Summer is the season when garage-sale signs sprout as commonly as crab grass. If you plan a sale that will include used clothing, Sherri Johnson, extension textiles and clothing specialist at the University of Minnesota's Agricultural Extension Service, offers some advice.
''Used clothes sell for very low prices, and you need to consider the value of your time,'' she says. ''Don't expect to get rich quick, but with some simple guidelines you should be able to pick up some extra money and also clear out items you no longer want to store.''
Freshly cleaned clothing sells best, and maternity and children's items are among the hottest-selling items. A clever sales promoter should be ready to suggest alternative uses for some types of adult clothes. For example, some items can be cut down for children's wear. Others may be made of attractive fabric that would be good for crafts.
Before giving your own sale, visit several sales in your area to get a feel for prices. And ask yourself several questions before setting a price:
* How much would this item be at a discount store or other local retail outlet if it were new?
* Is it free of stains, tears, and rips?
* Are all zippers, snaps, and buttons intact and working well?
* Has the fabric faded or lost its sh ape?
For best sales, Ms. Johnson recommends arranging merchandise as attractively and neatly as possible according to sizes. Separate tables or areas for infant, toddler, preschool, and school-age children's clothing will help shoppers looking for those specific items.
Keep a tape measure handy to help customers measure sizes if they are in doubt. Some garments such as sweaters, T-shirts, and jeans can be worn by either boys or girls, so you may have more success if you don't label them by sex.
Be sure all two- or three-piece outfits (even mittens and pajamas) are safety-pinned together so pieces don't get lost. The same holds true for suits and matching sports outfits.
When your sale is over, you may want to donate your remaining items to a charitable organization. Some will gladly send trucks out to pick up donations and will give you a receipt for the value of the items so you can prove your contribution at tax deduction time.