The loneliest sale in the world
June 3, 2013 10:56 AM   Subscribe

I will be selling stuff in my neighborhood's annual yard/garage sale in a few weeks. This will only be my second ever yard sale, so I have been reading up on tips to get ready. I think I have a handle on the basics and I am actually really looking forward to it. But I have a few logistical questions due to my specific situation, which is: 1) most "tips" sites advise having several people manning the sale, but I will be the only one; and 2) my sale will be confined to the garage, which is directly off an alley, so there is no driveway or other area to spill items onto.

So, I guess, specific to the solo plan and garage venue, my main questions are:

1. How do I minimize theft? I will definitely be keeping the money in a small cross-body bag on my person at all times. I won't have a lot of valuables, but I do want to try to sell some small jewelry items (maybe $20 apiece) and maybe other things that I don't want to walk away. I don't have a display case or anything like that. Do I put up a sign saying I have jewelry, but keep it with me in the bag and only bring it out if someone asks about it? It seems like overkill as I'm not selling the crown jewels, but I would feel bummed if the pieces were stolen.

2. What do I do when I need to take a bathroom or snack break? I am thinking I will just have to close the garage door and the gate and put up a sign saying back in 5. Will people be really irritated with that?

3. How do I make the garage as inviting as possible, considering it will be accessed from the alley (so not as many drive-bys as if it were in the front yard) and I can't set stuff up outside the confines of the garage? It is a two-and-a-half car garage, so it should hold what I want to sell (which will include a few large furniture pieces and several tables that will also be display spaces). Hopefully there will be a lot of foot traffic as it's a neighborhood sale. I plan to put signs at both entrances to the alley, and one in the front yard directing people to the back. Do I need balloons? Do I follow the advice to put big furniture out in front, or will that just block people's view of what's inside? Any tips for layout/staging?
posted by payoto to Shopping (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Balloon trail from the street to the sale?

I'd stick with closing up (and LOCKING) for a bathroom break, as well as having a phone handy and/or pretending someone else is inside the house.

I'd keep small bills for change, but drop the big ones back inside every so often, discreetly.

Since it is a Neighborhood sale, talk to one of the neighbor kids/friends about some minimal coverage, and/or moving your stuff to a more visible garage/driveway instead?
posted by tilde at 11:03 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I recommend getting a carpenter's apron for the money. You can get them at a big box hardware store, made in canvass for about 2 bucks.

Wear the jewlery if you can. Pin it on you, or put it on you. People can see it, and it's easily accessible.

I'd get some signs. I did it with neon Arrows and paperplates with my address.

Buddy up with a neighbor to watch each others stuff for pee breaks. As for snacks, keep 'em outside with you.

Post individual items on Craigslist with pictures, you'll get people out who will want to see the items. Post the garage sale with detailed instructions on Craigslist and on your local newspaper's Garage Sale Website.

Set it all up beforehand because people will arrive at the crack of dawn. Just roll up the garage and be prepared to rake in the dough.

Be sure to get lots of change and price EVERYTHING. Also, get some bags because for some reason people expect you to have them.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:07 AM on June 3, 2013

Best answer: I would put all the jewelry on something you can easily take with you when you need to go inside- hang them all on one hanger, pin them all on one sheet, etc. I wouldn't wear them because that requires people getting really close to you to look at them and I think most people won't bother.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:21 AM on June 3, 2013

Do you have any fabric? You could cover a sheet of cardboard or foamcore with the fabric and pin or hang the jewelry from that and take that inside, as TPS suggests above.

I would definitely second the balloon or arrow trail-- I think something with a little bit of movement will induce more eyes your way.

Maybe be as specific as possible, especially about the larger furniture pieces-- "YARD SALE! Including a Chesterfield set of oak drawers!" Doubly so if you're posting it on Craigslist as people often have alerts set up for specific items.

Can you offer any help moving the larger pieces? If they're just normal furniture items that are nice enough to be resold, you may have more takers if you can at all assist (for pay) with transferring then a reasonable distance.

Change. So much change. More change than you think you could ever want.

Do you have any neighborhood listservs or blogs? Or facebook pages? Send them a little blurb and a link to the Craigslist entry.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:33 AM on June 3, 2013

How about paper garlands? Scrap paper, old magazines, old packaging work great for diy garlands. No added waste like with balloons.

Jetlagaddict mentioned a cardboard+fabric jewellery display which is a great idea, would something like that work?

Personally I like signs and other decorations along with some stuff put outdoors so I get a first idea what is on offer.
posted by travelwithcats at 11:42 AM on June 3, 2013

Seconding the buddying-up with a neighbor. My family actually tried that once when I was little, and ended up having so much fun that it became an annual Thing, where our family and their family and one other family would all collaborate on a three-way tag sale, where we'd pool all of our stuff on one yard and all watch each others' stuff and the kids would all run around going nuts all day, and then the money that they'd ostensibly raised on "school clothes for the kids" ended up on this huge party that night. You may make a bit less money, but you could have a BLAST bonding with your neighbors.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:56 AM on June 3, 2013

Response by poster: I should have mentioned that the main reason I settled on the garage is it will be a multi-day sale spanning at least two days, maybe even three if stuff is slow to move. Although setting up at a neighbor's house is an interesting idea, I don't want to have to set everything up and take it down more than once. So I really would like to make the best of the garage situation rather than look for alternatives to the garage.
posted by payoto at 12:07 PM on June 3, 2013

Boy, I read that you are in a garage, not a driveway, and on top of that off of an alley and not a main road, and I have serious concerns about how much traffic you will get. If you can move your stuff to some neighhbor's more centrally located yard that might work out better for you for coverage AND traffic. Also I don't know how nice the jewelry you are selling is but $20/piece seems fairly high to me for a garage sale price unless it is gold or gemstone, but ymmv. Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 12:08 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Your alley garage location could be fine, since it's a neighborhood (pedestrian) sale and you'll have signs at the alley entrances. Maybe list some enticing items on the signs so people walking by the alley entrance will decide to check it out.

