Every summer, I tackle the job of cleaning out our basement. My three boys have bins and bins of neglected toys behind the stairs. We also accumulate unused items all year round and these are tucked away in the laundry/storage room. I usually sort the toys and other items that we don’t need any longer and I give those to The Salvation Army, the Canadian Diabetes Association, or whatever charity would call first. Really, I wonder how they got my phone number, and once you give them your old clothes or unwanted items, they will call you occasionally. It's just bad that I don’t always have anything ready for them.
We had been really on a tight budget this past seven months since hubby had been out of work. (He’s working now, thank goodness!) So as I was sorting those toys, I thought, mmn, why don’t I hold a garage sale? I could use the extra money for buying school supplies and clothes. I tell you, my boys do shoot up like trees.
I’ve seen people in our neighbourhood hold garage sales. I rarely go, though. I didn’t have any idea on how to price my wares. But sis and brother-in-law go to these sales occasionally. So, I’ve asked for their help. They priced almost all of my merchandise.
Here are some tips that I have learned from them and from my recent experience as well: (Click on the images for a larger view.)
1. Find out if you need a permit. I was searching the internet on how to hold a garage sale and a few sites mentioned to first find out if your community requires you to have a permit. After asking around, I found out that I didn’t need one.
2. Clean the items. Dust or wipe with a damp cloth to make them look appealing.
3. Put small toys of the same kind in a bag. For instance, I put four “Toy Story” toys in a sandwich bag, price - $1.00/bag.
4. Time your garage sale around payday (the 15th or end of the month). People are more likely to buy if their wallets are full.
5. Clearly mark the items with labels or tags. I used masking tape.
6. Make signs that indicate the place (your street address), the date and time of the garage sale. I printed mine in big bold letters on a white bond paper and taped it to a corrugated cardboard.
7. Put your signs up on strategic spots around your neighbourhood. I put mine at intersections close to bus stops around our area.
8. Set up a table or two in the garage, yard, or driveway. I borrowed sis’ folding table and an old picnic table, which I covered with the colourful plastic table cover, which I used at my son’s last birthday party. Arrange your merchandise neatly on the table or on the floor around it if you don’t have enough space. One lady commented that I had a very nice set-up. Thank you very much.
9. Put up balloons or any markers in front of your house on the day of the sale. One customer said that the balloons helped her find my place.
10. Make sure you have lots of change – coins and small dollar bills.
11. Have lots of plastic bags ready.
12. Greet your customers with a hello and a smile and thank them even if they just browsed.
13. If they seem friendly, don’t hesitate to chat with them.
14. If you notice a customer constantly holding, flipping, or examining an item, go ahead and ask, “How much do you want that for?” I gave a 24 mini Bible board book set for $2.00 even if the price tag said $3.00.
15. You will have free time in between customers and you could use this time to read or write, or whatever it is that you do. I read six chapters of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (finished the book in twelve days) and four chapters of Carol Shields’ Unless. I wrote this piece (How I held a garage sale) during that free time as well.
16. Ask your older kids to watch the sale when you have lunch or when you need a break.
17. Any unsold items may be donated to a local charity or may be kept for the next sale.
My two days (two Saturdays) of garage sale had been a pleasant experience. I got to meet the people in my neighbourhood. Some are friendly and some are just like, “whatever.” I was quite surprised that about a quarter of the people I met during this time spoke French. (I’m sure they sounded French.) The proceeds weren’t that bad either.