Every year around this time I get inquiries about doing garage sales for people. They want everything done - from sorting and gathering to setting up, manning the sale, and cleaning up afterwards. The blunt response to this request is “You can’t afford me to do this…or any other Professional Organizer.”
Professional Organizers, or “POs”, are helpers and problem solvers by nature. It is hard to turn down business opportunities. But, the reality is, if we charge by the hour, you will end up owing us far more than your garage sale garnered. And, if we charge a percentage of sales, our rate becomes pennies per hour.
The harsh reality is that garage sales take a lot of work and effort and the results are not guaranteed. The proceeds are dependent on a number of variables:
Quality of goods
Quantity of goods
When these work together successfully, you make a nice chunk of change. When they don’t, you make numerous trips to charity drop-offs and the dump. What can you do to improve your chances of success?
Before the Sale:
Check your local laws. Some municipalities require a permit, police notification for traffic purposes, or limit/forbid signs. On the upside, you may find there is a scheduled community-wide garage sale guaranteeing increased publicity and traffic.
Inspect the quality of your goods and be realistic. If it is stained, torn, mildewed, moldy, smelly, or bug-infested, it is trash. If it is broken or missing pieces, consider trashing it. If you do decide to sell it for parts or think someone else can repair it, clearly mark the condition.
Clean your items. Wash them. Dust them. Vacuum them. Do whatever it takes to make them look presentable. It may take more time but will give a better overall impression and increase perceived value. How much would you pay for a dirty baby’s toy versus a clean one?
Price items clearly and realistically. You are not going to get back what you paid for them new. I will repeat that. You are not going to get back what you paid for the item new. It’s a garage sale! If you think you have something extremely rare, incredibly collectible, or very high end, find a more appropriate venue in which to sell them. The idea of a garage sale is to make a couple bucks off the stuff you have laying around and no longer want, need, or use. Ask yourself, “What would I reasonably pay for it at a garage sale?” and go from there.
During the Sale:
Arrange your items logically. Think “zones” like in a retail store – toys together, tools together, clothing together. Consider placing matching and complimentary furniture near each other. Small, easily stolen items should be closer to your or your “staff”. Yes, you need a staff. See below.
Have more than one person overseeing the garage sale. This is as much for safety as it is for convenience. To minimize theft of sale items or the cash box and make the event more enjoyable for everyone, recruit family or friends to assist in the sale. They can collect money, carry items to cars, and generally help keep an eye on things. Also, while we’re on safety, lock all exterior entries to your home. If someone needs the bathroom, escort them in and wait with them. Many homeowners have found their homes have been robbed while the garage sale was going on outside.
Discuss and define negotiating policy ahead of time. Garage sales attract hagglers and the “Quarter Crew”. Most hagglers love the bargaining game and mean no disrespect. The Quarter Crew, on the other hand, will offer you a quarter no matter what the price is. Their attitude is that you are going to donate what doesn’t sell so you might as well give it to them now. Expect this and have a plan. Maybe have a designated negotiator. This stops customers from playing sellers against each other. Or, agree to respond with, “We’ve only been open ‘x’ minutes/hours. We will be negotiating the last 2 hours of sale.” Some may walk, but most won’t.
After the Sale:
Lock up the money. You can count it later. The immediate priority is to finish getting rid of stuff.
Load up the unsold items and get them to the charity drop-off ASAP. This is where many people sabotage all their hard work by letting the unsold items back into the house. You did not want them before. You do not need them now. Go! Go! Go!
Celebrate your accomplishment. Now that everything is gone, congratulate yourself on a job well-done. No matter what the profits were, you’ve gained open space, reduced clutter, and quite possibly, improved your suntan.
Thanks for reading and make it a great weekend,