Scouring your home for saleable items takes time and you don’t want to rush the job. Make sure you give yourself enough time to thoroughly sort through items, organise them, develop a pricing strategy and advertise your sale.
Even tiny items, like miscellaneous buttons, unused canning jars or partially-used sewing thread, may have value to someone.
At this stage, it’s all about figuring out what you actually want to sell. Get some storage tubs or cardboard boxes to organise your items and set them aside for when you’ll have the sale.
Also, consider going in on a street-wide garage sale with your neighbours. Not only can you share any advertising costs, but you may also attract more bargain hunters if they all head to one area for their shopping.
Pick a few tentative dates and have everything ready to go for the first one. Don’t choose dates on long weekends when people are more likely to be away.
Opt for a day with good weather, so check the forecast a week prior to your sale. If it looks like rain, postpone, as you’re unlikely to host a successful garage sale when it’s wet. Equally, don’t pick a day that’s boiling hot either; no one wants to trudge around garage sales on a 40°C day.
It can be empowering to join a wider movement, and this can help with picking a date. For example, the Garage Sale Trail is a nationwide festival of garage sales hosted on specific weekends. It’s focused on sustainability by reusing and recycling second-hand items. Getting involved can make it easier to pick a date for your own sale, but the specific times might not suit everyone’s needs.
You may be able to get some local media attention if you’re creating a street or suburb-wide garage sale event. Alternately, start getting the word out yourself through advertising. Your advertising will set the tone for your garage sale, so take the time to think about it carefully.
Here are a couple of ways you can advertise your sale:
When writing your adverts, use engaging, descriptive words to craft your advertisement and entice more people to attend. If you’re selling old items, use terms like ‘vintage’ or ‘retro’ instead of ‘used’, or ‘toys and collectibles’ instead of just ‘toys’.
On the day of your garage sale, make sure you have lots of signage directing people to your place.
Try to keep your items organised and tidy in the lead-up to sale day. If they’re dusty, wipe them down with a damp cloth. Give clothes a quick wash and hang them out to dry, and try to keep them as wrinkle-free as possible. If there are clothing items of higher value, consider ironing them and putting them on hangers to display.
Polish silverware and metals to help them shine, and test any power tools or electrics to make sure they still work. People might only want a few things, but if these items are well-loved and looked after, they’ll be more desirable for potential shoppers.
When it comes to pricing your garage sale items, follow the ‘Goldilocks Rule’: not too high, not too low, but ‘just right’. Now that’s easier said than done, but with the right pricing strategy, you can make your garage sale a roaring success.
Do your research and head to other garage sales to see how things are priced. Hop online and compare prices for similar items on Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree and eBay.
There’s a very general rule that floats around garage sale pricing circles: price things at one-third of their ‘buy new’ price. This, of course, can’t be applied to everything. For instance, your 20-year-old television may have cost $600 new, but you’ll be lucky to give it away at your garage sale.
Take the time to labour over your layout. Consider where and how to place tables and items to best display them for sale, and give things space to make it easier for people to pick them up. Never have boxes of items that buyers need to pick through. Make sure the spines of books are easily readable and lay small items out individually so that they can be seen.
Create zones for different types of items, like clothing, toys, appliances, kitchen accessories, homewares and garden tools. That way, people can quickly and easily browse their areas of interest.
Make sure you leave enough space for people to move around; don’t make them feel crowded into a small space. Your garage sale can spill into your driveway and front lawn to give a greater sense of space.
Have power available for buyers to test whether electrical appliances actually work. If you have a standalone mirror, set it up so people can try on any clothes for sale, but just make sure it’s clearly marked ‘not for sale’.
To help encourage sales, use retail strategies like ‘buy one, get one free’ or a 10% discount for buying three or more of the same items. Offer twenty-minute blitz specials, like 25% off all kitchen items, and discount items heavily towards the end of the day.
You should always be prepared to haggle on prices, so give yourself a buffer on more valuable items. For example, if you want to sell a rocking chair for $50, price it at $70 instead; a customer might offer $35, but you may be able to negotiate them up towards $50.
Consider tables with blanket pricing, like ‘all items $3’. You can also keep track of how much things cost without putting individual prices on them by placing coloured sticky dots that correspond to particular values in each item (e.g. red for $1, green for $3, blue for $5).
Of course, nicely handwritten price tags connected with string can have a ‘rustic’ feel. It will take more time and effort but can help create a good look for your garage sale.
Make your garage sale a fun place to be by offering low-priced snacks and drinks for sale (buy them in bulk and on special). Put on a playlist packed with popular, upbeat music. Decorate your garage sale with splashes of colour; use colourful table clothes instead of leaving trestles bare. You can style your sale to suit your taste or current trends.
If it’s hot and sunny, try and set up in the shade, or set up a gazebo or marquee to create a more comfortable environment. In cold weather, lay out some rugs on the garage floor to help make it a cosy space.
Smiles get more sales. Be friendly, personable and approachable. Remember, these customers are taking your unloved, disused and unneeded items off to happy homes, so be excited that your ‘junk’ is finding new life.
Be willing to have a chat with people; welcome them when they arrive and ask them if there’s anything in particular they’re looking for. Strike up a conversation; not only will it help you meet people in your local community, but you can learn more about them and what they’re after.
Wear an apron with pockets or a cash bag on the day of your sale and walk around to make it easier for potential customers to buy items. Setting up a cash box is ok, but it’s risky; thieves can easily and quickly grab your hard-won takings if your cash box is left unattended.
It can be hard to know how much float (spare change) to carry. Generally, it pays to have more coins and smaller denominations (like tens and fives) rather than larger ones.
You want to be able to quickly and efficiently give your customers their change. If you’re not great at maths, carry a small calculator with you to make calculating change easier.
If you’re more concerned with decluttering your home than making a bit of money back, there are other ways to pass on your old things. Recycling, donating and sharing goods can help give these objects new life as second- or even third-hand items.
Consider the following alternatives to having a garage sale:
One last thing: Don’t forget to update your contents insurance following a garage sale. After you have decluttered, you should reassess your contents insurance needs to ensure you have the right amount of cover.