5 Things I Learned From Having a Garage Sale

October 17, 2017

garage sale tips

Let's be honest. I know you've probably read a ton of blog posts sharing garage sale tips and tricks. I know I have. But let me tell you, it doesn't really sink in until you experience it for yourself.  Some people have good garage sale experiences and others, well, not so much. Unfortunately, we were part of the not so much group. Stick around and I'll explain why, as well as share a few interesting insights into the garage sale process as I see it.

garage sale table filled with clocks trays dishware birdcage

Here's one of the tables on Friday, the NICE day.

1. Garage Sales Are A Huge Time Suck

Not only do you have to clear out that closet, garage, basement, storage space.....you have to sort it all, clean it up to make it presentable for sale, organize it and ultimately display it all. Did that sentence make you tired just reading it? Imagine actually l-i-v-i-n-g it. I spent an inordinate amount of time doing all of the above. We had two storage spaces and a full basement! Yikes!

Not to mention giving up your time on the days of the sale. Setting up. Sitting all day keeping shop over your space. We did the actual sale for 6 hours a day for two days (many do it for more) so between my husband and me over the course of two days we spent well over 10 hours a day each setting up, selling and putting things away at night. THEN, once the sale is over, you have pack up and haul whatever didn't sell to your favorite charity. It's been two days since the sale ended and our garage is still full of stuff even after making many van runs to Goodwill. Sigh.

Take away? Do not commit to having a garage sale unless you truly have the time to devote to it and all that it entails.

2. Weather Will Make or Break You

Who would have thought? Early October. I pictured cool, crisp fall days. Instead we got one awfully hot day and one horribly rainy day. Luckily, the first day was sunny and warm and people came despite the heat. They came.  But the second day we experienced one of the stormiest days I've ever seen. It rained so hard with flash flood warnings, thunder, lightning and severe winds. Seriously. And no. one. came. Ok, maybe 5 people came throughout the course of the day. Pretty depressing, no?

My husband, trooper that he is, set up tents in the driveway to protect the merchandise and we even used our actual garage (which we did not have to use on the aforementioned sunny day.) But it was a really miserable day and the money we earned was, shall we say, nominal.

Take away? If you're a risk averse person I would not recommend having an outdoor sale unless you are VERY confident that the weather is going to cooperate and/or you have plenty of tents and garage space within which to set up your inventory. Take it from me -- Mother Nature can make or break you.

3. Traditional Print Ads Are Costly And A Thing Of The Past

classified garage sale ad newspaper
Talk about learning the hard way. We chose to place an ad in two local papers that offer classified ads for garage sales. One had a fairly decent distribution rate while the other was more localized to our immediate village (what they call towns in these here parts). Cost? Over $50.00! It wouldn't have been so bad if 1) We knew the people who came on the first day came because of the ads and/or 2) we made good money on the sale overall. Unfortunately, we had neither.

However, we DID place a few local ads of the digital persuasion. Can you say Facebook, local town/neighborhood websites and iPhone Apps created for announcing things like garage sales? And they were FREE. Imagine that. Ironically, it seems that most of our customers heard about us through the websites and social media announcements. Lesson learned.

Take away? Unless you either don't care about the profit aspect of the sale or you plan on making so much money that $50 plus dollars doesn't phase you, then by all means place yourself some classified ads. Otherwise, stick to online advertising -- for FREE.   

4. Some People Won't Be Happy Unless They Feel They're Getting A "Deal."

tug of war price haggle garage sale

Now I don't mean to sound harsh here. You know I appreciate a thrifty purchase as much as the next garage sale hunter (maybe even more!). But despite that, I was really surprised by the attitude of a large number of people who came. It was as if they naturally expected us to automatically charge them LESS THAN the sticker price. The operative word there is automatically. Haggling is one thing. Expecting to get a discount on an already fairly-priced item (as a matter of course) is another story. I had people walking away because I didn't want to reduce the cost of a $2.00 item that was in like-new condition and is currently selling at Target for $10.00 and up. I was left scratching my head more than a few times. (Note: I did reduce the price of many items as a result of haggling.)

Take away? Either accept that people are going to haggle with you no matter what or be preemptive and price your items for more than you think they will sell for, leaving you  a bit of haggle room. It's a win-win situation that way.

5. Be Prepared For The Odd Duck Shopper (Who Comes Armed With Even Odder Requests!)

And by odd I mean odd. I was amazed at the number of people who showed up scouting only particular items, no matter how unlikely it was that we might have said items. We got requests for specific items like old rifles, shotguns, stereo speakers and stereo equipment, lawn care tools, etc. Even the people who replied that they were interested online started private messaging me with all kinds of questions. One woman on Facebook asked "Do you have any zebra or bling?" Let me repeat: One woman asked "Do you have any zebra or bling?" Not really sure what else I need to say about that to make my point.

Take away? Don't be surprised by people who show up or message you with odd requests. Just try to take it in stride and who knows? You might just have that special item that someone has been looking for forever -- their "find" of a lifetime. And we all know how great a feeling it can be to find it. In all fairness, most people walked away with things that they seemed genuinely happy to have found in our driveway. So on that level I guess our garage sale was a success after all.  

Well, that's it until next time, friends! 

I hope you enjoyed reading about the 
5 Things I Learned
 From Having A Garage Sale.
And thanks so much for spending 
time with me today!

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Leave a Comment!

Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces said...

Garage sales ARE a huge amount of work! Too bad about the weather.
Hope you get all cleaned out!

My thrift store addiction said...

Kathleen, I hear you! Garage sales are so much work and since I don't have an actual garage and can only set up the day of or partially the night before, depending on the weather, the small amount of money I've made hasn't been worth it. I've done better working with local consignment shops and selling in online groups. Having said that, you KNOW I love attending and yours looks like one I would have enjoyed! Bummer about the weather!

Sharon @ Blue Willow House said...

I've only had two garage sales. First one was with two neighbors, not really a success but sharing the work was a help. The second one was when my kids were about 7 and 10. We sold a lot of their toys, some furniture, and a lot of housewares. I would call it successful but I've never had another sale and I don't plan on it. Also, no advertising with either sale only signs pointing the way.

rush said...

You didn't mention Craigslist. That's the ultimate.

I had a garage sale, and I set it up in the garage. If the weather turned bad, all I had to do was close the door. Of course, some things spilled into the driveway (I only have a single car garage). I loved having the time to sort and price inside my garage. We had a great sale, and made a good amount of money. Now, we have the leftovers and new stuff to get ready, but the garage is fuller with a couple of bikes and a ride-y mower. I need to do it before it turns too cold.

One thing I think I had in my favor was that our town is small and is lacking in the garage/yard sale department. So, when someone has a sale, many people attend it.

I also had to keep in mind that 1) I'm not using the items I want to sell, and 2) I want it gone, so 3) I priced it low. Not "fair", but low.

Cecilia said...

Yeah, I quit doing garage sales for those very reasons - especially the time drain one. Not worth it. 😜


Unknown said...

I agree. They are a TON of work both before & after, but it does allow you to get rid of stuff. I have to close my eyes to the fact that I'm not realizing a profit on much of anything, but I'm getting rid of it, and I'm getting something, rather than nothing.
I agree people aren't satisfied with the prices you put on things either. They want it for even less, but at least you priced it. When things aren't priced, they tend to sit. JMHO.
I agree about the weather. We had one in January one year, and it was so darn cold that year. We aren't used to much cold here in Alabama, but we canceled one of our days, which was a big mistake.
I pretty much don't answer the phone before having a sale either. People will bug you to death, or want to come over early. I could go on & on. LOL
Enjoyed your post & agree with all of it.

Kathy said...

Sorry your sale was not an overwhelming success. Been there, done that. Made $60 once for a 2 day sale. Waste of my time. I appreciate your comments; it will help a lot of first timers and remind us why we don't do it anymore! I think I would put a "dollar bin" or whatever on the floor at my booth; people like me LOVE going thru stuff like that!

One suggestion I would make to everyone is to call local homeless shelters *including vets'), battered women's shelters, etc. to see if they can use any of your leftovers. Basic home goods like dishes and linens, toys for kids who have lost everything, etc. can be a Godsend. That's what we did with our church bazaar white elephant stuff one year. When they get a place to live, they need to stock it. Blankets, quilts, towels, etc. are great for local animal shelters, too. I'd rather donate directly to someone like that even more than GW or Salvation Army! When I go yardsaling I rely on Craigslist and yardsale.com.

Mary K. said...

Kathleen I had people showing up days before wanting to find out if we had coins and costume jewelry. I know they are a huge hassle but in the end you get rid of so much stuff, it is worth it.

Nikki said...

I just had a yard sale and YES weather is a HUGE factor! I'm sorry that yours didn't go well. I wonder if actually you had too much to sell?! I know that sounds crazy, but several smaller sales might have been more successful. And like you, I just cannot stand putting the stuff back away afterwards. I mostly donate afterwards. Even though mine was a success, I am not sure I will EVER have another one.
:) gwingal

https://www.vintagesouthernpicks.com said...

Agree with everything you said Kathleen. They are a ton of work for little return. You’re right, people want things for even less than the low prices you want. They are also conditioned to expect half price on the second day b/c that’s what estate sales do. Weather is a make or break & unfortunately, we never know how to predict it. Definitely online ads are the way to go! I’ve also had people coming to mine wanting specific things. You also need to watch out for theft. I’ll probably still keep doing them when I need to, but they’re one of life’s pains.

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