Cashing Out Your Junk: Garage Sale Tips For Success

I’ve managed several garage sales (or yard sales) over the past 25 to 30 years, both for our own household goods as well as for family and friends.

Garage Sale Sign With Table Full Of Vintage & Used Items

I enjoy running them, but they are a lot of work, and if you don’t play your cards right–they can be a complete waste of time.

I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t, so I’ve put together this guide full of tips to help you operate a successful sale.

Before getting started, I find it’s helpful to have a positive mindset about selling your personal items.

One of the trickiest aspects can be determining what stays and what goes.

Something I like to keep in mind for the nicer items I have stashed (unused) in the house is that, yes, I do appreciate their value…and it might sting a bit to think of selling something lovely, but wouldn’t it be nice if it was better appreciated and actually used in someone else’s home?

That mindset alone has helped me really get down to business and successfully declutter my home time and again. At the end of the day, nice, expensive, or not, it’s all just stuff.

In the following sections, I’ll delve into the nitty-gritty details, from determining when to have your sale to promotion strategies, organizing tables, pricing items, and more.

Did I miss anything? Feel free to add your own in the comments section 🙂

Garage Sale Tips & Tricks For Success

First: Determine Why You’re Having One

This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but you do need to understand what the main intention is.

Is the goal to make as much money as possible, or is the goal to get rid of as much as possible? The two are not compatible, in my opinion, so you need to decide before you map out your plan.

For estate sales and downsizing or moving, your priority should be to shed as much “stuff” as you possibly can–at whatever price–or you will have a lot of boxes to fill again (and try to find storage for later) at the end of the day.

For things that are pretty valuable that you want top dollar for (antiques, collectibles, etc.), you can try something like eBay or Kijiji if you don’t get the price you want. There are hassles with that, too (packing, shipping breakage, non-expert description, scams, etc.).

Not worrying about top dollar profits & pricing to sell instead will bring in a pile of cash, but you have to be willing to part with items at much lower prices than what you paid.

If you can’t bare to “just give things away” but are willing to set aside the time–think about having two separate sales.

Duo Times

Have one in the Spring and one in late Summer (the hordes of garage sale regulars will likely recognize your house or address if you try again too soon–and they’ll skip it).

For the first event, mark the prices that you think you should get for each item.

You may get lucky and sell most of it, but if not–pack everything up and try again later in the Summer, this time at prices people will pay.

My Preference

Sell fast and cheap on the first day, then enjoy the rest of the weekend.

With this approach, you can still do a few merchandising and sales techniques to help increase your profits while selling all your treasures.

I’ve never had a garage sale yet that didn’t bring in at least a few hundred dollars (a couple over the $1,000 mark) but I price to sell; those quarters and $1 bills add up fast.

Another Option

Try it Friday afternoon at your chosen prices, then sell the rest at reduced prices the next day (on Saturday).

You won’t get back the crowd you had the day before, and you won’t draw the people that realize you had an event the previous day. Regulars know the best stuff goes early on the first day.

Saturdays are pretty busy, so you could still get lucky and attract a new crowd.

When’s A Good Time To Have A Garage Sale?

I plan one when I have enough to fill two or three large tables and more spread out throughout the yard or driveway (furniture, larger items, appliances).

Calendar Planner Page

Having a garage sale consumes a lot of time and effort (organizing beforehand as well as the actual day) so I wait until I have enough stuff to sell that will make the time spent worthwhile.

If you only have a small table or two, I’d suggest waiting until you have more to offer.

It’s up to you and it’s your time, but many people won’t bother stopping to park the vehicle and walk up to see what you have if there’s only a single table of goodies. There are just too many other garage sales to get to quickly before the good stuff goes.

  • Get The Neighbors Involved: If you can have a neighborhood or community garage sale–be prepared for a giddy mob to show up and buy, buy, buy! Talk to your neighbors and see if you can organize a neighborhood event; 3 or more households would be a good draw (the more, the better).

How Many Days To Run It:

I’ve held them for 1 day, 2 days, and 3 days (Friday afternoon/early evening, all day Saturday and Sunday). Now I’ll only do one if it’s for a single day only–my experience has been holding it on one main day is the best setup.

You will be busy from morning to mid-afternoon on the first day, but the other two days, the traffic comes in dribs and drabs and it’s so not worth it to be tied to your yard the whole weekend.

Your experience may be different, but I’ve never had good luck with an event that lasted more than one day. The best stuff is gone within the first several hours, and most people who garage sale know this–they’ll plan their route to skip you on Days 2 and 3.

What Days To Hold It:

Timing is everything when it comes to hosting a successful garage sale. You want to choose a date and time that maximizes foot traffic and ensures that potential buyers have ample opportunity to browse through your items.

In my city, Friday afternoons and early evenings are becoming quite popular. Saturdays still rule as #1. Sundays are a washout.

Long weekends aren’t the best; a lot of people go away or have company. However, there is less competition on long weekends, so you could have some success (die-hard shoppers still in town will make the effort).

What Are The Best Hours:

I find an 8 a.m. start time works very well, you’ll need a good hour or so to set things out in the morning. I like to get up early, shower, enjoy some coffee then hit the ground running.

If you plan on holding it inside your garage, it really helps to have everything set up the night before (just make sure things are locked up tight for the night).

I find browsers start to dwindle after 2 p.m., but it’s still worthwhile to run until 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. (on Saturdays and Sundays). Anything later than that, and you are just torturing yourself.

Fridays: Noon start times that run through to 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. at night are surprisingly well trafficked. This might be the case for larger communities, I’m not sure about smaller centers.

Advertising Is A Must

While a few simple signs on your street may attract local passersby, reaching a wider audience requires a multi-faceted approach. Effective promotion can include both traditional and online methods to maximize your reach.

