This Way to the Garage Sale


One spring evening in 1990, my wife said the two words I had hoped never to hear. No, not those two words . . . we already had three children. The words I’m referring to are “garage” and “sale”.

Now, said separately and in another context, these words aren’t particularly threatening. However, when placed in the same sentence, followed by a date and time, they can be devastating. At least that’s the way I used to feel.

I can remember all the stereotypes associated with a garage sale (a.k.a. yard sale, rummage sale), and most of them, quite honestly, were negative. But since that enlightening weekend in 1990, I have developed a fondness, an acquired taste if you will, for these events. That’s why I decided to write this book. I wanted to share the information, stories, and questions my family and I experienced concerning the easiest money I have ever made in my life.

Why Have A Garage Sale?

Of course my first reaction to the announcement from my wife that we were about to embark on this new experience, was “Why?” We were doing OK financially and no big payments were due .. . so what was the point of going through “all that trouble”? My wife’s response: “It’ll be fun.” “FUN?” Well, there were some other reasons:

  1. Make Money (we made $700 that weekend).
  2. Clean our home of unwanted “stuff” (clothes, books, etc.)
  3. We met neighbors we had not known we had.
  4. We provided goods to other at a highly reduced price.
  5. It did prove to be a fun family experience.

Now before you question number 4, we had one family buy about $300 worth of baby clothes for about $100. (Some of the clothes had only been worn once or twice). And one man bought a lawn mower for $35 (it was about 5 years old and worked fine).

As for number 5, we had a great time. However, I did have to keep an eye on my four-year old. He kept trying to sell his older sister. I tried to sneak that tie my wife bought me for Christmas into the garage sale, but she caught me.

I remember that one gentleman came by just to talk. I was kind of hoping he would buy something. Later, I discovered he was a neighbor from down the street. He had used the garage sale as an opportunity to introduce himself and get to know his neighbors. Since then we have become good friends.

And, oh yes, our garage, attic, and closets had much more room available after our sale. But let’s face it, the number one reason for a garage is to make money! And as I said before, we made $700 on our very first attempt. The garage sale is the single most-popular, home-based, money-making event in America today. I think that is why I became “fond” of garage sales; I enjoy making money. The comment I usually get from my skeptical friends is, “Yeah, but I don’t really have anything I can sell.” My response: “Everyone has something that someone else will buy.” What’s the old saying? “One man’s junk is . . . ” well, you know the rest.

Can I Really Make Any Money?

Well, that is the question, isn’t it? I remember my initial response to that question: “Not enough for the trouble you have to go through.” I was never so wrong about anything in my life.

First of all, the work involved was nothing compared to the financial gains ($350-$750 every time I’ve had a garage sale). Granted, there is some organizing of merchandise a couple of days before the sale – pricing and placement of “stuff” seems to be important. But once that’s taken care of, the rest is easy. In a later chapter, I discuss the optimum placement and pricing of merchandise or “where should I put this stuff and how much should I charge?”

So now that it’s been determined that money can be made, let’s address what sells and what doesn’t. As for what doesn’t sell… nothing doesn’t sell. OK, English teachers, I know, I know… what I mean, of course, is EVERYTHING sells. I’ve seen a toy truck with three wheels and no paint sell. It may not go for the $4.95 you originally paid for it, but it might go for 50 cents.

But you’re not going to set up a sale just to make 50 cents an item; so I’ve developed a Top Twelve Most Often Sold And Bought Items In A Garage Sale List.

This list was compiled by some of the most respected and knowledgeable garage sale experts that I know: “Garage Sale Groupies” I call them (my in-laws, the lady who works with my wife, the PTA mom, and the guy who collects power tools and backgammon boards). These people not only go to garage sales, they plan their weekends, vacations, and retirement around them. Hopefully you’ll find their list as interesting and helpful as I did.

What Sells… What Doesn’t

(Top Twelve List)

As I said before, given the right price, everything will sell. However, some items sell better than others. So here is the list of the “experts”:

  1. Clothes (especially children’s clothes)
  2. Power Tools (saws, drills, sanders)
  3. Sporting Equipment (golf clubs, workout equip.)
  4. Bicycles (especially ones ready to ride)
  5. Electronics (stereos, computers)
  6. Toys (not broken)
  7. Household Items (refrigerators, irons, dishes)
  8. Furniture (chairs, tables, beds)
  9. Books (especially children’s books)
  10. Gardening Equipment
  11. Jewelry (watches, rings)
  12. Miscellaneous (wall hangings, quilts, bedding)