keeping these simple points in mind should make your garage sale experience a happy one, but at the end of the day whether you’re buyer or a seller keep local charities that accept donations in mind. If you haven’t found what you were looking for while shopping garage sales, or if you’ve got left overs that you didn’t sell, a local charity is a great way to go. You can often find deals at prices that are comparable to garage sales in a charity resale shop, and you can donate your left overs there as well. Most often places like this use the money made to help people find jobs, pay bills, and support local food banks.