No one will come if they don’t know about it!

  • Advertise in the local newspaper and on popular free online classified sites like Craigslist and Kijiji. Many other online sites will take your advertisement for free, but it’s only worthwhile if people in your city or locale actually use those sites.
  • Arrange balloon bunches, streamers tied to trees, and a big sign in the front yard so people can see at a glance that you are having a sale.
    • Large sheets of cardboard work great for this.
  • Park vehicles along busy streets close to where you live with balloons and big signs in the back window giving your address and with the words “Garage Sale” (a big arrow pointing the direction to turn is a great idea too).
  • Place signs in boulevards that are in clear (and large) print. Post the signs along busy streets close to your home.
A Yard Sale With A Big Sign For Advertisement

Signage Details: Big, Bold, Clear Letters. Keep it simple.

  • Garage Sale or Yard Sale
  • Address
  • Date (Saturday, May 12th or *Today*)
  • Time (8 am – 5 pm)

That’s it; too much info and things get too complicated for drivers to read as they’re driving by. List your address on either the first or second line, sometimes drivers just have time to read the top of the sign.

If the writing is too small, you’re wasting your time posting the signs. I did see once a couple that actually parked their car, walked across to the boulevard, and then stooped over to read the sign to write down the address–they’re rare.

Make sure drivers can clearly read the details as they’re driving by.

Careful: Some towns and cities do not allow signage posted on public property (like boulevards) or any signage displays that distract motorists (balloons, streamers). Check with your City or Town Hall if unsure.

Advertisements: List your bigger ticket items like treadmills, antique pieces, living room furniture, baby nursery items, etc.

If you’re moving or it’s an estate sale–say so; lots of people will only go to those.

Collectibles: If you have your mom’s salt & pepper shaker collection, vintage tablecloth collection, or grandma’s teacup collection–list it in the ad. You will have people driving in from out of town just to come to your sale.

Warning: Don’t exaggerate or mislead in your advertisements, or you will really tick people off. Ticked-off people do not buy things. And you will reap really bad Garage Sale Kharma.

A Final Note: If you are having a moving or estate sale, block sale, or have a large collection or two of sought-after collectibles–prepare yourself for a stampede.

What Sells At A Garage Sale

Everything and anything! You will be AMAZED at what people will buy. You truly will. Even if something is missing a piece or doesn’t work–put it out on display (note the defects clearly & honestly).

A Table Full Of Vintage Glassware

People look for parts or DIY project supplies. I have seen the most hideous decorations and gizmos sell, there’s a buyer for everything (they just have to find you).

I’ll never forget the look of amazement as my husband was lugging a 7-foot-tall wooden pantry/cupboard to the back of our half-ton. Very plain and basic, with a few drawers for cutlery, assorted utensils, and a top and bottom cupboard to hold larger food packages or dishes.

The family couldn’t believe someone would actually pay money for such a thing! To be honest, my husband didn’t understand the vision either, lol.

Their grandfather had built it for the family’s farmhouse kitchen way back in the day. I painted it a lovely shade of green (reminiscent of jade ware), polished up the vintage hardware, and now it’s a cheap but lovely $10 custom piece in my home office that holds a tonne of office supplies.

The Best Place To Hold The Event

Our garage is in the back and I find more people will pop in if things are out front (in the yard). It’s easier to spot as cars are driving by, and you’ll draw a lot of people who were just driving home and not even on the lookout for a sale.

If your garage is out front and easily visible from the street, have it in there or along the driveway.

Driveway In A Yard Sale That Is Full Of Used Furniture

The main benefit of having the sale inside the garage is weather conditions: if it starts to rain, you don’t have to scramble to get things inside.

Backyards: Last option and least desirable (but still possible). You can’t see it from the street and you’ll miss out on those who like to “shop by truck” (quickly scanning your items while they drive by).

If you have a backyard, chances are you have a front yard or front drive–those are better options.

Supplies You’ll Need

By gathering these essential supplies, you’ll be equipped to handle all aspects of your garage sale smoothly. With your display tables ready, prices clearly marked, and a secure cash-handling system in place, you’re well-prepared for a successful event.

A Roll Of Masking Tape With A Black Marker
  • Lots of signage (big, bold lettering)
  • Balloons & Streamers (hang them high enough so people can clearly see your house is having a sale when they’re driving by)
  • Waterproof black marker or sharpie, masking tape, or sticky labels (to price things)
  • Clean plastic grocery bags, a stack of newspapers for wrapping breakables, and smaller boxes (to offer buyers with large or heavy loads)
  • Clean tablecloths and sheets (to lay across the tables and on the ground to lay items on)
  • Measuring tape (to enable customers to measure furniture or shelving, etc.)
  • Coin wrappers – you’ll need these at the end of the day to wrap all the change you collected
  • You’ll need a big thermos of coffee ready (for you) and lots of beverages chilling–you’re going to be hot and thirsty throughout the busy day
  • Calculator (just in case you need to tally purchases)
  • Pad of paper – sometimes, you’ll receive an offer for a large purchase that you don’t want to commit to (it’s lower than you hoped). You can offer to take the person’s name & phone number and call them the next day if you decide to sell it at that price (this gives you a day to try for a better price)
  • Lots of tables, clean blankets or sheets to display things on, big boxes to hold the toys and stuffed animals
  • Have an extension cord handy to plug in any electrical items being sold and an assortment of batteries to test items. Some people want to test and make sure the item works before buying. Use the outside electrical outlet–do not let people in your home!
  • Fanny pack or small crossbody purse to hold the money (do not use a cash box–too easy to grab and run and too awkward to hold all day).

