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Monday, April 30, 2012

Ten Tips for a Glorious Garage Sale

Hey everyone! Storage Heroes here, and we're writing a book currently on "How to Have the Best Garage Sale Ever" that should be out at the end of May. We just had a really kick-butt sale this past weekend and wanted to take this moment to share with you a few of our sure-fire garage sale tips. Some of them seem super straight-forward, but they're worth repeating. Some you probably haven't even thought of before. Either way, do most of these things or all of these things to make your garage sale count. No one wants to wake up at 6am for less than a few hundred dollars!
This is a typical size of our crowd at any given moment... follow our tips and you'll be just as successful!

Who are we to be garage sale experts? Well, I guess no one is officially an "expert" at anything without some type of paperwork proving it, but I will tell you this: over the last 15 months we have had 1-2 garage sales per week. That's somewhere between 80 and 120 garage sales in a year and a half. I'm pretty sure that after doing anything 80 times, you can pretty much consider yourself an expert. Our average sale brings in the $600-$800 neighborhood, but we've done far better. And we want you to make the most bang for your buck as well. So, here goes:

1. Organize your items before the sale - This sounds like a simple thing to do, and one that doesn't seem like it needs repeating, but definitely do it. I've seen so many people just throw stuff in rubbermaid bins (us included) thinking that you can "put it out the morning of and people can go through it" - wrong. People WILL dig, but they don't like to, there's a reason why only a few of us are Storage Hunters to begin with. Put it out and make it easy for them to find things so it's easy to buy things. You wouldn't buy something at Walmart if it took you over 30 minutes to find it and the same is true for garage sales. A good tip if you don't have a covered space to set up the tables the night before, is to put similar or like items in rubbermaid totes, and mark them with chalk (which comes off) which bin is which- that way in the morning you can just put each bin out on it's own table.

Arrange like items together


2. Price your items - You may not need to put stickers on every single item (especially not if you're like us and you do this every single week) but you definitely at least need to have an idea of what your prices are. Make a matrix, write it down, remember it, stick to it. If you're charging 50 cents for a paperback book and 1.00 for a hardback book, make sure you know that in advance. If you seem unsure about your prices your customers will use that to bulldoze you on the day of the sale. They also may pick up a bunch of things thinking they'll get them for far cheaper and when you disagree just throw them down on the ground leaving your garage sale looking like a bomb went off and discouraging future customers from buying (see #1).

3. Label your tables so that people know what's what - Again, it might seem obvious, but it's not. We have professional signs that are laminated that we can just tape to a table or prop up. It's also super helpful to write down with sidewalk chalk (maybe even the night before) the layout of what is where so that people don't have to guess about where to find something.

Label the sidewalk with chalk underneath tables and on containers for easy pickup



Chalk is also good for showing people which route to take through your sale

4. Provide bins or boxes for customers to keep their items in - Have you ever been to a store that handed you a little basket on your way in? I bet you spend a lot more there than you would have somewhere else- it made carrying everything convenient, you felt like a VIP customer, and it didn't seem like you had quite so many things as you actually ended up purchasing. The same is true for garage sales! If you're in the storage unit business, it's a safe bet that you have hundreds of rubbermaid totes and cardboard boxes and there will be hundreds more where that came from-- give them out!


5. One word: balloons - It may seem strange, but it works. Trust us. Putting balloons out the day of a sale increases our final profit by over $150. We will definitely put some directly in front of the sale, but if we're feeling super enterprising, we'll even put some out on the corners leading to our sales (with the signs with the arrows). It makes the sign eye-catching, it helps people pick our sale over other sales (because we're clearly richer and more high class, and therefore have better items), and it gets everyone in a cheerful party atmosphere.


6. Advertise, advertise, advertise - you cannot over do it enough. The balloons help, make sure you have some really good signs that are visible from the street. Include the address and the time so that people don't a** you end at, say, 11, when you go until 1 or 2. Lime green and blue are two of the most effective colors for being noticed and followed. Sandwich boards are helpful because you don't have to worry about breaking city or neighborhood rules (many of which ban stapling signs to city poles or trees), and they stand up on their own. You can also try parking your vehicle and adhering the sign to it. Make sure you have a newspaper ad AND a craigslist ad. Craigslist is free, the newspaper ad will typically run you $20-$30 and it's WELL spent. The majority of your customers will find you through this ad. You can also be creative and advertise on twitter, Facebook, through flyers, and word of mouth.

