How to have a yard sale

One day I scoured the Internet for information about how to have a garage/yard sale.  And I took information from several different places and compiled the following.  (My apologies to anyone I might have “stolen” from without giving credit.  I found the information very useful; it isn’t “rocket science,” but my ignorance about some things can be daunting.)


Having a garage sale is a great way to get rid of all of that “treasure” that fills your closets and garage.  If you don’t use it or don’t know that you even own it, chances are pretty safe that you can get rid of it. Don’t have a yard or a garage? Borrow one from a friend of family member. As long as you don’t let the mess get out of hand and make sure to respect their time and space, they might be willing to host you so they can sell some stuff of their own.

Make sure you have enough sellable items to even hold a garage sale. People like big garage sales, and the more stuff you have to sell, the more people will stop by and shop. Think about getting together with some friends and having a combined garage sale. If they don’t want to help out, offer to sell their junk for a 30% commission.

Planning the Sale

Pick a date. Set a date and time when you can devote your full time to this sale, for gathering up various articles as well as being able to attend the sale full time.  Decide if you are going to have the sale alone, or with two to five more families.  If you live where it’s cold or tends to rain, put the sale off until you are more likely to have good weather. People do not come out when it’s cold and rainy. Once you select your date, check the weather and if it looks bad, seriously consider changing the date.

Get everything you have together to sell. This could take several weeks to several months.

Have some decent stuff for sale. Make sure you have several big ticket, nice items. People come to garage sales early looking for furniture, electronics and other big ticket items and they’ll be there early. If you don’t have anything decent to sell, throw it away or give it to charity.

Advertise!  Advertise if you can. Most newspapers have cheap rates for garage sale ads. Think about placing them in your local Pennysaver and then post on free websites. Advertise at least a week in advance.  Be specific, concise and honest. State place, date, hours. If you have a large amount of clothing, specify some of the sizes, particularly if you have quite a few in different sizes.

Put up lots of clear signage. Start at the closest main road and put a big sign there. Try a yellow sign with BIG BLOCK LETTERS. On the main road sign, don’t put a lot of info. People driving by won’t see it. Instead, write “HUGE YARD SALE” and an arrow pointing to the street they want to turn on to get to your house. Continue with the same color scheme at every turn until you get to your house.

Signage is the key to having a successful garage sale.  If people don’t know how to get to your house, no one will come!

Set up your yard sale in advance. Yard salers start shopping at the crack of dawn, and are usually finished shopping by noon, so having it all set up in your garage the night before is really helpful. Be prepared for early birds- There WILL be people waiting when you open the garage door and some are even so bold as to knock on the door. If you don’t want early birds, post a clear sign on the front of your garage that indicates exactly what time you will ‘open shop’ and stick to it. You will get some good traffic and good sales from the people who want first shot at a good deal.

Make your yard sale a good shopping experience. Set things up like displays in stores. Put like items together, and try to put as much on tables as possible. Use a broom handle to hold clothing on hangers. Clean items up and make sure they are in working order- If something doesn’t work, label it as such and expect not make a lot of money on it. Dust everything and clean with those antibacterial wipes. People will spend more money on a nice looking item.

Put things on folding tables or shelves if you can- Hang clothing and put shoes in pairs. Customers are more likely to stay and browse if they don’t have to work to see what you have and if it is higher off the ground like in an actual store.

Make sure that you have enough change- Go to the bank the night before and get at least $50-$100 dollars in change. Be smart about the change you get, if you have a lot of items under a dollar, then you will need coins. If your most expensive item is more than $50, then you might need a few $20’s. Most of the change you get should be $1’s and $5’s though.

Put prices on EVERYTHING. This is really important.  People will always haggle, but that’s what the point of a garage sale is. You want to make the most money and the customers want to pay as little possible. You need to find a way to meet in the middle.

Know what things are worth- You don’t want to get rid of a rare collectible for $1 if it’s worth $50 just because you were ignorant. If you have antiques or collectibles, you might want to get them appraised first. use masking tape to put prices on the items.

Don’t get sentimental when pricing. This will lead to overpricing, which is bad.

Have a $1 table or a 25 cent box- This will encourage further buying and browsing and will keep people shopping.

The Day of the Sale

Get Help- If you are expecting a lot of people then you need to realize that you can’t do it alone.

Have a snack stand- If you have kids or some extra volunteers, think about having a soda or coffee stand and possibly some donuts for sale. You can let the kids keep the money; it keeps them busy and teaches them how to handle money. Not to mention customers love not having to stop somewhere to get a drink on hot days. Garage sale shopping is hard work, and having snacks on hand is a great way to make a few extra bucks.

Keep your money with you at all time- Also if you have any expensive items, make sure they are within sight of you at all times. Watch your shoppers. I hate to say it, but people will steal anything, they have even been known to switch price tags on stuff. Same goes for your money box, watch it carefully.

Talk to your customers. Stand up and stay busy- Customers don’t want to walk up to a messy garage sale where someone is sitting in a lawn chair scowling. Keep consolidating items and making your sale look great.

Toward the end of the day, start slashing prices. You need to get rid of this stuff, not make a fortune on it.

Do NOT bring the stuff back into the house if it doesn’t sell. You wanted to get rid of it, remember? Put it down by the curb with a sign that says “FREE” or freecycle it, but make sure you don’t bring it back in.

