It may be easier than ever to sell your unwanted items online.
But if you’re trying to get rid of an abundance of old stuff all at once—maybe because you’re moving, decluttering, or in need of some extra cash—an old-school garage sale can often be the best way to go.
Whether you call it a “tag sale,” “yard sale,” or “garage sale,” pulling off a one- or two-day outdoor sale at your home involves some advance planning and prep.
The steps involved typically include: gathering everything you no longer want or need from your home, cleaning up and pricing your goods, getting the word out, displaying all your items, and then working the sale.
Read on for step-by-step strategies that can help you have a successful–and profitable–garage sale.
1. Planning Your Garage Sale In Advance
Is it possible to pull together everything you need in a couple of days and hold a decent garage sale? Maybe. But your chances of success are likely to improve substantially if you put in some time planning your event.
Here are some things to consider ahead of time:
Knowing Your Goals
You’re probably hoping to make a profit and clear out some clutter. But knowing your top priority could help as you choose which items in your home you’re willing to part with and how you’ll price those goods.
Researching the Rules
Before you organize a sale, it’s a wise idea to check out how they’re handled in your community.
Some cities and counties require citizens who want to hold a garage sale to obtain a permit online or in person. There may or may not be a fee involved–but, either way, you could face a fine if a permit is required and you fail to get one.
There also may be limits on how early the sale can start, how late it can go, how many days it can last, the number of signs you can post, as well as the type of merchandise you can sell.
If you belong to a homeowners association (HOA), you might have to seek permission there as well. Some HOAs may allow only one or two neighborhood-wide sales a year (especially if you live in a community with a gate that would have to remain open all day).
2. Setting Your Garage Sale Date
Once you know you’re able to have a sale, you can set a date and get the necessary permits.
Even if your schedule is pretty flexible, you may want to keep a few things in mind when you’re looking at your calendar:
• Consider choosing a day that falls just after a common payday (the first or the 15th of the month).
• You may want to avoid holding a sale on a holiday weekend, when many people will be away or have other plans.
• The most popular sale days are Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays because most people are off from work. Keep in mind, though, that many families have activities or church on those days, so you may want to start early and end in the afternoon to attract the most shoppers. Or you could choose a weekday to avoid the weekend competition.
• You may want to hold a two-day sale and use the second day as an “everything must go” event.
• Mother Nature might not cooperate no matter when you hold your sale. Still, you can improve your chances of having better weather if you consider the season (not too hot, not too cold, not too rainy, not too windy) in your planning.
3. Stockpiling Garage Sale Items
A good strategy is to move through each room of your house (the attic, basement, garage, and sheds, too), and start boxing up items you might want to sell.
You might want to make a list of larger items you don’t want to move until you’re closer to the actual sale date, such as old furniture, artwork, or exercise equipment.
Kids who are reluctant to part with old toys, bikes, or sports equipment might be more willing if you offer to cut them in on the action. Consider negotiating a percentage of the profits, or offering to replace all the gently used toys they sell with one new one.
If you aren’t sure you have enough to grab shoppers’ interest on your own, you can ask friends and neighbors if they want to join in, or offer to sell their items on consignment.
4. Going All In With Publicity
It’s probably not the best idea to count on word of mouth to bring bargain hunters to your door. Consider advertising your garage sale at least a week in advance—and tempting shoppers with a list of desirable items.
Some places to consider publicizing your sale:
You may want to list your garage sale in the old-school print classifieds. You could see if your local newspaper charges a reasonable rate (and get a digital ad while you’re at it). You may want to keep the wording tight—you’ll likely pay more if you go over a pre-set maximum word count.
Many of these sites allow you to post a photo or photos with your ad, so it can help to have that ready, along with the wording you want to use.
Community Bulletin Boards
Some grocery stores, gyms, community centers and schools have bulletin boards where you can post a flyer. Consider making yours stand out with bold lettering, and including the sale date, hours, and address.
Signs for the Neighborhood
If signs are allowed in your area, consider putting out at least five or six on the day before the sale. You may want to make them easy to read from the road, with the address in bold print and an arrow pointing the way.
Also consider tying balloons and a big sign to your mailbox on sale day to make your home more visible.
5. Preparing What You’ll Need for the Sale
A week before the sale, you may want to start considering, and gathering, everything you’ll need. This may include:
It’s a smart idea to make sure you have as many folding tables as you’ll need to properly display your sale items, and enough chairs so you and your “staff” can sit comfortably. (It could be a long day.)
A payment station
You may want to set up a main payment station that’s easy for shoppers to get to when they’re ready to buy.
You could make or buy a box to hold the money you collect and for change. (It’s wise to start out with plenty of ones, fives, and quarters in case early shoppers show up with bigger bills.)
Or, you can wear a vendor apron with pockets for the money. You also may want to give family, friends and neighbors you know the option of using a P2P app to make their purchases.
Keeping some old boxes and plastic grocery store bags near the checkout table can be useful for customers who have a lot to carry home.
