Cleaning out the spring clutter

You open your closet and things come tumbling out. You can’t close your dresser drawers. Your cars have to be parked on the driveway because there is not enough room in the garage.

If this sounds like you, then it might be time for a little spring cleaning. 

Garage sale season is almost upon us and there are a couple secrets you should know before selling.

Firstly, garage sales don’t normally generate large profits; it’s more of a means to clear out the clutter, says Patricia Virk, organizer at Chestermere’s fifth annual Parade of Garage Sales, which will be held on May 5.

“How much is this?”

Determining the price of an item depends on the condition and how badly you want to get rid of it, Virk says.

However, that can be difficult to decide. Michelle Elford, a 24-year-old who frequents garage sales, says, “If you go to a bunch of garage sales you kind of start to see what’s an average price for something, like movies over $2 is ridiculous.”

Elford also says that if you have items that can be found at the dollar store, don’t ask for more than its price. Instead, use this to compare your items, she says.

Michelle Elford frequents garage sales. She suggests people holding garage sales should have items that are far from generic, like this typewriter she got for $1.
Photo by: Jenica Foster

But for larger items, like a kitchen table, Elford says they average around $100 depending on the quality of the wood.

Once your prices are set, Virk suggests using colour-coded dot stickers to indicate the cost of each item. For example, red dots would mean $1, green dots would be $5 and yellow dots can be 25 cents. She says this way you don’t have to put a price on every item and buyers won’t have to keep asking.

Virk strongly advises against using permanent marker to write the price on every item. It may seem like a good idea at the time, but the item is consequently ruined and people won’t buy it, she says.

Despite the marked price, Elford says you must be willing to negotiate, because bartering is “what a garage sale is for.”

Drawing people in

Advertising can be expensive, that’s why a few homemade signs and online websites can be a cheaper alternative to newspapers.

Helen Lugosi, organizer of the Montgomery Parade of Garage Sales, which will be held on April 21, says she has posted free ads on websites such as Calgaryarea.com. The trick, she says, is to refresh the ads just before the event so they come up at the beginning of the list again.

In some cases, your community association will advertise for you, leaving you to focus on getting ready for the garage sale. The event in Chestermere creates signs and balloons for each participating home and also provides potential buyers with a map of all the homes participating.

But, if you prefer to make your own signs, they must adhere to city bylaws.

The City of Calgary’s website states that no more than three signs may be posted for the purpose of advertising the sale. The front of the sign must include the owner’s name, address, phone number and the date the sign was posted.

The website also states the sign may only be posted one day prior to the sale and on the day of the sale.

For Elford, the most effective method to draw people in is to have a box of free items available and children running lemonade stands.

Online garage sales

You certainly can’t get a glass of lemonade when buying items online, but big-ticket items – like a bedroom set – thrive in the online world, Elford says. People don’t usually carry $500 in their pockets, she says.

Michelle Elford found this polaroid camera at one of the garage sales she went to.
Photo by: Jenica Foster

While some items are perfect for online, others should stick to traditional garage sales, Elford says. “Selling a vase online, no one is going to drive more than two minutes for that,” she says.

Although, buying an item in person does have its advantages like being able to actually touch, feel and see things, says Virk.

” We find buyers spend a lot more money, and secondly, it’s nice to see the condition,” she says.

The day of the garage sale

The big day has arrived. You’ve trained for this. Now it’s time to show off your skills.

Lugosi says to be prepared for early birds that come before your posted start time. If possible, try to contain your items in your garage. That way you simply have to open the door when you are ready, she says.

Elford adds, above all, the No. 1 rule is to be friendly and conversational with all customers.

“Sometimes it is really awkward if you go up and they are sitting there staring at you the whole time, and you try to pretend that you are interested, but it is all junk.”

She says staring people down only dissuades customers from approaching your sale.

Virk says, at the end of the day, regardless of how much money you make, a garage sale is about getting out and knowing your neighbours.

jfoster@cjournal.ca