All About The Money Float

Have lots of change on hand at the start of the day; here’s my suggested float:

A Piggy Bank With A Stash Of Cash
  • Roll of quarters
  • Roll of loonies and toonies (Canadians)
  • 20 $1 dollar bills
  • 5 $5 dollar bills
  • 4 $10 dollar bills

If you have big-ticket items (furniture, heavy appliances), a couple of $20 bills will be needed if you decide to accept $50 or $100 bills.

You’ll pick up lots of small change throughout the day, but in the first few hours, you’ll likely be breaking lots of $5, $10, and $20 bills.

Prep Work: The Day Before

By investing time and effort into sorting, cleaning, and presenting your items effectively, you’ll create an inviting atmosphere that entices buyers to explore and make purchases.

  • If you can, price things the day before (and have things sorted in boxes). This makes things move a lot quicker on the morning of the sale.
    • Include boxes, manuals, and instructions if you still have them (you can get a better price).
A Box Full Of Old Hardcover Books For Sale
  • Save yourself a headache — mark everything with a price! Fewer questions will be asked, and people will see for themselves how much something is.
    • Sticky labels work, and so does masking tape: Mark prices right on the roll, then tear off the tape or label–do not price directly on an item since the ink may seep through.
    • Make sure the ink is nice and dark (a black Sharpie or marker works great).
  • Thoroughly review each item before putting it out. Look for forgotten money in pockets, old receipts, etc.
  • Clean everything really well–the shinier, the better. Wash clothes, blankets, towels, and bedding.
  • Mark the measurements for curtains, drapes, and bed linens (twin, double, etc.). You can do this on masking tape.
  • Ensure the yard and surrounding area are neat and clean, trimmed hedges, leaves raked, weeds pulled, and grass mowed. Move the garbage bin out of sight.
    • Yes, the presentation makes a difference.
  • Move your vehicles over a block, especially if you live on a small street.
    • If people can’t find a place to park, they won’t be buying anything (do this the morning of the event).

Presentation & Display Tips

Organized Bins Sorted By Price
  • Take the time to organize: Keep all glass items together, collectibles together, books and magazines together, toys together, etc.
    • You can use shallow boxes, baskets, or tubs to hold glassware (helps prevent them from falling off the table & breaking).
  • Set everything up on tables so people don’t have to bend and dig through boxes, and have kids’ toys and stuffed animals in boxes or laid out on a blanket on the grass, making it easier for the kids to dig through (keep the kids’ section away from the breakables area).
  • If you can’t beg, borrow, or steal enough sturdy tables, lay things out individually on clean blankets or sheets. Avoid burying “the good stuff” in boxes; the more items that are displayed, the easier it is for someone to spot them and buy them.
    • For things $1 or less, sometimes packing them in bins to dig through can be successful as people are tempted by the low prices to dig a bit.
  • Keep sections spaced far enough apart so people can browse on both sides of the table or blankets (really makes a difference when there are a lot of people milling around).
  • Your appearance counts too! Brush out the bed hair, have a shower, wear clean clothes, and shave. You don’t need to look like you stepped out of a magazine, but looking clean is really important. Wear comfy clothes and have a sweater at easy reach in case it gets chilly.

Staffing Needs

A successful event has to be an organized affair. What works best for me is to have one person handling the money, sales, and bartering prices, at least one other person watching the crowd (for theft, believe it or not), and answering questions.

Big Bonus Help: An older child to run quick errands (run in to get more bags, etc.) and to help the kids look through toys and trading cards.

Chances are it will get VERY busy for the person handling the money and you won’t be able to breathe for 2 hours straight, but I find it works well for several reasons:

  • The money person knows every item that was sold–this helps when trying to upsell (notes on that below).
  • Only one person has to know the prices–labels can get lost or switched by accident (or accidentally on purpose). There’s no danger of the antique clock being sold for $1 instead of $100.
  • Only one money float needed.

Early Bird Alert

You advertise with an 8 a.m. start time. People will begin to drift in at 7 a.m.; in fact–some may start wandering into your house as you’re moving stuff out or even ring your doorbell *the night before* (just say no).

Early Bird Shoppers

The Early Birds are serious contenders and chances are they’re eBay sellers or make a profit professionally off of selling second-hand goods. They want first dibs on all the goodies.

You can include “No Early Birds” in your advertisement, but that won’t stop all of them.

You’ll need a person to police the outside once the Early Birds show up, so count on losing a body to help move things out.

Yes, Early Birds can be a PITA and get in the way–but that’s garage sale life and they’re usually pretty cool just hanging out and taking their time to look through things as items are being brought out.

Before getting too irritated with them, consider it a promising sign when they show up; it can be an indicator of good advertising and promotion and a hopeful sign of how the day will go.

Things To Keep In Mind When Pricing

You want to strike a balance between earning a fair price for your belongings and enticing buyers with attractive deals.

A Dollar Sign Price Tag
  • If you have a lot of low-priced items, try to sell them in bundles, like “This Table Buy 1 Get 1 Free” or this box “3 Items For $5”.
    • It’s really important you know your prices because some items may get mixed or dropped in the bargain bins by mistake by your customers.
    • Don’t back down if someone insists it was in the bargain bin; gently inform them another customer must have placed it in there by mistake.
  • I know you paid $50 for that blender and never used it, but selling it for $40 will be tough. Yes, $10 off is a good deal for someone; however, if they buy it at the store, they get a warranty and they get to take it back if it doesn’t work or something goes wrong or they change their mind.
    • If I were pricing that brand-new, in-the-box blender, I’d start with $25–it’s a price hard to walk away from.
  • Price things in 25-cent increments, it’s less hassle, easy to do the math, and you won’t have to fuss with nickels and dimes (nightmare).
  • The Witching Hour: Reduce prices after 1 p.m. You only have a few hours left to get rid of stuff; now’s the time to hustle and move things off the tables and into customer vehicles.