Our standard color scheme on signs

Our double sided sandwich board- chalk on one side and dry erase on the other. Notice the balloons!

7. Figure out who your primary audience is and cater to them - did you advertise your sale at a ladies church meeting? Perhaps put sewing and craft items near the front. If you live in a neighborhood with lots of children, put the toys in a visible spot near the street. If you have a eye-catching piece of furniture, make sure that faces the road. You want to attract whoever is going to be passing by, and more importantly, whoever is going to buy the items you have for sale. If you only have one wheel, don't display that- people will stop by looking for tools or automotive things and you won't have anything else to offer them. Use that front space with something you could sell a lot of that day.


8. Make your customers feel special - greet everyone. Learn your frequent customers names and use them. Offer soft drinks, water, or baked goods. Play fun music. Think of things you appreciated while shopping and replicate that experience. A fun thing we always do is that we offer one free toy to every single child that attends our sale. It goes back to when I (Rebecca) was a child and was dragged around to garage sale after garage sales by my grandmother. It was a miserable experience and I only had fun when I was allowed to take something home. Plus, you're entertaining the child (by letting them walk around and shop) so that the parent is free to purchase more items. We also offer discounts to military, students, and on occasion we will give a discount to someone wearing New Orleans Saints colors on game day, or patriotic colors on the fourth of July, etc.

We provided this customer a discount because of his New Orleans Saints attire!

9. Mo' money less problems - offer customers a break on multiple purchases- just like they would get on eBay or at certain stores. We tend to do $1 per item, or 6 for $5, 12 for $10, 15 for $12, 20 for $15 and so on. Perhaps let someone fill a bag for $10 or a box for $20. Above all else, refuse change. Don't sell items for 10 cents, 25 cents, it just opens yourself up to misery (and heavy pockets). If someone wants something that's 50 cents, tell them two for a dollar, and that you don't carry change. It works every time. And on the off chance that they do insist on paying in pennies or dimes, make them feel as ridiculous as possible and make sure your coins aren't worth something! We've had many a person pay us 50 cents less than we asked for only to get a quarter worth $3 in silver.


10. HAVE FUN - Remember, this is part of your income and therefore your job, but it's also a weekend and is your leisure time, so there's no reason why you can't have a ball too. Your customers will be difficult, just let their rude attitudes and ridiculousness roll off your back (or tell them off and have fun doing THAT) - enjoy yourself! Try on costumes, play with toys, after all- you're going to sell these items today right? You'll never see them again after that!

Brian goofing off at a sale!

Rebecca having fun at a sale!

For more Garage sale tips, our book "How to Have the Best. Garage Sale. Ever." should be out in late May! E-mail us at to pre-order.

This blog is cross posted on Storage Treasures.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Male Versus Female Units Part 2 - Female

Hey y'all!   Rebecca here.   We wrote about the Male unit, here's the Female unit.  We bought these on the same day, and here's what this one looked like when the door rolled open:

When units are disorganized like this it makes others not want to go for them, but for us, that's a good thing.  A)  It means they will go for less than other units, so we have a potential for more profit, and B) if the tenant packed things so haphazardly it means there's probably a good chance that they either do not know what's inside or don't remember.  Or even if they do, they can't get to it quickly to get it out!  These are the units where we find gold in garbage bags.  And at $25, it was worth that gamble.  We figured even in sterilite bins alone, it was worth our money!

Here's a closeup of one side:

And a closeup of the other:

It's really nothing particular...  just a lot of pink in this one... a lot of clothes and shoes visible, an obvious contrast to the boxes and tools visible in the other unit.  It makes it easier to remember which one is which (especially when you could buy up to 7 units in one day) by giving them little nicknames.

