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Notes From a Garage Sale

I’ve only been keeping the “this is stuff I’m saving for our garage sale” containers out in the (yes) garage for about a year. Two weeks ago, we decided that we would, in fact, finally hold this fabled event. Mostly we wanted to clear out the garage, which was starting to shrink, and maybe make a buck or two. Of course, by last Thursday, just hauling it all off to the Goodwill storefront was sounding better and better, but we went ahead with it anyway.

Let’s face it: we’ve only been in this house for three years. There hasn’t been enough time to build up a bunch of collectibles and furniture that’s ready to be turned out for mere pennies. And mere pennies are all you’re getting at the ol’ g. sale, I’m just saying. I mean, we made a little over eighty bucks in a couple of hours, which is not bad for a morning’s work (which is to say: more than I’ve ever made at a garage sale, so I was thrilled!), but not the haul that some sellers boast. Here’s a few things to keep in mind when you’re out there peddling your wares, or maybe even when you’re picking over some other poor sap’s discarded treasures:

  1. When someone tells you about the hundreds of dollars they raked in, really, get to the bottom of what they were selling. Odds are there were a number of substantial items involved. Or absolutely enormous mounds of smaller things (and good for them for emptying out that much of their treasured hoard!), or possibly a car was in the mix.
  2. Try to forget how much you love some of the stuff you’re putting out there for $1.00. Your beautifully maintained books, for example. I had a huge trunk filled with them, about half hardbound cookbooks – and good ones, too! – and the rest a mix of paperbacks. My husband wisely talked me out of separating them and marking the hardbacks $2.00, which I considered to still be a steal, my theory being that this is about one-fourth of the price you’d pay at the used book store. Logical, right? Um, apparently not: one woman very gently informed me that most people sell paperbacks for a quarter and hardback books for fifty cents. I wanted to scream “Well, most people are idiots!” and drag my preciouses back into the house, until I remembered that this would make me the idiot, and then proceeded to cut her a deal. She was taking a stack of 33, after all. But this brings me to my next point:
  3. If there are things you’d rather give away then let someone have for a dime, do so. Clearly, this doesn’t make sense to a rational person, but that’s something I’ve never claimed to be. You’ll save yourself the outrage and aggravation, at least.
  4. That having been said, just price it to sell, already. Yes, a lot of shoppers are going to try to barter no matter what you’re asking, but still, I find it a waste of time to build too much wiggle room into the sticker prices. Besides, a good half of our customers paid sticker price with no questions asked (have I mentioned that most of it was marked at a dollar?), and I’m not sure they would have if the price had been jacked up. 
  5. Oh yes, and it’s much easier to decide on a single price and group stuff together with a sign, like “Children’s Clothes: $1.00 per piece”, than trying to assign value to every.little.thing. For one thing, I think this at least cut some of the hagglers off at the pass (but not all of them, and hey, it’s all part of the fun, I guess) and saved tons of prep time. And that is key:
  6. If you sink too much time and money into this thing, you’re cutting into your wee profit margin. No!! Personally, I find it very hard to banish the thoughts of “Jeepers, how much did I pay for this stuff in the first place? And did I just sell it for fifty cents?!” or “Did I just stand out here burning to a crisp in the stifling heat for the last half hour…for fifty cents?!” when I also know that I stayed up until midnight lovingly pricing and arranging said stuff, paid three bucks for special stickers, and another five on signage. Here’s what we did this time, and I highly recommend it: Do virtually nothing. Use the pre-printed garage sale stickers that have been hanging out in the junk drawer for, oh, two years to mark the pile o’ stuff that can’t be grouped together, print off price signs as described back in point #5 for the rest, and away you go. We picked up some change from the bank the previous day, and made a sign using an old piece of foam coreboard taped to a paint-stirring stick the morning of. This fabulous advertising method doesn’t sound very effective, but it will work if…wait for it…you’re fortunate enough to have a neighbor two doors down holding a yard sale on the same morning! A neighbor together enough to post signs all over the subdivision! Huzzah! [Not that this was part of our careful plan, but you can incorporate it into yours if you’re savvy enough. We were just plain lucky.]
  7. If you have kids, and someone off-campus is taking care of said kids during said sale, it’s almost like a date. Sounds a little pathetic, sure, but we had a pretty good time drinking our coffee and talking during the downtimes.
  8. Finally, when you’ve had enough and are ready to pack it in, do pack up whatever’s left and immediately haul it off to the charity of your choice. Don’t save it for next time. Don’t bring it back in the house because it’s still perfectly good and you be you can find a use for it/might read it again/may want to bake up little flower-shaped cakes someday. Let it go. It’s over.

So, again, it was totally worth our while and I’m really glad we went ahead and did it. According to my husband, looking around at the packed state of some of the corners of our house, we should have one of these every few months. Naturally, I disagree. We shall see.


3 responses »

  1. We’ve been saying for years that we were going to do one of these. My attic is about to explode, so I think it will be soon.

  2. If I were to even suggest a yard sale, Bubba would divorce my ass. And I wouldn’t blame him.

    Now, I will say that what you describe here is probably the most efficient and pain-free way to go – but I can’t get the thought of my bratty neighbors (not the nice ones) riffling through my stuff and making rude comments. They are bratty!

    Anyway, I’ll take the tax write off now that I know I’m supposed to say YES when Goodwill asks me if I want a receipt and avoid garage saling in all its glory.

    Good job, by the way, with your $80 – right on.

  3. I just don’t have garage sales. I just give it away to good will…or where ever. Much easier to offload about 6 bags at the good will!


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