How Much To Sell Things For

If you don’t shop at a lot of garage sales yourself, you will have a hard time determining what good prices are. Why not take a weekend before your sale to shop around at a few and see what others are pricing their items at?

It depends on your area and what things will sell for; people living in large cities have a lot of options when buying, so you’ll probably find lower pricing is best.

A Calculator & Pen To Document Items For Sale

Here’s a guide I work with for some basic items; I’ve only been involved with events where I’m trying to sell as much as possible just to get rid of it; results will vary for you:

  • Paperbacks – $1.50 or 5/$5.00
  • Hardcover books – $5 or 3/$10
  • Reference books – Hardcover dictionaries, thesaurus, etc. – $5
  • Cookbooks – $5
  • CDs, Video Tapes – $1
  • DVDs (recent) – $3 to $5
  • Dishes, glassware – $1 a piece, larger items (like casserole dishes) $5, sets somewhere around the $10 mark
  • Blankets, Curtains – $5 to $10
  • Planters, Gardening Tools – $5 to $10 depending on the item
  • Kitchen Electronics (Slow cookers, Coffee Pots, Tea Kettles, Gadgets) – $5 to $10
  • Old TVs – $10 to $25, up to $40, depending on how old it is. If it’s in good shape and fairly new (up to 5 years old) and with a remote, I’ve been able to sell it for $75 to $100
  • Bookcases, Desks & Shelving – Depends. If it’s actually wooden and in good shape, around $25 to $50. For thin laminate cheapies–$5.
  • Bikes – Really old ones – $10. Newer models – $25 to $75 (depends how expensive that type of bike is new)
  • Freezers – around $50
  • Kitchen Stove, Fridge, Dishwasher – depends on how old they are, chances are they’re at least 10 yrs old–up to $100
  • Sofas and Chairs – $50 to $100 depending on quality, of course
  • Coffee Tables, End Tables – anywhere from $10 to $25
  • Lamps – $10 and up if they’re nice, $1 or $2 if they’re cheapies
  • Kitchen Table & Chairs – $20 to $50
  • Toys & Stuffed Animals – $1 to $5
  • Board Games (complete) – $5 to $10
  • Puzzles (complete) – $2.50
  • DVD Players – $20
  • CD Players – $10
  • VCRs – $5 to $10
  • Plastic Containers like Tupperware (Food & storage) – $1 or $2
  • BBQs (propane, good condition) – $15 to $25, up to $40 if it’s quite new and in excellent shape
  • BBQs & Grills (briquette) – $5
  • Lawnmowers – $25 (depends on how old/new it is–you could go higher if it’s a newer mower)
  • Framed Wall Pictures & Mirrors – $5 and up

I updated this price list in 2023; yes, inflation affects garage sales too!

Tip: If someone tells you they want to buy the couch but they need to go get more money to pay for it or they need to go get the truck to pick it up, make sure to get a non-refundable deposit ($20 is what I usually ask for).

Old Couch Sold & Waiting To Be Picked Up

Then set it to the side with a big “Sold” sign on it or out of sight somewhere so you don’t accidentally sell it.

The deposit is required because the person may not come back (they either forgot, changed their mind, got lost, or were just trying a “browsing” tactic to check out what was available elsewhere before committing to your item). This way, if the person doesn’t come back, you haven’t sold the item but you at least have $20 to help soften the blow.

Setting the item aside or out of sight is really important because you just might mistakenly re-sell it to someone else (I’ve done it, broke someone’s heart, and it’s embarrassing).

Things can get really busy and hectic, so leave no room for error.

Throughout The Day

Make sure things stay as neat as possible. Watch that the sections stay somewhat organized; people will pick things up, carry them to another section, and change their minds about buying them. That’s ok, but watch for the t-shirts in the kitchen gadget section.

Used Household Goods Arranged On A Side Table
  • Reduce from 3 tables to 2 tables when there’s room to do so, keeping your sections organized and your tables full.
    • This helps make it look like there’s still a lot of stuff to buy as people are driving through (shopping from the truck, I call it). If everything’s spread out with lots of holes and empty spaces–it looks like leftovers.
  • Pick up any litter that may have happened; sometimes, stray plastic bags get loose.

Bring Out Your Inner Social Butterfly

When family and friends have a garage sale, I’m one of the first people they call. I’m willing to be sociable and approachable, I have no problem gently bartering, and I’m pretty darn good at upselling. But I think my main talent is that I really enjoy myself and am happy to be part of the process.

You don’t have to be a circus act, just smile and enjoy yourself.

Play some background music (on low), set up seating areas, and provide shade if possible. These small touches make shoppers feel comfortable and encourage them to stay longer.

Upsell, Upsell, Upsell: If someone’s buying a bag of yarn, I point them to the pile of knitting and crochet patterns and books.

If someone’s buying some old gardening tools, I’ll make sure they know about the perennials and the old planters in the corner.

Just mention one or two things quickly and casually as you’re collecting money for the initial purchase, don’t put any pressure on your customers because they’ll feel that and be turned off.

There are some key points to successful selling:

  • Have fun and enjoy having people browse through your stuff–it shows, and people will respond to that.
  • Know what you are selling and what your rock-bottom prices are. Pay attention; if you see someone debating whether or not to buy that old wool blanket for $5, sweeten the offer by throwing in that little gadget in their hands for free or come down a buck or two on the price.
  • Don’t hover over people; don’t be pushy, loud, or abrasive. And don’t sit in the corner talking on the phone or watching Youtube on the tablet. Acknowledge people and be approachable.
  • Bartering Is A Sport – don’t be intimidated, insulted, or shy about it. If someone offers you $2 for a $10 item, and it’s only an hour into your sale–suggest $8. If it’s 4 p.m. and you’re starting to pack up–take the offer or pack it up–it’s your stuff and your choice.