We opened the unit and took a quick peek.  Of course I went straight for a box I thought gave me the feeling and didn't stop until I uncovered it-- a men's gold ring.  Score!  I wasn't entirely sure it was real, but Brian was, so I trusted him and we sent it off to our contact to get a final $ value.

We packed our stuff up and started digging the following day...

It's kind of ironic, really-- we called these the Male and Female units even before we really knew what was inside, just by the way they looked... and so far, it's working out perfectly.  In the "male" unit, we found penis enhancing pills, and in the woman's, we find breast enhancement cream!  What are the odds?

 We also found stuff for babies all over the place.  I'm not sure who stores formula in a non-climate controlled storage unit, that can't be great.  I'm not sure what the rules are for storing this stuff but I'm pretty glad no one was ever able to feed this to a child.  Perhaps they just didn't know how long it was going to be in storage-- but I'm sure any amount of time in a 105 degree locker (probably in Summer) was any good.

A drawing of the family, I guess...

What a ... classy... party picture.  I'm not sure what I like best.  The fancy car,  martini glass, or WASTED back drop!

This watch was designer (D&G I think), and really nice... a shame the rats ate the leather.  It happens a lot in Storage units!

A lovely petrified mosquito on an item of clothing!  It would NOT come off so I just threw away the item of clothing.  Another part of cleaning out storage units!

Yeah... she TOTALLY took someone else's medical excuse letter, used white out on the filled out parts, and re-copied it!
On the bright side, she saved me the trouble of having to block the personal information out of my photos!

Lots of nice baby stuff, including this On-The-Go Bottle Warmer & case.

She also got this custom made banner for her child with the custom name (Blayz).  I guess this is Yo Gabba Gabba?    I'm not an expert at all of that kids stuff... but it seems like a really cute idea for a kids party!

The leftovers of the bottom of a sterilite bin.  Storage unit bins are so random sometimes!

It's so weird, there were TWO packets of paperwork from lawyers in this unit and I know a partner at EACH of the firms!  How random is that?

This next bin is a hodge podge,  including a TON of personal items on top.  Framed pictures, diplomas, photographs.   We tried to leave the items for the tenant but the storage facility would not accept them.  Sometimes this happens when they have just been completely and totally strung along by the tenant.  Sometimes they even ban the tenant from their property.

More Dora the Explorer puzzle pieces, and STORAGE LOCKER GOLD-- a cell phone charger!   Brian and I's phones take the same charger (along with half of America), and whenever we find mini-USB chargers we hoard them.  We already had one in each car, 2 at my house, 2 at his house, and 1 in the warehouse, so this one will go in the van!   Woop woop!

And, a ha!  We always find tampons!  I would expect nothing less from a "female" unit!

Apparently this particular lady had her own business.  LOTS of Storage Unit tenants seem to have their own businesses.  Or I guess storage unit tenants who default.  We've had at least 10 that I can think of right now... but I'm sure there are more.  Scrapbook businesses, salons, t-shirt businesses, restaurants, pirated DVD businesses, seamstresses, the list goes on and on...   I wonder if it was the failing business that caused them to default on the unit or maybe just their general irresponsibility that caused them to lose lots of different things.  Maybe we'll look into this at some point (like, if I ever go back to graduate school for Psychology!)... but for now, it's a unique chain of events.  And, we can add "House of Braids" to our list of businesses.
AND, should we ever want cornrows, we know what prices to expect!

One of the best (or worst) parts about this business is really getting to know a lot about each tenant, and almost getting to live life as they would, or experience the things they experience, if only just for a couple of minutes.   Before I knew what we would find in this unit, we named it the Female Unit, only because the other one was so obviously male (fishing, and tools, and camo items, and World's Greatest Dad items, and so on and so forth)...  and this one was so obviously female (stilettos, and female clothing, and makeup, not to mention all of the pink bins), but had I not went with that name, this might have been the Obituary unit.   This poor lady knew SO MANY people who passed on.  Some at an old age, most, including her brother, at a tragically young age.    I found article after article (and obituary after obituary) of all of the loved ones she had to say Goodbye to.   I need to remember that whatever my own problems, there are people in certain communities (some closer to home than I'd like)  who are facing intense crime and losing their loved ones every day for seemingly little reason.

