10 tips for a successful garage sale

By Carolyn Campbell

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, March 20 2011 3:00 p.m. MDT

Kim Cosentino turned her garage sale into a family effort.

A professional organizer with The Declutter Box, Inc., Cosentino says children who are "budding entrepreneurs" can sort through their own toys for items to sell, and invite their friends to do the same.

Her 10-year old daughter, Katie, was thrilled with the idea.

"She tends to keep everything, so I was amazed at the amount of items she was willing to sell," Cosentino said.

A key to the sale's success was that Katie was in charge of her table and was allowed to keep the profits.

"She also agreed to give unsold items away to charity," Cosentino said. "We fluffed up stuffed animals in the dryer and gave them to the nearby nursing home. Her school library loved receiving gently used books."

A garage sale can be a great way to weed out toys and free your home from clutter. Jeff Lenci, who has hosted and shopped at many garage sales, offers the following suggestions for achieving garage sale success:

1. What is the definition of a garage sale?

“A garage sale is an opportunity to both make money and dispose of items that you haven't used in at least two years, and will probably never use again," Lenci said. "One man's junk is another man's treasure. A garage sale is a great place to sell items such as toys, old fry pans, toasters, mixers, old clothing and furniture."

2. How should I prepare in advance for my garage sale?

Preparation and proper pricing are crucial.

"Take enough time before the sale to gather all of the items you haven't used in two years,” Lenci said. “Save boxes and grocery bags so that your buyers can use them to carry their items home."

Through personal experience, he discovered that merchandise sells better if it's arranged on tables rather than lying on the lawn or in the driveway. Clothes are more likely to sell if they are hanging on a line.

"Keep in mind that some garage-sale shoppers are only looking for certain of types of goods," he said. "Organize your possessions with similar items together in a specific area-clothing in one area, toys in another, kitchen items in another, all sporting goods together."

3. How should I price items?

Proper pricing, Lenci said, can make the difference between earning $200 and $2,000 at a garage sale. As a rule of thumb, he said, items should sell for between 20 and 25 percent of their price if purchased new.

For example, if an electric fry pan costs $20 today, a used electric fry pan should sell for $5 at a garage sale. If you don't know the current price of a new item, Lenci says to check a mail-order catalog, consult a company website or "cruise through a store."

When pricing items, he says, visit an office supply store and buy a roll of "theft-proof" labels.

"Put a price on everything,” he said. “Even pricing amounts — $1, $3, 50 cents — are less complicated, so that you don't have to deal with pennies, nickels and dimes."

He adds that there will likely be miscellaneous items, such as small toys, glass jars or kitchen items, that are too small to label. He suggests marking these with a colored marker, such as red for $1 items or green for those that cost 50 cents. Place these together in a produce box for display.

Lenci suggests labeling all items a day in advance of the sale.

4. Are there items that shouldn't be sold at a garage sale?

At one garage sale he visited, Lenci saw a box of six water glasses priced at 50 cents per glass. They were actually Waterford crystal worth $75 each.

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