I love garage sales. It’s a great way to save stuff from landfill by finding a new home or a new purpose for items. There is usually no packaging involved with your purchases and the chances of finding something unique are high. And, when a whole community unites, like for the Poowong Pickers Festival garage sale trail, the local economy is boosted, reuse is promoted, people mingle with neighbours and connect with others, as well as get some fresh air and exercise.

Poowong Pickers Festival Garage Sale 2015
One of the garage sales on the Poowong Pickers Festival Garage Sale Trail.

As a seller, garage sales are also a great way to declutter, have fun, and make some pocket money. On average households make $273, but many participating in the Poowong Pickers Festival make between $400 and $900.

Almost any item will sell at a garage sale if it is a bargain. When I speak to sellers after every Poowong Pickers Festival they are always surprised about which things sold and which didn’t. So if you don’t want an item, put a price on it and see what happens. You can sell small items all the way up to bicycles, exercise equipment, furniture and even old cars if the deal is right!

More of the garage sales at the Poowong Pickers Festival 24th October 2015.
More of the garage sales at the Poowong Pickers Festival 24th October 2015.

In planning the Festival for the past three years I have discovered there are things you can do to increase your chances of success. Below is a list of tips and suggestions to help you make the most of your garage sale. The tips have been provided in sequential order to make it easier for you to plan ahead.

Two weeks prior to sale:

  • Start gathering items for sale. Go through those boxes, the attic, shed, closet, garage, kitchen drawers, bookshelves, magazines, toy boxes, and select items you can sell. Then walk from room to room in your home, identifying things you no longer need.
  • People will buy just about anything. While there are certain hot sellers (children’s toys, old tools, books, antiques, and simple kitchen items, for example) don’t be afraid to try to sell things you can’t imagine anyone buying. Remember the quote: “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”
  • Save newspapers to wrap fragile items, and have a stash of bags handy for customers to use (this is a good way to reuse plastic bags, paper bags or give away reusable bags if you have a collection larger than you need).
  • Start thinking about how will you display your items? Will you need cardboard boxes, tables and clothes racks?
  • Think about who will help you on the day? This way you can take a bathroom break when you need one, and you can keep things in order.
Great bargains will be found at garage sales.
Great bargains will be found at garage sales.

One week prior:

  • Tidy up your yard and/or garage. Garage sale customers are more likely to buy (and to buy at higher prices) if it looks like the merchandise came from a good home with owners that care for their things. They’re also more likely to feel comfortable stopping and browsing if your sale space is attractive and clean.
  • Wash and clean everything. People won’t touch it if it is not clean.
  • If you can, start setting out tables and clothes racks and placing items out.
  • Keep like items together, books on one table, kitchen stuff on another, etc.
  • If you keep supermarket produce bags, a handy use for them would be to group small items that are hard to put a sticker on, such as little toys with extra pieces, also for jewelry. If you don’t keep bags use boxes.
  • Have an electrical outlet or extension cord available so that people can test electric products. You’ll get a better price if people can verify that something actually works, and if something doesn’t work, you shouldn’t try to sell it as if it did.
  • Get plenty of change and small notes to make transactions easier.

Pricing:

  • Do have a price for everything; it can put people off if they can’t see what price you are asking.
  • Price things realistically. When you are pricing, look at each item with critical eyes, and ask yourself what you would want to pay for it, if you wanted to buy it. Coming up with an amount you would like to get for each item isn’t realistic. The item is only worth what someone would really pay for it.
  • If you have a lot of similar items that are all the same price (e.g. books), don’t bother pricing them individually. Put them all in one box and label the box, or make a sign that indicates that all items will be the same price: e.g. glasses – 50 cents, hardcover books – $2., etc.
People will buy anything - including these wine barrel rings.
People will buy anything – including these wine barrel rings.

Day of the sale:

  • Keep your display visually attractive. Many potential customers will drive by first, and you want to make your sale looks intriguing and well organized so that they stop. Show your goods as much as possible so that people driving by will see your goods instead of a bunch of cardboard boxes. Place premium items close to the street. Arrange your tables so items are neatly displayed with enough room to allow people to comfortably inspect them. If you want to sell as much as possible, you should try to keep things looking nice. Keep all books with spines showing. Keep all clothes on hangers. Instead of folding clothes on tables, hang them from a clothes rack or line. Hanging clothes are easier to look through, and you won’t have to worry about refolding them.
  • Put your sign out the front of your house. Ensure you are organised – do you have a way to carry the money around with you?
  • Lock up areas you want to keep people away from. If someone really needs to go to the bathroom, direct them to the nearest public building. You are under no obligation to let anyone into your house, even to use the toilet, but you might consider making exceptions for small children or the elderly.
  • Be prepared for early arrivals.
  • Have FUN and be an active seller. Say hello and goodbye. Greet your customers with a friendly smile as they arrive. You want people to feel comfortable at your sale. Tout your wares proudly. Offer package deals (e.g. glasses to go with a blender). Don’t just hope things will sell themselves. Grab a friend to help you out and play some music—the happier and nicer you look, the more likely it is people will stick around.
  • When people purchase a breakable, offer to wrap it up in newspaper.
  • Be prepared to negotiate price. The more flexible you are the better your chances of selling your stuff. The phrase “make an offer” can be used.
  • If you’ve still got things left over during the final scheduled hours of the festival, go ahead and reduce the prices as much as you can and throw in a few deals like ‘buy one get one free’ or bulk discounts. Do everything you can to make the sale, especially if you plan on throwing away or giving away the items anyway.
  • Pack away anything remaining. You can continue to sell the items online, or donate them to friends or family or an opportunity shop.
  • When the sale is over, count your profits and feel good about giving items a new lease on life. It is a great feeling to see others delight in finding just what they were looking for amongst your unwanted stuff.

You can have a garage sale at any time of year but if you want to get in on the garage sale trail action, and you are not near Poowong, you can register for the National Garage Sale Trail event each year in October.

The 2015 Poowong Pickers Festival Garage Sale Trail Map.
The 2015 Poowong Pickers Festival Garage Sale Trail Map.
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