Learning how to plan a recycling event can be daunting—especially something like a city-wide garage sale.
But running a yearly event like this is one of the most inventive and cost effective ways of keeping items out of the landfill. As they say, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” If converting trash into treasure means meeting your monthly recycling goals, then roll up your sleeves and follow these simple steps to running a seamless city-wide garage sale. Put in some initial effort and then let your residents do your work for you.
“Work smart, not hard”
- Somebody smart
- Pick the type of garage sale you want to run
There are many different options when it comes to running a city-wide sale. The exciting part is that every single option is available to you and your city. Read “4 different types of garage sales” to browse through a few different event formats.
- If you’ve chosen to run a garage sale with a venue-- find a venue
Track down a welcoming outdoor space. And for an indoor event, hunt for an affordable location that will comfortably fit all vendors and shoppers on the weekend of your event.
- Pick a date for your city-wide sale
When picking a date for your city-wide sale, one tip is to choose a day at the beginning of spring, when residents are undergoing “spring cleaning” and more likely to have more items to sell. A spring event also ensures warmer weather that’s more encouraging to shoppers. You also have the option to run a single day event or, if the event becomes popular, to hold your city-wide over the course of several weekends.
- Consider a sponsored garage sale or teaming up with a local or national organization
In an effort to raise money for the event, you may want to get it sponsored by a local business. On the other hand, connecting with an organization is a good way to join forces with a like-minded group and broaden your community reach. Garage Sale Trail is a great example and organization from Australia that urges individual councils from across the continent to team up and participate in a nation-wide event.
- Find interested vendors and then communicate with them
What good is a city-wide garage sale with no one selling any goods? The first thing you need to do, to make sure local people sell at the sale, is get the word out about the event to as many residents as possible. Read “The complete guide to marketing your city-wide garage sale” for some tips. Once you have vendors on board, your next step is to streamline communication with them so that everyone selling at the event is on the same page. Some municipalities require online or paper registration before the event. If you use a registration form, you might want to ask for:
- Resident’s name and contact information
- The street address of the garage sale (if it’s a curbside event)
- A general listing of items the residents are planning to sell
- A small registration fee (of around $10) may help with the costs of printing posters, ads, etc. to promote the event
But aside from registration, other bright ideas are to send out a small tool kit for each individual vendor, or even to email vendors with a list of safety tips and things to watch out for on the day of the event. Read “18 tips for sellers in your city-wide garage sale.”
- Promotion-- let residents know when and where the sale is taking place
Promotion is key to any city-wide event. Reaching as many residents as possible, with concise key information is the goal you should be aiming for. If you’ve decided on a curbside event, community members will need to be provided with a map and a list of addresses outlining where each individual garage sale is taking place. See the city of Santa Clara, California’s digital map here:
Or an excellent printable version from the city of Coquitlam here:
If you’re hosting the event at a venue, let residents know when and where to show up to shop. Also, name your event appropriately and try as hard as you can to create visually compelling marketing material. If you’re holding an outdoor event, make sure to mention in your outreach material that the sale will be happening rain or shine to help avoid confusion on the day of the event.
The title “City-wide garage sale” is already taken! The event in Austin, Texas has trademarked the term. Here are some alternative names you can use for your event:
- Community-wide garage sale
- Trunk sale/Trail sale
- (name of city)-wide garage sale
- Town-wide garage sale
- Hire staff or bring on volunteers for the day or weekend of the event
Engage retired elders or eager students by asking them to help out at the event. Some cities even ask a passionate community member (with some free time) to organize the entire sale from start to finish.
- Give out surveys to vendors and shoppers
Create a brief survey to hand out on the day of the event and bring along a bag of pencils. If paper and pencils are not your thing, then an online survey is also an option too. In your survey, ask vendors and shoppers what worked and what didn’t work so well, so that you can make appropriate changes for next year. Look at the city of Coquitlam online survey here.
- Bring in volunteer entertainment (a band) or hire entertainment if you’re hosting an event with a venue
- At the end of the day, arrange for local charities to drive around with trucks to pick up items that vendors couldn’t sell and want to give away
- If holding an outdoor venue event, order for porta potty rentals to be on site
- Encourage vendors to participate in the name of fundraising if that’s something that interests them
These are the tried and tested steps to running a successful city-wide garage sale. Are you ready to plan to your own? Read “A complete guide to marketing your city-wide garage sale.”
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