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Planning a Facility Garage Sale
By Debi Trammell
Activity Director

First, a disclaimer.  This is a lot of work.  But, so far, my most successful money raiser
has been the facility garage sale.

The payoff is usually well worth the effort that goes into planning the event.  
Big jobs are easier when broken into smaller parts.  

1. Pick a Date – Because a lot of your customers will be coworkers, plan around your
payday.  I hold my garage sales on Friday and Saturday from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.  
Give yourself at least two months to plan and organize your sale.  Know Your City –
Some cities have specific garage sales ordinances. In my city, you can hold only two a
year and you must go to city hall to apply for a garage sale permit.  Fines for not
complying with city laws can be substantial.         
It’s also important to know where you can post your signs.  For instance, some cities
will not allow you to post signs on utility poles.  You should be able to find your city’s
specific regulations on the city website.

2. Pick a Location – Ideally, you should set up outside in an area that can be seen from
a busy road.  Setting up on concrete (maybe the parking lot?) is better than setting up
on grass, and you need an area large enough for customers to move around
comfortably.  You’ll also want to consider how hard/easy it will be to transport the
garage sale items to the location.  It’s a good idea to make an alternate plan in case the
weather doesn’t cooperate.

3. Gather stuff –  Clean out your office and storage room.  You should consider selling
anything you haven’t used in the last year, excluding holiday items that you will use
again.  In most facilities, unclaimed property and clothing can be donated after a period
of time.  
Don’t forget to ask for donated items from staff and family members.  
Chose a place to store everything until it’s time for the yard sale.  You will quickly run out
of space if you try to store it all in your office.  I usually ask Maintenance to put a lock on
an empty room and use it for storage until the day of the sale.

4. Advertise – Create colorful flyers to promote your garage sale.  If you don’t have
access to a color printer, use colored paper to make your flyer more noticeable.  
Ask your business office to send copies out with your monthly billing statement (add a
note requesting donated items). Hang them on your facility entrance doors, in the
employee break room, and your office door.
Ask your church volunteers if they would let you put an announcement in their bulletin.  
You can advertise for free on websites like , ,
and .
Local laundry mats and apartment laundry rooms are also a good place to advertise,
just make sure you get permission first.   
Place signs in your area the day of the sale.  You should place them at busy
intersections, especially if your location is not on a busy street.  List some of the items
you’ll be selling.  People are often attracted by items like electronics, craft supplies,
toys, and furniture.
Attendance and sales will be bigger if you let people know what you are going to do with
the money.  For instance, announcing you are trying to raise money for a new popcorn
machine will be more appealing than just raising money for a general activity fund.

5. Enlist Help –   Running a good garage sale is a team project.  You will need people
to help you advertise, organize, clean, price, set up, run the sale and clean up.  
Make sure you have volunteers lined up to help you.   Tap as many volunteer resources
as you can and use a form (like the one attached) to keep track of who’s doing what..  
Contact your local scout troops and suggest the garage sale as a service project.  
Church youth groups and local service organizations may also be willing to help.  
Most high schools now require community service hours to graduate.  Call the
counselors at your local schools and ask them to spread the word about your need for
Colleges usually have the same requirement; ask for permission to post a volunteer
request on their bulletin board.  Family members and employees may also be willing to
help out.  I usually bring a resident or two out for short periods of time.  They love to
interact with the customers!
The day of the scale, schedule volunteers to come in shifts so you have help throughout
the day.  Be sure you have a few people scheduled to help you clean up!

6. Sorting and Pricing – Take a good look at the items as they come in.  I throw out
anything that is broken, stained or incomplete (like puzzles, or games with missing
pieces). If an item is in good shape, but dirty, clean it.  
Test electronics to make sure they work.  If they don’t work they may still be sellable,
some people use broken electronics for parts.  Remember, garage sale shoppers are
bargain hunters, looking for a great deal.
Don’t price too high, but don’t undersell yourself, either.  Pro garage sale junkies love to
haggle and will always try to talk you into taking less money.  Ask yourself “What would I
pay for that?” and add a little to it.
To avoid putting a price tag on every tiny item, create boxes with signs on them that say “.
10¢ each”, “.25¢ each”, and “.50¢ each”.   This works great for hot wheels, stuffed
animals, barbies, books, etc.

7. Set up – Setting up your folding tables in a large “U” shape sets up a natural flow of
traffic when your customers start arriving. Place your nicer and bigger items where they
can easily be seen from the busiest road.  
Baby furniture, couches, televisions and other large household items catch driver’s
attention and make them want to stop and look around. Group like items together, like a
department store does.  
Make sure every item is clean and your display looks organized.  It’s a good idea to
have a long extension cord so potential customers can try out the electronic items
before they buy.   I borrow clothing racks from our laundry department so people can
see what we are selling.  Jewelry looks pretty displayed on a black plush cloth laid over
boxes of varying heights.  

  • Do start the garage sale with about $50 in change, stored in a small lockbox
  • Do have another person count money with you, and both of you sign off on the
    total at the beginning and the end of the garage sale.
  • Do be flexible on your prices.  After all, every penny earned gets you closer to
    your goal.
  • Do drastically drop your prices the second day of your sale.
  • Do have fun!  You’ll make a good impression on a lot of people.  Think of your
    sale as a marketing event.

  • Don’t try to do it all by yourself.  If you can’t get volunteers lined up, postpone the
    garage sale until you can.
  • Don’t take I.O.U.’s.  It’s cash and carry, no holding on to items or waiting to be
    paid “next payday”., even from employees.
  • Don’t stress out. All you can do is the best you can do.  Enjoy the day.
  • Don’t overprice items.  It really is stuff other people were throwing away.
  • Don’t take the leftovers back inside.  Arrange to donate what’s left over.  Where
    would you keep it anyway?
  • Don’t be discouraged by the scale of the event. All it takes is a little bit of
    planning to make your garage sale a success.    

Until next time,

Debi Trammell is a full time Activity Director at Ashford Hall, a 220 bed skilled nursing facility.  
She is responsible for activity planning for the general population and a 40 bed Alzheimer’s /
Dementia unit.  
Residents range in age from 26 – 100 years old, with a fairly large population of 50-70 year olds.
Formerly a corporate marketing manager, Debi has been an Activity Professional in long term care for
9 1/2 years.  
She recently completed MEPAP Part 2 and has applied for certification.  Future plans include
consulting and writing more activity articles.
Trammell lives in Texas with her husband, her fifteen year old son and one very mis-behaved dog.  
Her grown daughter and her family (most importantly, her two grandsons!) live nearby.