Hey everyone! Sarah here! This past week, even though we had an office and hallway that are in desperate need of paint, a dryer that needs to have a gas line run and shelves in our laundry room installed, we had to attend to some basic needs first. Bills. Man, can you just imagine how great life would be if we didn’t have bills? I’m not even talking about rollin’ in a Lambo (that’s still cool right?), I’m just talking about buying the expensive shampoo at the store instead of the least-obnoxious-smelling bottom-dollar variety (that I’m sure my hairdresser will yell at me later for using). I’m a simple lady.
In the mid-century furniture world, sometimes you’re buying furniture and sometimes your selling. It all depends on what you can find. This week happened to be the buying sort of week which means we still needed to find some spare change for “the man” so it was time for the Great Waldo Garage Sale. Now in the process of picking up vintage goodies across the midwest, we also end up with other “stuff” by proxy. All it takes is one auctioneer to find out you’re there for a certain style and suddenly he’s thrown an ugly velvet Jesus painting into the lot as well. Often we donate items, bequeath them upon friends and family, but sometimes they end up collecting in our garage/attic and then come Spring we host a big sale.
Now, we’re not Hoarder Sale levels of huge, but we do usually attract folks from 3 different states and up to 150 miles away — which means I’ve reached celebrity status in my own mind (which is a dark and scary place) and I will now only be requesting green M&M’s in the bowl in my dressing room. They will of course have been licked by the dog and have sticky kid prints on them, but that’s just how we roll in Waldo. So today, I’m taking a break from home repair antics and sharing a few tricks of our trade and how we bring people from all over just by utilizing Facebook and Craigslist.
It sounds like we’re bragging.
“Like, totally ohemgee you guys, we’re like so cool and above everyone else, because we like, are totally rollin in the b’s, g’s and any other letter that sounds like money and gets an apostrophe so folks know what we’re talking about but don’t really need them. Now let’s go get a salad. A cobb salad.”
That isn’t it at all.
Garage saleing. saling. sailing (where’s the boat emoji?). Hosting a garage sale is part necessity, because who doesn’t need to get rid of a few things? Likewise, it’s also part gluttonous as we sit outside (not taking items to be donated) while we demand people flock to us and bring us money. Man, if only that worked for cookies. BRING ME ALL YOUR DOUBLESTUFF and take my old toddler clothes. I could totally get behind that business model. But the biggest part of any garage sale is to market it. What makes me flock to Target (besides clearance)? Clever ads I can’t get out of my head. What makes me shop at Home Depot? Well placed end caps of merchandise that make me wonder how I ever lived without such a thing before. Maybe I worked in retail too long, but the long and the short of any good sale is marketing! Here’s a few basics for those looking to beef up their bank account and turn your sale into the event of the neighborhood!
The other important thing to note about our sales is that we don’t do clothing. Yes, we have it and yes, it could sell, but because we DON’T put it out we attract a different kind of folk. We even say in our listing that we don’t have clothes and it’s all “good stuff”. You’re of course welcome to do what you want, that’s just something we do.
4 THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE SALE
ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE
There are several bonuses to separating things out into like piles before a sale. Yes, it means it will be all over your house and garage, but it means you’re able to take things outside in like-piles, making set up easier as all items should always be grouped by type (camping gear together, fishing gear together, old toys kids don’t play with any longer and you spent millions of dollars on — together!)
PHOTOGRAPH, PHOTOGRAPH, PHOTOGRAPH
Yes, people can read a posting and discern what’s for sale. But if it simply says “old dresser” or even “mid-century dresser” I’m personally, more likely to go to the sale with photos that shows me the condition and wear of items. That’s a sure sale instead of a surprise. Market your sale to vendors and collectors that will be coming for specific items.
GET MORE STUFF – NO REALLY
Ok, so it seems contradictory to acquire more stuff when you’re trying to get rid of items you already feel suffocated by, but the more stuff you can possibly pack into a space the better! The key is making sure people can SEE all the stuff from their car. That probably means only tall stuff on tables and other stuff should be displayed on boards on cement blocks on the ground. That way you can tell you have 9,000 items and folks would be CRAZY not to stop! Likewise, the goal is to entertain children so parents can buy as much as they’re little arms can carry. If there’s something for everyone, then no one gets bored and antsy to leave!
