Here are our garage sale results: We made nearly $400 and sold over 90% of our stuff. We’re happy with the money, but we’re even happier to have a clean garage again and to be rid of so much useless junk. Read on for all the gritty details of our first garage sale experience.
Storing, Staging, and Frustrations Pre-sale
We used our garage to house all the sellable or donatable items while we purged our useless and redundant items from our house. I had an 8×10 tarp laid out on my half of the garage, and each time we purged a room, we’d box or bag the items and place them on the tarp. This worked well but also had some drawbacks.
It worked well because it got the items out of the house while still keeping them safe. It did have a number of drawbacks though. For one, I had to park outside. When we finally make the move to an apartment I’ll have to park outside anyway, but for now I like to park in the garage.
It was also a constant source of frustration since we had to look at all that junk every time we opened the garage door. Dream got really frustrated a few times and expressed her feelings that we weren’t making any progress. Our house was cleaner but now our garage was a mess. Plus she was skeptical at our ability to make any money at a garage sale. I’m sure she had visions in her head of us just keeping all this stuff in the garage and it becoming a permanent ugly fixture. It is understandable given my track record of junking up the house with clutter in the first place.
The Big List of Purged Items
The purged stuff lived in the garage for about two months, so it was a considerable amount of time to have an unusable and cluttered garage. And there was A LOT of stuff in there. To give you an idea of all the stuff we purged, here’s a summary of what we had stored in our garage before the purge.
- Six boxes of housewares; like plates, bowls, trays, pots, and pans
- 12 kitchen sized garbage bags of clothing, blankets, and towels
- 2 boxes of books
- 1 bag of toys
- 2 bags of stuffed animals
- 1 bicycle
- Kids outside toys like a Powerwheels 4 wheeler, a scooter, and an R/C car
- Baby items like an exersaucer and a vibrating musical bouncy chair
- Home and Garden stuff; like a posthole digger and 2 gas cans
- A 12×12 canopy
- Camping stuff; like a camp table, camp stove, axe, and hatchet
- And a pile of random stuff from various rooms that we didn’t bother bagging
It really was a lot of stuff to be storing in our garage. The funny thing is, had we ever needed to move we would have taken all this junk with us. Like most normal families, we would have happily packed all the junk into boxes and toted it to wherever we happened to move to. I even said on a couple occasions, “I hope we never have to move, I don’t think we could do it with all this stuff.”
Now that you have an idea of how much stuff we had, and how the garage sale went, let me share some of the experiences from our first garage sale.
Planning for the Sale
Before jumping into the garage sale, I read as much as I could online about holding a garage sale. The keys steps to a successful sale seemed to be this:
- Advertise in the paper and/or on craigslist. We chose craigslist because it’s free.
- Put out lots and lots of brightly colored signs. We found a neat tip for making signs. We used cardboard boxes weighted with a brick to hold them up and keep them from blowing away. We bought a pack of bright florescent paper and used two different colors on each box. We used our computer and printer to print the signs, rather than hand writing them. We printed “Garage Sale” in large font on one piece of paper, and an arrow, our address, and the days and times on the other piece of paper. We taped both to the box and set them out by the street. We had 12 signs in total, four of which were off the main highway and the rest guided folks back to our house.
- Put prices on everything. We bought two packs of price stickers from Office Depot for about $2.50 a pack. They were little round easy to remove stickers that had prices from 10 cents up to twenty dollars, and a couple blank ones to fill in your own price. These worked great, as people didn’t have to ask what the price was on everything. We put them on everything except clothing, towels, blankets, and books. Since we had some many of those items, we put out signs instead.
- If the garage is open, hide or cover everything that isn’t for sale. I can vouch for the need to do this. The first day of our sale, it started to rain (yeah that sucked a little.) I hadn’t prepared for this, so I quickly pulled everything back into the garage and tried to cover the non-sale items with sheets. Even so, some items remained uncovered, and I had one lady try to buy a bottle of antifreeze that was sitting on a shelf and someone else try to buy my leaf blower. The original plan, which I enacted the next day, was to open the garage door so I could hang the clothes from the open garage door, and hide the garage with a tarp suspended from the open garage door behind the clothing. This worked great!