Ideas For Raising More Cash

If you have a sneaking feeling that your event is going to be through the roof and mobs of people will be milling about (estate sale, moving sale, block sale, etc.), you can juice up the day’s revenue by preparing for the extra cash opportunities.

A Display Of Handmade Jewelry
  • Do you have a hobby like making jewelry, custom birdhouses, crochet dishcloths, etc? Setting up a small table full of handmade goodies can be very lucrative if you get the right crowd.
  • Sell cold sodas in a chest full of ice (water, pop). Keep it visible and make sure people can see the piles of ice (these will sell like hotcakes if they’re clearly ice cold).
  • BBQ (if it’s legal in your area)…have lots of onions frying (the smell will sell the food), hotdogs, and hamburgers.
    • Keep condiments in squeeze bottles if possible (protect from bugs and flies).
    • 11 a.m. is a good time to start and keep cooking throughout the day.
    • There’s no way to plan ahead food amounts since it’s hard to say how many people will come, but if you pre-buy a number of burgers and hotdogs that your family will have no trouble eating over the summer, you’ll be fine if you don’t sell that much.
    • Keep 2 or 3 burgers and hot dogs on the ready at all times unless things really speed up–then fill up the grill.
    • Make sure there are napkins available too.
    • Burgers (with cheese and onions) will sell for $5, and hotdogs for $3 to $5 (again–depends on your locale). Remember to factor in the cost of condiments, buns, onions, and cheese.
  • Puffed wheat cake and rice crispy cake, individually wrapped in big squares
  • Freezies
  • 50-cent bags of nickel candy, licorice, chips
  • Have a big box of donuts for the morning crowd (sell individually)

Food sales can be tricky depending on where you live; see what you can do in your locale. Some places require a permit, but you may find selling prepackaged goods (pop, water bottles, bags of chips, etc.) will be ok. It’s quite common where I live to see burgers cooking and smell onions frying at large garage sales.

One year we sold a mountain of cotton candy–we had a machine at the time and it was quick and cheap to make up as needed. Think of different ways like this that you may be able to implement.

If you are going to serve food or have a treat and candy stand, you will need an extra person to handle it. The older kids do great sitting at a small table selling donuts, bags of nickel candy, and canned or bottled beverages.

Presentation Tips When Selling Food

In a nutshell, don’t gross people out!

Grilling & Selling Meat At A Yard Sale Can Be Lucrative
  • If cooking and serving food, please wear a clean bbq apron and a shirt covering your belly.
  • Have a visible pail of hot, soapy water close by that you regularly wash your hands in and a clean hand towel to dry your hands on.
  • Don’t smoke a cigarette over the food sizzling on the grill.
  • Dousing flame flareups with a canned beverage you’ve been drinking out of is a no-no.
  • Don’t cook or handle the food if you have a cough, cold, or even just the sniffles.

Yes, I’ve seen each of those things happen!

Security Tips

I have to say I really haven’t experienced any outright theft at any of the sales I’ve held, but I’m sure it happens.

Security Guard
  • If you’re setting up in the backyard, have all the windows and doors in the front of the house closed and locked. If it’s in the front of the house, lock up the back. Make sure someone knows their job is to watch the door.
  • Throughout the day, run extra money into the house and keep it hidden (just in case someone does get in). If you don’t have time to run in, discreetly stash a wad of bills deep into your pockets.
  • Don’t broadcast how much money you’ve generated throughout the day; yes, a person or two will probably ask (innocently). Don’t broadcast how you sold unbelievable amounts of stuff, and it was the biggest garage sale you ever had. The wrong person just might hear you.
  • The banks are likely closed when your day ends; deposit cash through the ATM (if you trust it) or wait till first thing Monday morning when the bank opens.
  • Cash sales only, no matter how sweet Grandma looks.
  • Train your hawk eyes: I believe most people are honest, but if someone comes to you with an armful and offers $5, take each item and make sure nothing’s wrapped inside a sweater and forgotten about. Watch for items tucked inside tote bags and backpacks.

The Day Is Over: Cleaning Up

  • Pack up the leftovers in three categories–things you want to keep and try to sell again at your next event, things to garbage, and things for the charity groups to pick up (or for you to drop off–pack them in your vehicle asap so you won’t delay in dropping them off).
    • Remove the price tags from the charity items as you pack them away and it’s nice to keep them somewhat organized (toys in one box, clothing in another, etc.).
Boxes Full Of Used Household Goods That Didn't Sell To Donate

Some ideas for charity groups: Salvation Army, the local Crisis Nursery, and local women’s shelters. I believe you can request a receipt for items donated to use as tax deductions (in the U.S.); keep that in mind.

Think carefully about the items you choose to keep; some things are just too good to give away and somewhat debatable whether or not you really want to get rid of them, but remember that these items take up room.

I have no problem keeping a box or two but space needs might be an issue. Some churches, daycares, and community centers hold garage sales for fundraising; consider giving your better leftovers to them.

At the end of the day, I’ve also left boxes open in the yard (just off the sidewalk or driveway) with a big “FREE – Take What You Need” sign for neighbors to take what they want. The neighborhood kids will love you if there are some goodies for them.

Important: Be considerate and make sure to go back and collect all the signs you planted and displayed on public property. One of the main reasons cities have banned the practice is because too many just leave the signs for city crews to clean up (leaving them is just like littering).

And Now Your Event Is Over…

Most of your clutter has moved on to bigger and better, you have a nice stash of cash along with an exhausted body to contend with. I hope you find great success with your garage sale!

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    • Lizz

    This has been an enlightening read! I live in an aptartment and want to have a yard sale (just married and have combined households) but it seemed too formidable a task! This guide has shown the in’s and out’s of a sucessful yard sale! thank you so much! IM PUMPED!