Having a few name brand items that are priced lower than your local antique stores will help draw folks in. Make sure you’ve done your homework and know what they’re actually selling for (check out the completed sales section on eBay when you’re refining a search so you can see what valuables have sold for — not just what you feel they’re worth because that’s what you’ve paid for them previously).
Maybe that means you need to have all of your local family and friends selling with you at the same time, or maybe you go to an auction or two ahead of time and buy up all the dollar tables. (Side note: at the end of housewares auctions most auctioneers will let you buy everything left on the table, or TWO tables for less than $5) Our usual rule of thumb is needing around 1,500 items that could all sell for at least $0.50-$1.00. Assume only 2/3 of it will sell and that 3/4 of that 1,500 will sell for $3-$5. You’re welcome to do the math on that, it melts my brain (especially if you use that new-fangled math system the kids use these days), but either way, it equals at least $1,000 without any large ticket items being counted. Baller status yo.
For us that means making a killer ad on Craigslist and adding that listing to all the local groups on Facebook that sell things. There are a few key things to remember when making a successful Craigslist post.
- BE SPECIFIC: Remember that not everyone reads every garage sale ad. Folks who make a living picking up antiques or specialty items are usually running searches on specific key words through apps and different platforms. List all furniture pieces by type and name if they have one, even if that means you have 500 different things listed – do it!
- USE TAGS: At the end of your post, make a big line and then below it write the word tags: mid century, midcentury, mid-century, furniture…. etc. List things like 60’s, 70’s, 80’s or the words of places people who might like the things you have to offer shop: Restoration Hardware, CB2, Crate and Barrel. Make sure you use multiple names for things so if someone is looking for a sofa, couch, divan or settee then they’re all listed and you haven’t left anyone out. Remember that some folks say antique, some say vintage, some say retro and some just say old. Put them all in!
- MAKE IT FUNNY: My husband is always impressed (because he doesn’t think I’m funny when obviously I’m hysterical) at how many people come up and say they enjoyed our listing. Folks even email us to say how funny it is. INJECT HUMOR! If you want people to suffer through this oppressive ad with a million words (reading is tough work people), you have to reward them with a dose of comedy.
- GIVE THEM A NEED TO SUPPORT: So yes, I’m telling you to turn your garage sale into a Kickstarter of sorts, but in reality, giving people some reason to buy things from you (even if they don’t need anything) helps 100 times over! Our first sale together, Adrian and I put up a giant sign that talked about needing a honeymoon! It sounds romantic, but really we just used the cash to fly to Vegas for a few nights to get married. Boom. Done. The next sale we asked folks to help support putting a new roof on the house, as we also did the next. Roofing is EXPENSIVE and you suddenly have pity from any person who has put on a new roof or been broke when they got married. We even have people give us donations at our sales to help us out. Free money people! It doesn’t get any better than that! Maybe it’s a sign that says, “Wife wants my man-cave out so we can have a rec-room the kids will never use and always pit out. Help a brother out!” Whatever it is — people relate!
There are basic things to remember such as getting enough sleep the night before, acquiring enough tables to hold all your loot (concrete blocks and old doors or plywood work perfectly), the more the merrier so you can look like you have ALL THE THINGS. You should also grocery shop so there’s snacks that are easy to grab, as sending someone for fast food isn’t always easy (especially when you don’t have fast food in your town — unless you’re chasing a cow and then it’s fast food — get it? — not funny? –moving on). So what should do you the day of the sale?
5 THINGS TO DO ON THE DAY OF YOUR SALE
SIGNS SIGNS SIGNS
We’ve all had that moment where you drive past a garage sale sign and are like should I stop? I don’t know…. ah, dang, we passed it. Whatever. Don’t let the whatever moment happen to you! Sign your house. Sign it in both directions for traffic. Sign it at the end of the block. And the block after that. And all major intersections for a half mile. No really. Leave no corner naked. Think about people that don’t live in your neighborhood coming to your sale. Are they coming from the next town/city/state over? Sign it accordingly so there’s no question where you’re located. Make them funny, make them SIMPLE and make them LARGE! Check with your local piano retailers. They ALWAYS have large cardboard that can be folded around poles so they don’t blow over and zip tied together. If you have a cause, put that on there. It makes people stop even if they didn’t intend to otherwise! Guilt them into stopping. Yes, I understand I have no shame. I can also pay my electric bill on short notice if needed. So there’s that.
