Skip to content

In Britain It’s a Boot Sale

May 15, 2009

Remember Nancy of La Chambre Rose?  She is participating in The Spring Cleaning Party, being held by The Simple Mom.  This is bringing up tough choices for her as she plays “I love you, I love you not” with her fields of wildflowers… i.e. furniture, clothing, supplies, Stuff.  She recently posed this question in her blog: “Is clutter, or “sunk costs” holding you back from realizing your dreams…?” 

Well I was all over this one, my goodness.  My answer to Nancy was this: 

Hi again – to answer your question, NO.  I am the queen of garage sales and like my store,  implies, I’m good at DeStashing! 

You see, clutter isn’t holding me back, it’s helping me to REALIZE my dreams;  ) 

This is how.  #1) Because I can’t pass up great deals or things I love dearly and am sure someone else would like too, I started buying stuff and then opened a store called ( – I love my cleverness sometimes!)  #2) I have garage sales at least once, sometimes twice a year.  From this alone I  make anywhere from $400-$800 for my efforts.

I decided Nancy’s question and my answer would be the premise for today’s blog.



I start collecting my next garage sale’s items almost as soon as the current sale is over.  There is always something I missed that is too good to just “give away” to Goodwill, I say to myself and whichever cat is twining its silken way through my ankles.  Out in the garage it goes on a shelf designated for “The Sale”.  If I was really efficient, I’d mark it with a price immediately but hey, even I am not THAT good.

After about 7 or so months when I have a good collection of stuff that doesn’t fit, I don’t use, was a non-returnable and unappreciated gift, or that has lost favor with me, David or the cats – I set a date.  I take into account if it’s near a holiday, like is it ‘in season’ or not ,and the other variables that come into play.  You have to make sure this isn’t the weekend they predicted would be a full moon or a dark moon… okay, just kidding…  But you get the idea.

I start chatting it up to my neighbors (all of whom are very curious about us as we aren’t the most social of beings), accosting them in their driveways when they are getting the mail, rolling down my window and shouting at them “I’M HAVING A GARAGE SALE IN 3 WEEEEEKS” as I drive past on my way to Old Time Pottery or JoAnn Fabrics.

Then I place the ad in the Bonita section of the Naples Daily News and/or The News Press, I put it on Craigslist and in our free little website called “I Love Bonita Springs“.  A week before the sale I make up pretty flyers to put into the neighborhood mailboxes (our mail lady doesn’t bust us if it’s something neighborhood related) and tell them to get their stuff ready, “’cause we’re having a sale!” 

Why let them benefit from my $45 ad, you might ask?  Well, if I put in the ad that it is a BIG sale, neighborhood sale, something like that – it helps me attract more customers.  And it works!  My neighbors are so grateful for the heads-up, they actually are friendly and come over and speak to us, surreptitiously and genteelly pawing through our belongings for clues into the mystery that is The Hopkins’.  I also note in the flyer a little something for the folks who aren’t as hardy as us; I say that we will take their few items and put them with ours, and sell their stuff for them.  Come on, it’s the nice thing to do. 

Case in point: Our immediate neighbors (whom we love dearly, btw, they helped save our cat Mr. Naughty when he was mauled by 2 dogs) had a brand new, still-in-the-box mountain bike.  Mr. Neighbor asked if we’d sell it for him.  “I’ll take forty-bucks for it”, he said, “or thirty if someone asks”.  We sold it for fifty for him.  Now that was satisfying!  He even helped David take down the tent and fold up tables after our sale.  Bonus!

Here’s another bunch of tips that have worked for our sales:

  • I run my sales from Friday through Sunday. 
  • Starting the week before, we set up.  I need to see what is what.
  • My car sits outside during this period, during the sale we park it in our yard or somewhere that isn’t taking up customer parking. 
  • We make the garage look and feel like a store, in an eclectic kind of way.  It is well organized, I hang sheets to hide the rod-rack and tool cabinet and benches (no need to tempt the weak showing off your stuff), I set out lovely MaidenShade lamps here and there to make sure it is well lit within that cavernous space,
  • We have fans going for good air-movement,
  • I make colorful, big signs with descriptions and pricing,
  • Everything is up at a good level.  I don’t care if you have to borrow saw horses and a piece of plywood you cover with a clean tarp – get your stuff up where people can see it. 
  • Put books, DVD’s, CD’s with the spine up so people can look through quickly – put them at searching level.
  • Set up vignettes outside to draw folks in (a rug, chair and table; a doll stroller, blankie and doll…) so it looks interesting, gives an idea of how something can be used, and catches your potential customer’s eye.  It not only is a good strategy, but it’s fun.  I have people comment all of the time on how it “looks so pretty”, or, “I’ve never seen a garage sale like this”.  Cool beans!

