How to host a successful garage sale

iStock_000010089424Small One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. That pretty much explains the mysterious allure of the garage sale, an annual springtime ritual that also serves as a great excuse to de-clutter your home (and make some extra cash). Of course, you’re not the only home on the block hoping to pawn off unwanted household items this spring. A successful garage sale requires organization, planning and a bit of luck. Here’s a step-by-step guide to making the most of your next junk sale. 1. Trash of treasure? Sorting through your junk can be emotionally difficult for those of us who get attached to their “stuff.” The best approach is to set firm rules for what you’ll keep and what you’ll sell. Some sellers use the year rule – if I haven’t worn it, read it, cooked with it, used it or looked at it in the past year, I’m selling it. Go through every room in your house, methodically sorting between items you absolutely need and items you can live without. 2. Clean up your merchandise A little bit of polish can go a long way toward increasing the perceived value of that table lamp or toaster. Fix up all your items as best you can before displaying them. Clean plastic toys in a tub filled with hot, soapy water. Put fresh shoelaces on shoes and hang clothes on coat hangers. Test electronics. Throw out anything that is broken, damaged or that might present a danger to the buyer. Whenever possible, display items in their original boxes or containers, with instructions and spare parts included.
Fix up all your items as best you can before displaying them (istockphoto)
Fix up all your items as best you can before displaying them (istockphoto)
3. Sort items by price and type Use colour-coded stickers to simplify the pricing process. Use intervals like 50 cents, $1, $2, $5, $10 and $20 to mark items (alternately, you can label entire boxes of goods with this approach). Mark items worth more than $20 with tags. When laying out your garage sale, sort items by where they might be used in the home; kitchen items go on one table, children’s toys and books in another. 4. Choose a date Host your garage sale when you have a full day to dedicate to the cause. Avoid long weekends and holidays when people might travel. A one-day sale is usually sufficient – shoppers know the best finds are usually gone by the second day. You may want to consider coordinating a group garage sale with your neighbours  – the more people pass through your neighbourhood, the more likely people will stop to browse your selection. 5. Advertise at least two weeks in advance The most dedicated bargain hunters plan their trips well in advance, so you need to give them fair warning. Classified websites like Craigslist and Kijiji allow you to post advertisements for free. Consider posting an ad in the classified section of your local newspaper, setting up a Facebook event page, or emailing your friends and neighbours to tell them about the sale. In your ads, give customers some tantalizing glimpses of the great items they might find. (Some of the deals that tend to attract shoppers include wooden or antique furniture, sports equipment, appliances, artwork, antiques and vintage items, silverware and china.)
Use signs to guide shoppers to your doorstep (istockphoto)
Use signs to guide shoppers to your doorstep (istockphoto)
6. Be clear with instructions and directions Set firms hours for your garage sale to keep “early bird shoppers” from knocking on your door at the crack of dawn. On the day of the sale, post signs to direct cars to your home (Organized Home has some free printable direction signs). Make your signs BIG and bright so that drivers can see the address. 7. Be firm with hagglers – at first Don’t accept a low-ball bid on your best merchandise at the beginning of the sale. As the day progresses, it will be easy to see which items are selling and which are not. At that point, start offering better deals – a 50 per cent discount after 2 p.m., buy-one-get-one-free books, etc. Alternately, collect some of your hard-to-move items into “mystery bags” and sell them for a dollar apiece. 8. Ditch or donate anything you can’t sell if nobody else wants it, why keep it? Donate your leftover items to a local charity. If, for whatever reason, the item can’t be donated, dump it.

Home Renovations: 5 Great Rebate Programs

March 31, 2013 marks the end of the LiveSmart BC Efficiency Incentive Program, a tax rebate program for homes investing in energy-saving renovations. Since 2008, the wildly popular program has awarded over $77.5 million in incentives to 100,000 participating households. If you missed the deadline, never fear. There are plenty of other provincial and federal programs encouraging homeowners to invest in home renovations.. We round out our top five. (Certain restrictions may apply. Check websites for program details and deadlines.)   B.C. Seniors’ Home Renovation Tax Credit This year-old program assists individuals 65 and over with the cost of certain permanent home renovations to improve accessibility or help a senior be more functional or mobile at home. New Housing GST/HST Rebate: This federal program is meant to defray a portion of the GST or HST paid on a new house or substantially renovating an existing house, up to a maximum of 1.5 per cent of the GST/HST. Power Smart Incentives and Rebates BC Hydro’s program includes rebates for light fixtures, windows and home electronics. Switch ’n’ Shrink This Terasen Gas incentive gives homeowners a $1,000 rebate for switching to Energy Star natural gas heating systems. Other rebates and incentives are available for installation of an EnerChoice fireplace, and storage tank and furnace upgrades. Financial Assistance Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CHMC) offers financial assistance to low-income homeowners, persons with a disability, homeowners in rural areas and seniors seeking home adaptations. (

