Knowing how to organize a yard sale successfully will save you much time and frustration on the day of the event.
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I cut my teeth on yard sales at an early age, as my mom and her friends were always holding multi-family sales to earn money. My parents had a huge garage and driveway, so our house became the designated place for sales.
I first learned how to organize a yard sale by putting price stickers on sales items and arranging stuff on tables. As I got older, I was allowed to write prices on the stickers and help customers load their cars. I was thrilled when I was finally old enough to tend the cash box!
As an adult, I discovered that yard sales aren’t always fun; they’re lots of work, customers can be rude and the weather seldom cooperates. But on the whole, yard or garage sales can be very rewarding; most people are kind and honest, and it's a great way to earn money while unloading clutter from your home.
How to organize a yard sale
Check local city ordinances or your homeowner’s association to see if there are any restrictions or permits needed to hold a yard sale in your area. You can go to your town’s website and look under “permits”— some cities even allow you to pay online.
Posting yard sale signs
Be sure to follow local ordinances regarding the placement of signs. In some areas, these restrictions apply to yard and garage sales, as well.
Avoid placing signs on sidewalks or in medians. Some areas allow you to put flyers on signs, light or telephone poles; check with your city.
Freestanding signs are one option that you can try. I like using wooden stakes I can pound in the ground. You can buy them in bundles at most home improvement stores--simply staple your garage sale sign to the stake.
If parking is limited at your house, ask your neighbors if they will help you absorb the overflow. Find something of value to exchange for the deal; mow their lawn, wash their car, some home-baked cookies..
If you're having a multi-family garage sale, choose to have the sale at the home with the best parking.
Gather yard sale goods
I'm usually collecting stuff all year long, specifically for a yard sale. I like to sort items into categories; donate, throw out, consign, or yard sale.
Organizing boxes into “like” groups will you save time when setting up for your yard sale.
Decluttering your home is a great way to get your house organized and find stuff for a yard or garage sale. If you haven’t used something in a year, chances are you don’t need it, and it’s taking up unnecessary space in your home.
Make it a multi-family yard sale
A successful yard sale should be large enough to draw lots of customers, so why not invite neighbors or friends to join in your sale? Advertising as a multi-family yard sale will bring more buyers, because people will be expecting to see lots more good stuff!
Be careful who you invite to join your yard sale--be sure everyone has a plan to take back their unsold items. I once had an acquaintance ask to put her kid's outdoor play equipment in my yard sale. Her stuff didn’t sell and weeks went by while it sat in my yard, getting rained on and annoying me! In the end, I had to get rid of it myself.
Have at least two people working the yard sale, three is better. This is important for security reasons and also allows you to escape to the bathroom or grab a snack break when needed.
When my friends and I were younger with small children, we always had two parents working the sale outside and another watching the kids inside. Sometimes we switched places to give the babysitter (or garage sale workers) a break.
Set a date and time
- Check the weather forecast and plan your yard sale for a temperate day— too sweltering or rainy will keep buyers away.
- One-day sale: Saturday morning to early afternoon is the best time. For two-day sales, Friday and Saturday are standard. Find out what the preferred time is in your area.
- Some people schedule multi-family sales for two or three days; typically on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon after 12:00. That’s a lot of work— you’ll be exhausted after the first day! Plus, keep in mind that all unsold items will need to be taken inside each night and brought back out again the next morning.
- Avoid scheduling the yard sale during special holidays, like Memorial Day or the 4th of July when many people may be out of town.
- Plan an end time for the sale and stick to it. My preferred time frame is 8 am to 2 pm. Sales always slow down after 2:00, perhaps because most people have either run out of money, or they think that all the good stuff has already been sold.
Advertise your yard sale
Advertising on a variety of platforms will bring the most traffic to your yard sale. Hard-core yard and garage sale fans will search online classifieds AND local newspapers on Thursdays and Fridays, then spend the evening before planning their routes.
If this is an estate sale, moving sale, or multi-family sale, be sure to mention it in the ad. Larger sales will attract more customers, because they will be expecting better quality and larger quantities of stuff.
Schedule your ad to run one to two days before the yard sale, but one day is sufficient.
Keep the ad short and specific; address, date, and time. Be sure to list a few big ticket items that will be there; furniture, sports equipment, tools, kid’s stuff, antiques, etc.
Take advantage of online classifieds that offer free advertising. Online classifieds allow you to include more details of your sale in your ad. Highlight the best stuff that will be there to bring in more customers;
- Craigslist.org - Probably the best place to advertise, as most people look here first.
Look for free advertising on community websites and bulletin boards;
- Local newspaper - Keep the ad short to offset the cost. Some local newspapers offer special garage sale rates;
- Local Penny Savers or Thrifty Nickels;
- Social media: Twitter, Facebook— tell your friends!
- Hang up flyers on community, college, church and grocery store bulletin boards.
Make yard sale signs
Garage sale signs can be purchased at any home center if don’t want to make your own.
Use sturdy neon or light-colored poster boards for your signs. Attach a few balloons to the signs to grab attention.
