Hands down, the biggest benefit to de-cluttering is the ability to live a simple, stress-free lifestyle.
But the benefit that comes in at a close second? Turning your unwanted, discarded clutter into cash. And if you can do that quickly and efficiently, the better.
And when you're de-cluttering, you obviously want to make as much money as you can. A garage sale is faster than posting items one-by-one online through sites like eBay and Craigslist, or apps like LetGo, even if you sell it for less. This way, you can get something through a fairly quick process. Plus, there's a cathartic, instant gratification as you see each item go to a good home while also pulling in a couple bucks.
But there's a successful way and a not-so-successful way to have a garage sale. Here are my tips to ensure you earn top dollar for as many items as possible.
1. De-clutter, De-clutter, De-clutter!
If you are going to take the time and effort to host a garage sale, make it as worth your while as possible. Get as much out of your house that isn't serving you as you can. Go through as many rooms as possible. It doesn't need to be all in one day; take all winter if you need to.
Then, put the items in a designated box/bag and get them out of the room. Remember, if you don't love it, it is clutter.
2. Sort As You Go
As you go room-by-room, keep like items together. This will make it much easier on yard sale day to organize and set up what you have to sell. It will also help you figure out exactly how many tables or how much space you'll need. In fact, I know some people that take less than an hour to set up an entire garage sale using this method!
Not only will you save a tremendous amount of time, but you can really maximize your profits. Think of it this way: if someone stopped at your garage sale looking for a coffee maker, and they go through all the kitchen items you have on one table, but never see the coffee maker for sale in the back, you lost that sale. To make setting up your garage sale even easier, organize as you de-clutter; put all kids clothing in one bag, your clothing in a separate bag, kitchen utensils in another box, etc.
3. Pick a Date and Start Advertising
Pick a date that works for your area and where you live. For example, say you live near a soccer field, and hundreds of families come out each Saturday in the fall, passing by your house. Or you know that most people won't be around during Labor Day Weekend. Knowing your area and how it works will help you settle on a good sale date.
Once you have a date, start advertising as soon as possible. There are plenty of free places to advertise that reach a variety of people, like Facebook groups, Craigslist, church/neighborhood newsletters, local newspapers and more. Get creative in your advertising. The more people you reach, the more people will know about your sale and the more traffic you will have.
4. Make Signs
A lot of them! Make sure the signs are easy to see and to read from a distance. I love using a neon colored poster board with a thick black sharpie marker. Think about the flow of traffic around your home, and place the signs in the high-traffic areas where people traditionally stop, like an intersection or stop sign. They can safely read your sign and get all the details without causing a traffic jam or accident.
And what should you put on the signs? The date, the time and the address (street name is fine). If you have any big ticket items, like furniture, include that because it may draw people out. But overall, keep the sign simple.
5. Have Change Ready With a Solid System
You'll need lots of singles and quarters. It's worth going to the bank ahead of time to get these. You don't want to lose a sale because you can't make change!
Most importantly, take an inventory of your cash stash before your sale, so you know exactly what your profits are. I suggest having one person be in charge of the money to keep it simple and organized. Have a cash box at or another system that everyone helping is clear about. I have a friend that uses an old Home Depot apron for carrying change, plus note paper and a pen so she can record who's stuff in her family sold and who should get the profits. This way, she can make change instantly for any sale and take stock of what sold, then she tucks the bigger bills away for safe-keeping.
6. Pre-price Everything
I had a garage sale and thought, "I'll just negotiate." FAIL. It was terrible, and I learned my lesson. My neighbor had a sale and didn't have a single item priced over $2 and made $800!! The difference? She priced everything. I mean, EVERYTHING. Whether it was $0.25 or $2 - she priced it.
When you do this, though, remember to price appropriately. This is a garage sale, and shoppers are looking for a deal. I know its a bummer to get $5 on something you paid $50 for - trust me - but, once you sell everything, it will be much more than $0. Keep that in mind and remember that people will want to negotiate regardless of the price, so price appropriately.
7. Have Everything Laid Out and Labeled
Remember what your customers can't see, they won't buy, so put as much on display as possible! For multiple items of similar things, like books, try putting them all in a box with a label that says something like, "All Children's Books, $1 each."
Think of how a store organizes their products. Try to hang as many clothes as possible, just like a real store would. Your customers will feel like the clothing is well taken care of, and it will be much easier to sell because it's simply easier to swipe through clothing on a rack than dig in a pile of old, wrinkled clothing. The easier it is for your customer to shop, the more likely they will buy.
And again, use labels or obvious signs. For example, write things up that might say:
- Women's Clothing Size M - Shirts $2/Each, Pants $1/Each
- DVDs - $0.50/Each
- Home Decor - $1/Each
With signs for like items, you can price a lot more product quicker than individual labels.
8. Get Chatty
Have fun!! You have a morning dedicated to getting this stuff OUT, making some extra cash and having an organized, less-cluttered home that will melt away your stress - so have fun with it! It's important to show your customers that they are welcome, so chat with them and be friendly. They are going to be more likely to buy if they feel comfortable and valued than if you just sit in the corner and don't talk. You don't have to be pushy, just nice. When a customer arrives, greet them with a warm "Thanks for coming today! How are you? I'm Amy, and feel free to ask me any questions you may have." That's all you need to make a great impact.
If you have kids, this is a great opportunity to do a family event. Depending on their age, they can sell lemonade on the side, they can help you count change - whatever you are most comfortable with them doing. If they are too young, schedule plans for your child so you don't have to stress over them and selling your stuff. Don't let a garage sale be a chore - this should be fun for you!
9. Have a Plan For What Doesn't Sell
There will always be items that do not sell. Have a plan for these so you're not stuck with a cluttered garage, too. There are several large companies that will do curb-side pick-up for most items. Schedule this BEFORE your garage sale, so that they can have you on the schedule ASAP. In the Charleston area, I suggest using the Kidney Foundation or My Sisters House.
10. Enjoy Your Hard Work!
Pay off your debts, go out for an amazing dinner - just celebrate! You deserve it! Garage sales are a lot of work and effort, but you have accomplished SO much.
But whatever you do, just don't go buy more things that add clutter to your house and make you host another garage sale! : )