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Tips for a successful garage sale

Your shelves are overflowing, but your bank account isn't.

You're thinking: "GARAGE SALE."

Sure, it's a great way to get rid of stuff you don't want and get some cold, hard cash.

But beware: It takes hard work, organization and good planning - weeks in advance.

"It's like physical labor," said Chris Heiska, whose Web site, yardsalequeen.com, has a national following. "It's 9 in the morning, but it feels like it's 3 p.m. You've already been up for hours."

Heiska, who lives in Maryland, is the author of several books on yard sales. With the economy in a slump, any time but the dead of winter is a good time for a yard sale, she said.

Big-ticket items: Put these (think strollers, furniture, lawn mowers) next to the street so those driving by can see them and (hopefully) decide to stop.

Guy table: Put a "guy" item or a "guy" table near the street. Include tools, gadgets and yard items. "If a man is driving and all he sees is high chair and diaper genie, he won't stop," Heiska says.

Spacing: Arrange tables so items are neatly displayed with enough room between them to allow people to inspect them. Don't put boxes below a table so customers can't reach the stuff at the back.

Clothing: Instead of folding clothes on tables, hang them from a clothesline strung from trees or from your garage ceiling near the door (try putting a pole between ladders). Hanging clothes are easier to look through, and you won't have to worry about refolding them. Clearly label sizes. One garage sale we went to had kids' clothes from newborn sizes through 5T, arranged by size and separated by gender.

Assistants: Always have several people at the sale - it's important for security and convenience. This way you can take a bathroom break, and you can keep things in order.

Media: Keep all books and CDs with spines showing. Consider group pricing for your books. Typical: $1 for hardbacks and 50 cents for paperbacks.

Size matters: Put a larger price tag on a bigger item. "If you're selling a sofa - you can't expect the buyer to be looking all over for some tiny dot sticker. Take a full sheet of paper and put the price and list any good selling points or flaws: "Sofa - $200 Firm - only 3 years old - comes with 2 coordinating pillows," Heiska says.

Electronics: Have an electrical outlet or extension cord available so people can test electric products. You'll get a better price if customers can verify that something actually works. (Have a set of fresh batteries handy.)

Convenience: Stock up on empty grocery bags or empty boxes so people can carry home their purchases.

Eye-catching: Helium balloons draw attention to your sale. Put them on your tables or at the end of your street.

Cashier: Some sellers prefer to be stationed at the end of their merchandise, closest to the street. It prevents people from "forgetting" to pay for an item, and they can also easily answer someone who drives by and asks about the merchandise.

Toys: If you have kids, it might make it easier for them to part with their toys by having them man the table of toys they've outgrown.

Refreshments: If it's hot, sell water and soda from a cooler or have the kids run a lemonade stand. On a cool morning, sell coffee and donuts.

Off limits: Rope off (or cover with a sheet) the stuff in your garage that you don't want to sell.

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