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How to Stage

A Successful Garage Sale (and Free Your Home of Clutter)

Have an attic, basement, garage or house full of items your family no longer uses? Are you willing to put in some sweat equity and time to plan a garage sale in hopes of making at least a modest return?

If the answer to the second question is “no”—no worries. Wherever you live in Cleveland County, there are a multitude of nonprofits that are willing to accept most, if not all, of those unwanted items.

If the answer to the second question is “yes”—no need to reinvent the wheel! Following are some tips to help you effectively stage a successful garage sale.

Note: if you live in Norman, you’re lucky: Norman’s 17th Annual City Wide Garage Sale is scheduled for Aug. 6-8. During this time, city garage sale permits are not required. Sign up before 5 p.m. on Aug. 2 to be included on the list. Registration is optional and is not required to have a garage sale. A list of registered participating addresses will be available online at the City of Norman website. FMI and to sign up by phone or email, contact the Action Center at 405.366.5396 or email action.center@normanok.gov.

Before getting to the nitty-gritty, here are a few things to consider when deciding what to put out to sale:

+ If something holds great sentimental value for you, don’t include it in the sale. Put these items in a box and consider how you might deal with them later, e.g., have the shoes bronzed or display the apron in a shadow box. You won’t get what you think the item is worth in a garage sale. (Second option: just take a picture of it, then price it reasonably.)

+ If you think the item might be worth a fair amount of money—e.g., certain collectable figurines, rare vinyl albums and original fine art—you might be better off doing some research and then listing them on eBay or other similar website.

01 Set the date/s

Avoid major holidays. Fridays tend to be the best day for sales, followed by Saturday. If you’re up to a third day, consider marking items half-price that day. (Tip: schedule a nonprofit to pick up your leftovers that you don’t wish to keep the following Monday.) Most garage sales are held in the summer, but you can have a successful garage sale almost any month (as long as the weather cooperates!). Consider making it a neighborhood-wide garage sale and boost everyone’s sales!

02 Permits, advertising, etc.

When the date approaches for your sale, purchase your city permit (unless it’s during the citywide event)—most newspapers will allow you to purchase the permit from them if you also place your classified ad with them. You have many options to advertise your sale, the most popular probably being Craigslist, which is free. You’ll also want to purchase garage sale signs (and/or make your own!), permanent markers and price stickers, and possibly some aprons with pockets or a bank bag to hold your change and proceeds. If you don’t already have a supply of used plastic grocery bags, start collecting them now. (Tips: Make sure to keep the permit to hang in a public area during the sale and to place your signs only where allowed by your municipality.)

03 Gathering your stuff

Consider enlisting the help of your spouse and children. Children can sometimes be persuaded to give up some of their stuffed animals and other toys in return for a promise they will be able to select a new toy from the proceeds, or for cash for their piggy bank. As you go through your items:

+ Clean anything that’s dusty or dirty. Many people won’t even look at unclean items.

+ Sort clothing by size and sex at the minimum, but preferably also by season, type of apparel, etc. It may take a little extra time, but laundering, folding and hanging clothes properly will greatly increase the likelihood of their selling.

+ Decide how you’re going to price your goods. Some people individually price each item; others use a color coding system (e.g., white=$1; blue=$2; red=$5) or combination. Sticker tags easily fall off clothes; pinning a tag to the apparel or from the hanger is better..

+ Consider placing similar or related items in baggies and selling as a lot. This is a great way to get rid of all those random pens and pencils, children’s used art supplies, office supplies, inexpensive costume jewelry, etc.) and finally get those clutter drawers cleaned out!

+ DO NOT sell anything that might pose a danger, such as appliances with faulty electric cords.

04 Advertising

As noted earlier, there are a multitude of ways to do this, including your local newspaper, Craigslist and posting signs at local businesses. Boost your Craigslist ad by including photos of some of the nicer and/or popular items you are selling, like furniture and tools. Since there’s no word limit, get creative.

05 Staging the Sale

First, determine where the sale will take place, e.g., yard, drive, garage or combination thereof. Walk the perimeter looking for possible hazards and either remove them or otherwise block them from traffic. Of course, make sure the lawn is mowed.

Other staging considerations:

+ Foldout tables are a necessity (patio tables will suffice), as well as some method of hanging up clothes. Consider borrowing from family or neighbors. Depending on the weather, you might also want to consider tarps (either to spread on the lawn to display items like toys, shoes and garden implements) or to hang for protection from the weather) or fans to help keep you and the customers cool.

+ Maintain wide aisles/spacing between tables and groupings to keep traffic moving and to minimize the likelihood of breakage.

+ Place your most valuable items (fine jewelry and art, small collectables, etc.) wherever the person/s taking money is seated so they can be surveilled. (Most garage sale folk are honest, but there are exceptions.)

06 The day before

Go to the bank and get change: dimes, quarters, and $1, $5, $10 and $20 bills. How much you need depends on the size of your sale and what types of items are in it. Place your garage sale signs where they are most likely to be seen by passing traffic. Include the hours and days of the sale on the signs, if possible. Get to bed early; garage sale folks like to start early!

07 The day of (finally!)

Don your aprons and best smiles and greet your customers. Be willing to bargain—remember, you’re also cleaning house! Periodically refold and rehang clothes and consolidate goods as items are sold. At closing (if the sale continues the next day), cover tables with a blanket; bring in more expensive items into the garage for safekeeping. Count and distribute your profits! LOL (Tip: make sure to reimburse the appropriate party/ies for expenses such as placing a classified ad, city permit purchase, purchases related to the sale such as signs, stickers and markers.)

08 The day after

Take down your garage sale signs (please)! Dispose of unsold items as desired. Enjoy your now clutter-free home!

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