The Lazy Person’s Guide to Having a Garage Sale

As I’m sure I’ve said before, I am pretty lazy.  Not only am I pretty lazy, I’m also extremely busy.  Basically, I have neither the drive nor the time to have a garage sale.  Guess what?  I had one anyway!  Now, if you’re really good at being lazy, you figure out the easiest, most time-efficient way to get something done, and then you do it.  I think this garage sale went pretty well.  Here’s what I did.

Step One: Decide What to Sell

This sounds like an obvious step, but it is worth saying.  Go through EVERY ROOM IN YOUR HOUSE and see what you don’t need.  I did this while I was decluttering my house (if you’ve been following the posts, you’ve seen some evidence of this).  If you haven’t used it in a while and you could easily replace it for $20 or less, sell it.

Step Two: Advertise

If you’re going to have a garage sale, you want to make sure people will come.  If I had thought about it ahead of time, I would have put it in the newspaper.  As it is, my town has three or four facebook pages dedicated to selling and trading.  I put up pictures (we know that people are more likely to look at something if it has a picture than if it just has words), included my address, and that it was on Saturday (I left out the times, because I wasn’t really sure when we would end).  I made a post Friday, and Saturday morning.  If you have items you know will be popular, be sure to mention them in your post.

I also put up signs about 30 minutes before I wanted to start.  I would have preferred to put them up Friday evening, but I wasn’t in town all day.

Step Three: Prepare Labels

I decided to color-code my tags (I thought it would be easier, but now I wish I had just written prices).  I got a notebook and decided on nine different prices I would charge:

$0.25, $0.50, $1, $3, $5, $7, $10, $15, other

Usually, half the setup time of a garage sale is deciding what to charge for things.  I figured it would be easier to decide categories ahead of time, and it proved to be a massive lifesaver!  I scribbled a color next to each price, so I would know which color was which price (I did them in rainbow order for simplicity).  I bought a batch of white sticker-labels and scribbled each color on about 4 sheets of 15.  My other category, I decided left blank and would just write the price on the labels.

Step Four: Prepare Money

Always start with extra money.  We had a jar of coins already, so we didn’t have to go to the bank for rolls of quarters or anything, but you might have to!  Also start with plenty of ones and a few fives… some bigger bills are good just in case, too.  You’d be surprised by how many people have brought a $100 to a garage sale and bought $12 worth of stuff.

Step Five: Setup

This required getting up crazy early, which I did not enjoy.  I wanted to start at 8, so I got up at 6 to start putting things out.  I mentally mapped out where each price section would be in my driveway, and I started putting things in those areas.  This is when I fell in love with my decision to predetermine prices.  Now, I didn’t have to decide whether something was worth $3 or $4.  Only $3 was an option, so it went there.  It may not sound like much, but when you’re setting up a garage sale, price decisions can be extremely time consuming.  With a predetermined price system, it significantly cuts down both time and stress.  It’s a lot easier to decide if something is worth $5 or $7 than it is to decide if it’s worth $4-8.  I decided beforehand that the only “other” prices I would use were if the items could sell for more than $15 (like an entertainment center, a fairly new printer, and a nice mirror).

Once I had put most of the items in their respective places, I broke out the sidewalk chalk.  I drew dividing lines between the differently-priced items, then drew the prices in big numbers in front of each section.  Then, I easily went through each section and put a label on everything (that way I knew what the prices were when people brought me their items).

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Step Six: Smile!

Be happy to see people when they come.  Engage in conversation.  Tell them things about your items that would make them want them.  Also, be willing to haggle!  There are a lot of people who will come and ask if you’ll take less than marked for things.  Don’t feel obligated to give them what they want if they ask — you won’t hurt their feelings — but also remember that you aren’t going to get nearly as much for your things as you paid for them.

My husband and I had our garage sale not to make money, but to get rid of stuff that was cluttering our lives.  With that in mind, I tried to make people a lot of deals so they would buy things and I wouldn’t have to deal with them anymore.  Example: “That box of dishes you’re looking at is $1 per dish, but if you want them, I’ll give you all 17 for $10.”  Retail stores thrive on this fact: even if people don’t really want something, they’ll often buy it if they think they’re getting a deal.  It’s why JCPenny’s is always having “sales.”  I worked there one summer, and they have everything priced at more than it is worth, simply so they can put them “on sale” for what it’s actually worth, and everyone is happy because they’re “saving money”.  Make sense?

The Results

It made my heart happy to hear how many people liked my pricing system!  When I’ve helped with garage sales before, I tried to sort things by category.  I like the price system way better.

We sold a lot, but we had a lot left over, too.  We decided that, rather than try for yet another garage sale (this is actually our second — we had one last summer), we would donate what was left to the Boys and Girls Club.  We only kept what we figured we could sell either on one of the facebook pages or on Craigslist.

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In the end, there were only about seven things we kept, because we figured we could sell them online.
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We took out the seats of a 12-passenger van and filled it with items to donate.

Here are some clearer pictures of the sort-by-price system after the fact.

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What have you done to make your garage sales easier?

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