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How to Host the Ultimate Garage Sale

Garage sales are a lot of work — there’s no getting around that. But they are still a good way to get rid of stuff you don’t need, and they’ll put some cold, hard cash in your pocket. Blogger Chris Heiska, aka “The Yard Sale Queen,” has been scouring garage sales for years, so we turned to her for pro tips on hosting the most amazing garage sale ever.

1. Time it right.
Many people are paid on the first of the month, so a garage sale in the first or second week of the month may be more profitable than one at the end. You should also limit your time frame: two-day sales are becoming passé, Heiska says. And you’ll get early birds no matter what, so she recommends confining the sale to 7 a.m. to noon on, say, a Saturday only.

2. Create buzz.
To get it all sold, you have to get noticed. Start with prominent, legible signs. (This may not be a job for kiddos, as much as they’d like to help.) If there’s a chance of rain, make sure your signs are waterproof; office supply stores can laminate signs for you. Place signs on community bulletin boards and in high-traffic zones near your home (be sure to follow local sign ordinances). Ask a neighbor to drive by your signs and verify they’re legible and clear; have another pal make the rounds halfway through the sale to make sure the signs are still standing. And go digital: List your sale on community boards, neighborhood blogs, Craigslist, Facebook and Twitter.

3. Offer treats.
Heiska remembers one garage sale that was a big hit because it featured nonalcoholic daiquiris for $1. The colorful drinks grabbed the attention of people driving by, and shoppers stuck around longer than they normally would have. Coffee for early birds and candy at the checkout make friendly treats.

4. Set up shop.
Take time to thoroughly clean, neatly fold and attractively display everything you sell. “Books and CDs should be displayed with the titles all facing the same way, to make them easier to read,” Heiska says. She also recommends one big sign for items that are all priced similarly — “All CDs $1 each; softcover books 50 cents each” — to keep pricing easy. Keep fragile and valuable items close to your checkout area.

5. Attract clothes horses.
Displays of run-down clothing can tell potential shoppers to keep driving; higher-quality clothes hangers (instead of cheap wire ones) will make your sale feel more upscale and will hold shoppers’ interest. To minimize clothing chaos, Heiska recommends a portable clothing rack; prominently display any standout items, such as formal dresses or designer-brand coats, on the rack’s ends to entice buyers. No rack? Get creative and hang a shower rod between two ladders.

6. Price it right.
Don’t start the day with sky-high prices. “Start with a reasonable price you would like to get for something,” Heiska says. “If a customer sees too many high prices, they may leave quickly. It’s good to have a variety of items at a variety of prices.”

7. Stock up on supplies.
To avoid fumbling with cash and change in your pockets, store money in a cash box (don’t leave it unattended!) or a cashier’s belt — and be sure you have plenty of small bills and coins to make change. Have plenty of newspaper, bubble wrap and shopping bags handy for wrapping glassware and other breakables. Roll out (or borrow) a dolly for moving heavy furniture to shoppers’ cars; a skateboard or two can work in a pinch.

8. Handle hagglers.
Stand your ground with bargainers asking for price reductions that are more than you’re comfortable with. If someone seems genuinely intrigued by an item, hold your ground. Chances are, he or she is making the garage-sale rounds and will return in an hour. An exception: Consider letting heavy furniture (and anything that might be tedious to lug to a donation center) sell cheap and early; choose your battles!

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