clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:


Your teenager no longer uses the kid-size portable basketball goal, your size 10 clothes are way too snug, and the old meat grinder has been replaced by a spiffy food processor.

Your reading tastes have shifted to thrillers, but you have 16 boxes of romance books you'd love to get rid of.What can you do?

How about a garage sale? You'll make money and free up some space in your basement or attic.

You don't have to have a garage to have a garage sale. Items for sale can be displayed on a patio or even in your basement. Or, if you're assured of good weather, have a yard sale.

Carole Seibert of Evansville, Ind., has had at least one garage sale a year for the past 26 years.

She remembers her first one and the scruffily dressed woman who dropped by just as Seibert was getting ready to box up the items that had not sold.

"This woman apparently had gone down the alley scavenging things from garbage cans. I asked her what she would give me for all I had left. She gave me about $25 and probably resold a lot of it."

Over the years Seibert has learned a lot about conducting a garage or rummage sale. She says anybody considering a garage sale should know they will spend the most time cleaning out closets, drawers, attics and basements, trying to figure out what to sell.

Here are some of her tips:

- Use newspaper classified advertising, but make the ad brief: the date, time, address, describe a few key items and give simple directions.

- Use homemade signs to advertise. Seibert places hers within about a mile of her home. She puts up a sign near a neighborhood grocery store on the day of the sale.

"People who are going to the grocery have money in their pockets, so I figure they may spend some at my house." (Some communities have rules about posting such signs, so check with the police if you're unsure.)

- Restrict the sale to one day. "The best stuff is sold the first day. I think it's a waste of time to sit and try to sell the second day. It's just not profitable." She has her sales on Friday, which she considers the best day, but many people prefer weekends, when more potential buyers are free.

- If you want to start at 9 a.m., advertise a 10 a.m. starting time. Customers invariably will start to arrive at least an hour early. "Many of those who arrive early are dealers looking for certain things. They come with their vans or trucks."

- Furniture, specialty items (for example, exercise bikes, appliances) sell well. Other big sellers are books, baby furniture and clothes and jewelry.

Another big seller is women's lingerie. "I have found women don't like to spend money on underwear. Bras, slips and nightgowns really sell great."

Women's clothes sell well, too; larger sizes sell much better than small sizes, she says. She has found men's clothing doesn't sell well because women, the ones who usually go to garage sales, often are unsure about their men's sizes.

- Be careful when you're deciding what to sell. "I've been to other sales and have seen people sell really valuable items for practically nothing."

- Make sure you get your first cup of coffee before the day starts. Chances are you won't have time to get a cup after customers begin arriving.

- Set-up need not be elaborate. Seibert folds some items and places them on a large table and hangs clothing on a plumbing pipe installed specifically for her sales. In earlier years, her displays were more elaborate, but she says buyers don't care as long as they have easy access.

- Be sure to have plenty of change - both coins and $1 bills - before the sale. Although she once kept money in a cigar box, she now wears a carpenter's apron. That way the money always stays with her and the separate compartments help keep the change separate.

- Have an electrical outlet handy to show buyers that the appliances really work.

- Pricing is up to the seller. Seibert does not tag her items, preferring to dicker with customers to get the best price.

"My way is somewhat controversial, but I prefer to call the prices off my head. I have found that people sometimes are intimidated by set prices. In all these years I have never had a set price for anything I have sold."

She often takes unsold items to her church for rummage sales or to Goodwill, she says. "But I never give them junk. It's understandable that they don't want junk, either."