6. Setting Your Prices
One option is to set up a color-coded sticker system, with items grouped by cost. If you go that route, keep in mind that you’ll want to let those who are assisting at the sale know the code, as well as put up a sign for customers.
A simpler option might be to just tag most of the items individually with a roll of painter’s tape (which is typically easier to remove than masking tape). Larger signs can point out bundled prices, such as “5 CDs for $2” or “3 paperbacks for $1”
It’s a good idea to remember your main goal when setting prices. If you want to get rid of everything, you may want to keep prices reasonably low.
To avoid cheating yourself, however, you may want to do some research ahead of time so you can get the best price for special items (antiques, collectibles, or anything that might be in high demand with garage sale regulars).
If possible, it’s wise to keep sentimentality from getting in the way of a solid sale.
Also, if several people will be working the sale, you may want to set ground rules for how low prices on certain items should go—and on haggling in general.
If someone offers a low price at the start of the day, and you think you can do better, you may want to exchange contact info, and agree to connect again later when the sale is over.
7. Making Your Garage Sale Appealing to Shoppers
You’ll likely want to give some thought to the presentation of your items. Organization can make the day go better for you and your customers. And a little extra effort could make a difference in how much you can get for your goods. Some ideas:
Cleaning Old Items
You can start washing, dusting, and polishing things as soon as you decide they’ll be included in your sale.
This might include Inflating balls and bicycle tires, putting light bulbs in lamps, and trying to have batteries and a power source available for customers who want to test an item before purchasing. (If something doesn’t work, it’s a good idea to mark it clearly.)
Arranging Things in a Way that Makes Sense
Consider making it as easy as possible for customers to find things using signs and a system.
For example, books, CDs, DVDs, and videogames could be grouped together. Toys, board games and puzzles might be another section.
You may want to place the biggest sale items out in front of the yard, if you can–both to attract attention, and so customers can get them to their cars without disturbing others.
If possible, hang clothing on a garment rack near hats, shoes, and purses, and set up a mirror close by.
If your sale goes well, you may have to rearrange your display several times during the day.
8. Being a Good Host
One way to keep garage sale shoppers from walking away without really looking is to make it fun to stick around.
Consider playing some energetic music and greeting customers as they arrive. You also may want to sell water, lemonade, and maybe even baked goods. (It can be nice to have snacks and beverages ready for helpers, too.)
You might also want to have some bottles of hand sanitizer available for customers to use.
If you know your neighbors, they may pop by for a chat. While you may want to be polite and chat, you may also want to remind them that you need to pay attention to your customers—and the money box.
9. Remembering Sale Day Safety
Early birds sometimes show up long before a garage sale is scheduled to start. The more you have ready ahead of time, the more you’ll be able to stay focused on keeping everything—people, pets, breakables, and the money you make—safe.
Here are some security tips:
Locking Your Doors
It’s wise to keep the doors to your home and your car locked, and to avoid letting strangers use your bathroom.
Getting a Sitter
A sitter can keep an eye on young children and pets so you don’t have to.
Stashing Excess Cash
As profits start to pile up, it’s a good idea to have a method for how you’ll transfer excess cash to a safe spot in your home–and also to avoid talking about how much you’ve made.
10. Having a Plan for Unsold Items
When your sale ends, you’ll likely have at least a few unsold items to deal with.
If your primary goal was to clear the clutter, you may want to donate those leftovers to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or some other nonprofit group that takes used goods. (If you itemize deductions, you may be able to include your donation on your tax return. Just be sure to keep a list of everything you gave and an estimate of the value.)
If the charitable organization you choose offers a pickup service, you may want to schedule the truck for the first available day after your sale. If not, you can arrange to drop off your items as soon as possible. (It’s a good idea to understand beforehand what the charity will and won’t accept.)
If you want to try to squeeze a little more money out of what’s left over—or there are some high-ticket items you aren’t willing to give away—you may want to move on to the online marketplace and sites like Offerup , Facebook Marketplace , Varage Sale , Craigslist , or Swap.com .
Consider taking the time to include a photo with anything you list online. At the very least, it could save you from having to answer a lot of questions about your item.
11. Making the Most of Your Garage Sale Profits
One of the perks of holding a garage sale vs. a virtual sale is that you’ll be holding your profits in your hands—mostly in cash—when you’re finished.
That also could be a problem, though, because it might be tempting to spend it. (And maybe even buy more stuff!)
Instead, consider planning ahead what you’d like to do with your profits. (This may also help keep you motivated while you’re putting in the work to plan and host your sale.)
For safety reasons, you may want to deposit the cash right away at your local bank branch. But, rather than let it sit earning little to no interest, you might consider moving the money into a high-yield savings account or cash management account.
Hosting a garage sale can be a great way to clear the clutter in your home and sell a large number of unwanted items all in one fell swoop.
A successful sale, however, requires some upfront work, as well a day (or two) or working the sale.
The process typically requires gathering and preparing your items, getting a permit, picking up sale supplies, advertising your event, and then setting everything up in an organized and appealing way early on the day of the sale.
The payoff? Newfound space in your home and a (hopefully) a nice pile of cash you can take to the bank.
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