how to make money and save time on your next garage sale

garage sale sign

Every time we have a garage sale, we say, “Never again.” Apparently that phrase does not mean what we think it means.

When we moved to Portland from Tualatin, we went through every item we owned as we packed the moving boxes, determined that no old junk would make the move. Cheap plastic spatulas? No, let’s only take the decent kitchen tools. Particle-board bookshelves and $25 corduroy-and-2×4 sofa from the 70s? No, we’ve moved beyond that college-kid stuff.  We felt we’d streamlined to such an extent that the idea of a future sale was ludicrous. So, goodbye, little stickers! Adios, frantically pricing things at the crack of dawn! We’re done with that garage sale nonsense. Never again!

Besides, we were moving to a larger house. We would never fill up that space, let alone ever have so much in the house that we would want to get rid of anything! But fill it we did – and every last thing was visible since this house has much less closed storage than the prior one did. (How I miss you, two attics and a loft in the garage! You sure made that 1900 square feet in Tualatin live large.) So we had another garage sale right after we moved in, to get rid of everything that didn’t “fit” in the new house.  But never again!

Until we decided to go to Europe and rent out our lower level to our friend Greg, that is. That propelled us into selling one-third of our worldly goods, and – for some reason – we decided that the best way to do that was to have… a garage sale! (That particular sale has been well-documented. Relive the madness here, here, and here, and see how we decided never to have a garage sale again here).

Fast forward two years to this summer. We’d cleaned out all of Q’s childhood clothes, toys, and craft materials, to my great distress. The craft materials, in particular, seemed like they would be difficult to donate to Goodwill. Once again, a garage sale seemed like the perfect solution to get rid of it all. Teachers might buy this stuff! Or kids! Or homeschoolers!  Of course, once we’d decided to sell a few things that way, it seemed silly to continue to pack stuff off to Goodwill. Before we knew it, we’d stuffed the garage full of duplicate vacuums and old DVDs and surplus lamps and various tchotchkes, and we were giving up an entire month to sorting and pricing and an entire weekend to sitting in the blazing sun while people glanced scornfully at our discards. It was a blast.

After this last sale – just as we had after every other sale – we realized that we should have donated all the items, itemized them through a program like It’s Deductible, and taken a tax deduction rather than selling them. We would have made more money (by paying less in taxes) and with much less effort. So once and for all, we can finally say, “Never again.”

So here are my “garage sale tips” for those who file an itemized tax return:

  • Clean out your closets and cupboards and purge all unneeded items.
  • Set items aside in your basement, attic, or garage and save until garage sale season.
  • Smack yourself upside the head and go get those things you just set aside.
  • Choose the 6-10 most valuable items and sell them on Craigslist.
  • Make a list of every remaining item as you place each one into a cardboard box.
  • Drive boxes to Goodwill within the next seven days. Ask for a receipt.
  • Staple receipt to your list and save until tax season.
  • Repeat as necessary.

There you go! More money, less stress, and you get to enjoy all that extra room in your garage all year long. What could be better?

Thanks to Eastlake Times for the photo!

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