The Exceptionally Ordinary Life

Garage Sale

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3 Reasons Why Our Garage Sale Failed & What We Are Doing Instead

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This past weekend my family and myself hosted a garage sale. We have never had one, but had frequented a few here and there for the past few years and thought, “Hey, why not have our own?”

The short answer? It sucked!

It took us the better part of last week to purge our closets and drawers, collect it all in bins, inspect every single item and then allocate on piles, according to price point. We did it like this to try and make easier for potential customers to figure out how much each item cost. And we even folded everything into neat piles.

We had some puzzles, a box full of books, a basket filled with plushies, women’s shoes, some little girl’s shoes, a basket of all things electronics, and even some video games and DVD movies. There was also a boy’s bike, a scooter and an almost new My Little Pony bike. And clothes. Tons and tons of clothes.

After all, we were doing this mostly to clear up our closets, all the more necessary for my teenage daughter, who will be leaving for college in September. The last thing we want is for our home to become a catch all for all things unimportant enough to be left behind. We know that most kids do this, and ours will most likely do it as well. But parents’ homes should not be their adult children’s storage units.

And so, we organized our garage sale.

3 Reasons Why Our Garage Sale Failed & What We Are Doing Instead

There are many reasons why this was not our best idea ever, though. Many things come into play to make a garage sale successful. We knew that. We just didn’t expect it to be such a failure. It was our first garage sale experience, and it looks like it will be our last.

Location, Location, Location

Our home is located on a very busy road, but hidden behind businesses. We created huge, bright signs and that got us some traffic. But unfortunately, most people were more intrigued with the fact that there is a house in this location, than interested in our items.

We got more questions and compliments about our location, than anything else. They kept looking at it and making comments like: “Wow, I have lived in this town for 40 years, and I never knew this was here”. Or, “You really lucked out when you found this place.” And the best, “I saw the garage sale sign and address and I just had to come check it out, since I was unaware there was a house here.”

Hmmm, really?

Well, yes, our house is tucked away, and difficult to find. Most people don’t know we are here and we like that way. In fact, we get comments and compliments from delivery people all the time (Right after they find the address they are delivering the package to, that is.)

We love our location. Our house is close to everything, from stores, to restaurants to a major interstate. Literally, within walking distance to all. But, we are hidden behind a business’ parking lot, where our “creepy driveway” (Seriously, that’s what a person said) can only be visible once you turn into said parking lot.

If you’re considering having a garage sale, keep your location in mind. If you do not have a prime location for it, then consider organizing a multi family garage sale with a few friends or family members on a different location. Or even teaming up with other, already known around town multi family garage sales for better results.

Set up time vs ROI (Return on investment)

Everybody who sets up a garage sale wants to make money out of it. I mean, yes, we want to downsize, to get rid of unused stuff. But we could just donate it, right? So, the main reason to put up with the trouble is to make some money, even if it’s not a lot. At least, we want to make it worth our time.

As I said before, it took us almost a whole week to get ready for this weekend. And in the end, all of our hard work did not pay off.

If preparing for a garage sale takes you hours upon hours and you don’t have any big priced items, like collectors items, fishing or camping gear, or a fancy Kitchenaid stand up mixer, then chances are, you will are wasting your time.


Because all small items will bring in some money, but not enough to justify the trouble. And that is assuming that those small ticket items sell. We only had a couple big items, including our 2 old cars, which we got no offers for. Everything else was small and cheap and obviously, not of interest for many.

Therefore, keep in mind what you are selling. If you have a bit of time to spare, go check your local Facebook buy/sell/trade groups. Pay particular attention to ISO (in search of) posts. That will give you a clearer idea of your chances of selling your stuff.

Expectations and low-balling

All these past years attending other people’s garage sales gave me some ideas of what I wanted and did not want to do if I ever had one.

One of them is, I find that if an item looks close enough to garbage, then you shouldn’t sell it. I have seen people selling dolls missing a body part, or a ripped or stained shirt. And those items were severely overpriced. Seriously, if an item is not whole and in good enough condition, why even attempt to sell?

I vowed to not do that, and so I made sure all I had to offer was, either “good enough” for my own family to continue to use (In which case, we would only be getting rid of it because we didn’t have any use for it anymore), or in excellent condition. Otherwise, I would price accordingly, a.k.a. super cheap.

Apparently, however, that wasn’t enough. I even had one lady ask me, on the first morning of the sale, if I had plans on lowering the prices even more during the final hours of the sale. Like, really? I felt quite annoyed by this of course. After all, I had sort of “under priced” in order to sell, and here she was, asking if I was going to lower prices. Seriously!

One of our “big ticket price” items was a girl’s My Little Pony bike. While this bike is used and without a box, it is in fact as good as new. My daughter only used it 3-4, for a grand total of 20-25 minutes in all before she outgrew it (Don’t you hate it when that happens???)

The bike was $79.99, new, in box. Since I purchased it, the design can’t be found in stores anymore. They now have a different design, with only Rainbow Dash on it. And so, you’d think that an impossible to find bike like that could sell for $60, right?


Only 2 people asked about it and lost interest as soon as they learned the price. I know the price is reasonable; I did my research. And the condition of the bike speaks for itself. But, somehow, they found it too expensive. Well, it might have been, but to be honest, I am not willing to lower the price down to pennies on a barely used item that costs much more.

As for everything else, I low-balled myself on pretty much all of it. Clothes, plushies, shoes, etc. were priced so low, it sounded crazy to me. But I was really trying to downsize, so I figured I’d sell the items for .25, .50, $1, $2 and $3, depending on the item.

