Service of a Country Garage Sale Produced by a City Slicker

September 19th, 2016

Categories: Garage Sale, Promotions, Sales

Garage sale signs in trunk

I’ve always thought I’d have enjoyed–and if lucky, might have succeeded at–being in the retail industry. [Promoting new products for clients, which I’ve done for years, is on the cusp of the world of retail and doesn’t count.] So I didn’t reject as nuts my nephew Edward’s suggestion to conduct a garage sale. I didn’t have much time to pull it together—who does? Still I had fun. 

Garage sale kitchenWhat was most surprising?

  •  People came. We live on a quiet country road with microscopic through-traffic–few passers-by ever. The Craigslist posting and Garage Sale signs on the two roads that cap ours were most effective in alerting visitors as far as we could tell. I also wrote copy for a county garage sale site.
  • Edward predicted that people would take free stuff that had been left behind under a deck by a series of tenants, various construction projects and previous owners. He was right. He said folks would drive on the property with their pickups and so they did. Saved us from having to lug away stuff.
  • Garage Sale 2016 DumpsterThere was a dumpster outside the garage with plenty of things I’d rejected for the sale. [At one yard sale I attended I was alarmed by well-used bedroom slippers for sale. Yech. I wanted none of that at my sale.] Nevertheless, visitors jumped in and sorted through the dumpster as well. Some asked before doing so. Others just dove in. “Might I have your slides?” said one woman straddling four boxes from the period I was an Air Force wife living in Turkey. She said “people like travel slides.”
  • One woman buying two $2 wine glasses asked if I could wrap them. [Like everyone else, she arrived in a car with front and back seats to keep them apart and safe; did she think this was a boutique?] I wrapped–but wondered.
  • Hardcovers and paperbacks sold well. I charged $1 and 50 cents respectively. 

Some tips

  •  I was prepared for people to arrive early—David Reich gave me a copy of a New York Times article he’d written, “First Time for a Garage Sale,” where he reported early bargain hunters knocked on his door at 7:15 a.m. for a 10 a.m. sale. My earliest visitors came just before 9 and I let them in. [I posted my street signs at 6 a.m. and was raring to go.]
  • One of my customers told me that I should have saved the towels tossed in the dumpster to give to the local SPCA for the animals. He would have salvaged them, he said, but they were wet. Next time.
  • I was concerned about inviting strangers. What if one had nefarious plans to revisit us after the sale? Edward suggested I buy a “Beware of Dog” sign along with the “Garage Sale” signs. I did.
  • Speaking of signs, I didn’t notice until I wrote the address and time on them that the Garage Sale signs were not printed on both sides so I had to return to the store to get another set. Back-to-back they both fit in the metal braces that stick in the ground.
  • garage sale books turnedI priced cheaply. The idea was to find a home for things, not to make a killing. Several people told me I had priced well for a garage sale so I guess I got that right, though some left empty-handed. I grossed just under $600.
  • I wasn’t selling power tools but there were requests for these; for books about engineering that I didn’t have either and for anything—art or books—about the surrounding area. These I had and sold. Remember where you squirrel things.

Can you share your garage sale experiences as visitor or producer? Any great finds from yard or garage sales you’ve attended?

Garage sale art turned


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8 Responses to “Service of a Country Garage Sale Produced by a City Slicker”

  1. hb Said:

    I admit I don’t know much about garage sales, but my impression of yours was that it was extremely well planned and efficiently publicized. There was a good crowd of willing buyers on hand most of the morning, and your stuff disappeared with delightful rapidity. You obviously had thought out what you wanted to do before you went to market. You also worked hard, and I don’t think you could have possibly done any better by devoting more time and effort to the enterprise than you did.

    The wildest, actually true, garage sale story I’ve heard is about one that took place in Westchester about 40 years ago. The dim sister of someone I knew rather well, had inherited from her mother a small collection of renaissance old master drawings, including choice sheets supposedly by Andrea del Sarto and Botticelli. In a fit of anger with her mother’s memory, she disposed all of them at a garage sale. I wish I had known.