      • Cher

      Lizz the best way I’ve found is to take your time pricing one box or item at a time day by day until everything has been priced and packed then set up the tables the day or so before unless you’re having an indoor movin sale that would work also and then a yardsale on the items that didn’t sale … Put an ad on craigslist or the local paper! My sister drives me crazy when she has a yardsale and has nothing priced because 4 and 5 people at the time are asking hey how much is this? And I’m saying hey I do not know it’s my sister’s stuff LOL

    • Christy Jordan

    My huge yard sale is this weekend. Couldn’t have come at a better time! THANK YOU for this post!
    Christy 🙂

    • nick_archer

    Don’t let people use your bathroom — direct them to the nearest gas station or fast food restaurant.

    Don’t price VHS tapes at more than $1. Customers don’t care if it’s Disney or how much you paid for it. It’s a dead technology.

    • Mohonri

    Of course, craigslist is an option, both for selling items, and for advertising your yard/garage/rummage/moving/estate sale.

    I’ve also heard about, which is kind of a cross between craigslist, ebay, and freecycle. You can set up your own site ala Freecycle, but instead of just a mailing list, you get a very local (covers one community) online classified ads site where you can post items for free (and advertise your yard sale, too). We have one in our area, and it’s fantastic–since almost all the listings are within a few minutes’ drive, it’s really convenient. If there’s no bookoo in your area and you’re planning a yard sale in the next few days, it won’t help much, but if you’ve got time, or if one is already established in your area, it’s awesome.

    • Norm

    A few additional tips:

    Don’t smoke at your sale. Some people will walk away, and nobody wants to buy clothes that smell like an ashtray. Take a break and go in the house to light up.

    Media: CDs are worth a buck, tops. Less if the artwork is missing or jewel case is trashed. Same price for VHS (as another poster mentioned). I’m hard-pressed to want to pay more than $3 for DVDs, as pawn shops sell them for around this price and they have better selections. Vinyl albums $1 and only if in excellent condition with sleeve intact. More if they are collectible, of course. Cassette and 8-track tapes – you must be joking, right?

    Electronics: Make sure the stuff works and provide a means to prove it. That means the game console, computer, CD or DVD player needs to be hooked up to demonstrate. Computers only if less than a couple years old. Nobody wants to buy your 386 PC from 1991. Recycle it instead.

    Don’t try to pass off worthless stuff. Analog TVs and other obsolete electronics, non-working appliances and old-style propane tanks that can’t be refilled are a common sight at sales. Recycle them.

    Price to sell. Just because you paid $40 for it doesn’t mean you’re doing us a favor by selling it for $35. If the item means that much to you, maybe you should just keep it.

    Greet people, say “hello.” If we don’t feel welcome, we won’t want to hang around and look at your stuff. Don’t follow me around or hover. You can prevent shoplifters just fine by arranging your stuff so that it’s within line of sight from where you’re sitting.

    Don’t let your kids write signs. Nobody can read their sucky handwriting scrawled on a paper plate. Don’t use mystery meat navigation by posting signs with “Garage Sale” and an arrow and expect us to drive around looking for the next one to guide us. Put an address on the sign. Big letters on a big hunk of cardboard or plywood. Better yet, place a well-marked sign at each turn, as we don’t all know the layout of your neighborhood. You pulled me off the busy highway. If you want me to follow your convoluted route, tell me where to turn. You want people to find it, don’t you?

    When it’s over, take the signs down right away. If I follow signs for blocks off the beaten path, only to see a closed-up house that probably hosted the sale last week, I’m tempted to throw things at it.

      • Tracy

      good except “worthless” stuff is what a lot of crafters look for. I turn old tvs into vintage looking cat beds!

      • Kate

      I agree – when your sale is over take down the signs!!! Don’t be lazy. Next week I will be out looking for a sale and following the signs to YOUR house. At least put out an occasional arrow or balloons showing that we’re heading in the right direction for your sale. Some sales are waaaay down the road I just turned off of…..and if I don’t find it soon, I’ll turn around and go back. LARGE signs please…….I’m driving! I can’t slam on the brakes to read your sign. Don’t put too much info on the sign (the address,time, days, etc) Too much to read while driving. The most embarrassing thing happened one day – the FIRST day my husband actually agreed to go with me!! One sign,turned down the road, parked and started browsing up and down the driveway at the “wares” that were laid out….until the man asked if he could help me. Turns out he was CLEANING HIS GARAGE ..the sale was further down the road!! LOL

    • SMM

    Has anyone ever had a garage sale just for jewelry and has it been a success? Any thoughts on if it’s a good idea or not???

      • Pat

      At a holiday craft fair there was a seller who had two tables of vintage and retro costume jewelry. Her goods were in excellent condition and her displays were nicely grouped. I think she goes to several such events every year.

      • Kate

      You can certainly have jewelry (I’m always looking for it) but garage salers love variety. It’s the “thrill of the hunt”!!

        • Betty

        Yes, jewelry goes very quickly. I have a sale with 50% off the original
        price…..earrings $1.00 and $2.00 a pair….these are fun ones and
        they move quickly.
        Jewelry makers love to look for old jewelry for the findings they want to use in their jewelry work.

    • christine

    thank you for the great tips. we are starting to plan a sale and this is perfect.

    • Allison

    GREAT article. I can’t wait to get to work planning my sale. There are so many tips in here and you make it all seem SO doable. Thanks a mil!

    • Alicia Johnson

    Use ARROWS on your signs. Address not totally necessary if you use the arrows. I go to alot of unfamiliar areas and ignore an address if I don’t know where it is.

    If you have alot of smaller items, be sure to have alot of plastic bags to offer the customer. If someone is looking at books, offer a bag to hold them in.