With that said, this part of the blog was written before I learned tragic news, that one of my dear friend's  little brothers was shot to death in New Orleans, just HOURS after being inducted into an honor society at his college.   An absolute shame that such a bright light and talented young man had his life cut shorter than we all would have expected.   My heart goes out to my friend Jason, and to the George family, and there is a link here to the story if you'd like to read it.  If we can keep people like Joshua always on our minds, we can make sure that something like this does not happen again.  Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

Here's a picture of Joshua taken at his Honor Society Induction:

The crime situation has gotten RIDICULOUS.

Sigh.  I'm almost too sad to go on with our blog, but life goes on, and so does our hard work.  And pointing out the mistakes of others so that they do not happen again.  This is not nearly as important as crime, but it's still important-   don't pack food.  EVER.

This formal prom/cruise ship/whatever picture looks lovely.... the lady has a lovely hair do, a great dress, beautiful jewelry... and the best accessory of all-- her cell phone hanging in the neckline of her dress.

Blogger will not let me rotate this for some reason, but you get the glory of it anyways!

Someone in this family was an artist.  He was actually really talented... but some of the drawings were kind of strange / I'm not exactly sure what they were trying to represent.

Loved this flower panel!

This is one of those giant pencils that she had for her children-- must have been older though, because the Twin Towers are still depicted in the New York City skyline.

More drawings... this one is interesting because it has two lions, our artist, and Bob Marley.  I'm not sure what they all have in common-- but he definitely had some drawing skills!

A jungle lioness... and a cougar!

More obituaries...

A BOX full of obituaries...

Ooh, a Pet Passport.  I didn't know they made these!  Very cute!  We will have to get them for Lola and for Angelo.
The Cast of 227!   Promo Shot!   Shut Up!

And it's AUTOGRAPHED!   Is this worth anything?  :)

If you're offended by obscene language, don't read this notebook.   Someone REALLY wanted to keep people out of their notebook!

Card from the very nice vet.   The dog's name was Lala.  Ironic because mine is Lola!

A garbage bag full of miscellaneous items:

And some really cute shoes (not my size):

These spandex gold pants are definitely coming with me!  They are perfect for Saints games!

An overview of all the goodies collected so far...

Closeup of goodies...

A bunch of really nice/cute kids clothes...

And really cute babies clothes...

And adult clothes and shoes...

And of course, there's random stuff too!

Sadly, this box had a lot more personal items.   Including a baby book with notes from the Mom and Dad.   It breaks my heart when we can't get these things back to the rightful owner.  In this case, we tried to return to the facility, they would not allow us, and we could not find any contact information in the unit.  The contact information the facility had was no good.   We even posted a craigslist ad-- at this point though, what can you do?    So sad that people let things like this get away from them.  But, I guess life is most important, and things (even sentimental things) are just things.

A box of uniforms and costumes... always useful in New Orleans!

ON this digging day, I found this... time to play, What's in the Bag?

Toiletries of course... the broken kind!   A broken cologne bottle and a broken razor blade!

And then, there was something in one of the flaps, but it didn't have an opening.  I wasn't sure if it was just part of the bag that broke, or something someone sewed in... like drugs... or hopefully, money.    No dice.  What I found was this:

The black plastic flap of the bag broken into a million pieces!  At least I was smart enough to know that it wasn't "normal" for a bag like this!   Always check EVERYTHING.  It could have easily been a coin collection in there.  (Okay, not likely, but POSSIBLE).

Ah... TOTALLY USEFUL!   An NFL Saints Rain Poncho!

There were a ton of VHS tapes in BOTH units (the Male unit and the Female unit), so I guess we have no clues as to which gender prefers tapes... but I will say, that Red Sun VHS was the largest one I have EVER SEEN.  Look at the size of it compared to the other tape!

Here's another comparison:
What kind of VHS tape IS this?

Here's a look at the collection of VHS tapes that accumulated from this unit (there were the same amount in the other unit, so we definitely have quite the collection now!  Won't be able to GIVE them all away)

Hmm...   guess who's been HERE?
Storage Heroes Tip Beta #2:  Whenever you find a Michelob Ultra bottle, Brian has been near!