We now have the advantage of owning a big 10×10 canopy that we use for our shows, plus all of the folding tables for our displays.  But this wasn’t always true, we just got those a year ago.  So for our sale this last January we set the tent and tables up, set up a MaidenShade display with lots of cards and flyers for where and when my next shows were, plus I offered some items from my DeStash store.  Authentic Chinese items like this exquisite hand-embroidered koi picture from my darling sister in law Jin who is from Shanghai, architectural items like these fabulous cast iron sconces, supplies like these acrylic stamps and so on.  Hey, it let people know what I had available and it was a great marketing opportunity – just think of the traffic coming through in a typical sale!  I also had a give-away of one of my items.  People love freebies!

We leave folks alone for the most part during our sales; although I have been known to chuckle a fat chin, pinch a chubby arm, and coo at any baby that comes within my range.  I can’t help it, I’m addicted to sweetness and they turn me to babbling mush.  We’ve also been known to show off our cats, yammer on about fishing, commiserate with the still partially-frozen folks from Minnesota, and hand out free stuff to the little kids to distract them from whatever it is they are touching or, just because they are cute, or not very, or naughty, or good.  I hand out anything from bubbles, to those leis we had leftover from a party or my personal favorite – the noise makers the little darlings took with them into the parent’s car.  Heh-Heh-Heh.


How to Plan a Yard or Garage Sale

In my opinion, the secrets to a successful garage sale are ample preparation, organization and sales presentation. Do your prep in advance, then you can relax and have fun while the money rolls in.

  1. Schedule your garage sale far enough in advance that you can place classified ads in city and community newspapers. Hold your sale on a non-holiday weekend, unless you live in a resort town with lots of vacationers. Check the long-range forecast for good weather.
  2. Give boxes to everyone in your family a few weeks before the sale. Have each person fill a box or two with things he or she wants to sell (beyond what’s already piled in the garage). Let the kids know they can keep the cash from their items.
  3. Give your neighbors a courtesy call or “heads-up” before the yard sale. They’ll appreciate it, and may even have items to add to your stock.
  4. Organize your neighbors to hold sales on the same day as yours. An enormous block sale will attract flocks of buyers and generate great foot traffic. Offer to sell stuff for friends and family for a commission.
  5. Take out an ad in the paper, and create large, easy-to-read signs for the neighborhood. Tap into no-cost resources, such as online listings or community newspapers that publish free classifieds.
  6. Set and post a starting time, and put out a sign that warns “Early birds pay double” — and stick to it. Otherwise, your doorbell will start ringing at 5 a.m., and the good stuff will be gone before the majority of your customers arrive.
  7. Round up volunteers if you expect large crowds. Friends and family may be willing to help in order to get rid of their own junk.
  8. Scrub, wash, polish and launder anything you plan to sell. If an item needs a simple repair to greatly increase its selling price, do it. Hang clothing on makeshift racks, sorted by size, without cramming too many garments onto the rods. Provide a changing area and mirror.
  9. Use masking tape or colored dots and a permanent marker to price everything. Setting up “$1 or less” and “$5 or less” tables or boxes will save you time and attract shoppers.
  10. Be realistic when you price things: You may have spent a fortune on that beta VCR, but you’ll be lucky to get a quarter for it now. Stay flexible and leave yourself room to bargain down–and remember, the goal is to get rid of stuff. Have a “One thin dime” box to encourage further browsing.
  11. Display your merchandise on folding tables (or plywood and sawhorses) to keep it off the ground. And organize your goods: Don’t make buyers root through piles of junk to find the gems.
  12. Put some real crowd-pleasers up front to entice passing cars. Good looking furniture and large children’s play structures make great bait near the curb.
  13. Make sure there’s plenty of parking. Move your cars if necessary.
  14. Spread a rug or blanket on the lawn with a few toys that you’re selling. Kids will bond with the toys and demand that their parents buy them.
  15. Share your family memories if there’s a funny story behind an item. People find it harder to resist buying something with a history.
  16. Be cheerful, get people talking and encourage haggling. Many people are reluctant to negotiate but find it’s fun once they start.
  17. Set up your cash table near the entrance. Have plenty of small bills, change, a cash box, a calculator, pencil and pen, ledger book (to inventory commissions), bags, boxes and newspapers to wrap purchases, and a tape measure. Keep your cell phone close by to call in relief when you need a break.
  18. Make sure anything that’s not for sale is safely behind closed doors. Protect yourself against theft by displaying small valuables within eyesight and close to the cash box. Keep money in a zipped fanny pack if you’re bustling about.
  19. Acknowledge a point of diminishing returns. Be ready to slash prices drastically when business drops off. Or donate your leftovers to charity and take a tax write-off.