SET IT OUT FIRST, PRICE IT LATER
Folks can’t buy what they can’t see. It’s more important that it’s all set out than it’s priced. That said, walk through the big ticket items with friends and family that might be in attendance so you’re all on the same page for a few ballpark prices. Make sure to arrange items in like things, tallest items in the back so they can be seen easily from the street. In addition, try to bag smaller items together. It’ll save you from the hassle of making smaller change and folks always feel like they’re getting more when it’s in a bag. Glass markers (we like the ones from Crayola) work beautifully on anything made of metal, glass, plastic and wood. Save the tape and stickers for someone with more patience.
SEND THE KIDS TO GRANDMA’S HOUSE, LET THE DOGS OUT AND BE CHATTY
It’s hard to be chatty and focus on 20 different people roaming through your yard if you’re making sure your youngest isn’t painting the dog or shoving the hose inside your dryer vent instead of being cute and playing in the sprinkler. Sometimes as a parent it’s easier to eliminate a stress so you can focus on being “on.” Talk to folks about the quality of items, where they came from, tell them the stories that make them want to buy your stuff. It’s easier to do with kids away. I know that homemade cookie stand or lemonade stand is cute, but for those that aren’t into kid antics, it will actually deter them for visiting items in the proximity — and in some places you need a license these days to do so.
Likewise, if you’re able, let your pets roam around. You’d be SHOCKED how many people stay for additional chunks of time just to talk to you about your pets. About their pets. About the pets they want and suddenly they see another shiny thing that they simply must own. You also appear more human and personable with an animal around. People won’t ask you if a toaster works, but they’ll talk to you about your cats. Then they’ll talk to you about the toaster. Also, I may or may not have worn a bunny hat for an entire sale (honestly, I couldn’t find a beanie in the remodel and it’s still cold here in April) — so being (more) weird can also be a good ice breaker!
OPEN EARLY AND STAY OPEN LATE
Be ready for early birds and stay until the sun sets. Folks that saw your sale on the way to work will surely stop on their way home when they see your still there. We all have stuff to attend, meetings, practices and have commitments — don’t have a sale those days. Will you always be selling? Nope. Take that time to post to individual Facebook selling groups or re-comment to your original post. Make sure folks know what’s still available. Even if your self promoting and you just say, “Desk and Dresser are gone, tons of housewares and toddler clothes still available. All must go, making deals on it all!” Sure, you’re having a conversation with yourself, but it’s popping your sale back into people’s Facebook feeds and how many times a day do you check that? Lots. Same for everyone else. If you get a chance, take a few new photos as the day goes and post them as well. If you’re too busy, no worries (heck, most of THESE photos are over a year and a half old as we’re too busy too!), but any publicity is good publicity!
DON’T MAKE DEALS UNTIL AFTER NOON THE FIRST DAY
The goal is to sell everything. Obviously that doesn’t always happen, but if you sell all your large ticket items within the first hour or two, there’s less incentive for folks to pull over. Vendors, collectors and resellers will also try to haggle you as much as possible. Don’t waiver unless they’re buying many items and are making it worth your time to reduce a price. Likewise, don’t hold out on prices past noon on the first day. 70% of your sales will be in the first few hours and after that you’ll make significantly less, so as long as you have enough stuff to sell, get it out the door (but not to jerks or people wearing socks and sandals — you still have to have standards) .
This all sounds super serious right? Well as far as I can figure, sitting outside all day isn’t worth my time if I’m only making a few hundred dollars (or less). Sure, stuff is out of your house and to a good family in need, BUT, spending 2 days with your family or even just yourself is far more valuable than a few hundred bucks. Make sense? Anything worth doing is worth doing right and always worth doing better than everyone around you. Next week I promise I’ll be back with the horror story of that one time I broke down and cried in Menards (like Lowes/Home Depot) when the paint person asked me if I needed any help. It wasn’t pretty. Until then…
Do you have any tricks or tips that are specific to your area? For instance, there’s a neighborhood nearby us that doesn’t allow signs in yards or on poles, so folks park their car on the street and put signs in the window. Genius. Share your garage sale horror stories and successes in the comments below!
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