I hate to admit this, but in my early 20s when I had my first garage sale, the very first customer browsed my paltry tables and asked, “When did this sale start? It sure is picked over.”
Hmmm. The very first customer.
He was right. I did not have nearly enough “stuff,” and what I did have was pretty lame. So my first piece of advice for anyone wanting to host a yard sale-garage sale is to have plenty of merchandise – good merchandise.
The best strategy is to start getting ready early by gathering unneeded items from every nook and cranny of the house: closets, basement, garage, attic, under the bed, in the back of drawers.
I say look everywhere for things to get rid of. No mercy.
For example, when Ben Drury and Sarah Saussy prepared for their recent East Nashville yard sale, they started trolling for merchandise weeks before.
The goal of most of these sales is twofold: One is to make some extra money, but the other, equally important objective is to clean out your house of unneeded and unwanted items – sort of the Marie Kondo effect.
“Our motivation was to get rid of things,” Saussy said, suggesting pricing items as you go instead of waiting until the last minute.
Here are some others tips for holding a successful yard sale:
• Once you have set the date and started gathering items, advertise everywhere you can: newspapers, Craigslist, Facebook, NextDoor, etc. And if you have items you think will be of particular interest, mention a few of them in the notices.
Also put up signs a day or two before the sale, making sure that your lettering is big enough for passersby in cars to see.
• Make it a multifamily sale by teaming up with friends or neighbors. The downside is that you all may buy each other’s stuff, but the upside is that a multifamily sale is a bigger draw and can be more fun, easier and safer.
• Have a plan for what you will do with the money you make at the sale. You could put it toward a vacation or something like a TV or new sofa you want for your home. It makes it easier to part with items that you might be reluctant to sell.
• Have cash on hand – small bills and change – and use an apron or deep pockets to keep the money on your person (as opposed to keeping it in a box).
• Have a measuring tape and an outlet for shoppers to test electronics.
• Price your items to sell, but be willing to negotiate. Try to put a price on every item so that shoppers have an idea of where to start making offers.
• Create a conducive shopping atmosphere by making your sale items look attractive. If you have clothing, find a way to hang pieces. If you have art, make it stand out. Drury and Saussy added some background music for shoppers to enjoy.
• Have a bid box, where shoppers can leave their contact information and make an offer on larger items. That way, if the item has not sold by the end of the day, you still have a potential buyer in the mix. I just hate it when a sale is over and I am kicking myself for not having contact information for whoever showed interest in a certain item that I am now stuck with.
• Make conversation with your customers. Ask what they are looking for, how many sales they have been to that morning, etc. You should also let them know that you are willing to negotiate.
• Get the children involved by selling cookies or doughnuts and drinks like lemonade or water to shoppers. It is a fun money lesson and shoppers seem to enjoy the little entrepreneurs.
• Have a “free pile” of things you want to get rid of. This is a great way to get rid of things without dumping them in the trash and sending them to the landfill. The last sale I had, we put out a box of free items, including coat hangers, plastic cutlery from takeout food, an old printer and a few other random things. Mercifully, they were all gone by the end of the day. A friend put an older model stationary bike out with a free sign, and it disappeared, too.
• Have a plan for getting rid of the items that don’t sell. Although some of the thrift stores will make residential pickups, not many will come on the day of your sale. So, if you want the leftovers gone that day, it is best to find a way to deliver the donations to thrift organizations yourself.
• For safety reasons, do not let anyone into your house. If someone asks, just say no.
Mary Hance, who has four decades of journalism experience in the Nashville area, writes a weekly Ms. Cheap column. She also appears Thursdays on “Talk of the Town” on NewsChannel 5. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/mscheap.