Tips for sellers: trash to treasure

Editor’s note: Last week, the writer explained about how buyers can find good deals at yard sales. This week the writer focuses on the sellers and how to organize a successful garage sale.

According to, 165,000 garage and yard sales are held each week in the United States, with almost 700,000 people attending them. What does that mean for sellers? A whole lot of potential customers, and of course, stiff competition.

Serious yard sale shoppers – and there are many – get up early and try to hit as many sales as possible in one day. Each person planning to have a yard sale should consider all the ways in which he or she can attract those eager beavers, and get them to lighten their pockets a bit.

“I go to a lot of yard sales,” Amanda Bird, a Fredonia resident, said. “To me, a good sale has a lot of different items so it draws more than one group of people, and is selling ‘gently used’ items that can actually be used!”

Rachel Grant, who lives in Dunkirk, appreciates organization.

“A good sale is organized, with everything priced. We like sales where it’s clearly someone just trying to get rid of stuff, not trying to make a ton of money. Also, having big ticket items draws us in – even if we’re not shopping for them. I don’t know why, but it does,” she said.

Bird agrees.

“Furniture items usually attract me first,” Bird said, “and then I usually end up buying things I wasn’t looking for, but can use in some other project. I always look for inspiration for new projects and refurbishing materials.”

Organization seems to be key, but how does one put that advice to use? Well, start early.

A couple of weeks before your sale, start advertising. There are many ways you can do this. One is in the OBSERVER’s classified section. It’s inexpensive, and many local potential shoppers will see your ad.

Chris Kent, a Dunkirk resident, recently held a yard sale that she advertised in the OBSERVER.

“I’m very happy with the number of people who’ve said they saw our ad in the paper!” she said the day of her sale.

Other options include Craigslist and other garage sale locator sites and apps.

Fredonia resident Christine Beichner recently held her own successful yard sale.

“I advertised on a lot of websites,” she said. “Craigslist, Chautauqua Sales, and Facebook.”

But the benefit of hand-made posterboard signs can’t be ignored.

“I think more people came because of the signs I posted!” Beicher added. “Next time, I’ll definitely post more signs!”

Put signs up a couple of days before your sale, and make sure the address, dates, days, and times of the sale are all clearly visible. Put these up at cross streets and in front of your property. Call your city hall or town office to find out where posting is and isn’t allowed. For example, your notices can’t obscure traffic or safety signs.

Also in the days prior to your sale, gather all items that you’d like to sell. Next, check them for breakage and other damage. If there is damage, either reconsider selling the item, or clearly mark what is wrong with the item. An honest seller is a successful seller.

And of course, make sure items are clean.

“Wipe clean the things you’re selling,” Bird warned. “No one wants dirty items.”

Once your items have been checked over and cleaned, mark prices clearly. Put stickers on items to mark them individually, or make signs to put up near grouped items, such as “All Jewelry $1.”

Then get ready to set up!

Items raised up off the ground sell better than items placed on the ground, so set up folding tables or make tables out of boards and sawhorses. Organize the merchandise so that like items are grouped together – consider how professional retailers do it. Think of how your yard sale can have “departments” too, such as kitchen items, decor, lawn & garden and clothing.

Beichner made sure to keep things neat and orderly when she held her sale.

“I tried to group items: kitchen items together, toys, large items all as separate as I could make them.”

Also, make sure items are visible.

“I can tell you that if a yard sale is full of tables with boxed items, we don’t even stop,” Grant said.

Another thing sellers can do to please the pickers, junkers, and treasure hunters is to open early. says that the best time to start a garage sale is 7 a.m. The best day to hold a sale is Saturday, when many shoppers are off from work but don’t have the family or worship obligations that Sunday can bring.

Opening up at 7 a.m. means you won’t miss the early birds who are on a mission. It also means that you can have much of your sale completed by the time the heat of midday strikes.

Here are a few more tips for sellers. Some of them may seem obvious, but having a checklist is a great way to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Have enough change ready. You don’t want to miss out on selling an item because you run out of ones.

Keep a plugged-in extension cord handy so that shoppers can test out electronics. They shouldn’t have to take your word for it that Mom’s old record player still spins.

Be friendly but not pushy. Greet customers as they approach, tell them you’ll be happy to answer any questions, and then tell them to take their time browsing. No one wants to feel rushed or stalked.

Be ready to help people load cars, especially if you’re selling large items. And don’t forget to lift with your legs!

Offering free refreshments is always nice. This can be as simple as coffee in the morning or a pitcher of ice water in the afternoon. That goodwill may be reflected in what shoppers are willing to buy from you!

Price things fairly. Shoppers are looking for good deals, not antique store prices. Sending your customers into sticker shock will only guarantee that they leave quickly!

Consider reasonable offers. After all, this stuff is used, and do you really want to haul it all back inside?

These last recommendations echo Grant’s feelings.

“If things are priced too high, we usually leave empty-handed,” she admitted. “When I have a yard sale I pretty much accept any offer. I don’t think I’ve ever turned one down. My advice to sellers is to price things to sell. Don’t overprice unless you want to pack it all back up.”

Beichner agrees.

“Sell your items at a low cost to get rid of them and make buyers happy because in the end, you’ll be happy too,” she said.

Along with high prices, stubborn sellers, and dirty merchandise, another bugaboo for shoppers is when “used” actually means “used up.”

“Bad sales are when you know people are basically just trying to sell you their trash. They probably should have just thrown it away and saved all the shoppers the disappointment,” Bird said.

However, sellers shouldn’t be afraid of putting out spare parts or “weird” items. There’s a screw for every nut, as they say.

“There’s really nothing that I’d say I’d NEVER buy,” Bird said. “You never know what you want or need until you see it.”

The end of a garage sale Saturday should leave everyone feeling like a winner. The weird kid around the block will have found the obscure Prince vinyl he’s been coveting. Your neighbor will have replaced his broken chainsaw with your merely old one. The Kinks poster your wife has been complaining about will have gone to a new home, where it can be appreciated. Your closets and garage will no longer qualify to be featured on “Hoarders: Buried Alive,” and you will have made enough money to order a pizza. Or enough money to hit up a whole new round of garage sales the next weekend, to fill your garage back up. Because really, who needs an empty garage?

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