For security, stay at the entrance to the garage, and arrange some large items across (just inside) the entrance, so that people leaving the garage will have to walk close to you. Unless the items are very tall, views won't be obstructed since people are walking up rather than driving by.

For a bathroom break, it's fine to close the garage door and post a sign. I'd say "Back at 10:05" rather than "Back in 5" so that they know you didn't post it 3 hours ago. Avoid snack/lunch breaks by bringing food to the garage.

Could you display photos of any jewelry that you don't want to leave unattended, and keep it on your person? Photos in a listing on Craigslist, with specific info on your alley location, your best items, and that it is a neighborhood-wide sale, ought to really help. Good luck!
posted by Snerd at 3:03 PM on June 3, 2013

(Sorry my precious comment seems to ignore yours, payoto -- I did totally miss your comment in preview.) I ran a yard sale in our driveway last summer as part of our neighborhood yard sale effort, like yours. (We are in Arlington, Virginia.) It was so much more work than it was worth, I have had much better success with selling individual items on Craigslist. The best part of the yard sale was meeting more neighbors, really, and giving them some stuff for free. I highly encourage you to put up signs and list things on Craigslist beforehand as recommended here to draw traffic. Also, maybe bring a book out with you. But I wish you better luck and nicer weather (we were unseasonably hot) than we had. Best wishes!
posted by onlyconnect at 9:43 PM on June 3, 2013

Gah, precious comment = previous comment. Sorry!
posted by onlyconnect at 5:29 AM on June 4, 2013

Response by poster: All comments are precious. :) Seriously, all great answers in here.

I am not counting on making a ton of money - though as long as I'm going to put in the effort, I do want to go the extra step to try to make the sale a success. The neighborhood is a medium-density Chicago neighborhood (mostly single-family houses and two-flats) and last year the sale got a lot of car and foot traffic. I remember going to a number of families' sales in their garages, so it's definitely something that's done. Maybe not ideal, but I figured I'd give it my best shot and if it's a bust, I'll know not to try it again.

I am going to make a jewelry display out of a picture frame with the glass replaced with fabric and cardboard. Those were great suggestions, and I will price the jewelry (gemstones, but most are set in silver) a bit lower too.

I love the DIY garland idea. (I'm definitely trying to minimize the operating costs of the sale - I've been using paint chips for price tags!) If I draped a neon color garland over the garage door, it would be easily visible from at least one side of the alley.

Thank you everyone!
posted by payoto at 8:19 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't worry TOO much about theft. We have a building-wide yard sale every year in what is considered by some to be an iffy neighborhood and we've never had anything stolen.
posted by Jess the Mess at 6:15 PM on June 5, 2013

Hey, how did it go??? :)
posted by onlyconnect at 1:09 PM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Soooo, as it turns out, I told a friend about the sale and she was INSANELY excited to bring a bunch of her own stuff to sell. I was nervous because she is an admitted pack rat and I didn't think we'd have enough display space, but I was grateful to have her help and company. She brought a bunch of stuff and we made it work and had a lot of fun. We didn't have very much traffic on Friday. On Saturday a lot more people came through and we got rid of almost everything, even giving a lot away towards the end, and then took what we still had to a charity shop. It rained both days, including REALLY heavily on Friday, and it kind of came on all of a sudden, so I'm glad we were in the garage.

I advertised on Craigslist and with the neighborhood association. I know at least two couples stopped by because of Craigslist. Others just kind of wandered in. We had signs at one end of the alley and in the front yard, but surprisingly not that many people came in from the yard. I was disappointed in the neighborhood's promotion of the sale but I do think it brought foot traffic to the neighborhood generally, so that was good.

It was a TON of work. The comments here and elsewhere were right about that. We had plenty of change, at least! And the advice to price everything was spot on because my friend didn't have prices on much and she was getting no interest until she started putting price tags on. Few people wanted to even ask about prices, and if she asked them to make an offer, they scoffed.

In the end I made a little over $200, and a lot of that was stuff my friend bought! Not sure it was worth it, but at the very least if I do another garage sale, it'll be a Saturday-only affair and I'll advertise each piece of furniture with a separate listing on Craigslist (I sold two pieces that way; the people who just dropped in hardly glanced at the furniture). I would also worry less about exactly how the garage would be laid out and avoiding theft (which wasn't a problem) and more about signage. I did make a nice display thing for the jewelry but I only sold one ring, to a guy who bought it for scrap.

The smartest thing I did was make the signs out of cardboard boxes. I put a couple of bricks inside so they wouldn't blow away, and at the end of the sale when we were exhausted, we had already-assembled boxes to throw everything in to take to the thrift store.
posted by payoto at 3:28 PM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

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