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Yard-Sale Guide

A yard sale is a wonderful way to eliminate clutter and to ''recycle'' the belongings you no longer need, whether you're planning a move or are just trying to simplify your surroundings. The key to organizing one successfully is planning well in advance.

Yard Sale Guide
Setting a Date
First decide on a weekend, preferably during the warmer months, for your sale. It's a good idea to invite neighbors and friends to participate, since multiple-family yard sales attract more customers. Even if you don't include your neighbors, be sure to alert them, so the extra traffic won't come as a surprise. You'll want to check with your town hall, as well, in case you need special permission for additional parking, for commercial use of residential property, or for temporary signs.

Once your date is set, place an advertisement in the classified section of a local paper. Give the date and time, a rain date, the exact address, and directions, and mention the intriguing items for sale. If you don't want people showing up at your door at the crack of dawn, specify ''no early birds.'' You should prepare for the sale by making easy-to-read signs and posting them in your neighborhood, directing shoppers to your home. Make a large sign for your yard, too, so people will know they've found you.

Next, gather as many picnic, garden, and card tables as you can. Assemble everything you want to sell on the ground, then plan table displays. Lure shoppers with eye-catching arrangements of items -- group objects in the same color, for example. You can appeal to collectors immediately by grouping your most interesting items by era, style, and so on. Make items as accessible as possible, putting clothes on racks, books in boxes, and miscellaneous items on tables.

Set your prices high enough to allow for bargaining, but not so high that you'll scare off buyers. And let people know that you're willing to negotiate. If you have any question about the value of prospective yard-sale items, especially antiques, have them appraised ahead of time. You can also consult antiques price guides or online sales and auctions to learn the going rate for specific
collectibles and furniture. Put a price tag on everything, no matter how small, and if an item is noteworthy, label it as such -- ''Gothic hall chair'' or ''Eastlake-style mirror,'' for example. For a multiple-family sale, color-code the price tags or stickers: That way, you will know whose item is being bought and can note it on a pad. The money can be divided at the end of the day.

Have help on hand the day of the sale: Assign someone to greet shoppers as they arrive, and another person as the cash attendant, so all the money is in one place. Clearly mark one table as the cash table, to centralize buying, receipt giving, and bagging. Have plenty of singles and quarters and bags saved from the grocery store, and keep an extension cord handy so buyers can test electrical equipment.

By midmorning of your sale, much will be gone, so regroup and reprice your tables.Move items closer to the street for impulse buyers passing by, and reduce prices during the last two hours of the sale. By afternoon, consolidate: Pack unneeded goods, and begin bagging litter. Keep cardboard boxes nearby for packing what doesn't sell, and donate these items to a local charity.

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