Garage Sale Rules: Part Two

I can sum up all the garage sale rules into one rule: care enough to do some work for the shopper. As a person who frequents thrift stores and garage sales, I do expect to do a certain amount a lifting and digging when I shop; it comes with the territory. However, one of my biggest pet peeves is the people who act like you're bothering them by showing up at their garage sale to buy their stuff. Recently, I heard a woman complaining, at about 10 am, two hours after most sales begin, that the shoppers were keeping her from bringing out her (unpriced and unsorted) stuff from the house. Of course, this was not the fault of the shoppers, but poor planning on the part of the person having the sale.

I have a couple of advantages to most people in the having-a-garage-sale department: I like to sort and organize and my schedule offers me pockets of flexibility in which to get organized. So, since before spring semester was done I was stacking up garage sale stuff, and since school got out I've been working some time each day sorting or cleaning or pricing items. I know many people don't care that much nor do they have the time. I make the time because I care and I like order and neatness at my big events.

Pricing: I don't enjoy barter garage sales because I don't like talking to people and negotiation for insignificant items is meaningless. So, discussing how much each t-shirt or spatula is makes me want to tie a spatula to my leg and jump off a bridge, which is as ineffective as it sounds. I'm guessing.

Here's what I did with the toy cars that were collecting dust and spiders on the back porch.

I dumped out the bin on the patio and swept any bugs away. Then I picked any trash and miscellaneous stuff. (Charlie did run off with the hacky sac while I was doing this and managed to eat half of it before I got to him; he threw up the next morning so I'm guessing that's what it was.) I picked up all the tracks and big stuff first and moved it out of the way and then I piled like things with like things.

(This is a "rule" of garage sales as well--like things with like things; it kind of works for all organization projects.)

Small match box style cars went in the box and other cars got lined up.

When I eventually needed to decide how to price things, I put the sets together: the two interchangeable track sets in one back, the Clifford cars in one bag and the mini-mini cars in one bag.

Then, I put all the match box cars in a box for 10 cents each. I priced all the other cars with stickers made with blue painters tape. I used the painters tape for two reasons. One, I hate it when tape or tags mar the surface of something I want to purchase, so this tape is gentle on surfaces. Two, we've got stuff in the sale from my sister-in-law and I used regular masking tape on her stuff. That way when we're tallying things up I can keep a quick count by pulling tags off items.

Garage sale rule: don't buy cheap tape. Again, this could be a life rule as well. There are few things where the name brand is really worth it, but tape is one of them. 3M Scotch tape is worth every extra penny you'll spend on it not fighting with it.

Voila. I nice organized pile of toys. I don't individually price everything. I've got a box of books for 50 cents and another for a dollar. I've also got a 25 cent box and about three free boxes of random stuff I will end up throwing out or taking to the thrift store, so why not see if someone else needs it first. Do save time by collectively pricing items when you can.

We also cleaned out the garage for the big day and borrowed tables. I will not be following that terrible California tradition of laying my crap in the wet grass. That bad idea stops here.


  1. Great advice!

    I have a somewhat strange tip that I discovered when I used to organize large charity book sales: Price everything at $.25, $.50, $1.00, $2.00, and $4.00. For some reason, these amounts are much easier to add together and total up without using a calculator. I guess because everything is either x4 or x2. It's easier to make change too. No pennies, nickels, or dimes needed at the start of the day.


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