    Have newspaper or packing paper available to wrap fragiles for the customer.

    To deter early birds, I put a sign out front that reads, “Sale starts at 8am. Early Birds pay double of marked price”. Sounds mean, but I think early birding is rude! One person actually bought from me…at double the price…lol.

    Having water and soda is a nice idea. Having a child have a lemonade sale is fun for the kids, but don’t let them get obnoxious or loud.

    Clean your items. Nobody wants to pick up anything dusty, dirty, sticky, etc.

    • made-a-mistake

    No disrespect, but this whole read took longer than I care to spend selling items I somehow bought and must have considered necessary in the past. My first attempt at a garage mess/sale, and at this early time of day with no pricing strategy other than tables with items for sale at 1.00 for 2, 10.00, 20.00, 30.00, 40.00 and 50.00 will be my last. The smart money for my market is on the 50.00 table as far as value is concerned and most items are in original boxes and unused. And honestly are things guys need to take care of the families safe domain.(guys, they need gas or power. they make noise and they change the shapes of things) I am getting to wordy….looking to know how and where you might find the means to completely and easily, move the whole package at once. Beneficial to both parties, I might add.

      • Kate

      I’m not trying to sound disrespectful to you, but you really don’t sound like you fit the garage sale profile. Tables from $10-$50 ? Garage sales are A LOT of work! They are about finding a serious bargain for the buyer and cleaning out the clutter for you. When having a sale the #1 rule is to be willing to mark it to move! It isn’t about getting what you paid for it – that’s not going to happen. When I go to sales with prices marked close to the store price, I leave (thinking those people are crazy!).
      Sounds like you should box it all up and go to Goodwill – take the tax write off.

    • Louise

    I live on a new street that is not on any maps yet. I posted in my ads to follow the signs to get to my home. I will post the first one at the main Strret. From there it is 3 to 4 turns. Is this alright? I listed that it was in a new section of town.

    • Morgan

    NEVER have the garage sale the same hours or day as someone in your area!! It will ruin the whole sale! The best tip is to just post pone it for the next week. NOT the next day! Someone could come but not as much people! People would not want to come around to another one!!!!!

      • Shauna

      I completely disagree. I am much more likely to go to a garage sale if there are several others in the area. When people go garage selling they usually commit their whole mornings to them. I always check the paper and craigslist to see where the most are and I start out there. If I have time I might hit up the lone one in a different neighbor hood, but most of the time I just skip it.

        • Kate

        Me too Shauna! I plan my route the night before (to save the hassle and gas money!) I will always hit neighborhood sales before the single ones. Not only do I save gas money, but I end up getting a little exercise walking the neighborhood on a beautiful sunny day.

    • MommyTime

    I’ll respectfully disagree with Morgan. Many people who go to a garage sale are happy to find multiple families with stuff in very close range, since it saves driving from one sale to another. Our subdivision has an annual subdivision-wide sale (anyone who wants sets up in their own yard; the sub does the advertising) — and hordes of people come.

      • Laura

      I’m with MommyTime. My apartment complex has a yard sale every year with at least 7 families participating. A lot of the same people come back each year. The management advertises and provides signs and stickers.

    • cyndi

    Thanks for the tips. I want to have a yard sale. I certainly don’t want to waste my time; since it is a lot of work. It’s good to have an idea of how to price items.

    • Michelle

    I lay three tarp and lable each one a dollar, 2 dollar and five dollar instead of pricing evey little pece, if I have a bunch of small items not worth a dollar. I will bundle them up in bags and put them on the dollar tarp. They usaly find something in those bags they like.

      • Mabel

      Oooh, that’s a good idea! I’m going to do that.

    • Morgan

    Sorry, Morgan:
    Everyone LOVES to come to a street where there are three or four sales going on at once. (Why do you think car dealers all locate next to each other on the same street…….and THAT’S PERMANENTLY!!
    Think about it.

    *admin edit

    • Joanne Rapley

    Thanks for all your tips. I have had several garage sales and you are right with your tips. I learned a few suggestions which may help as well.
    We live in a adult community and we have multiple garage sales as well as the communities next door to us. And our community has reported over the past 4 years that the sales have been successful.Multiple sales helps when folks have to drive out into the country and they are successful too.
    Our community is having our annual garage sale at the end of May and looking forward to it. It is a lot of work but worth it at the end. At least we can get rid of a few things and what is left and in good shape, we donate to an organization.
    Thanks for the time you take to help us with garage sales.

    • LuAnne

    I’ve had many sales & thanks, learned more from these tips. One time I had a sale during the early spring. My mom sat while I was thinning out hostas & iris. I decided to bag some of the roots up to sell & made a killing that year. The word got around & I ended up making more on plants & books than I did on everything else put together. I started walking aroung my yard with a shovel & trowel digging up herbs, heirloom rambling rose “babies”, lilies, rhubarb, & whatever else I could find.

    • Susie


    Thanks for all of your tips. I haven’t had a garage sale since 1976 but must have one now.

    I need some direction on ho to price power tools. My husband recently passed away and he had so many different kinds of tools…most of which I have no idea what they do. I looked at tools on CraigsList and saw some that I think are like what I have. They had some pretty hefty prices on them, but, I am apprehensive to price them as I am not sure they are the same things that I saw. Unfortunately most of my neighbors are not very mechanically incluined so don’t have a clue what these are or how to use them.

    Can you gve me a hint as to how to price them, and maybe what I should keep for myself? I appreciate any assistance you can provide.


