Clean up by cleaning out | May 21, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - May 21, 2010

Clean up by cleaning out

The ultimate win-win: Holding a successful garage sale

by Kit Davey

Want to have fun and make some money while disposing of your old treasures? Hold a garage sale.

Having a yard sale has great benefits. You'll:

* let go of unwanted or unnecessary clutter

* be able to get and stay more organized

* make money

* recycle, instead of adding to the landfill

* donate the leftovers to charity and, most importantly,

* have fun.

Getting ready

To get the most out of your sale it helps to plan ahead, work efficiently and to know a little yard-sale etiquette.

 * Start by picking a date one to two months away to work towards. Saturdays (from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) during the dry months attract the largest crowds. Don't bother holding a two-day sale, as it can be exhausting and you'll have few customers on Sunday. Avoid holidays or sports playoff days.

* Check with neighbors to see if they might like to hold a sale simultaneously.

* Clear a spot in your garage to store what you'll sell.

* Go through all of your possessions. Box saleable items by type so that you won't waste time organizing your merchandise on the sale day.

* Get your kids involved: Let them keep any money they make selling their old toys.

* Set up a boxes marked 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents and FREE —PLEASE TAKE.

* If you want to put prices on your belongings, do it as you sort. Have sticky labels and a pen handy. Otherwise, save yourself time by making up prices at the sale.

* Clean dirty items.

* Two weeks before the sale, call your local charity and arrange for a pick up right after your sale.

* Get $25 in ones and $3 in change the night before your sale.

About pricing

One of the main goals of a garage sale is to get rid of stuff. Making money is secondary. With this in mind, adjust your attitude accordingly:

* What you paid for something has nothing to do with how much you can sell it for. High prices turn away buyers and leave your garage full. Cruise other sales for typical prices.

* The value of an object is not increased because it has sentimental value to you. A chipped porcelain gnome is not worth $10 to a buyer, just because your granny gave it to you.

* People are looking for a deal and like to haggle to get a fair price. Know your bottom-line price, start 25 percent higher than that, play the bargaining game, talk up the benefits and charm of the object, and if they start to walk away, throw out another offer. Don't hold out for a quarter — get rid of it!

Marketing your sale

Post your sale on Craigslist. It's free and lots of people use it to plan their garage-sale shopping. You may want to invest in an ad in the local advertising circular or in the garage-sale category of the classified section of your local paper. If not, save your money and rely on bright, clearly written signs posted at busy intersections.

* Check with your city to see if a permit is required and if there are sign ordinances.

* Use either fluorescent pink or yellow paper and clearly print in black ink the day, date, time and street address of the sale. Use big arrows directing people to your home.

* Post your signs on the Thursday evening or Friday morning before the sale.

* Make a big sign for your yard: YARD SALE THIS SATURDAY!

* The morning of the sale attach balloons to the signs at the busiest intersections. Park your car at the nearest cross street and mount a sign with an arrow.

The day of the sale

Garage "sailors" generally start roving the streets by 7 a.m. and come in waves.

* Begin setting up two hours before your posted start time and be ready for early birds.

* Use tables or make-shift platforms to display your goods (for example, a few boards resting on some large boxes). Lay out objects on old blankets if necessary.

* Valuable or pricey items should be placed at a table manned by a family member.

* Set up for your comfort: lawn chairs, coffee, snacks, music, etc.

* Use a fanny pack for your money or assign a family member to manage the cash box.

* Get the number of those showing interest in a costly item. If it doesn't sell, call the next day and offer them a good deal.

 Create space and visual peace in your home: de-clutter, let go of some old treasures and have fun at your sale!

Kit Davey, Allied Member, ASID, specializes in re-design, staging, design consulting and professional organizing. E-mail her at, call her at 650-367-7370, or visit her website at


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