What I Learned from My First Garage Sale: What to Do and What Not to Do.
Pending my transition from part time college courses to full time courses I decided it would be a good time to downsize, and make some money while doing it. I decided I would throw together a rummage sale. Literally-throw it together. Throughout my experience I found somethings work better than others. Here are my tips for garage sale do’s and don’ts.
- What to do: Dedicate a specific place to collect things that will be going into the sale. However, make sure you have enough room as I had boxes and boxes of items!
- What not to do: Put things in a high traffic area. The rummage sale area in my dining room was overflowing and multiple times I had an avalanche to clean up, usually because someone tripped on the corner of a box.
I went through my whole house looking for things to put into the rummage sale. Actually, I went through my house multiple times! Every time I pulled items out to put in the sale I felt better and better, and felt less attached to other items. Items I wasn’t sure about would go into the sale pile, and if I hadn’t dug it out by the time the sale came then I didn’t need it! I also justified some things by putting a certain price on it, and if it didn’t sell I could keep it.
- What to do: Go through bins that are hiding in the basement! I had things that I hadn’t looked at in years and surprise-those were some of the best sellers!
- What not to do: Give yourself a short amount of time to go through things. Like I said, I went through my house multiple times and even dug through bins. This took some time, and was worth every minute.
Make sure you have plenty of room to display your items.
- What to do: Make sure you have enough tables! Literally take a tape measure to your garage and see how many tables you can fit. I have horrible perception and thought I had enough tables to fill my garage. Turns out the tables were much smaller than I had envisioned and only filled ½ of the garage! We ended up having to put things on the ground under tables and on tarps outside. I am convinced the items on the ground under the tables sold the worst.
No one will know you have anything available unless you tell them right?
- What to do: Have your signs (plus extra!) bought, made, and ready to go well before the sale day. I thought it would be so easy to just run to the store and buy signs, but wow were they expensive! So, there I was in the middle of the night before we opened making my own signs. Unfortunately, almost all of them went missing throughout that first day so I had to make even more of them that night. I found out later that we have a city ordinance against putting sings in the terrace and it was the police department that was taking my signs. I also later found that my local dollar store carries cheap signs, stickers, and supplies!
Setting up a garage sale is a huge undertaking, it’s important to not underestimate the amount of work you have to do vs. the amount of time you have to do it.
- What not to do: Think you can set up for the sale within a couple of hours. Even if you have things priced it took us hours to take everything out of boxes and arrange it so that they were decently organized-clothes together, books together, toys together, etc. Six hours later we hadn’t even finished bringing everything outside and my small two car garage was busting at the seams. This was also the point that we couldn’t take anymore and I decided I would finish pricing and bringing things out the next morning…when we opened. BAD IDEA!
- What not to do: Think you can price and organize when you open in the morning! I had customers driving by before 8am just waiting for me to open the doors. I was so busy right away that I ended up getting caught off guard when asked about things that weren’t priced yet. Unfortunately, those items probably sold for less than I could have gotten because I just threw out a number.
Hosting a garage sale is time consuming and BUSY! It’s always helpful to have others there to help and pass the time with.
- What to do: Find someone to help you! I enlisted my wonderful mother who priced almost everything, helped set up, and sat with me. I had thought I could be by myself, but there was no way I could have been. We were so busy I don’t think we even sat down at all the first day! She also had to run and get more change only an hour after we first opened since many people paid with twenties.
- What not to do: Forget about when and what you are going to eat! My mom and I were starving on that first day, but were so busy neither could leave to pick up food. Also, my house was bare because all my time up to that point was put into the rummage sale. We planned better the next couple of days!
Pricing out items is a very important part of the Garage sale process.
- What to do: Make your prices clear and big enough to read across the garage. For things that were alike we put up signs such as “All Glasses 25 cents” and “All Books 50 cents.” I also put up two signs about the different prices for kid’s clothes. This worked great except I would forget what the sign said and I have bad eyes, so I couldn’t see the signs we made from across the garage.
- What not to do: Get stuck on selling items together as a whole. I had a huge Rescue Heroes set that I planned on selling all together and never even thought about piecing out-until people started asking how much for just certain pieces. I turned them down because I had thought it should stay a set and I had no idea what I should price each piece! It was so big that many people passed on the whole thing and I probably could have gotten more if I had been more willing to piece out certain parts.
Although I felt my rummage sale was successful, there would be so many things I would do different. My biggest regret was that I didn’t get all of my things out for that first day since that was my best day by far. My biggest piece of advice for anyone else wanting to throw together a rummage sale is that you can’t just throw it together! It is so much harder and more time consuming than I ever thought it would be. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to prepare and don’t plan to do anything the day of so you can focus on your customers.