The art of the sale

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Patsy Chalstrom, of Coalville, at right, along with her daughter, Darci Mersch, of Clare, look over a glass pitcher that’s among the many items that will be offered at Chalstrom’s annual garage sale. Organizing merchandise and having it on display on tables, rather than in bins, is one of the tips the pair offered for a successful sale.

COALVILLE — Patsy Chalstrom, along with her daughters, Darci Mersch, of Clare and Cherri Miller, of Otho, have been spending the last few weeks sorting and sizing clothing, organizing household items and sticking the classic garage sale price tag — a piece of masking tape — onto a huge collection of items that they hope will have new homes after the weekend.

The sale, called “Mom’s garage sale” by family members, is a tradition. The merchandise was, and still is, brought to the sale by Chalstrom’s family, friends and neighbors.

“Anybody that wanted to bring anything brought it,” Chalstrom said.

It used to be held in the spring and the fall.

“It’s down to one now,” she said. “We started it 29 years ago here and at least 10 years ago in the other house in Coalville.”

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Patsy Chalstrom, of Coalville, at left, along with her daughter, Darci Mersch, of Clare, look over items they will be offering for sale at Chalstrom’s annual garage sale. Clearly labeling everything with prices and organizing the merchandise are two tips the pair offered for a successful garage sale.

After all that time, Chalstrom and her daughters have it down to a science.

“She’s the queen of organizing,” Mersch said. “Me? Not so much.”

That science includes a few tips for sales in general, whether held in the garage, out on the driveway or spread all over the lawn.

“We like to have everything marked and sized,” Chalstrom said. “We put the same type of items together on the tables.”

They also have one no-no.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Patsy Chalstrom, of Coalville, looks over a basket of Beanie Babies she’ll be selling at her annual garage sale. She said the Beanie Baby market is pretty flat, “We used to get a dollar for them but I’ll probably put them out for 50 cents.” she said.

“The one thing we don’t ever do is throw stuff into a tote,” Mersch said.

Chalstrom said that customers appreciate being able to see the prices on her merchandise. Of course, those prices are not etched in stone. Rather, they’re written on the classic and traditional pieces of masking tape and, yes, they’re negotiable.

“If they want to make an offer on something we generally take it,” Chalstrom said.

There’s a good reason for that: a quarter for a Beanie Baby is better than not selling the Beanie Baby.

“Once it’s in the garage we don’t want to bring it back into the house,” Mersch said.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Patsy Chalstrom, right, of Coalville, along with her daughter, Darci Mersch, of Clare, hold the large easy to see sign they use to direct customers to Chalstrom’s annual garage sale. Easy to follow signs to the sale are one of the tips the pair offered.

They also don’t expect to get rich off the sale. It’s all about getting rid of unwanted things — clothes that don’t fit, Beanie Babies that won’t fund anyone’s retirement — and having a lot of fun socializing with customers who come every year, meeting new ones and enjoying the company of family and friends.

“You’re lucky if you get 10 percent of what you paid,” Mersch said. “We price everything to sell. It’s doing a purge.”

“You’re not going to make a fortune,” Chalstrom added.

Incidentally, the Beanie Baby market bottomed out and tanked years ago.

“I used to put a dollar on them, but I’ll probably put 50 cents on them,” Chalstrom said.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Another hallmark of a well organized easy to shop garage sale are items that are organized by size.

Are there items that should never be sold at a garage sale?

Both agree on a few things.

“Dirty torn clothes and dirty toys,” Chalstrom said.

“Everything has to be clean,” Mersch added.

Mom’s Garage Sale is also must be easy to find. A pet peeve of many shoppers are signs on the corner where the address, directions or hours can’t be read from the car during the hunt for the sale.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Still a classic, still the best way to apply price tags. Several rolls of masking tape, to be made into price tags, await their items.

“We have a big sign,” Chalstrom said. “We’ve had it for years.”

It’s big, it’s simple and easy to read. The words Garage Sale are bold lettering and a big arrow points down the correct street. Once there, customers will find another one in the yard that lets them know that’s the right place.

Garage sales, Chalstrom’s and almost all others, tend to be a cash only affair. No cards, no checks.

Chalstrom only made one exception to accepting a check and she hasn’t done so since.

“It was somebody I knew,” she said. “It was no good.”

One final tip: you can’t control the weather but you can ask for divine intervention.

“Pray for good weather,” Mersch said. “That’s the final tip.”

How to host a successful sale, in a garage or outside

Statistics collecting resource Statistics Brain says that roughly 165,000 yard/garage sales take place in the United States each week. Nearly 700,000 people purchase something at those sales, leading to millions of dollars exchanging hands.

Yard sales may seem straightforward, but there are a few strategies to ensure such sales go boom rather than bust.

Right date and time

Plan when to hold the sale by looking at the calendar and choosing an open weekend. Many people host their yard sales on Friday, Saturday or Sunday mornings, theorizing that this is when the most people will be free to browse their wares.

Begin early in the morning so that shoppers will not need to disrupt their schedules much to visit neighborhood sales. A 7 a.m. start time will attract the early birds and free up most of the day.

Advertise the sale

To reach the maximum number of shoppers, advertise your sale in various ways. Signage around the neighborhood announcing the sale is one method. Signs should be bold, simple and easily readable for passing motorists.

Place ads in local newspapers, online and on grocery store bulletin boards, and use social media to spread the word of the sale even further. Be sure to give ample notice of the sale so that shoppers can mark their calendars.

Make for easy browsing

Arrange goods for sale into categories and pay attention to presentation. You may generate more sales if items are easy to see and browsing is made easy. Put items you expect to draw the most attention popular near the end of the driveway to entice passers-by.

A neat and inviting appearance also may convey that you’ve taken care of your home and your belongings. Play some music and offer light refreshments to create a convivial atmosphere.

Price things reasonably

It’s tempting to overprice items, but a good rule of thumb is to mark things for one-half to one-third of the original value. Be open to negotiation, but try to haggle with a “buy one get one” approach, rather than marking down the price considerably. After all, the goal is to get rid of as many items as possible, with financial gain a distant second.

Yard sales are popular ways to make money and clear homes of unwanted items. Hosts can make their sales even more successful by employing a few simple strategies.