Top 10 tips for a quick car boot sale clear-out

Make some space before Christmas - and cash!

I've done a few car boot sales before but last weekend was the biggest and best I have ever sold at or been to. They seem to be more popular than ever and they're always surprisingly good fun.

I'd spent a week going round the house picking things I knew I didn't want any more and would not miss, and were too big for eBay. No one was going to buy my unused noticeboards for 99p and then pay £5 for P&P.

I had old folders and phone chargers, some unloved Ikea lamps, dozens of Barbies and soft toys galore, Christmas nick-nacks and trinkets from well-meaning aunties over the years. Some nearly new teen clothes no longer in fashion and some decorative plant pots that I didn't want but knew someone would love.

I searched for my local car boot sale and saw that the gates opened at 6am - yikes! Who'd be shopping then? In the dark? I decided to get there for about 7.30 and was one of the last to arrive. It worked out quite well because after buyers had parked, they had to go past my stall. Excellent. The sun shone, which everyone said explained the superb turnout - and I got rid of almost everything, which was my main aim, and bagged myself £80 in cash towards our Christmas this year. More importantly, I now have loads more space in the cupboards at home.

This time, I did things differently from previous car boot sales, having learnt quite a few lessons before. So, drawing on my experiences, here are my top 10 tips for car booters if you're doing one for the first time:

1. Prepare ahead: Get everything stacked in the house the night before, ready to pack into the car early the next morning. Put things in boxes, in groups. Easier to carry, easier to sort. Don't underestimate how long it will take.

2. Wash clothes items and clean others: If you're selling clothes, you must wash and iron them or no one will bother even looking. There's too much competition for clothing sales. Baby clothes sell well, and if yours look and smell fresh and clean, yours will sell first. Anything baby-related sells fast, but make sure you've checked and washed everything. Give other items a check and wipe over too, and it helps if you look presentable as well; you'll stand out and if they like how you look, they'll like your sale items.

3. Packing the car: Pack the car strategically. Don't put your table or layout sheet at the bottom of the boot. You'll need it first. Take a portable clothes rack and hangers to display your clothing items. Take pegs for anything - they're always useful - plastic bags for buyers as they will always ask if you have one, a flask of coffee for you in the hope you have time to drink it, and take a buddy. Not only will it help your sales, but you can have a wander around in turn to see if there's anything you'd like to buy yourself.

4. Your float: Very important. I take about £40 in change and notes. If you're selling things for £1 and someone offers you a £20 note and you can't change it, you could lose the sale. And remember the pitch fee for yourself when you arrive; mine was £8 which I think is steep, but I'd made that back within 5 minutes of arriving.

5. Laying out: Before you've even opened your boot you'll have people asking you for things - i.e have you got any mobile phones or collectable glass or china. If you have, just ask them to come back in a few minutes. Don't clutter your display. This time I didn't put everything out straightaway, but laid things out so they could be seen. Many people use trestle tables but I find them a little too narrow for display, so I took some clean, plain picnic blankets to lay things out neatly on. Try not to leave everything in a box for people to rummage - they tend to browse stalls by walking past and if you have an item on display they'll see it from afar.

6. Pricing and labelling: In the past, I have painstakingly priced and labelled everything. It was a waste of time. If I overpriced, I put people off. If you have a lot of similar items it can be a good idea to put a generic sign up saying, for example:

'Everything £1'

'5 items for £2'

It can draw people in. I had a real eclectic mix of old technical wires, clothes, toys and ornaments so this time I didn't price anything and just watched to see people examining particular things I was selling.

I'd then start a chat and say things like: "You can have that for £1 if you like it." They'd inevitably say: "50p?" So I'd always set my price a little higher than I was expecting, and it worked almost all the time.

Pricing can be tricky. There are no set rules. It depends on the demographics of the neighbourhood, what you are selling, the condition it's in, if it's a complete set, and if it's a rare item or are the other stalls selling similar.

Remember, you want to clear space in your home; they want a bargain. Holding out for a price no one is prepared to pay means you'll have to re-pack the item and take it home again. The buyer isn't getting a receipt or a guarantee. They'll never see you again. They're taking a risk.

7. Clean your car: It might sound daft but clean your car. If your car is filthy then it will deter buyers who may suspect your items for sale are less than clean too.

8. Stand out: This time I took along a little row of battery operated LED Christmas lights to drape across my stand. IT worked a treat as they were bright enough to make my stand more noticeable than others, and I could hear children asking their parents to come and have a look to see what the lights were. You could use a little bunting or a bright coloured flag.

9. Be an approachable seller: You want to be friendly but not overbearing. If you jump on people as they stop at your stall you may frighten them away. I give myself a pretend something to do, sorting out some string, re-arranging the display as gaps appear from sales, checking my phone, etc. Hesitant people are more likely to stop and pick something up if they don't think you're staring at them.

If someone seems interested in something you have, smile and make a comment about the weather or how busy it is. Tell them you're amazed at how well you've done due to the crowds. It's a positive, and not-threatening opener and will encourage them to ask questions.

10. Don't leave too early: My car boot sale was open from 6.00am till 14.00. That's a long time for you, but buyers arrive all through the day and you never know who will buy what. The earlybirds are after collectables and mobiles.

Then you'll get families with small children who've popped out after breakfast, looking for a bargain. And then there are the leisure browsers. They've had a lie-in, seen that the sun's shining and fancy a browse on their way to a pub lunch.

When I got home, it took two minutes to unpack the car, compared to the 15 minutes it had taken to pack it a few hours earlier. I struggled to remember what I had sold - and that's the point. I wasn't going to miss the things that had gone, and I was definitely going to make the most of the extra cash in my pocket.

You can find your nearest car boot sale timetables by Googling your local area and car boot sale. Good luck! It's fun!