Compu-clean: How to clean your PC

If you’re anything like me, your cleaning regiment is probably very structured: clean the tops of things. Clean underneath those same things. Repeat as necessary. But many homeowners neglect the most frequently-used items in their homes – their electronics, and in particular their computers. These ubiquitous (and expensive) devices can become clogged with dust and grime after years of continuous use, which can shorten their lifespan and expose you and your family to harmful bacteria (just think of how many people touch your keyboard in an average week.) Fortunately, cleaning your PC is as easy as 1-2-3. What you’ll need:
  • A Screwdriver
  • Can of compressed air (available from computer dealers or office-supply stores)
  • Cotton swabs (do not use a cotton ball)
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Soft, lint-free cloths, paper towels, or anti-static cloths
  • Water
(Note: ALWAYS turn off electronic devices and unplug them before performing any cleaning or maintenance). Step 1: Cleaning your tower Computer towers require ventilation to avoid overheating. But the fan and vents also allow dust to get inside, which can make the ventilation systems less efficient. To clean inside your tower, you must first open the case. Computers vary in the kinds of fastening mechanisms that hold the tower together – some use knobs or slots that can be removed by hand, while others are held together by screws. If in doubt, consult your computer’s owner’s manual. (Note, it some cases opening your computer case will void the warranty. If in doubt, consult your computer’s owner’s manual.) Once the case is open, you’ll want to avoid touching the interior as much as possible. Remove large pieces of dust or lint with a cloth or a pair of tweezers. Angle the computer downward, then use the compressed air to remove dust from hard-to-reach corners. Use the compressed air to clean the tower vents, fan, disk drive and CD-ROM drive. Finally, close the case, and wipe down the exterior of the tower with a cotton swab and some rubbing alcohol. Step 2: Cleaning your monitor Take care when choosing what materials to use when cleaning your monitor. Do not use paper towels, which can scratch the monitor surface – use a soft, lint-free cloth instead. Also, never spray cleaning materials directly onto a monitor screen – spray onto the cloth. For LCD screens (used in flat screen and laptop monitors), wipe down the screen using a small amount of water on a soft, lint-free cloth. For glass screens (used in “TV-style” monitors), you can use glass cleaner, again with a soft, lint-free cloth. Step 3: Cleaning your Mouse and Keyboard Unplug the mouse and keyboard, if they’re connected to your computer, or turn them off, if they’re wireless. To clean your keyboard, first turn it upside down over a sink or waste basket and shake out any loose debris. Then, use compressed air to clean between the keys. Finally, use a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol to wipe off any stains. In some cases, you may need to remove “sticky” keys and clean them separately. To clean your mouse, use a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol to wipe off the top of the mouse. If your mouse uses an electronic sensor, rather than the traditional roller-ball, make sure to wipe off any dust or debris from the sensor. If your mouse has a roller ball, open the underside of the mouse and remove the roller ball. Soak the roller ball in water and let it air dry. Then, wipe the interior of the mouse with rubbing alcohol and a soft, lint-free cloth, then spray the interior with compressed air. Return the roller ball and to the mouse and close it.

The Future is Now: 8 Household Gadgets from CES 2013

Last week, more than 150,000 tech-hungry shoppers flocked to Las Vegas for the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show. The annual event draws some of the world’s biggest tech companies, as well as start-ups hoping to wow consumers (and generate buzz) with their innovative new products. Along with new smartphone technology and super high-definition televisions, many of the headline-grabbing devices were designed with everyday living in mind. From smart fridges to forks that help you lose weight, here are 10 gadgets destined to bring your household into the 21st century. (Note, some items are not yet commercially available). 8. HAPIfork: Usually, utensils are supposed to aid in the consumption of food. The HAPIfork by Hapilabs does this only to a point. In addition to tracking your “fork servings” and how fast you eat, the HAPIfork vibrates and lights up when you eat food too quickly. The HAPIfork also comes equipped with a USB drive and software to track your eating habits. (   7. WeMo Switch: For the cautious, careless (or simply neurotic) traveler, Belkin’s WeMo Switch allows you to monitor and control electronic devices from your iPhone and other electronic devices. Combine with the WeMo Motion to automatically turn on devices whenever you enter a room. As an added bonus, you can freak out the person who waters your plants by having your blender go off, Poltergeist-style, when he stops by. ($49.99 WeMo Switch, $99.99 WeMo Switch and Motion,   6. Moxie showerhead: Singing in the bathtub has never been easier thanks to Kohler’s Bluetooth-enabled shower head with waterproof speaker and “60 angled nozzles for a full water spray.” Not recommended for people who already spend too much time in the bathroom. ($199,       5. iPotty: Yes, this is a real thing. CTA Digital, maker of iPad and Kindle accessories, has developed a training potty complete with iPad holster, allowing your tot to play games or watch cartoons while using the bathroom. How did we ever potty train without it? ($40,   4. Flower Power plant monitor: Until the day we genetically engineer talking plants, you’ll have to rely on French electronic company Parrot’s new gadget to tell you what your azaleas are thinking. The Y-shaped Flower Power sensor monitors moisture, sunlight, humidity, temperature and fertilizer conditions via your smartphone. It also comes with an electronic database of best care tips for more than 6,000 plant species. ( 3. Compact4All Appliances: Like LEGO blocks for the kitchen, these four cube-shaped home appliances by Princess (kettle, toaster, coffee maker and juicer) can be stacked and plugged into a single electrical outlet. ($52 each,       2. Famibot: It’s a Roomba… I mean, a home service robot, that patrols your home, purifying the air, guarding against intruders and communicating with family members. So really, there’s no reason for you to come home anymore. (           1. T9000 Refrigerator: Not to be mistaken with the T-1000 android from Terminator, the T9000 is part of a new line of “smart” appliances conceived by Samsung. The stainless-steel, 32-cubic-foot combination fridge/freeszr comes equipped with a 10-inch display screen and plenty of culinary-themed apps, like Epicurious, which provides recipe ideas based on the items you have in your fridge. ($4,000,