Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Easier Garage Saling - Part 1

For the last ten years, I've either hosted or participated in a garage sale. As I've thought the process through, I've honed it and come up with some strategies that save me time and energy year after year. During my last sale I thought, "Hey! Maybe some garage sale newbie could use what I've learned." While there's no such thing as an easy garage sale, this could be your short-cut to a smoother sale.  

Choose a day with pretty weather. I'm a fair weather garage sale hostess. Partly because my garage was built for a model T and partly because I do this for fun as much as money. If storm clouds are hovering, no one's having fun. There aren't enough tarps in the world. So plan a date, and invite your friends with the caveat that you'll postpone if weather comes up. 

Don't do it alone. There's nothing sadder than a one family garage sale. Unless you're moving overseas or you belong on hoarders, the result will be a lonely individual manning an eight foot table of stuff and a smattering of things on the lawn. It's heartbreaking. Especially when you know it could be this bustling sale that people actually stop for. Not to mention your junk going away while you hang out with your favorite people! The easiest way to invite and communicate with your peeps is a Facebook invite. I ask that if they'd like to contribute to respond with when they can man the sale and how they're marking their stuff. Identical stickers get confusing. More about that in the next tip. I also let them know they can drop off of stuff the evening before the sale from 6-10. 

Keep track. I have a spiral-bound notebook just for garage sale tracking. It got a scrap paper/washi tape treatment a few years in, "so it will be easy to spot." That's what I told my husband but he knew better. I just like how spazzy it looks. I've had anywhere from 8-10 people in one sale, so I turn the book sideways and write each name at the top, often using two pages. When items are purchased, I put the sticker in that person's "column" and we tally at the end. If you can't get a sticker off, simply write the amount. When a person's buying several things, it's easier to put all the stickers on your card table or whatever you use as your check-out station and charge the person. After they leave, you can record how much goes to each person. Also, since sellers often buy from each other, you can write "-2.00" on the buyer's column and "2.00" on the seller's. 

Free with purchase. With several families, we gather stuff that's not worth selling, but we'd like someone to use or enjoy. That's when we chose two boxes or totes to place next to check-out. They're both labeled Free with Purchase, but we divide our junk by what would interest children verses adults. I was skeptical when I read this idea, but it's just a lot of fun. Kids paw through while parents shop and grown-ups are happily surprised by what they can find for nothing.

Recognizable signs. All your signs should be one light color so people know they reference the same sale and writing should be black or dark blue. Visibility is most important, so I post the necessary information as big as possible. Rather than fitting big words like Garage or even Yard, just say, "Sale!!" This leaves more space for the address and arrows. If someone doesn't have time to read the address, they can start by following the arrow. I don't waste space by writing the time either. If the signs are up, we're open. When the sale's over, or about to be, I send someone around to collect them. If you use your signs year after year, make a numbered list of intersections where each gets posted. I write the corresponding number in pencil on the bottom corner of the sign so I can see them up close, but not from the street.

Snacks and food. On the morning of the sale, I make coffee for my friends and set out some guilt-free snacks. Bowls of pretzels, strawberries and popcorn are what I picked last time because nobody likes grumpy salespeople. Or friends. When there are lots of kids coming over, I supply ingredients for pbjs and the grown-ups get take-out for lunch. As long as one adult can slip inside to make sandwiches and one can make a fast food run, we're good.                                                                                                                                In summary, there'll be an element of chaos to your morning when customers ask about an item that didn't get priced and someone else wants to check out, but you can't find the money bag and you're thinking how SOMEbody needs to go post signs already. It happens. Every time. But, then there's the afternoon when you get a few lulls. That's what I love best because you sit around chatting aimlessly with friends and it's bliss. Check back for part two! I'll discuss displaying items and list the supplies that are best to have on hand. 

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