by MomKat Kathleen Albin

Garage sale people, it’s time to start your engines! After a long sleepy winter, what better way to welcome spring than to clean out the garage, attic, shed or barn and make some money doing it? I won’t lie to you – it’s hard work, and lots of it, requiring time, planning, sacrifice (Awww, do I really want to sell Uncle Hilly’s old tackle box?), organization, tables, and cooperation from the weather. If that sounds like a lot, and you’re not quite sure where to start, read on for pointers that will assist you in a successful garage sale.

Let me say, I don’t offer this sage advice without credentials. I was groomed by the best – my mother. The woman practically invented garage sales. She lived on a farm in northern Wisconsin, and months ahead of time, she’d inform me she was planning to have a ‘barn’ sale come summer. She was known far and wide for her sales; I dare say they were extravaganzas; friends, neighbors, vacationers & repeat customers were the norm. We hosted them in the hay barn, and would run it for days. I remember one year when a black sedan pulled up, and three guys in tuxedos got out. We thought they were the Mafia. The one bought a lovely knick knack, and when we couldn’t contain our curiosity anymore, he explained he and his entourage were on their way to his wedding and he wanted to pick up a little bauble for his bride to be. A man smitten, to be sure.

Knowing they can also be memory makers, I now offer tips of the trade that are guaranteed to make your garage sale go smoothly and ensure success.

1) DO start early - keep a collection box going at all times around the house in which to throw items you’re tired of looking at, picking up, or have outlived their usefulness to you.

2) DO beat the competition - If you live in the country, the best time to have your sale is in early spring when garage sale shoppers are chomping for sales to start up. Inform your neighbors of your intention in case they might want to have a sale as well. This makes it more alluring and worthwhile for people to drive the distance. Be aware that once the ‘in-town’ sales get going, your window of opportunity is diminished greatly.

3) DO organize your items on tables – preferably by category, to the best of your ability. This makes for easier browsing instead of spreading things out on the ground. Large items don’t need to be on tables, of course, but strategic placement where people can see it is important. Hang clothes, purses, pictures, if possible. Try to unpack boxes instead of leaving them for people to rummage through. The exception to this is your ‘FREE’ box, which should contain your items not worthy of a price tag, but might be of value to someone, somewhere. While it’s impolite to be pushy to your shoppers, it is okay to point out the free box, indicating there might be something in there just for them.

4) DON’T put non-working items in your sale to pass off to unsuspecting shoppers – If you were peeved someone sold you an iron that didn’t work, be the one to dispose of it (hopefully in your recycle bin). Honesty is important!

5) DON’T misrepresent – If you don’t have enough to make it a good size sale, try to get friends & family to go in with you or hold off until you have more. There’s nothing more aggravating for a shopper than to show up at a sale that was advertised as ‘HUGE YARD SALE’, only to find a table or two with a few sparse items. Respect your clientele enough to make it worth their while to visit your sale.

6) DO realize there is a line between outdated and vintage – You might have paid a pretty penny for that wooden lamp back in 1984, but it’s old stuff now, opposed to the classic mahogany end table it set on, which retains value through the years. Remember it is a garage sale, and people are looking for deals. Be willing to bargain!

7) DO advertise and place readable signs at various locations – Be friendly, be sociable, and welcome your customers. It’s a good time for everyone!

At the end of the day when you’ve closed shop, counted your money and cleaned up, the satisfaction can’t be beat. Rest assured it won’t be long before you’re anticipating your next great garage sale adventure.