What Not to Sell at a Garage Sale, From Skincare to Dictionaries

Over the years, many of us accumulate “junk” items we no longer use. But as the old saying goes: One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure.

No wonder why you can find almost anything in a local garage sale.

When was the last time you went to one? Did you buy everything simply because it was underpriced?

Unless you’re trying to flip trash into cash, probably not. And most people who visit these “shops” only buy what they need.

So if you absolutely don’t need something, chances are people neither want it. And that could stop your clients from buying other of your items they do want.

What Not to Sell at a Garage Sale?

What Not to Sell at a Garage Sale

When a bystander finds your garage sale, the last thing they want is finding a giant mess. Because it will be very hard for them to find something they want.

There’s this common temptation of filling your garage sale with as much stuff as possible. Because “if you throw enough mud at the wall, some of it will stick.”

It turns out to be a turn-off for most people. BUT if you remove these items from your sale, you will get more buyers.

Instead of going through 1001 items, we’ll give you the only three categories you must avoid.

#1 Never Sell Personal Items

In a garage sale, nothing is in new condition no matter the looks. And whether this affects sales or not depends on the product. Because you can’t sell every product you buy.

Some obvious categories include skincare, shoes, intimate clothing, medication, swimsuits, mattresses, sheets, makeup, and so on.

Custom products also fit in this group, such as family decorations or tailored clothing.

If you want to get rid of these, it’s better to either:

  • Give them to some relatives
  • Give away to some clothing charity
  • Throw away

Other than that, you can sell almost anything and expect sales. Except for, of course:

#2 Don’t Overprice Appliances

So you bought some appliances years ago for a couple of hundred bucks. Even though they’re broken, people should be happy to get these between $50 and $100. Right?

The idea is that with a bit of repair work, you get a lot of value for your money. The problem is, not even the item-flippers show interest in these items.

If you price them below $50, they’ll probably still be around.

Most people are just watching and want an easy buy. Do you really think they will bother?

  • Move the appliances from your garage?
  • Find out what’s broken and spend a day repairing it?
  • Wandering around stores looking for missing/replacement pieces?

And if you keep it broken for a while, there’s a chance it will never repair despite the work.

And you don’t accept refunds, do you? Even if you did, they’d still have to bother bringing it back.

Similar rules apply to furniture and anything that’s too big to take care of.

As for smaller objects, there are exceptions:

#3 Say No To “Useless” Items

Be warned, though, that the following are the hardest items to sell:

  • Niche items such as old discs from your favorite band
  • “Cube” TVs, home phones, and other outdated electronics
  • 800-page Dictionaries, encyclopedias, albums…
  • Overly decorated vases & ceramics

And you may argue that “the right buyer” will pay you enough, which is true if you’re willing to wait forever.

Don’t sell what doesn’t sell well.

But don’t lose hope. There’s a strategy to make you more money, even if nobody wants these. That’s what the next section is about.

How NOT To Sell At Your Garage Sale

How NOT To Sell At Your Garage Sale

It’s no secret in business that marketing matters. Even though the product is all buyers care about, selling or not depends on how you sell it.

Of course, this doesn’t work when selling low-value products (the three mentioned types). But if you sell good products the wrong way, you’re leaving so much money on the table.

The following five mistakes are easy to avoid and will directly affect your garage sales:

#1 No Pricing Equals Fewer Buyers

People come to garage sales expecting good deals. But when you sell too much stuff, it can take a while to find those opportunities. Plus, buyers want things easy, which means they hate:

  • Asking prices for every item
  • Asking about features (electronic models, clothing sizes…)

It doesn’t hurt to spend $5 on some nice signs, which you can use on future garage sales too. And when a person approaches, you’re quite confident they come to buy, not just to watch.

Also, don’t hesitate in using signs for promotions:

  • “The first 10 clients get $5 off on purchases over $20”
  • “Buy 3+ items from this category for a 30% discount”
  • “Every 5th client can choose a free item up to $5”

But don’t make things overly complex, since it may drive off buyers. Always organize:

a. Objects by category

b. Objects by price (e.g., left side = cheapest, right side = most expensive)

The goal is that everyone who passes nearby knows exactly what you sell without having to approach.

#2 Don’t Sell Low Value

Remember those three types? It’s not worth selling them. And if you have too many, these may lower the perceived value of all your other items.

You could underprice them. But if you really want to get rid of them, there’s nothing better than a Free Section.

Don’t underestimate what the word “Free” can do. It can attract more people to your garage, which is the first step of the sales process.

Now, it may happen that some people come only for the free stuff, which feels like a ripoff. An easy workaround is:

a. You can get the free stuff after you buy something, even if it’s as low as $1

b. For every item you buy, you qualify for one free item of your choice

c. Instead of Free Stuff, name it Things For $1

What works best for this section is giving away big items and entire boxes.

#3 Avoid Generic Boxes

Unless you’re giving it away or really want to get rid of junk, generic boxes lower the perceived value of your items. They look like “one more of the pile.”

If you arrange them individually, this psychological trick raises their value. It also takes up more space and makes it look big.

For higher value, make your items specific. If you want to sell clothes fast, write down the size, maybe the material too. If you want to sell electronics, write down the specs. Don’t just sell “a box o’ cables.”

Tip: Let’s assume you check prices online and find some resell potential, but you don’t have time for flipping. If you think people can resell some items for a profit, mention it. Or write it down on the labels (“selling on Craigslist for ~$12″) to attract resellers.

#4 Don’t Sell Your Special Items

It’s hard to sell things you’ve lived with for years, even when the obvious is to underprice used items.

Chances are, if you attach too much to an item, you will do the same with everything else in the garage sale. You’re more likely to overprice and less open to negotiation.

And when you say No too often, people may give up on negotiating other items. Which costs you money.

If you’re not good at letting go of your valuables, maybe there’s a family member who doesn’t have that connection and can sell it better. Otherwise, exclude it from the garage sale.

Less is more. The fewer time buyers spend looking at products they won’t buy, the more they will on products they might want.

#5 Sales Shouldn’t End At The Garage

The no.1 worry in a garage sale is: Will I get rid of all this stuff?

This ties into other questions:

  • Will my garage sale attract enough people?
  • Will people buy for a fair price?

If you want to make a lot of money, you’ll either have to sell a lot or wait a lot. And the last thing you may want is ending the day with tables full of stuff, having to pack everything and put it back the next day.

The solution is a well-known sales principle: those who bought will likely buy again.

In fact, anyone who has shown interest may buy something eventually. So it might be a good idea to do some “lead generation.”

If people would like to get a discount or giveaways. ask for their phone number. So if the day ends and you sold less than expected, you can call them for a better offer.

And with this contact information, you can call them for future garage sales. So if you have a promotion for the first people that show up, they’ll be the first ones to know.

The Bottom Line

For a successful garage sale, what you don’t sell matters as much as what you sell. But you can’t sell if you can’t bring people to your garage, which is why you should price your stuff.

Before you put something for sale, you might want to check for prices online and resell it later.

What matters is fair pricing. How much would you pay for your used stuff if you didn’t own it? Knowing someone else has used it?

You may earn less per product but earn more in total due to quantity.

And you know it’s a success when you end the day with an empty garage and a stack of cash.

Share it
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments