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Satisfy the Urge to Purge: The Art of a Successful Garage Sale

As the weather warms up and we come out of hibernation, many of us jump quickly into the next season: Spring cleaning. We dig through closets full of old clothes, household items and sports equipment and pull out what we no longer use. As the discard pile gets higher, we can’t help but think about all the money we spent on this ‘junk.’ It isn’t long before we say, “Let’s have a garage sale.”

But let’s face it. Our time is precious and we don’t want to sit in our front yard for two days, only to come away with a little more than enough to pay the pizza delivery man. No, we want our sale to be the busiest garage sale on the block.

Want to know the secrets of a successful sale? Follow these helpful tips and watch your trash turn into cash.

Sell what people want to buy - Clothes, and especially children’s clothes, in good condition are always in demand. Your used furniture, sporting goods, bicycles and small household items usually find a new home quickly, as well as tools, books and kitchenware. Sadly, knickknacks, out-of-date media and men’s clothing are often left untouched. Collectibles, such as Precious Moments, might sell better on eBay where they have a bigger audience of buyers.

Price what the market will bear - Try to remember that the whole idea of a garage sale is to sell things. You will not get retail prices, even if the item is brand new with tags. has a great price list on their website to give you an idea of how much you can expect to get for an item. To determine if these prices work in your area, check out other local garage sales a few weeks before your sale and see how they compare. Don’t forget to put a little wiggle room in your prices to allow for the negotiators. You will sell more items if the buyer thinks they are getting an even better deal.

Merchandising makes the sale - Set up your sale area with plenty of tables and places to hang things. You can create a clothing rack using two ladders and a broom handle. Place common things together - toys, sports equipment or seasonal items - and take items out of the box to show the potential buyers what you are offering. If you provide your shoppers with an electrical strip, they will be more likely to buy an item if they can try it first. Move larger items outside of your garage so it can be seen and so there is more room for the buyers to walk around.

How to attract buyers - The most successful garage sales are multi-family sales. Ask your neighbors or encourage your subdivision to have a sale on the same day. This will bring more buyers as they can quickly go from house to house and save on driving time. Place ads in your local paper and on Craigslist. Ask local day care centres, stores or apartment buildings if you can leave a flyer on their community bulletin boards. On the day of the sale, post lawn signs with balloons on main roads and those leading up to your sale.

What to do if it doesn’t sell - At our last garage sale, I vowed that once it got to the garage, it wasn’t coming back in the house. Consider donating the items to a charity resale store like Goodwill or, if possible, trading in sports equipment. Take books to your local library exchange and blankets or towels to the nearest animal shelter. Check your City’s website for places to recycle any out-of-date electronics, computers and TVs. Bring leftover toys to a local women’s shelter.

A warning about selling children’s  car seats and booster seats -  a child’s safety is at risk

According to Transport Canada,  “People should not use children’s car seats and booster seats past their expiry or useful life date. Beyond this date, the car seat should be permanently discarded rather than donated to a charitable organization, second hand store or given to friends or relatives.”

Pam is a freelance writer and mother of three. She and her family came away from their last garage sale with emptier closets and fuller pockets. 

Calgary’s Child Magazine © 2019 Calgary’s Child