The Art of a Successful Garage Sale

photo frames spelling out "SALE" at a garage sale

by Pam Molnar

While I enjoy having the kids home for the summer, I don’t enjoy picking up after them every day. Where did they get all this stuff, I wonder? After taking another look around the house, I notice that all of our closets, the garage and the cabinets in the kitchen hold many things we no longer use. When the kids go back to school, I vow to clean it all out.

However, when the time comes, I can’t help but think about all the money we spent on this ‘junk’ and decide to have a garage sale. But let’s face it. Time is precious and no one wants to sit in the front yard for two days only to come away with a little more than enough to pay the pizza delivery man. No, we want our sale to be busiest garage sale on the block. Want to know the secrets of a successful sale? Follow these helpful tips and watch your trash turn into cash.

Sell what people want to buy:

Clothes, and especially children’s clothes, in good condition are always in demand. Your used furniture, sporting goods, bicycles and small household items usually find a new home quickly, as well as tools, books and kitchenware. Sadly, knickknacks, out of date media and men’s clothing are often left untouched. Collectibles, such as Precious Moments, might sell better on eBay where they have a bigger audience of buyers.

Price what the market will bear: 

Try to remember that the whole idea of a garage sale is to sell things. You will not get retail prices, even if the item is brand new with tags. To determine if these prices work in your area, check out other local garage sales a few weeks before your sale and see how they compare. Don’t forget to put a little wiggle room in your prices to allow for the negotiators. You will sell more items if they think they are getting an even better deal. 

Merchandising makes the sale:

Set up your sale area with plenty of tables and places to hang things. You can create a clothing rack using two ladders and a broom handle. Place common things together – toys, sports equipment or seasonal items and take items out of the box to show the potential buyers what you are offering. If you provide your shoppers with an electrical strip, they will be more likely to buy an item if they can try it first. Move larger items outside of garage so it can be seen and so there is more room for the buyers to walk around. 

How to attract buyers: 

The most successful garage sales are multifamily sales. Ask your neighbors or encourage your subdivision to have a sale on the same day. This will bring more buyers as they can quickly go from house to house and save on driving time. Place ads in your local paper and on Craigslist. Ask local day care centers, stores or apartment buildings if you can leave a flyer on their community bulletin boards. On the day of the sale, post lawn signs with balloons on main roads and those leading up to your sale.

What to do if it doesn’t sell: 

At our last garage sale, I vowed that once it got to the garage, it wasn’t coming back in the house. Consider donating the items to a charity resale store like Goodwill or trading in sports equipment. Take books to your local library exchange and blankets or towels to the nearest animal shelter. Check your town’s website for places to recycle any out of date electronics, computers and TVs. Bring leftover toys to a local women’s shelter, child’s hospital or pediatrician’s office waiting room.

Get the kids involved:

A garage sale is a great way to let your children earn some extra money and channel their inner entrepreneur.

  1. Have them help out by gathering items to sell, cleaning them, setting up tables and running the sale. Split the profits with them or pay them an hourly rate.
  2. Another way to pay the children is by giving them the money from selling their used clothes or toys. While a simple pen and paper tracking system works well, kids may enjoy using an app to keep track of sales.
  3. Shopping at garage sales can be thirsty work. Go beyond the typical lemonade stand and sell bottled water, snacks or popsicles. Use this opportunity to teach your children business basics. Loan the kids the money for their items, say $5.00 for a case of water. If they sell each bottle for 50 cents, their profit will be $7.00.
  4. If you have crafty kids, let them set up a table with their creations. They can sell duct tape flower pens, handcrafted cards and photography or kids with a green thumb may want to sell flower or vegetable seedlings.
little girl smiling over her piggy bank
Back To Top