8 Mistakes That Will Kill Your Garage Sale

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Let’s be honest, friends. The idea of hosting a garage sale is hardly delightful. Sure, you might make some extra cash and get rid of all those ‘projects’ that are hiding throughout  your house, but the work that goes into one makes it almost worth burning the whole place down and starting fresh.  I have lots of friends that have sworn off garage sales forever because they worked for weeks to prepare and only made $13. Here are some common mistakes and tips on avoiding Garage Sale Regret:

Mistake #1: Don’t throw anything away because someone might buy it.

When I see this advice on the internet or hear it from the mouths of friends, I want to scream.  Is this for real?!?  If you want to make money, don’t fill your tables up with useless junk. Chances are that one person who might want to use those holey socks for puppets already has a drawer full of their own.  The same goes for those board books and baby toys that show evidence of torture.  Everyone that shops garage sales knows that the things for sale are your cast-off items, but that doesn’t mean they want to pick through trash!  If you wouldn’t buy your own items in their current condition, reconsider selling them. If you put junk out, you’ll more than likely be dragging that same junk back into your garage after a wasted day.

Mistake #2: Don’t price it all. If they want to know, they’ll ask.

I shop garage sales all the time and I see this a lot. While I get that pricing everything is a daunting task, it’s also necessary if you actually want to move those items out. There are lots of reasons that people may not ask for prices on things that are unmarked but regardless of those, the fact is that you are more likely to sell your items if they are clearly marked with prices. If you have a huge quantity of things with the same price, put them all together and set up signs with group prices. The clearer the prices, the more you sell.

Mistake #3: Try to sell it for what you originally paid.

While pricing will vary from item to item, the socially accepted ‘norm’ for garage sales is to price your items at half or less of their retail value. Obviously, the lower you go the more likely you are to sell your stuff. You definitely don’t want to just give things away, but it is extremely unlikely that you will sell your things if you try to sell them at retail prices. Garage sale shoppers are bargain hunters! Price your things fairly but don’t expect to get back what you paid for them! Even if you just bought something yesterday and still have the receipt (And if you do, you should just return it!) nobody will offer to pay full price for something from a garage sale. If you really want it gone, price it to move.

Mistake #4: Just put it all out. If someone wants something badly enough, they’ll dig for it.

Maybe it’s me, but the idea of digging through strangers’ stuff makes me feel gross. Even if it’s clean, I just won’t do it. I love a good deal but there’s nothing I want badly enough to dig through piles of stuff on someone’s lawn.  Curb appeal is important! Display your items neatly and make it easy to shop.  If you don’t have tons of table space, that’s okay! Use your driveway or your yard, but keep it neat!

Mistake #5: Clothes don’t sell well, so it doesn’t matter how you display them.

In my house full of growing children, we go through a lot of clothes, quickly. At the rapid pace in which we are replacing clothing, it is necessary for us to do an almost quarterly closet purge just to keep ourselves from drowning in laundry. In my experience, clothing DOES sell well, if you are willing to do it correctly. Just hanging them or folding them on a table isn’t going to cut it. The key to succesfully selling clothing is to size it. If you can tell someone exactly where all your 3T clothing is without them having to dig and search for tags, you’ll sell a lot more of it. Hanging clothing is almost always better than folding it, since clothes that are hung can be easily flipped through. As with all other items, condition and style matter. If you would be ashamed to wear it, reconsider selling it.

Mistake #6: Put as much information as you can on your signs.

No! Just… no. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost been rear-ended because I was trying to find the address on a crowded garage sale sign. I can see that they’ve got appliances, tools, guns, pottery and SO MUCH MORE! but I can’t tell where to find the sale! There’s a place for all the details of your sale (It’s called the Internet.) but it isn’t on your signage. Use social media groups (Facebook and Craigslist posts are a must!)  to get the word out, post pictures and details on your stuff and talk up your sale. Use your signs for directional purposes. People who love to shop garage sales are going to come to your sale, but only if your address isn’t lost in POTTERYBARNHIGHENDFURNITURETOOLSMOWERKIDSCLOTHESETC on that 8×10 square on the corner of the busiest intersection in town. Keep it simple, they will come. Cover your neighborhood and city with signs, sure. Make it impossible to MISS your sale, but keep the words big, bold, simple and clear.

Mistake #7: Posting your sale online isn’t worth the time it takes.

If you aren’t part of any online garage sale groups, you’re missing out. The last time I posted a garage sale on Facebook, I was able to spread the word to over 50k people in my immediate area. It didn’t even take 15 minutes to share details and photos with several groups. Social media can play a HUGE part in making your sale succesful. Just for fun, I asked visitors at my last sale how they found me. Over 60% found my sale online. That means that 60% of my visitors drove intentionally to my sale. Are signs necessary? Of course! Just don’t limit yourself to the people that happen to drive by when you can increase your traffic (and your $$) with very little effort.

Mistake #8: I don’t need help selling my stuff.

You’re right. Now that you know what to avoid, you totally don’t need anyone to help you hock your goods, but if it’s possible, have a friend or family member available to keep an eye on things. There is no such thing as being too cautious. There is safety in numbers, especially if you are inviting the public to your home. Be aware of your surroundings, keep your cash box hidden and stay close to your phone. Having an extra person around to help will not only make your day more fun but can keep you safe, too.

If you’ve fallen victim to any of these mistakes, never fear! With a little bit of planning, your next sale can be better than ever. Feel free to share your own tips below and let me know what you think of mine. Happy Sales to you!

Originally posted April 2, 2015

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Ellen

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