Our basement was crowded with toys, games, puzzles, children’s books and more, the result of two sons, two sets of grandparents, multiple doting aunts and uncles, hand-me-downs from a dozen cousins, birthdays, Christmases and a house of people who keep everything. Phew! It was time to get serious about cleaning up, so we held a garage sale. Here’s what I learned.
- Let go of the concept of value. People think they’ll make a pile of money at a garage sale, but let me tell you, that’s not the case. Garage sale people just want a bargain, and really, YOU just want to get rid of things you no longer need, don’t you? So price items low, and accept offers that are even lower.
- Team up with your neighbours to make it worthwhile for cars to stop.
- Talk to people. Some are looking for a particular item, and you might be able to pull it out. Or, you’ll save them time by saying you don’t have it, but your neighbour does.
- Clear out the front half of your garage. If it’s raining (or threatening to) when you set up, you can arrange the books, clothing and other things that need to stay dry in a way that makes it clear THIS half is for sale and THAT half is not. Leave plastic toys, patio furniture and other things that can handle getting wet on the driveway or lawn to help draw attention to your sale.
- Think about timing. There will be fewer competing sales on a holiday weekend, but there might also be fewer buyers. Or, the usual number of garage sale fanatics — and there seem to be many of them! — will be desperate for a sale. They won’t be any more willing to pay higher prices, though.
- Enlist your family. They can help sort items and set up, create and put up posters, help buyers move heavy or bulky items, and take down the posters after the sale. Of course, that means you’ll share the proceeds.
- The war against clutter is never over in a House o’ Packrats like ours. Make an effort every day to stay on top of things. Regularly set aside clothing you don’t wear, and when you get a call asking for donations to Goodwill or Salvation Army, always say you have some. Look for opportunities to give away things your family has grown out of, including to neighbours who have children the right age.
Some of the same principles (or their opposites) apply to freelancers:
- Team up with fellow entrepreneurs so you aren’t just selling your own specialty but can partner on bigger projects. I’ve partnered with a graphic designer to provide the writing piece of a project he designed, for example, and with another writer on work that was more than one person could handle.
- Talk to people. They may be looking for expertise that you have or someone you know has. From talking to people at networking events, walking my dog and generally going about my usual life, I’ve been referred for work and referred others, found a handyman, shared some great resources and found some terrific restaurants.
- Value is everything. If someone balks at your price, don’t immediately drop it, unless you can offer a reduced service for that price. People find the budget for a product or service that has value to them. If you can be “had” on price, then what you offer is just another commodity that goes for the lowest price, and that’s no way to run a business.
Have you held a garage sale? Let me know if you learned any interesting lessons!
I love garage sales and I love a great bargain! I agree that prices have to be super low or people will simply walk away. I’ve been to some sales where the prices were almost as high as in shops. You CAN make money from your own sale, but it is the result of high volume at low prices. When you add everything up, you might make a few hundred dollars. But you have to have tons of great stuff on offer. Nothing is worse than a depressing, measly few boxes of junk set out, unless it’s the end of the day of a big sale.
This post seems like a good opportunity to let Sue’s readers know that they can read her take on antique markets in the summer issue of Escarpment Views. The big brother of garage sales, antique & junk markets can also span the price range from low to eyebrow raising. Sue has written a charming article that makes you want to get up early & prowl.
Gloria, thanks for the comment and the plug! I admit to finding antique markets way more fun than garage sales. Maybe it’s a reflection on the contents of the garages around my ‘hood?