House overloaded with clutter? Clean up and make some money as well by throwing a garage sale. But if you're going to turn a profit, you need to throw the best garage sale you can. Here's how to do it.
Title photo by Joe Goldberg.
A successful garage sale requires planning ahead of time, especially in terms of attracting buyers. Before we get into how to actually throw your garage sale, we have to advertise it as best as possible.
Advertise In Every Way You Can Imagine
If Mad Men has taught us one thing, it's that a good ad campaign can sell anything. Take that same idea into account when planning your garage sale. Think about your ideal customer and coordinate your mini-campaign around them. Are you selling a bunch of geek-friendly electronics or books? Mention that in the advertisement. Dumping a stack of art? Make sure your posters are artsy so people know that your garage sale is the best garage sale for cool designs. Knowing what to put on the ads is just the first part — knowing where to put them is an art onto itself. Here's a step-by-step guide:
- Put posters everywhere: Put posters up in your neighbourhood, at community centres, and in local shops. Basically, anywhere you possibly can. If you're near a university, put up signs there. When you're making signs, make sure you put up a few windproof ones so people don't go wandering down the wrong street after a gust of wind pushes your sign a block away.
- Advertise online: Put a posting on Craigslist, mention it on Facebook, talk about it on Twitter. Don't just post "Cool furniture." The more descriptive you are of your actual merchandise the better chances you have to reel people in. Have an antique Herman Miller chair? Mention that, even if it's beaten up and covered in a thick layer of cat hair. The point is to get the right "type" of person to take an interest. Garage sale-aficionados will come regardless of what you have; you need to focus on getting the people who actually want the stuff in your garage.
- Mention snacks: The promise of snacks can draw pretty much anyone to anything. The only rule here is that whatever you're giving away, make sure it isn't homemade unless you have a particularly trustworthy look about you. While some people are totally fine with taking food from strangers, you're probably better off just offering a cooler with some drinks and a few lollies.
- Include all the details: Finally, make sure to include your full address, time of the sale, and the date (Don't write "today." That means nothing to a random passerby.) Weekends are the usual target, since you're more likely to get people who work regular jobs. Give the sale a few days to seep in; if you're holding the garage sale this Saturday, put up posters on Tuesday or Wednesday. Photo by Steven Cateris.
Plan And Optimise Your Display Options
ALDI aside, you don't usually walk into a store and find a pack of toddler's t-shirts right next to the vacuums, so why would you lay out your garage sale like that? Instead of just tossing everything on your lawn in a pile or stacking it randomly in the garage and calling it a day, it's best to plan ahead.
In most cases, your best bet is to set up all your items exactly as you would find them at a department store. That means group like-minded items together and keep completely different items apart. If you're off-loading your media collection after going digital, put all your books, games and movies together on a table. Price everything on that table the same (don't go mixing things up because you know that Akira DVD is worth more than that copy of National Lampoon's Vacation).
Put things like clothes or random household goods as far away from the media as possible. Nobody wants to dig through your collection of science-fiction novels while getting bopped in the head with dresses.
When displaying your items, consider this a chance to show off your best merchandise. If you have an awesome couch, put it in the most visible spot. If you have hundreds of DVDs, make sure they're arranged in a way people can find them. Place clothes on hangers and hang a string up so people can flip through them.
Finally, if you're selling electronics, set up a testing area for everything. Sure, you're aware that old receiver works just fine, but your customer doesn't know that. Run an extension cord from the house if needed, place all the electronics together, and let people test them out on their own.
The basic idea is to make an appealing shopping experience for whoever stops by. Some people love the idea of scavenging through endless piles of junk, but most people would rather pop in, gauge their interest quickly, and decide if it's worth their time. Make things easier for them by displaying all your sale items in a way that makes sense and looks good. Photo by John Manoogian III.
Be Prepared To Haggle And Accept All Types Of Payments
You will not make a lot of money from your garage sale and people will haggle you down from 50 cents if they think it's unfair. Be prepared to haggle and provide counter offers. Instead of taking twenty cents for a 50 cent book, suggest they can have two books for the original price. It can get pretty silly at times, but the more flexible you are the better chance you have of selling all your stuff.
On that same note, make sure you have a lot of change on hand. Cash is great, but you need coins too. Organise this earlier in the week, since your banking options will be limited on Saturday and non-existent on Sunday. Photo by BarGal.
This might sound like obvious advice, but it's absolutely true. When you're sitting around being bored on your lawn you end up looking like a weirdo surrounded with junk. Grab a friend to help you out, bring a book, play some music — do anything you can to make yourself look like you're not annoyed at the fact you're sitting around in your garage or on your lawn all day. The happier and nicer you look, the more likely it is people will stick around.
Have some tips of your own for making a garage sale the best it can be? Share them in the comments.