  2. Lucrezia Said:

    I don’t give or visit yard sales. Nothing wrong with them, just not my idea of fun. I become bored and have a sudden urge to go home! Before the economy went belly up, I and a couple of friends who did very well on EBay. Items sold surprisingly well.

    Now if anyone is willing to part with their Ed Gorey frosted glass Opera Tumblers, and/or ceramic mugs, please submit proposed cost through this blog!

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I love stories like yours of the old masters sold for a song. I hope the people who bought them knew their value and kept good care of them.

    My mother knew I loved a certain type of Scandinavian porcelain and gave me a few pieces one Christmas and I was thrilled, though taken aback by her extravagance. Years later she admitted that she bought them at a yard sale in Vermont. Funny she was embarrassed. I’d have been thrilled that she got a bargain! I mentioned this to a lovely young visitor to my garage sale. She was accompanied by a darling little boy who was so good. She said if it weren’t for garage sales she couldn’t give the gifts she does and she added, “I bet the porcelain your Mom gave you isn’t at this garage sale.” She was correct.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I never got the hang of eBay although I like auctions. The packing/shipping involved, acquiring appraisals and checking in frequently seemed daunting. I, too, have heard that people have done amazingly well. A friend of a friend attended estate sales to pickup goodies and made a hefty income for herself.

    I enjoyed myself once I carved out time to organize the items for sale and price them. I didn’t want everything to land in the garage in a huge heap. And I was amazed, as I wrote, that people came.

  5. andy gerber Said:

    Make sure your spouse understands what should NOT be sold. The only real test of our marriage was when M. tried to sell my dress blues. (She did manage to sell off my original pressing of MJQ/”Fontessa”, which — arguably — wasn’t quite grounds for divorce.)

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    This true story wasn’t about a garage or yard sale but your tip reminded me of it. I knew this man who worked so hard to make his company a success–he told me that he would work for 48 hours and sleep for 8 and repeat the cycle–that he made a fortune but at the same time, he lost his wife who divorced him.

    Dressing was not his interest. Yokel was what came to mind when he wore a suit with white socks.

    When I met him he lived in an amazing house in the west and had a girlfriend for company. We were invited for drinks and then out to dinner with his entourage–girlfriend had a friend staying with them and a few others–and everything was rosy. A while later I asked my husband how he was doing and learned that girlfriend was given the boot. The reason: She’d thrown out all his [admittedly ugly] neckties and replaced them with nice ones. Lesson learned.

  7. Kathleen Said:

    I love garage sales and now that we’re trying to downsize, it’s awfully hard to pass an inviting garage sale! Last summer we participated in a town-wide garage sale, sharing a table with a good friend. We did sell some “stuff” but had more fun visiting with our fellow participants. A touching story from that sale from our table-sharing friend: the previous year she had bid on and won a carton of glass items at a local country auction because she wanted one particular piece of glassware. The remainder of the carton was on her garage sale table. A mother and young daughter came by and were thrilled to find a candy jar from that carton that was a duplicate of one that had sat on her mother’s table forever but had been broken. Of course, she bought the candy jar and our friend was delighted that it found a loving home. Glad your garage sale went so well!

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    SO great that the candy jar found a loving home.

    I was happy to overhear at my sale that one woman was giving to her daughter, a baker who sold things through a local business, some giant bowls I had, loved, but no longer have room for.

    And as is always the way, someone would make a pile of things and someone else would want one of the things in it. I had a bunch of basket file boxes. A woman bought them and another lady said she’d also wanted them. I ran to the house and asked my husband if he was planning to keep the one that was still filled with papers. He said “no.” The second woman came back later that day to pick it up.

    It was important to me not to toss perfectly good things that I have had to do previously because of moving deadlines. I called a local church to ask about its thrift shop. They didn’t have one dedicated to them but told me about one in town but it didn’t pick up and the woman said she didn’t have room for much anyway. I was surprised as there’s not a community, no matter how affluent, that doesn’t have people who can use good things for almost free. One person, originally from the Midwest, said that where she grew up, charities would be over within 24 hours to pick up items such as mine and that it irritated her that this town has no such resource. She found a woman in an adjacent town with a thrift shop who did pick up everything that was left over and I am thrilled because she will make a bit of money and her customers, recent immigrants, will make good use of them.

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