- If you are hanging clothes, be prepared to sell the hanger too. This was ok with us, since we purged our closets we had a lot of hangers left over, so I included the hangers if anyone asked to keep them. Hanging the clothing from the open garage door worked great. We hung the hangers from the lip on the bottom of the open garage door. I had lots of these items sell because they were easy to see and easy to browse through. I think it also helped draw people in because it made it look like we had lots of stuff to sell.
- Put tools and man-type items near the street. This is to help draw in the reluctant husbands, and it seemed to work well. I put all the camping items, home and garden items, and the (relatively) high dollar items close to the street so they could easily be seen.
Our Experiences with the Garage Sale
Our garage sale was held on Friday and Saturday. Friday was definitely the better day. I started at 7:00am, but most folks didn’t start arriving until 8:00. The Friday crowd seemed to be more serious about buying and they were more willing to buy if the price was right. We made nearly $300 on Friday and sold most of our bigger ticket items on that day. I didn’t expect the number of people that would arrive on Friday, people actually showed up in droves. It was a pleasant surprise to see so many people show up.
The Saturday crowd was much different. Overall I’d describe them as miserly. Keep in mind my prices were extremely low. Items were priced at what I would be willing to pay for them if I were to buy from a garage sale, and I’m really cheap when it comes to garage sales. All clothing was priced at one dollar each, even designer brand stuff. Kitchen items ranged from 25 cents for cups and plates to 5 dollars for beautiful decorative bowls. Books were 25 cents each. On Saturday I twice had people ask prices on the clothing and then put down their items when I mentioned, “one dollar each.” With one I offered to give a better price, and he offered 25 cents for a pair of nice pants.
Which reminds me, before the sale I was concerned about haggling. On the day of the sale I approached it with the attitude that I’m trying to get rid of stuff, rather than trying to make money. This worked well all day, and I ended up accepting any price the buyer offered. Most didn’t even haggle with me since the prices were already low, but I accepted any offer from those who did. This approach made the experience much better, and actually made it fun to see people happy to be getting good deals. I had a number of people comment that they couldn’t pass up books for 25 cents as they happily filled their arms.
After the sale on both days I was exhausted. I dragged the remaining items back into the garage, picked up my signs, and laid down on the couch for a nap. On Sunday I cleaned up the garage, bagging or boxing the remaining items to take to Goodwill. We ended up with three bags of clothes, one bag of stuffed animals, and one small box of glasses and cups, and a small box of books. We went from a heaping pile of stuff that took up half our garage to a few items that fit in the trunk of our car. I’d call that a resounding success.
Was it Worth the Effort?
I saw in yesterday’s comments that a couple of people were leaning towards “it’s too much effort for too little return.” Normally I’d agree with you. I’m in my mid-thirties and this is the first garage sale we’ve ever done. We usually just donate the items and take the tax deduction. This time was different because we had so much stuff. The thought of dragging all that stuff to the Goodwill was overwhelming. Plus we figured we could make a little money for Christmas gifts. In the case of a whole house purge, I think a garage sale is worth the effort. If you consider just the time we spent during the actual sale (excluding the prep work) we made roughly 33 dollars an hour for our effort. That’s $400 in 12 hours. The only way to for us to make that kind of money and sell at low prices was to have lots of items to sell, and the only way for that to happen is to have a cluttered house and do a whole house purge.
That said, I’m hoping I’ll never again have enough stuff to make a garage sale worthwhile. The inside of our house is looking much better now, and the garage feels like new again. We still have some more purging to do, but I’m happy to be done with the bulk of the first phase. I have a feeling that it gets easier from here, especially given our successes to date.
What have your experiences been with garage sales, either hosting or shopping? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments section.
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