Make Your Next Yard Sale a Success!

Yard Sale Success!Not planning a yard sale for a while? Pin this to your Pinterest board to save for later!

Bargain hunting is in my blood and spring means I can add garage sale shopping back to my Saturday to-do lists. Between kid’s sports, yoga class, and the general desire to sleep in, I don’t make time for them like I used to. But oh, the treasure hunting (and finding) I have done!

Being the yard sale connoisseur, I certainly have a few words to say on how one should be set up and organized. It’s maddening to read an ad that suggests “tons of great items” to find a single, rickety card table holding Aunt Edna’s 30 year old lamps and back issues of Reader’s Digest. Or, to find some really great finds, only to have them priced near original cost.

Garage sales are about unloading the things you no longer need and making money. I’m going to help you do that! This is going to set you apart from the yard sale that everybody drives by from the one with a traffic jam because customers are clamoring to get a look.

Deciding the Details

  • Decide when you want to have your sale. Give yourself at least a few weeks to prepare. A lot of shoppers get paid on the 1st of the month- plan accordingly.
  • Where will you hold your sale? If you don’t live in a very populated area, consider asking a friend or a relative who does if you can have it at their house instead. Chances are, they have things they want to sell too!
  • Garage sales start early. And no matter how early you start it, it seems that you will always attract early birds (my pet peeve!). Pick a time that is reasonable for you (7-7:30 a.m. is normal, 8:00 a.m. at the latest).
  • How many days will your sale run? Traditionally sales are held on Saturdays but Fridays and Sundays have become popular additions. You really only need Saturday unless you are liquidating an estate. It really depends on how many hours you want to sit in your driveway and how much stuff you really have to sell.
  • Are you doing this alone, or with neighbors and friends? More items for sale are always better and it will be more fun to have the company too!

Preparation- What are you going to sell?

  • Declutter- if you haven’t used it in a year, think as if you were moving; would you want to pack it? I’ve been in my house for 6 years and just parted with a Jell-O mold that I have never used. If I ever need one, I’ll go to a garage sale and pick one up.
  • Give yourself a couple of weeks to collect items from around the house to sell. Go through your closet, gather the dusty toys and outgrown clothes from your children, collect books that have been read, movies that won’t be watched again, and the sports equipment that seemed like a good idea at the time, but hasn’t been touched in ages.
  • If your collection of treasures, be it knick knacks or clothing, dates back more than twenty years, consider your audience. I know the saying goes, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, but are geese ever going to be back in style?
  • Now sort through your items. As said before, if your treasures are dated, you may have a tough time selling them. Consider donating outdated dress clothes to organizations that help homeless or displaced men and women find jobs who desperately need the clothing.


  • Now that you have your piles of loot to unload, be clear of your purpose- to get rid of or make money.  Then, price accordingly. If you just want it gone, price it low! If you have nicer items (a like-new bicycle, antique jewelry) you may want to sell these on E-bay or Craigslist. There are some great local groups on Facebook that act as virtual garage sales too.
  • Price everything! People don’t like to ask “how much” and upfront pricing helps your customers shop. For books, it’s ok to use a big sign that says “all books 50 cents”, if you can agree they are all the same price. This goes for clothing too. Either make “all shirts $1.00” or price everything individually.
  • Use big signs for big items. Use bright color cutouts of poster board to highlight the great price for your couch or bookshelves.
  • Fill a bag- do you have a lot of costume jewelry, matchbox cars, art supplies, etc.? You can be sure to unload more of it buy selling items together and avoid having to price items individually. Either do “fill a bag of books for $5” or prepackage items together for sale. Items like kitchen utensils or small toys could look junky if separate, but grouped together, may attract more buyers.


  • If it wasn’t for my OCD and having things in order, I would have started with this one. This is HUGE!!! By the time I am done organizing and pricing, I am exhausted, and signage seems like an afterthought. But since I’m telling you this ahead of time, you will be prepared and won’t let that happen to you!
  • Use social media! The week before your sale, use Instagram, Facebook, and even Twitter, often,  to advertise some of the items you will be selling. You get the word out about the sale (multiple times) and may be able to sell some things before the big day. Too embarrassed to post your “junk”? That should tell you if your things are actually worth selling.
  • Put an ad of Craigslist and make it stand out from the rest. Use bold, post good pictures of what you are selling, and be specific to draw people there who are looking to buy items like the ones you are offering. Clever phrases like, Hoarders Paradise, DIYers Dream!, I have what you need!, or Our crap could you be your crap! are great attention grabbers and are more likely to draw people to your sale over other poorly detailed ads.
  • Good signage the day of is a must. Only include necessary information on the signs {address, day, time and an arrow!). People don’t have time to read small print.
  • But they can follow signs. Use the same color of bright signs to lead people to your sale. Bright arrows are a nice addition.
  • Enlist somebody with good handwriting to write your signs. People want to follow the pretty swirly letters of your teenage daughter, not the chicken scratched penmanship of your husband. It makes a difference, I promise.
  • For large intersections, use large weighted cardboard boxes (rocks inside a taped box) with the signs posted on the sides. Balloons draw good attention too.
  • The classic sign on your parked car on a nearby corner is always helpful.
  • Plan ahead, deciding who will put the signs up and when. The mornings are always a mad rush.

