Organizing a Neighborhood Garage Sale: Part I

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As a cheap frugal person who also hates clutter, the idea of a garage sale where you make money to get rid of your old “junk” is a wonderful idea, but I dread the actual sale itself.

You put lots of work into sorting, labeling, and organizing for the sale. You spend at least 2 days just sitting at the sale hoping the right people who want your stuff come to your sale. Hence, the reason I haven’t dipped my feet into the water of hosting my own garage sale for over 7 years. In those 7 years we have moved and had two children.

That’s a lot of stuff that has been accumulated.

We had the best intentions of having a garage sale, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Since I despise clutter so much I keep an area in the basement and garage where we store things for a future garage sale.

I’m ashamed to admit that we actually moved some of our “items for said future garage sale” with us.

Yes, that’s right we took the time to pack, carry, and unpack several boxes of things that we knew full well we didn’t want. We only intended to sell them at a future garage sale. My husband and I even labeled the boxes something else. We didn’t want those helping us move to realize we were having them help us move our old “junk.”

I guess the secret is out now, sorry guys!

Now 7 years later my youngest is nearly 2 and has outgrown baby items and clothes. Since we don’t intend on having more children it’s time to get rid of these things and slowly reclaim the storage areas of our house. I thought about just making big donations of all of ours stuff to Goodwill, shelters, etc., but cheap frugal Megan kept coming through. It seems wrong to donate it all if we could earn a little extra cash to put towards that pesky law school loan we’re trying to unburden ourselves from.  So the new plan…..plan an amazing garage sale, then after we’ve made some money do some donating as well.

I thought long and hard about this garage sale idea.

I went back and forth about why I don’t like them and I realized the thing that bothers me most is all the work you put into them. If you don’t get enough foot traffic you won’t be successful. Have you ever wondered if you should have a garage sale or not?

I also know from going to and driving by lots of garage sales that curb appeal and convenience makes the difference if I stop to check the garage sale out.

This is even more true now that I have to get two kids out of the car to go to a sale.

If a garage sale doesn’t have good curb appeal I’m probably not going to stop.

A kid’s attention span for things like garage sales is limited so you have to pick wisely.

I knew we didn’t have that much stuff that would be a huge draw to get people to come to our garage sale. So how else could I entice more traffic?  Then it hit me, the last time we participated in a garage sale we lived in a different town that did town-wide garage sales. So, why couldn’t I do that in our neighborhood? We could all do a garage sale on the same weekend, which would mean we could pool our resources for advertising and have a bigger draw for customers.

I personally love neighborhood and town garage sales because it means I can park in one spot, unload the kids and walk to several garage sales.

Everyone is happier.

Plus I’m more inclined to stop at a smaller garage sale or one that may not look as enticing.  It’s hard to walk from one garage sale to another, without stopping at the one in between. Maybe that’s just me though. I’m also the person that feels bad if I leave a garage sale without buying something. Not bad enough to buy something I don’t want, but I feel bad. Weird, I know.

I ran the idea of organizing a neighborhood garage sale by my husband, who was supportive. He had heard me go back and forth on whether or not to have a garage sale for over a year. I think he was just glad I had made a decision.

I developed a plan to get the neighbors on board.

Most people would probably just ask the neighbors. Not me, I needed a full-blown plan for how to orchestrate it before I even started.

I even had to ask my co-workers if they thought it was crazy. I wanted feedback before I went door-to-door pegging myself as the crazy neighbor down the street.

We created a half-sheet of information about my desire to have a neighborhood garage sale and included my contact information. One Saturday, Cassidy and I set out with sheets in hand to go to door-to-door. Our only plan was to walk the length of our street 8 blocks long and see where that got us.

I purposely took Cassidy with me in hopes that more people would willingly open their door for us. She was excited about the venture.

Her motives for the garage sale are simpl – Disney.

The faster we save the money the sooner she can go back to Disney World.  Ahh, the simplicity of life when you’re almost 6.

We made it to about half of the houses before it began to rain on us. I knew we had to stop then. For sure people would think we were crazy if we went door to door in the pouring rain. It took us about 30-45 minutes and in that short time we put fliers in mailboxes. Yes, we know you’re not supposed to, but the mail was already delivered so I thought it was okay.

We spoke to several people who were home and had 4 people right away say they were absolutely interested. A couple said they had wanted to have a garage sale, but we’re hoping someone else would too. It seems many people had the same idea, but no one took charge. Perfect job for me.  I love to organize things so I don’t mind at all. We did go out another evening and dropped off the rest of the flyers. Additionally, our neighborhood has a neighborhood watch group so I was able to email all those members.

The next step was to send out a doodle poll.

If you have never used doodle polls check it out. It’s a great (free) way to schedule an event with lots of people. I proposed 3 different weekends and said majority would rule. Of course all of the weekends we were available – a perk if you’re the one organizing the event. One weekend clearly became the winner.

Next step was to notify those who completed the doodle and any others who expressed interest of the final date so they can confirm if they will be participating. While planning the garage sale a neighbor told me about a Facebook group for another street perpendicular to ours. I am now a member of that group, which isn’t big, but it was still another way to market the neighborhood garage sale.

Once I had a list of people who were going to do a sale on that weekend I was able to create a handout for the garage sale. On one side was a map of where the sales were located and the other side had addresses along with what items were being sold at each sale. There ended up being 10 houses holding garage sales. Everyone put up garage sale signs and I was able to get an ad (not cheap) in the local newspaper. We all pitched in to pay for that ad, which with 10 people contributing was reasonable, $5/family.

Be sure to check out “The Making of a Neighborhood Garage Sale Part II” to find out whether the garage sale was successful or not. (spoiler – it was).

Be sure to check out Garage Sale related posts:

10 Tips for a Money Making Garage Sale

Should I Hold a Garage Sale or Not?

14 Steps to Organize a Neighborhood Garage Sale


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