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Tales of a Town-Wide Garage Sale

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

In 2000, my husband and I got married and merged two households. Between all the stuff we came with and the beautiful wedding gifts we had received, our home was overflowing with three of this, four of that and too much of a whole lotta stuff. So, we decided to sort through what we owned, purge out what we didn’t need and have a garage sale.

I wish I had pictures to show you but our driveway and lawn were filled with our belongings. People thought we were downsizing and moving! I overheard one woman on her cell phone yelling to a friend, “You gotta come over here–there’s so much great stuff!”

Two days and almost $1000 later, we had done a good job of clearing space in our home. We used the funds to buy a patio set which we still own. At the end of day two, I turned to my husband and said “I never want to have enough stuff in our home to do a garage sale again…”

It’s now 2013. We’ve had two children and our house was feeling full. My husband swore our attic floor would soon buckle and bins of stuff would crash to the floor below. In the Spring we began, Operation ‘Get It Out of the House.’ Big ticket items like our crib and two exersaucers found new homes. Bags upon bags of baby clothing found their way to three different expectant mothers. My husband says he could hear the attic exhale for the first time in years.

Tales of a Town-Wide Garage Sale - A perfect way to purge before a home renovation I #organizegaragesale
Multiply this times three and that’s how many bags of 0-12m baby clothing I gave away!

I kept purging–kiddie toys to the preschool, old pillows to the trash and then it happened…My neighbor tells me our town is having it’s first town-wide garage sale.

I pass the great news on to my husband. He’s as excited as I am.

I continue purging. I started to collect boxes and plastic bags, and began pricing. I even dug up the Word file for the garage sale sign I had created in 2000 (Hubby says that didn’t surprise him one bit…).

Tales of a Town-Wide Garage Sale - A perfect way to purge before a home renovation I #organizegaragesale
My cousin Dale gave me the ‘Fill a bag for $1’ idea. Brilliant!

After pricing, I sorted our items by category–Baby, Kid Toys, Housewares, Books, etc. counting down the days when I could finally reclaim my garage space again.

We had about a tenth of the stuff we put out in 2000. Our friend gave us some of her things to put in the garage sale so she could purge her house, too. We had two beautiful sunny days and although foot traffic was light, enough customers made purchases to say it was successful.


My neighbors across the street set up a few tables and my nine year old neighbor decided to try his hand at selling some toys he and his brother didn’t play with anymore. I advised him to lay them out on towels grouping ‘like’ with ‘like’–dinosaurs with other dinos and all vehicles together, too. He sold a few items (including one of the bikes in the background) but at least half of them went to my son’s preschool or to my own kids!

Tales of a Town-Wide Garage Sale - A perfect way to purge before a home renovation I #organizegaragesale
The wares of a budding entrepreneur…


A few shoppers commented on how organized my labeled pricing system was. I smiled and said, ‘Thanks.’ Oh, if they only knew…
Two days later, we made less than a tenth of the money we had made in the 2000 garage sale but that’s OK. We weren’t doing it for the money–we were getting rid of the ‘old’ to make room for the ‘new.’

Some funny/unexpected things that happened during the garage sale:
• My neighbors bought some of my stuff!
• A shopper thought a painting marked $3.00 was actually $300. We all had a good chuckle…
• A grandma about six inches shorter than me bought and then picked up a Little Tikes picnic table and walked back to her house with it.
• I sold a NJ Devils giveaway towel to my seven year old for $ .25. I thought it would be a good math lesson…

He said, “Mommy, I can’t believe you were going to sell this!”

Some great things that happened during the garage sale:
• I had fun hanging out with my neighbors and celebrating our selling successes.
• My kids acquired some cool toys and baseball mitts from our neighbors across the street.
• I got to read two magazines during selling ‘downtime.’ Any mom of small kids know that this is quite a feat!
• We made a little extra spending money.
• We purged our home of things we no longer needed.

At the end of the garage sale, I packed up all unsold goods and split them into three categories. Give to Preschool, Give to Thrift Shop, Bring Back in the Garage. The ‘Give to Thrift Shop’ bags and boxes went from my driveway to my car to a local donation center. My ‘Preschool’ items are enjoying a new home in my son’s classroom and the one (!) bin marked ‘Bring Back in the Garage’ is being dealt with this week.

So, if your town is declaring a town-wide garage sale soon, or you’re looking to make some room in your home and some money for your wallet, here are a few tips to make your garage sale successful:

• Use a color coded pricing system and hang your signs everywhere. I used blue painter’s tape and a marker for any item over $2.
• Wear comfortable clothes with pockets and comfy footwear. You’re going to be moving and standing a lot.
• A few weeks before your sale, start collecting large and small plastic shopping bags for customers to put their purchases in.
• Group like items together. If someone is looking for kids toys and they’re strewn across your lawn, customers are less likely to see them and buy them.
• Smile and welcome your potential customers. Engage them in conversation and ask if you can help them find anything special.

OK–Who is ready to have a garage sale?


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Categories: Clutter, Donations, Garage Sale, Money


6 responses to “Tales of a Town-Wide Garage Sale”

  1. Janet says:

    What a great idea to have everyone hold their sales at the same time. Buyers have more incentive to come out if they know there will be a variety of items to choose from – not to mention your own neighbors and family buying your stuff!

    • Stacey Agin Murray says:

      Lots of opportunities in a town-wide garage sale–I refer to it as recycling with a low carbon footprint! And yes, it was just the beginning of the major purging before our home addition/renovation project two years later…

  2. Olive Wagar says:

    Using color codes for the prices is helpful for both the sellers and the buyers!! And I like keeping the price options very simple. It really does make a difference when you greet and welcome your customers. I have an ” everything goes” policy–sell, donate, or trash it all. Nothing stays after the sale!!

    • Stacey Agin Murray says:

      I agree–simple is best when it comes to garage sales. And ‘everything must go’ is an important rule to abide by so your garage sale leftovers don’t end up back in your house!

  3. We’ve done several garage sales over the 30 years since we’ve been in our house. My favorite part it going through the rooms and drawers to pull out items for sale. My second favorite part is meeting all the buyers as they stop by to shop. After the sale, the key is to donate all that remains. After all, you’ve already decided that you don’t want “it.” So no need to bring it back into the house.

    I enjoyed reading about your experiences with garage sales. So fun!

    • Stacey Agin Murray says:

      I like meeting the buyers, too. People from different walks of life looking for something that ‘works’ for them such as the mom looking for Blues Clues DVDs or the kid looking for something new to play with. But, my husband and I agree–no more garage sales! I may have to ‘eat my words’ someday but we’re going to try hard not to accumulate enough things to need a garage sale in the future. A good goal to work towards!

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