Now keep in mind, I know the quality of the items. I know how much I paid for each and how everything has been kept in mint condition. We are not name brand snobs by any stretch, though. In fact, you could find anything from Walmart to The Children’s Place, to Calvin Klein and much more. But all we have is well taken care off and worth much more than our sale prices. However, we wanted them gone, and priced them with that in mind.

In this case, I believe the problem lies with the customers.

I do understand that people want to save money. Or need to save money. I really do. I am constantly looking for deals and making sure I do not overspend on anything.

In fact, saving money and staying on budget is the main mission and focus of this blog!

Unfortunately, I think the biggest problem is that there are just too many people looking for a handout. I mean, who doesn’t like free, right? I know I do. But I also know a thing or 2 about free stuff. One, chances are, you will be getting a lot of less-than-poor quality items. And two, if it’s free, you can’t be too picky about things like pet-free or smoke-free items.

When going to a garage sale, some people expect to find free or nearly free stuff. And I mean getting a nice, fancy coat for $.25, for example. The customer’s expectations are not aligned with the reality that, if an item is in very good condition, chances are, it’ll have a price to match.

On the other hand, going retail is much more expensive than garage sales. Even shopping at the Goodwill or any other thrift store, can guarantee you will pay anywhere from $5 to $10 or more, on a item that you could find at a garage sale for way less. And you also have to pay sales tax!

I am not sure why people would prefer to go to a store, even a thrift store, as opposed to a garage sale.

But I have a theory, of course.

Lack of “real shopping” feeling

Buying something at a store, even a “thrift store” gives people the sense of “going shopping”. Yes, the items are not new in most instances, but it gives them the feeling of “real shopping” vs garage or rummage sale shopping. This is a feeling that most, even those on a tight budget, are not willing to part with. Even when it means paying much more.

They tend to overlook the overall incredible condition of most items. Instead, they focus on the lack of “retail shopping” experience, which in turn lowers the value of the purchase in their eyes.

This results in people who prefer to pay $5 for a new (with tags) shirt at Walmart, instead of a $3 (without tags), in excellent condition Ann Taylor shirt at a garage sale. Now, if you were to offer that same Ann Taylor shirt for free, you’d have TONS of comments on that Facebook post in less time than it takes to say “Quidditch”.

Hunt for things that are too specific.

Then there are those looking for very specific things, like fishing gear, military items, camping stuff, etc. For our garage sale, I made a Facebook post that I shared with multiple buy/sell/trade groups in my area, using the Facebook Marketplace. When I made the post, I made sure to include details like the cars we were selling, the almost new girl’s bike and the fact that we had a ton of clothes to sell.

I even added a picture of my dinning room table, stacked with tons of clothes! But even then, we got a mom and her 2 daughters who came looking for Littlest Pet Shop items. That is such a specific want! And we had none of it, of course.

Bottom line, you’ll get some people who are not just garage sale hopping, but who are in fact, shopping with specific items in mind. And that is a tall order for any garage sale host.

You could, to avoid this, make sure you include pictures off all tables and areas where your items are set up for your sale. Make sure to take pics of those more sought after items, like that Kitchenaid stand up mixer I mentioned above. And if you do have a lot of camping stuff, fishing gear or collectable items, I’d make sure you mention them when you make the post. You might get a ton of interested people that way.

It’s not a guarantee of success, but it just might work for you.

Want to know how much we made? Here it comes…

Drumroll, please!

We made a whopping $13!

Oh wait, that’s not right. I spent $3.45+ tax on poster boards. And time. Let’s not forget how much time I wasted getting ready for it, setting up, posting on FB groups and of course, waiting for people to show up. Will we do it again? Nope, never again.

Not sure if a garage sale is right for you?

Before you embark on this tiring and often fruitless journey, take a good, hard look at my 3 tops reasons not to have one.

  • Location—> Make sure your location is ideal or take the necessary steps to find a different venue for your garage sale
  • Set up time vs ROI—> If you really have nothing else to do, by all means go right ahead and work the garage sale for your family. If you, like most of us humans, are incredibly busy, then consider skipping it altogether, and maybe create separate posts for those B/S/T Facebook groups and purge your house of unwanted items slowly but surely. You could also use the Offerup app or, even sell on eBay (I have started to do this recently and, while I will not become rich next month, it is going well.
  • Expectations vs Low-balling—>Price to sell. Try really hard to remove all emotional attachment to the items you’re selling. Know that, while it might have cost you much more, you need to price it well, to spark interest. But also, know how low you are willing to go on price and be willing to make deals if, say, a person buys more than just one item.
  • Networking Opportunities—> Last, but not least. I have added this, because it’s important that, if you have the platform for it (i.e. church, clubs, work, organizations, etc), you use it to the max. On the other hand, if you keep your socializing to a minimum, there will be way less networking chances.

Moving on

I have been doing some of these for quite some time, but I have put myself in gear, and have found these other options to be a success (most of the time):

  1. Facebook Buy/Sell/Trade groups
  2. Offerup
  3. Craigslist
  4. eBay

Of the above mentioned, I have to say eBay is my favorite! It takes a bit of time to take really good pictures, and make a good, descriptive post, but it’s so worth it! I am nowhere near done de-cluttering our home, but I have put a nice dent to our pile of “things”.

3 Reasons Why Our Garage Sale Failed & What We Are Doing Instead

Have you ever had a garage sale? Share with us how that worked for you in the comments section below! And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter 😉

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