How we sold all our stuff and still had a good weekend

Three weeks ago or so, we had a garage sale, with a goal of selling almost all of our furniture, a good portion of our clothes and books, and a huge variety of things we knew we didn’t want to move and store. Neither of use has ever had a garage sale before, and we were surprised at certain things that work and things that didn’t.

The first step was going through all of our stuff and deciding what to sell and what to keep. This was the hardest part. The fact is, I’m a bit sentimental about stuff.  I also hate wastefulness.  These two facts together make it very difficult for me to get rid of perfectly good stuff, regardless of whether we have a need for it or whether it is worth the space in our limited volume of rented trailer.  “No, I haven’t worn that hat in six years, but I got it in Mexico and had to search a whole bunch of shops to find one big enough to fit me, and it’s still perfectly intact.”  Gone.  Sold for $2.  Needless to say, it was a difficult process culling all of our stuff to decide what to keep and what to get rid of.  Bowen is much more practical about these sorts of things, if not occasionally overly ruthless in her quest to make sure we can fit everything.

But after sorting through everything we definitely had a very successful sale, and were quite surprised by much of the way things worked out:

  • Friday was by far the biggest sale day with twice as much business happening as Saturday and Sunday combined.  We’ve heard that hardcore yard sale-ers do most of their business during the week, so we’re glad we didn’t just do it on the weekend.
  • We also stayed open late on Friday (until 8:30), since our neighborhood gets quite a lot of foot traffic in the evening as people go to dinner or the movie theater. That was a great idea.
  • Sometimes people weren’t even looking at the things we thought were the nicest, even when we reduced the prices quite a bit. This was especially true of some of Bowen’s nicer clothes.  Things from Anthropologie were priced at $2 by the end and didn’t sell.
  • We got a credit card reader from Square, which very quickly and easily was connected with our iPad/iPhones and deposited directly into our bank account. We think it really helped us sell things because people didn’t have to be limited by the amount of cash they had on hand.  We had to give Square 2.95% of the transaction, but we’re pretty sure we were able to sell more than 3% extra by providing the service to our customers.

  • As we set up each day, we paid attention to what would catch people’s eye and draw them in. We tried to make sure it was really easy for people to see stuff by bringing as much as possible out of the garage into the light, putting things on tables, rather than in boxes or on shelves or under the table.

  • To make pricing (and repricing) easier, we got colored stickers that we put on items to categorize them, and then put up signs with the prices for each color of sticker.  This obviously makes the pricing system a bit inflexible, but the prices were pretty arbitrary anyway (starting at $2, $5, or $10), and it made it really easy to cut our overall price level by changing just a few signs (by the end, down to $1, $2, $5).

  • We also organized smaller items (of which we had many) into boxes categorized by price ($0.25, $0.50, and $1), which made it much easier. We could also easily cut these prices at the end, without having to change the price on each item individually.

  • One of our goals was to get rid of as much stuff as possible, so we tried to sell more clothing by offering $2 each or 3 for $5.  This seemed to work moderately well as it did seem that people were more likely to buy multiple items after we started offering that.

  • Bigger ticket items that had sold but hadn’t been picked up yet we left out with the rest of the sale items and marked them as sold, which we’re hoping let people know that our stuff was in demand!

There are other great ideas we heard about but didn’t end up doing – like selling cold beverages and having some cookies or other snacks (either free or for sale), but overall it was a huge success.  If you have other easy garage sale tips, or came to the sale and have any feedback (positive or negative), share it in the comments.

In essence, we ended up having a really nice weekend sitting outside and hanging out together, and we got paid to do it!  Not a bad gig.


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