Side Hustle: The Garage Sale Preparation

Garage Sale

We had a garage sale last week, as a wrap-up to the April 30 Day Project.  We got rained out halfway through the first day of our 3-day sale, but we still managed to clear $1500.  We held the sale in our neighbor’s garage because it had more space and better visibility.

Wednesday night, while carrying boxes over, I missed the step to their property from our driveway and crashed while carrying three boxes.   That’s a twisted ankle and a bleeding knee.  Naturally, while I’m hopping and swearing, everyone is concerned that I’m okay.   The worry-warts.   Anyway, it hurt, so we stopped setting up while we still had a few boxes left in the basement.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="196" caption=" "] [/caption]Thursday morning, I decided to show them all.   At 5:30AM, before anybody else is strongly considering the possibility of maybe thinking about getting ready to hit the snooze button, I decided to get the rest of the boxes ready.   They’d all wake up, worried about how I’m feeling, asking if I’m to stiff to carry boxes.  The best way to show them they don’t need to worry would be to have all of the boxes dealt with before they woke up.   So I started.    Up and down the stairs, with a stiff, twisted ankle, gloating to myself about how tough I was…BOOM, down the stairs. I was on my back, sliding down the stairs.    I caught a stair-tread in the small of my back and another on the point of my tailbone.  Mommy?

After I stopped twitching on the floor at the base of the stairs, I managed to get the last of the boxes ready.   Instead of sympathy, I spent the rest of the weekend getting asked if I needed an inflatable doughnut to sit on.  There are places I’d prefer not to have bruised.

Unpacking the boxes made me glad that everything was priced.  We spent 6 weeks going through our entire house–every room, every dresser, every drawer–to eliminate the clutter.   As something went into a box, it got priced, so we didn’t have to do it all at the last minute.  That is the most important time-saving step for a garage sale.   Price it as you pack it. You don’t want to waste hours pricing stuff while tripping over potential customers.

Another preparation tip to do early:  Find tables!   Ask around. You’d be surprised at who has a dozen folding tables collecting dust in his basement.    It’s better to borrow that to rent.    The best price I found was $17.50 to rent an 8′ X 30″ table for a week.   We didn’t have to do that, but we thought we would have to.  I borrowed a few, found a few, and built a few out of sawhorses.

The week before the sale, we placed an ad in the paper. When I placed the ad, the paper called to suggest we change it from running the weekend before to running just the days of the sale.   I agreed, to a point, but their Sunday circulation is miles ahead of the weekday circulation, so why pay to run an ad nobody will see on Thursday?    I ran it Sunday through Tuesday, because I wanted the Sunday ad and we got 3 consecutive days in the price.   Did I actually know better than the paper’s sales-weasel?  Who knows?   I think I made the right decision.

The Sunday before the sale, I posted an ad on Craigslist. Interesting fact: little old ladies use Craiglist to plan their garage-sale adventures.

Two days before the sale, we made signs. Bright pink signs with brighter yellow starbursts. They were all simple. “Mega Sale! 8-5” followed by an arrow and our address. Simple, easy-to-read, and bright. The morning of the sale, after the ibuprofen kicked in, I put the signs up. When you make signs out of paper, always include a crossbar. It rained a lot the first day of the sale, so the signs wilted. The second morning, I went out with some duct tape and crossbars and fixed them all.

The day before the sale, we got cash and change. We had $50 in 1s and 5s and $25 in silver change. No pennies. Nothing was priced to make us need them.

The morning of the sale, we set up two canopy tents in the driveway and pulled the prepared-and-filled table out under them. We finished stacking as much as we could on the tables and called it “open”. There were a few boxes we couldn’t put out due to the rain. We simply ran our of room. At noon, $65 into the sale, we decided enough was enough and shut down–cold, wet, and miserable. Lunch and a nap made the day better.

Later, I’ll discuss the other parts of our successful sale.

Note: The entire series is contained in the Garage Sale Manual on the sidebar.

Update: This post has been included in the Money Hacks Carnival.

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    1. Is it wrong to laugh at the idea of you “twitching” at the end of the stairs? How about if you are a cartoon figure in my mind?

      Anyway, I’m so glad it went as well as it did! How are you taking care of the leftovers? My friend listed them as “Garage Sale Leftovers” on Craigslist for x amount (can’t remember) and someone with a truck came, paid, and took it all with them…

    2. I like the idea of being a cartoon figure in someone’s mind. That works well for me.

      We’re actually still in the process of getting rid of the leftovers. Some is being donated, some is being sold individually. Details are coming probably Friday. 🙂

    3. Wow, your article came just in the knick of time. I have been deliberating over whether the potential benefit is worth the effort of having a garage sale. Very helpful series.
      Best regards,


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