      • Russ

      I would not hold much weight in prices on Craigslist or EBay. Many times these are ‘wish’ prices that people would love to get, but typically don’t. Condition and age are everything. You don’t state what type of power tools, assuming they are typical drill, circular saw, sander, saber saw, etc. If the tools are metal housings they are uninsulated and actually dangerous by today’s standard. They are a dime a dozen at garage sales and are not worth more than a few dollars in most cases. Not only for safety reasons but due to the fact that motors succumb to moisture and non use poorly. If you are talking about the basic tools as listed above and they are standard Sears Craftsman type with Insulated bodies (plastic) you can possibly expect to get around $5-15 dollars. Best advice would be go to a few garage sales and look for similar tools and how they are priced.

      • Sue

      I suggest you check Home Depot/Lowe’s etc. sale flyers and/or websites that have pictures of power tools on sale. They will show original/new prices as well as descriptions of what the tool is used for.

    • louie

    Inherited 5 large bags of fashion & knit yardage..going to Texas & in late June I will add it to her yard sale….these tips are a help…I put most of it at $2 a yd. should be fun

    • eric

    A quick piggy-back on the use of signage: In my area it is a code violation to post on gov’t property – stop signs, street signs, telephone polls, etc. I used to work with weekend juvenile community service and during the warmer months, part of our duties were to pull down code violating signs. I’ve pulled down signs immediately after they were nailed up.

    In these trying economic times, don’t sabotage your sale with bad signage. Nail your sign to a stake and drive it into the ground – totally do-able.

    Happy sailing!

    • Christina

    Wow, wow, wow! Thanks for this article! My fiancé and I are moving to our first apartment together, and it’s a pretty distant move for us, so traveling light is important. We wanted to have a yard sale, but this will help us take it to the next level and hopefully raise more money! Thank you for taking the time to share this, because I know we aren’t the only ones to benefit from this!

      • Jackie

      A couple of years ago, I created really nice permanent yard sale signs out of recycled paneling & leftover spray paint. When not in use, they easily tack up on a garage wall or slide behind larger items. When it is time to use them, I screw them onto wooden saw horses and set them out at the corner & in front of the house. I use arrows to direct traffic. Customers frequently comment on the quality of my signs! I’ve even considered making extra & selling them at my next garage sale!

    • Donna

    Thanks for the tips!
    What are your thoughts on hanging vs placing clothing on tables?
    Also, do you divide them up by type (tshirts, jeans, etc) or by girl/boy or sizes??
    Do you price like, “All jeans $2, All tshirts $1” etc
    We have lots of clothes, lots of name brands and kids clothes, especially and school starts next week so we figured it was a good time…..

    • Devon Yardley

    A caution for people running estate/garage/yard sales:

    Today we ran an estate sale to clear out the house of an old friend who passed. At the end of the sale two young men came in and after looking around said they were interested in buying two sets of coffee cups, mumbling something about buying them for friends in need. They bargained a little and after getting the price down to $10 they wanted to pay for the cups with a $100 bill. Something about the whole situation just didn’t feel right…and the $100 bill didn’t feel right…so we said sorry we couldn’t make change for a $100. We told them if they wanted to come back we’d hold the cups. They left and never returned.
    I am convinced that the $100 bill they tried to pay with was counterfeit.
    Now having lost $10 worth of merchandise is not a big deal, and losing $90 in the process of making change for the fake $100 bill would have sucked, but in the long run would not be so bad. But IMAGINE the problems that would ensue if we had tried to use the counterfeit bill – WE would then be responsible for trying to cash in the fake bill.
    So please, please, please – never accept large bills at estate, garage, or yard sales unless you know the buyer. For that matter no checks either.

      • Nancy

      You can buy a pen at office supply stores to check the authenticity of paper money, just like the ones used in stores. Safer that way!

        • Kate

        Very good advice!

    • Mabel

    I never make very much money on my sales, since I live in a rather shabby neighborhood and get lots of older / poor people with handfuls of change. But it’s a good way to get rid of stuff.

    Someone said cassette tapes don’t sell- sure they do. I priced some at a dime each and they disappeared quickly. VHS tapes sell to older folks who still have VCRs. The one thing I have a terrible time disposing of is mugs. They’re everywhere at flea markets. No one needs more than one or two coffee mugs!

    This year, I have more books than anything. So we’ll see how that goes.

    • Sal

    I’ve held many garage sales. All of these tips are good.

    One big piece of advice: shoplifting is commonplace at garage sales. Many times sellers don’t even realize their stuff was lifted.

    I’ve cut down on the shoplifting by hiring two burly local college students (or two) to act as security guards. They stand at the front of the garage wearing neon T-shirts with “SECURITY” printed on them. It’s similar to what you see at large arena concerts. They have instructions to carefully watch everyone who comes and goes. I think their presence alone has an effect. Pay them a flat $50 for a typical six hour sale.

    • Kate

    I love going to garage sales, but hate having them – although I always need to. I totally agree with the information on clothing – I have several mapped out sales to hit; I’m not going to go through boxes looking at clothes. Typically I “scan” everything as I’m walking in….only certain things will draw my attention. The neater and cleaner it is, the better, and ALWAYS mark prices. If I have to wait to ask how much it is (as the seller is usually busy with someone else), it gives me time to “rethink” whether I need it or not.
    Can’t wait for garage sale season to start!!!!!

      • Kate

      One more thing – those with children- please don’t let your children run around picking up things and throwing them down. This is someone else’s home. Be respectful, and keep your children close, just as I’m sure you do at the store. Thanks

    • Em

    Use painters tape (blue) not masking tape. Making tape leaves awful residue and melts in the heat. It’s awful.

    • Patti

    Most garage sales in my area start @ 7am or 8am – mine start @ 9am and NO early bird sales allowed. WHY? It gives salers time to hit the other sales first and break their $20 bills without worrying about missing something at my sale. It’s a win-win – I get to get my daughter off to school and have my coffee before starting my sale!

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