After the Sale

TAKE DOWN YOUR SIGNS. There is nothing more irritating than signs from garage sales three weeks ago. Your neighbors and the city won’t appreciate your ‘art.’ So make sure that you go out and take down your signs as soon as you close up shop. This will also stop the flow of traffic to your front door. Bag up anything of value that you didn’t sell and make a nice donation to Goodwill, the Red Cross, or any number of great charities who will happily take your items. Some will even come any pick them up and you might even get a nice tax deduction. Sit back and count your money.


  • Antiques go over big regardless of state of repair or condition. Give good descriptive details to save disappointments.
  • Capitalize on the season. Feature luggage at going-away to school or vacation time or toys near Christmas. Include fads.
  • Today, bottles of all kinds are in demand. Big bottles, little bottles, Jim Beam, Avon, Kara Brooks, Wheaton/Nuline, old medicine, Mrs. Butterworth, miniature – all kinds, old fruit jars, and insulators.
  • Some additional items that seem to be in big demand: baseball cards, lawn mowers, camping articles, guns, tools, coins, old books, comic books (old and new), aprons, old-fashioned bonnets, salt and pepper shakers, needlework, jewelry and dishes.
  • Doll clothing and accessories are always in demand and especially for Barbie and Ken or teen dolls. Toys go over big at any time. Dolls and stuffed toys make a hit with the kiddies and they, in turn, will finally persuade their mothers to buy something. Children are very persuasive!
  • Have a large quantity of items to sell, a big variety. And don’t be afraid to drag out those outgrown items, old dishes, two-of-a-kind items you don’t really need and generally “clean house”. You’ll find the money in your pocket is better than all the clutter in the house.
  • Homemade items are very popular. If someone in your household sews, then sew up aprons, doll clothes, dolls, stuffed toys from scraps of material lying around. You’ll make use of those scraps taking up space and make money too! Fresh produce such as tomatoes, green beans, corn, fruits, etc. will also sell, if you should have a garden overflowing.
  • String up a clothesline to display any clothing you may have. Remember, clothing for all ages, men or women, is always in great demand. Children’s clothing goes over best and especially about the time for school to start in the fall.
  • Set up card tables or ping-pong tables to display small merchandise. Place tables in a manner that will leave room for shoppers to browse without feeling crowded. Display your wares attractively. Be sure they are clean, usable, and priced temptingly.
  • People are looking for bargains. Don’t disappoint them. Remember that what you sell is something you don’t want anyway, so whatever you get is gravy.
  • Take advantage of the space under the tables if you need more display room. You will be amazed how buyers spot the smallest item under the table. Colorful table covers draw a lot of attention to your items.
  • You will save yourself a lot of time answering questions if you show a price on all merchandise. Use a heavy black felt marking pen for lettering. If more families go in with you, identify your price tags with a code such as G 75 cents or M 25 cents. The letters designate, perhaps, the first letter of the last name of the family who contributed items to sell.
  • Keep all the tags and at the end of the sale, divide the tags according to code and total the sales. You may not come out right to the penny on sales and change you had on hand as anyone can make errors in making change for a customer.
  • Be sure you have electrical outlets nearby to plug in toasters, blenders, electric skillets, irons, hair dryers, electric razors, etc., to show people that your articles do work. If you have to use an extension cord, make sure it is in excellent condition and preferably a heavy duty one.
  • If you have any fragile, rare or expensive items such as crystal, cut glass or jewelry, be sure they are displayed on a sturdy table and up high out of reach of kiddies. They are curious and you might be too busy to watch them.
  • Drinking glasses, dishes, cups will sell faster if you price them in sets of 6 for $1.00 instead of 15 cents each. Paperback books, magazines, records and items that have titles will sell more readily if they are marked separately. If they want them collectively, they’ll ask you. Then bundle them all up and sell them. Sell everything!

Advertising. Run an ad in your daily newspaper. If you run your ad one day only, have it in the Thursday paper. You might like to run the ad two days to appear in both the Thursday and Friday editions. If your sale runs through Saturday, your sale is about over before the paper hits the street on Saturday. Therefore, 2-day advertising is usually adequate unless your sale is continued late Saturday night and through Sunday.  However, whatever you decide to advertise – BE READY! Be ready to meet any customer as soon as the paper hits the street, because some will come before the sale and before you even get ready to start the next day! In addition to placing an ad in the paper, place signs at points where people will see them. Some laundromats have bulletin boards on which you can place notices. Advertise all you can. Work word-of-mouth all you can. If employed, place signs on your company’s bulletin boards. Use the WEB to advertise your garage sale too. You can advertise your sale on for FREE!

The best days for your Garage Sale are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Sundays are usually a waste of time unless you’re staying at home all day doing nothing anyway.

Garage sales are work – a lot of hard work, but the returns more than justify the effort. Whether it’s advertised as Patio, Carport, Yard, Porch, or Garage-a-Rama, people will come and buy. Clean out your closets and ANYTHING that is useless to you or you don’t want – put it in the sale. Don’t throw anything away. People will buy just about anything. You’d be surprised. What is one person’s trash is another’s GOLDMINE!

At the end of your sale you will have met a lot of nice, friendly people. If you want to continue selling items you might have left, you can let people know and have future sales all lined up. A circular already prepared and passed out to each customer will help insure future sales. You should have made money, some new acquaintances, and a weary but happy body!


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