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Let’s face it. You’ve been accumulating all this “stuff” for years, and you’ve finally decided it’s time to get rid of some of it. Why go to all the trouble of hauling your stuff away, when people will pay good money to do it for you at a garage sale? And if you’re going to engage in that great American pastime, then there are some things you can do to ensure that your garage sale is an all-around success.

You might be wondering exactly what you will be able to sell at your garage sale. Experience indicates that practically anything is fair game. Even veteran garage sellers never cease to be amazed at the items people will purchase, sometimes not even knowing what the item is! This is surely where the adage, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” originated. However, here is a partial list of “sure things”: baby items, books, antiques and collectibles, crafts, clothing, luggage and toys (especially playground and name brand items like Barbie Dolls). Don’t worry if everything isn’t in perfect condition. That isn’t expected at a garage sale. Of course, if you have items that still have the original price tag, they can command a higher price; but don’t expect to get what the stores charge; it won’t happen.

What can you expect people to pay for all this stuff? First, ask yourself if you really want to make some serious money for all of your hard work, or would you practically pay to have all that junk carted off for you? If the latter is true, then simply price everything ridiculously low, and you will probably be finished by noon. However, if you want your friends’ mouths to drop open when you tell them how much you made, then the following guidelines will help.

Most experts suggest charging between 10 and 20 percent of the retail price of the item. While this is a good rule of thumb, there are exceptions to that rule, and certain items are bound to be more or less popular depending on their condition, the area you live in and perhaps the time of year. Clothing tends to be consistently priced at most garage sales. Charge no more than $1 for t-shirts, jeans $1 to $3. Shoes (in good condition) go for around $2 - $5 a pair. Brand names can bring a little more if in good shape as can baby clothes, which are always a hot seller. Ask yourself what the item would be worth to you if you were the buyer. You might also check the classifieds to see what the item sells for there, especially with bigger ticket items like furniture and stereo equipment. Subtract a little for items with stains or in need of repair. Always price your merchandise a little higher than you are willing to settle for. That way you can come down on the price, making the buyer feel that they have gotten a real bargain. Garage sale buyers are notorious hagglers, so be prepared. Most other bric-a-brac, books and small toys could be priced at 25 to 50 cents. Go a little higher on dinnerware, glasses or anything sold as a complete set. Other than that, just frequent a few other garage sales in advance of your own, and see what your competition is charging.

The best days for a garage sale are Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but be sure to check the weather. Go for two days if possible, three if you have a lot of junk to get rid of. You’ll need to advertise your garage sale if you expect to attract a crowd and the newspaper is the place to start. Advertise on Wednesday for a Thursday sale, Thursday for a Friday sale, etc. What you don’t sell on Friday can be marked down on Saturday. Be sure to put this in your ad. You may not need to advertise on Saturday, because your sale will be over before most people read about it.

Include directions, dates and hours of your sale, and dangle a few carrots – include in your ad any big-ticket items like antiques or furniture. This is also a good time to warn you about the “early birds,” who will be the first on your doorstep and will offer you $50 for everything, only to head straight to the nearest flea market where they will resell it all for $500! Make generous use of signs. Put them on every major intersection within a 2-mile radius of your sale. Make the lettering large enough to see from a car. Drive around after you’re done and see if you can read your own signs. Make use of technology by printing up colorful flyers on your computer and by advertising on the Internet. A number of web sites will advertise your sale for free. Give flyers to family and friends, and post them on bulletin boards at work, at the Laundromat and anywhere else that will allow you to advertise your sale. Be sure to go back and remove everything when finished however, and these places will be more likely to let you advertise future sales. Don’t forget word of mouth as a powerful advertising ally. Talk up your sale to everyone you know. And when you are having your sale, mention any future sales you have planned to all of your customers. You may also want to consider a multi-family garage sale. The more items you have, the more interest there will be. You can also divide the costs and the manual labor.

Pay special attention to presentation. Make sure your customers can move easily through your traffic areas and have access to all of the merchandise. Use a clothesline for clothing, tables and benches for smaller items. Utilize space under tables as well. Put breakables out of the reach of kids. Display a clearly marked price on all items, preferably on masking tape. If multiple families are involved, mark each price tag with initials and save the tags to help you divide up the cash later. Display like items together such as lamps and end tables, glass sets and coasters, stereo and speakers. Clothing should be neatly folded or hung. Take time to clean up your sale site and any dirty or old items before displaying. The better things look, the better they sell. Other things you will want to have on hand include extension cords and batteries for testing electronic items, change (paper money and coins), pens, paper, calculator, hangers, boxes, and plastic shopping bags for your customers. Unfortunately, in this day and age you need to keep your moneybox out of plain view. Keep some change in your pocket and the majority of your cash inside the house. Consider having a table for free items. No matter how worthless you think it is, someone will take it! Set up everything the night before to minimize your workload the morning of the sale. You might also want to hand out business cards advertising any other business venture you’re involved in. Garage sales are great places to make contacts and meet people. Maybe even let your kids get a taste of the business world by letting them set up a refreshment stand with lemonade or cookies. These go over big on hot, summer days!

Finally, don’t be afraid to “get hooked.” Many a person has entered the garage sale arena merely intending to clean out the attic, only to become an addict! I know of more than one person who provides a quite attractive second income with garage sales. Others do it merely as a hobby. Whatever your goal, when you see how much money can be made from stuff you were only going to throw out anyway, you will find yourself looking forward to your next garage sale.