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Ten Garage Sale Tips

I say, "Garage Sale." You sigh. You cry. You plea, "No, not a garage sale!"

Let's get the obvious out of the way: It is an insane-crazy-lotta work.

It's also insane-crazy-lotta worth it. I spent about 100 hours unpacking, sorting, pricing, and repacking stuff. This was no easy task for me; stuff makes me shudder; Hoarders gives me hives. But my friend, Carmen, who has adopted x 3, encouraged me to give this one a try. She knows people who have made $700-$8000. From a garage sale. For real.

We decided that we would do a one day sale in August, and a two day sale in September during our annual town festival. The first thing we did was put out a plea to family and friends, asking for their junk. So many people were happy to help. Before we knew it, we had a barn full. A barn full!

If you aren't the garage sale type, you may need a moment to digest that. So, while you do that, I will give you two reasons why garage sales are worth it. 

Reason #1
By God's grace, our total raised was $5000. It sounds crazy to me now, even as I type it, but it happened. It was our biggest fundraiser, and the only investment was the ad we put in the paper plus a few items from our local dollar store. 

Reason #2
You will meet some interesting people who will give you great stories, like the one below, for your blog.

Crazy Guy: Hey, would you . . .uh . . . take fifty cents for this?
Me: Um, sure. 
Crazy Guy: What is it?
Me: A paper shredder.
Crazy Guy: Oh that could come in handy. 
Crazy Guy proceeds to clench both fists, look up to the sky, and shout, "I LIVE FOR THIS!" 

That was totally worth fifty cents. 

Okay, so now that you've relaxed a little and are hoping for your own crazy-guy story, here are my tips for having a great sale. Yes, my t-shirt image says ten, but I couldn't stop there. I have thirteen. Oops.

1. Get a ridiculous amount of stuff. 
Shoppers want sales that have a ton of stuff. We had donations from forty families, and I'm glad we did. You can ask your church body for help. You can ask friends and family. You can put out a note on Facebook. You can even pass out a card at a community garage sale, telling them what you are doing, and asking for leftovers. The more stuff you have, the more people will buy.

2. Secure a PRIME location.
I can't stress this enough. Location is key.

Don't expect to sell your ton of stuff on a lone country road. We held our sale on Main Street in our little town. You must have people. Having our second sale during our town festival was great; it gave us lots of foot traffic. And lots more crazy-guy stories.

3. Sort the stuff.
I know. Really, I DO know because I did it. It is not fun, but it will be a huge help. I went through thousands of items (sometimes with friends, sometimes not) before our big sale. After you sort, box it up and label the box.

Sorting the stuff allowed our sale to be organized. People appreciated this, commented about this, and shopped longer because of this. We had designated tables for housewares, baby boy clothes, baby girl clothes, children's clothes, books, games/puzzles, decor, holiday decor, pictures/frames, women's clothes (by size S/M/L/XL), gadgets/tools/hardware/electronics, purses/bags, jewelry/health & beauty, etc. 

4. Don't keep JUNK.
While you are sorting, you'll also need to have bags for trash and a pile for Goodwill. Clothes with rips, stains, missing buttons, etc. — you probably shouldn't try to sell that stuff. If you find something broken, trash it.

Don't keep junk. If your sale looks trashy, people won't stay as long and you won't sell as much. I hereby give you permission to toss the trash.

5. Clean it up and make it marketable.
If something was a little goobered up, I would wipe it down with a baby wipe or Mr. Clean Eraser. This was especially necessary for toys and housewares. We sold a LOT of previously sticky and slimy items. 

I kept a little bag with all these things: rubber bands, safety pins, masking tape, baby/Clorox wipes, Mr. Clean erasers, etc. This helped me make things a little more presentable.

I also kept my price tags in the bag. I purchased plain dot stickers, and while I was riding in the car or watching a video with Jason, I'd mass produce labels by writing the prices on them (entire pages of one price). When I was pricing, the labels were ready for me. It saved lots of time.

6. Price it cheap.
You can mark two items for $1 each. One sells and one doesn't, so it has to be packed away for Goodwill after the sale. OR you can price both items .50 and sell both items. You still made your $1.

I typically priced things 10-25% of their original cost. *IF* it was in pristine condition or brand new, you could charge 30-50% depending on how common the item is.

Adult clothes are not great sellers. In order to fix this problem, we hung up the super nice stuff (suits, leather jackets, etc.), and marked it individually. Everything else was $4 for a small shopping bag full. We made a ton of money this way, and people thought the price was worth looking through the piles and stacks.

7. Pray for hoarders to come.
Kidding. Maybe.

8. Think about other ways to raise money at the same time.
Do you have other upcoming fundraisers? Pass out information.
Could you couple the garage sale with a bake sale?
Maybe you know some kiddos who would like to host a lemonade stand?
Do you have a blog? Pass out cards with a link for people who want to follow your story.

The weekend of the festival, I sold giant cookies and my sweet, artsy friend painted faces for $4/face. I sold a lot of cookies. She painted a lot of faces. 

9. If you need it, take it.
We grabbed some things we needed from our garage sale stash: a winter coat for Jason, two church shirts for Simon, a few books for school, tickets (for our future ZUMBA fundraising event), and thank you notes. If items are going to save you money, take them. Put the money you would've used to buy said items in your adoption fund.

10. Advertise, Advertise, Advertise!
Put an ad in the paper. It's worth it.

I told everyone and asked everyone else to tell everyone. I was selling cookies all summer at a Farmer's Market, so I even told my loyal customers! 

11. Make meals ahead.
If you are like me, you will be tempted to eat out after a ten hour day of sorting and pricing. If you pop something in the crock pot before you start working, you not be tempted. I also used the crock pot on the days of the sale to make sure my family had food.

12. Let your friends help.
If friends want to know how to help, they can . . .

  • help you find items for the sale. They can share your Facebook plea or ask family/friends.
  • help you sort the enormous piles of stuff.
  • make price tags for you.
  • help you price items.
  • babysit your children while you work.
  • bring you a meal when you think you are too tired to do one more thing.
  • help the day(s) of the sale. We found that we needed four adults to keep things running smoothly.
  • run a bake sale in conjunction with the garage sale.

13. If it doesn't sell . . .
Someone donated quite a few collectibles to our sale. Instead of donating those to the Goodwill, I found a buyer online who purchased them for a chunk of change. Consider what items might sell on Craig's list or Ebay for a higher price, and try them there. 

You can give your other leftovers to another adoptive family to get their sale going!

Are you considering a garage sale fundraiser? Have you already had one? What tips do you have to share?

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