At this point I felt a breeze, and I thought maybe it would rain... one of New Orleans' famous mid-afternoon POURINGS... it's a good thing I looked around the corner, because look at what was coming my way!
Just a few more things before it's time to wrap up:

Like this purse.   People seem to always leave their bags like this!  It made me go through my house on a mission to at least clean the change and candies out of my purses.  I made $50!

Turns out that not only did this girl have a lot of obituaries, she was also responsible for planning TONS of services.   Including that of her own brother.  I'm not sure how he passed but he died on the same day as another young man-- so I'm guessing an accident of some kind.  They were both in the Army so I'm not sure if they were lost in service or not.   I meant to research him and may at some point.  Here's a few of the other services she planned:

A book... Chocolate for a Mother's Heart!

A... slap bracelet?

Wrong, a  GEISHA slap bracelet! Or is this a beloved cartoon character?

This is a letter from a family member to our tenant apologizing for her most recent tragic loss.  A shame to have to receive letters like this!   Really sweet of the person to send it though.

Another funeral memorial program:

A picture of our lady at a school dance or prom, judging by the flower and the limo.   I *LOVE* this dress.  Words cannot describe how beautiful it is.  Does someone know what this is?  Or where I can find it ?  Or can make me one?  I will trade you any piece of clothing I have, let's make it work! Better yet, I'll give you some of that fabric from the sewing unit--- some to make this dress and some for whoever can make it for me!

This next envelope was very useful, even though Brian had no idea why.  It was a packet of baby shower games... and it was photocopied about 25 times.   VERY useful for the future!

More baby shower games:

And more.  I guess it is nice that at least she wasn't JUST planning funerals.  I guess she was just the planner in her family.    Ironic that we get a lot of teachers, and coaches, and those types of people's storage units too-- that someone can be so organized (and organize others) but then lose the unit.  I guess it's just another one of those things.  

Brian FINALLY making himself useful!  He showed up just in time to help me SPRINT inside with the boxes to save them from the rain.     Look at all of the office supplies we found!   Definitely useful!

Just what every bride needs to store for her big day... her veil, her bouquet, and her weave!

Okay, this pregnancy book cracked me up.  I'm grateful that they make them, and that they are giving them out to people who maybe cannot afford the best medical care, but man do they assume the worst when it comes to those pronunciations.  (kon sti PA ted) ? Really?   Is it necessary to tell your doctor that you're constipated with the right emphasis on the right syllables?

Here's another one.   Try MESS ters!

Some original PRISON LETTER art!  YES!  You know what that means!  A new Letter from a Storage Locker soon!

and a really cute nurses project from one of the children from school.  Precious!

That's it on this one... there were a few more bins, nothing spectacular.  A bunch more clothes, and toys, and shoes, and those sorts of things.    Considering we only paid $25 for the unit, it's definitely a steal.    We also found (within 10 minutes of our first look inside) a 10k gold ring valued at over $300.   Good for my "feelings", right?   It was the only piece of jewelry inside the unit, but it definitely paid for the unit, our trouble, and then some!   We would have made money just on what we saw had it not been in there (and that's the most important part), but it's nice to find some treasure every now and then!

Storage Heroes Tip #40:  If a unit looks like a total disaster, take that into consideration, certainly.  You may not want to buy this unit if you have a bad back, or can't stand being in the heat for very long (because the digs on site are BRUTAL-- you have to at least throw all of the items into containers to get them into your vehicle),  or if you only have 24 hours to clean it out, or something like that-- but if it possible for you to buy it, do it.  It will be cheaper because everyone else will be lazy and will generate more profit for you because you paid less for it.  Additionally, if a tenant couldn't find their valuables inside of it, there's a good chance they couldn't take them out before they defaulted on the unit!   Messy units are also a sign of irresponsible tenants, and that can mean a whole lot of things.  Irresponsible tenants tend to have higher credit card debt, more irrational spending, and this could mean a whole lot of designer and new with tags items!   Messy units are a lose-win-win-win.   Difficult, but it pays off triple in the long run!

Until next time,

Storage Heroes


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