Whether you’re spring cleaning, clearing out the room of a college student kidlet or just looking to make more livable space in your home, it may be time to host a good, old-fashioned garage sale. It’s as American as letting your house become a frustrating repository for way too much stuff. Garage sales can be very enjoyable or very much the opposite of enjoyable depending on your motivation and your approach. As a veteran garage “saler” let me help you avoid rough waters with five steps for success.

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1. Plan Well: Before you get carried away, take stock of the items you would like to get rid of. How much stuff do you have? If you don’t have enough to make garage sale seekers salivate, ask your neighbors, family members, or friends if they would like to join in your sale. Extra stuff may also mean extra help! It’s hard to draw many people to stop at your sale without an enticing layout for them to peruse. If, ultimately, you don’t have enough for a good sale, you might consider donating your items to charity. The tax deduction may be better for you financially than the garage sale proceeds. Another option, if you only have a few bigger items is listing them on Craigslist or similar sites.

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2. Organize Your Items: Establish a spot in your home to stage all your sale items about a week in advance. Obviously if you have a garage with space, that is the best spot. I know, duh. Keep your items sorted as you go: clothing together, baby things together, furniture together, etc. This will make setting up go much faster and smoother. If you have other people contributing items, give them a firm deadline to get their items to you so you can include those in your advanced sorting.

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3. Clean Up and Price: Once you have all your items collected, it’s time for cleaning and pricing. Yes, clean them up. Things sell better if they aren’t presented under three years of dust! Once cleaned, start pricing. If you go to garage sales regularly, you’ll have a good idea of where to price your items. This varies depending on your region or even your neighborhood. If you haven’t been to a g-sale lately, hit a few before you have yours. Remember that folks are looking for bargains, so try not to price emotionally. Painter’s tape provides a convenient way to price your items without damaging the finish—and it’s easy to remove, which the buyers will appreciate. Also consider bundling like items in a clear bag and pricing them in bulk.

4. Plan the Layout: A couple of days before, think about how you would like to present your items. Make sure you have ample tables, etc. that you will need to set up your sale. Neat and organized sales where it’s easy to look through items and see what is actually there usually make a lot more money. Many people don’t like to have to paw through boxes of stuff looking for items. Making it easier on bargain hunters will also make it easier for you.

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5. Advertise: How you do this step can vary greatly depending on where you live. If you have community boards in your grocery and discount stores, hang signs advertising your sale a few days ahead of time. Clearly indicate the date and time of the sale. Make sure your address is easily visible. Believe it or not, I have seen signs for sales without an address. Makes you go “hmmm,” doesn’t it? You can also take out a small classified in the garage sale section of your local paper or on local sales sites. Finally, place signs around your neighborhood early on the day of your sale. Make sure they are big enough to read as drivers pass by and that the address and hours are clearly marked.

Good luck with your garage sale. I hope these tips help you get the most value for your time and stuff. Make a good plan, enlist some help and have fun! I wish you smooth “saling.”

Now what will you do next to love where you live?

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