A car boot sale is to Britain as a garage sale is to the United States. Car boot sales are characterized by private citizens coming together to buy and sell unwanted and new, or second-hand, items in a public space.

The phrase car boot sale is derived from the habits of sellers who fill their vehicles’ trunks – the cars’ boots – with items to sell. These items can range from expensive antiques and heirlooms to inexpensive trinkets and children’s toys. Books, CDs, DVDs, clothes, home decor and computer equipment are some of the most popular items bought and sold at boot sales. Much like an American garage sale, boot sales can carry something for everyone.

Some attributes of a boot sale are:

  • Location. Boot sales can be found almost anywhere, from sheep’s or cow’s fields, market stalls where food or other agricultural products are sold to schools and even parking lots. A boot sale can also take place indoors, in buildings capable of accommodating large numbers of people and their loot. Regardless of where a boot sale takes place, wares are commonly put on display atop a folding table.
  • Price. Because boot sales are likely to be organized, there may be fees that must be paid before one is allowed entry. Boot sales sponsored by cities or other centralized entities will likely impose a fee, although it’s not impossible to buy or sell at a boot sale for free.
  • Times. Many boot sales occur in the summer or during otherwise hospitable weather and on weekends and holidays. A boot sale usually begins very early in the morning when the sun rises. Serious buyers will arrive at a boot sale early to get the best deals.
  • Numbers. Unlike American garage sales where only a few dozen buyers may show up on someone’s driveway, the boot sale’s use of public space typically brings in a high number of buyers. Attendees often number in the high hundreds or low thousands. Boot sales can also act as the setting for social gatherings, since professional and hobbyist buyers regularly attend the same sales. Stands that sell french fries, hamburgers, doughnuts or other cheap foods encourage buyers to extend their visits.
  • A UK boot sale can be advertised in newspapers, but it’s more common to find an announcement on a flier close to where the boot sale will take place. It’s not uncommon for advertisements to be minimal or even non-existent, relying on word-of-mouth and a core group of buyers for sales.
  • While certain standards of decorum are observed, haggling is expected, and some would say encouraged, as it contributes to the feel of an authentic boot sale. The atmosphere is rich enough to warrant its own vernacular. For example, professional boot sale attendees who eagerly crowd sellers’ vehicles before they’ve finished putting their wares on display are referred to as “scrum.”
  • In addition, the highly organized “boot fair” popularized in the 1980s helped make the attendance of boot sales a favorite weekend pastime in the UK. 

Boot Sale Description Source:



Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

11 Comments leave one →
  1. May 15, 2009 9:35 am

    Wow! All of those tips are very helpful! We built a large house and moved for a mobile (on the same property) I need to get the yard sale stuff together and have my sale! These are great instructions to go by!

  2. May 15, 2009 11:39 am

    What a sweetie! Thanks for the shout out! If I were honest, the best part of living in Florida was the garage sale season, which actually was almost year round. When I tell people Florida is the BEST place to live, they say, “What about the humidity?” I never ever noticed it. I was too busy visiting garage sales, estate sales and church sales. And, of course, we had our own in the neighborhood, usually with our next door neighbor participating, also. It really was quite the social event. Many customers came on their bikes. So fun!

    Alas, there are not enough people in Vermont to make any of this available to us now. And, so we must drive the 60 mile round trip to Goodwill. Come to think of it, there is NOTHING fun in Vermont.

    Thankfully, I will be heading south in a few days! Even though I am going to work, I will see my son and be CLOSE to the Florida state line. Woo HOO!

  3. May 15, 2009 1:45 pm

    I love having garage sales. We’re planning one soon, weather permitting. My favorite part is setting everything up, like a little mini store.

  4. May 15, 2009 4:10 pm

    Nice post. Very informative and interesting. I’ve done several of these and have pretty much did the same thing as you did…even served coffee, donuts, water, soft drinks, and cookies to the kiddies. I made $500.00 last year.


  5. May 15, 2009 9:10 pm

    I want to have a yard sale this Summer, but not sure if we’ll have the time to have 1. I’m getting some stuff together.

  6. May 16, 2009 5:09 am

    Excellent article! Sadly garage sales are very rare in Spain… I make a couple of “open house” jewelry shows a year and it’s taken me years to turn my customers into them!

  7. May 16, 2009 12:52 pm

    Beautiful Garden!!!!

  8. May 16, 2009 3:13 pm

    What a wonderful quote and your sister’s garden is lovely.

    ¸.·´¸.·*´¨) ¸.·*´¨)
    (¸.·´ (¸.·´ Happy Pink Saturday
    Deanna 😀

  9. May 18, 2009 2:38 pm

    the garden is lovely and I also love a good boot sale, happy pink saturday, Char


  1. In Britain It's a Boot Sale « |
  2. Too Much Stuff, Please! «

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: