Time for annual family garage sale

Warmer weather is here to stay and, it’s time for the annual chore of spring cleaning.

One great way to earn spending money – and rid the house of old junk – is to hold a garage sale.

Garage sales are extremely popular. Millions of people attend them each year.

If you don’t think rummage and garage sales are popular, think again. Local communities even devote special days for mass garages sales.

For many people, going to weekend garage sales is a family event. They search of bargains, hunt for treasures, and others simply enjoy browsing and shopping around.

Garage sales also are a good way to recycle usable items.

Is there a right way and a wrong way to hold a garage sale? Probably not. Still, experts on such matters offer the following advice to first-timers:

What to sell

You can sell almost anything at a garage sale: books, clothing, computers, furniture, appliances, bicycles, rugs, tools, knick-knacks, dolls and other toys.

Clean out the basement, attic, their rooms, or other parts of the house to find goods to sell. The items should be clean and in good working order.

If you decide to sell goods from friends and neighbors, keep a good inventory list of what belonged to whom.

Place colored dot stickers on merchandise, then as the item is sold, record the sale price. All red-dot items, for example, might come from the Jones. At the end of the garage sale, just add up each family’s proceeds.

As you prepare for the garage sale, invest a little more time cleaning and repairing the sale items. By doing this, you will increase interest from potential buyers and possibly the profits as well. Experts offer the following tips to help clean common garage sale items and hopefully put a few more pennies in your pocket.


Be sure to wash or dry clean all clothing before a garage sale to make sure it is clean and spot free. Also, clothing is much easier to look through when it is on hangers.

Wood furniture

Check wood furniture for any scratches that may have occurred during storage. If any scratches are noticeable, select a wax crayon or paste shoe polish that matches the color of your wood. Apply it to the scratch to hide the damage. Then, buff the area with clean, soft cloth. Deep scratches will normally require professional repair.

Children’s toys

For plastic toys, wash with hot soapy water and a sponge. Then, rinse thoroughly and dry. When washing stuffed animals, put the toy in a pillowcase and tie a knot at the top before placing it in the washing machine.

Leather purses/wallets

Use a high-quality leather cleaner/conditioner that is rich in natural oils to keep leather clean and supple; be sure to test product on a discrete area prior to use. Also, avoid using cleaning fluid, shoe cream, saddle soap and mink oil, which contain ingredients that may damage leather.


Pricing is not a science, but rather an art. You want to sell the items, not give them away. You should be willing to bargain – but not so aggressively that you end up keeping too much junk at the end of the sale. Remember, a garage sale is a success if you end the day with nothing.

Here’s how to price items. For larger items, such as a television, figure out approximately what you would pay today if the item were new. Then, take off 75 percent of that price. For example, an old blender that would cost $100 today can sell for $25. Remember, these are items in good working order.

Items that have less of a perceived value, such as old clothing and books, should be priced to sell fast. A dollar or two should suffice, unless the item is in great condition.

Remember, people who go to garage sales tend to bargain. So if a television is worth $10, you may want to mark it $15 so you can leave room for negotiation. Write the prices on stickers that you put on the merchandise. Or you can also use masking tape.


In choosing the day for your garage sale, avoid holidays and be sure to think of a ”rain date” – an alternative date in case it’s bad weather.

The local newspaper is a good place to start.

The ad should look like this:

“Huge garage sale. Furniture, clothes, televisions, baseball cards, toys… Must see to believe. Must sell everything. Sat-Sun. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., 111 Elm St.”

It’s important to state the address and time of the sale, but don’t include a phone number if you don’t want to be bothered. Make the garage sale sound unique and large without misleading people. If you are moving, include that. Place the ad just a few days before the sale begins.

You can also advertise with signs. You should make bright, easy-to-read signs, and post them at busy corners and intersections. Bright yellow signs written with black markers show up well.

It’s also a nice idea to let the neighbors know that you are planning a garage sale and that a lot of people will be parking on the street.

Getting ready

Before the sale, make the merchandise look as good as possible. It will sell for a higher price if it’s clean and nicely displayed.

Also, remember that people often cruise by in their cars to check out a sale and see if it’s worth stopping for. Make sure you place great items in visible spots. If there are electrical items for sale, have an outlet nearby to test them.

Negotiating with buyers

Remember that bargaining is just a friendly exchange. It can be fun for everybody.

But what happens if a buyer is tough? For example, you may have marked a small table $15, but dropped the price to $10 while negotiating. The buyer, however, says that $8 is his last offer.

The first thing to remember is not to lose your cool. Keep sight of the goal: to sell everything at the best price possible. You get nothing by standing firm at $10 and having a potential buyer walk away. It’s better to relent and sell for $8, especially near the end of the day.

Some shoppers will collect a pile of items and ask you to come up with a total discount. If this is the case, consider a 20 percent discount to be a fair offer.