**Many cities have ordinances regarding yard sale signage- be sure to check yours.

Organization and Set Up

  • You are essentially setting up a store for a day. Make it look inviting, use the driveway (nobody wants to go into a strangers garage), display pop up tents, and put eye catching items (furniture, bikes, kids toys) near the street.
  • Put a “man table” near the road so when the wife says, honey can we stop?, he will say yes!
  • Cover tables with plastic table clothes, it looks much cleaner.
  • Nobody wants to buy clothes from dirty cardboard boxes or from a heap thrown out on a tarp. Take the time to fold the clothes and sort by size. Kids clothes are huge sellers and definitely worth the time.
  • Short on tables? Use plywood over saw horses or a ping pong table. Don’t forget the table cloth!
  • Organize your items for sale by type. Kitchen, kids toys, books, clothing, sports equipment, technology- your shoppers, especially who are looking for something specific, will appreciate it!
  • Cover items in your garage that you don’t want to sell or you will get asked to sell them repeatedly.
  • Display books spine up in shallow boxes so that they are easy to sort through.
  • To hang children’s clothes, a ladder over saw horses works really well.
  • To hang adult clothing, use a fence, tie clothesline between two trees or ladders, or use wardrobe boxes.
  • Keep valuables and small items like jewelry near the “check out” table to prevent them from disappearing. Sad to say, there are people who shoplift at garage sales.
  • Not sure where to put this, but GET CHANGE!! There is nothing like being handed a $20 for a $1 item. Get lots of $1 and $5 bills and some quarters.

Set Your Sale Apart From Others

  • Play music like in the stores. It drowns out the uncomfortable silence and if it’s inspiring a good mood in people, they may buy more!
  • Have grocery bags for customer purchases.
  • Keep an extension cord out so people can test electronic items. Having batteries and a tape measure on hand will help too!
  • If it’s a cold day sell coffee and donuts, or a hot day, sell lemonade and cookies, for a nominal fee. Happy bellies are happy shoppers. It’s also a great entrepreneur opportunity for your kids (aka, keeps kids out of your hair by running the lemonade stand). I spent 20 minutes and $30 at a garage sale that was selling BBQ hot dogs and sodas. If you have the man power to go big, do it.
  • Talk to people but don’t be pushy. They want to know they are buying a friendly person’s item, but they don’t need you to sell them on why it is so fantastic.

 Safety First

  • Keep the money and your phone on you in a fanny pack or apron. Otherwise it may walk away when you aren’t looking.
  • Beware of the person who only has $5 to pay for your $20 item. I saw a man do this and then ask what else was for sale. I thought, how are you going to pay for anything else buddy!? He was obviously lying when he was trying to bargain.
  • So, don’t bargain because you feel pressured. If it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t.
  • Always have another adult with you during your sale. You may need a bathroom break, or a customer might need help loading an item in their car. You can never be too careful.

 Miscellaneous Advice from a Pro

  • At least a week in advance, arrange to have the leftovers picked up by a donation truck (Goodwill, etc.). These companies are usually volunteer-only and have limited resources. But the sooner it’s gone, the less likely you are to hold onto it.
  • I don’t recommend participating in neighborhood garage sales. Sometimes the streets are so full of sales that yours gets overlooked.
  • Rearrange tables to look full as items begin to sell. Remember, this is your store.
  • Have help! You will need it!!
  • Dress in layers and have sunscreen handy. I have started many sales in head-to-toe-sweats and ended with a sunburn. Dress so that you can take off layers easily and keep your skin protected.
  • Have a goal in mind of what you will use your money for. Knowing that your funds will go towards the new tires on your car, a family vacation, or even a charitable organization can help keep you inspired when you feel like this is too much work.

Garage sales ARE time consuming. But they are fun too! They allow you to set up your own little shop, chat with your neighbors, and make some extra money from things that you were going to get rid of any way. I’m sure I have left something out of these lists (even 2,000 words later!). I will add to this as I need to. But if you have any questions, let me know! If I don’t have an answer, I have other garage sale guru friends who may be able to help. Good luck!



Permanent link to this article:

1 pings

  1. […] few months back I wrote a piece, How to Make your Next Yard Sale a Success. It was an extensive “how-to” prepare, price, display, […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.