Lettering should be large and bold. Red or black letters are easily readable. Make sure the “Yard Sale” part is really large and include a directional arrow. Signs can also be cut out in the shape of an arrow.
A really quick (and cheap!) yard sale sign is a weighted box, (fill it with rocks) with a sign stapled to the side.
Keep it simple. All you need on the sign is;
- Yard sale with an arrow
Posting yard sale signs
Post signs out on the roadside of the nearest busy street by your home.
Post signs (with arrows) at each turn leading to your house. After you have placed your signs, you may want to drive by to make sure you can read them.
Don’t put up signs too early the day before, or you’ll have “looky-lous” driving by all night and possibly knocking on your door wanting a preview. Put signs up late in the evening or super early the next morning.
Gather yard sale supplies
You will need:
- Tables, or sawhorses with plywood placed on top;
- Chairs, if you plan to sit during the sale;
- Plastic and paper shopping bags and boxes— you can’t have enough!
- Newspaper or old tissue paper to wrap fragile items;
- A cash box, fanny pack or carpenter’s apron for money;
- A calculator;
- A garment rack or other system for hanging clothes;
- Low-adhesive price stickers or Scotch Blue painters tape;
- Bottled water— you won’t have time to run inside for a drink!
- An extension cord for electronic items to be tested;
- Post a sign prominently that states, “All Sales Final” to keep people from returning the next day wanting their money back.
The cash box
If you have a lot of high end items, get a bundle of ones, some twenties, plenty of tens and fives. Have on hand a few rolls of quarters, dimes, and nickels each.
If your yard sale is mostly small ticket items, you won’t need as much cash. $100 in bills is a good start. Have plenty of ones and quarters— these always seem to run out.
Assign one person to deal with the cash box--never leave it alone. When the cash box gets full, take some of the money into the house for safekeeping.
Some people prefer wearing a fanny pack or carpenter’s apron over a cash box— this allows them mobility at the yard sale.
Most customers know the drill and will bring cash to a yard sale. But, occasionally someone will want to write a check— it’s up to you to decide whether to accept it. Are you willing to lose that money? My rule of thumb is to accept checks only from people I know.
Use a familiar calculator for adding sales.
Often someone will hand you a ten dollar bill and insist that it was a twenty. To avoid this, keep the bill in plain sight where you both can see it while you make change.
As a cashier, you will at times be overwhelmed and flustered. Stay calm and take your time.
One week before the yard sale
Sort and price yard sale goods
Find a space in your home where you can store and sort yard sales goods. My best advice is to sort and price all items days, even weeks before the yard sale.
To save time, price items as you gather them throughout the year for a future yard sale.
As you sort, divide everything into categories; appliances, toys, clothing, collectibles, books, and so on. This will make your setting up time faster and less stressful.
Organizing tips for pricing
If this is a first-time yard sale and you are anxious about getting your prices right, visit garage sales in your area to get a feel for prices. You might also pick up extra tips on how to organize a yard sale in your area.
The general rule is to price stuff about 1/4 or less of the price that you originally paid. If an item is in mint condition (or brand new) and you have the original box with manuals, you may be able to get at least 1/2 or possibly more of the original price.
Know the minimum price you will accept for each item.
Get all your pricing done before the day of the sale, I can't stress this enough!
Put a price on each object where it can easily be seen. This will keep buyers from driving you crazy asking for prices every five seconds.
My favorite pricing tools are bright neon-colored stickers. They are cheap, easy to apply, and easy to track. You can also get pre-printed price stickers at office supply stores.
Use a fine-point marker to write prices on plain stickers.
Avoid complicated pricing systems, where each colored sticker represents a different price. Instead of referring to the pretty color-coded price chart that you spent all night making, customers will just keep asking you for prices! Make it easy for yourself and them.
Don’t put stickers on collectible goods like; old magazines, cards, album covers, hardcover books, magazines, postcards, and so on. The adhesive may never come off and could ruin the value of the item. Use low-adhesive stickers or pieces of Scotch Blue painters tape, so stickers can be easily removed without leaving residue behind.
For collectible books and magazines, write the price on a strip of paper and insert inside the pages.
Choose prices that are easy to add; like .25, .50, $1.00, and so on. These are also easy numbers to total in your head in case of calculator malfunction. (This happened to me once.)
Baby and children’s clothing always sells well, especially if they're priced at .25 to $1 an item.
If you have a lot of clothes that you just want to get rid of, let customers “stuff a bag for a buck.” You’ll be amazed how much stuff they can cram in a bag!
Bundling things into see-through bags is also good way to get rid of partially used or mismatched items like;
- Assorted yarns or fabrics; (knitters and quilters love them!)
- Kid’s items; toys, small cars, dinosaurs, doll house furniture, legos, stuffed animals, etc;
- Odds and ends of kitchen utensils;
- Christmas decorations, etc.
For high priced newer items that you never used, include a recent sales ad that shows the price and attach it to the item. Original boxes with manuals will guarantee a higher price.
For antiques and collectables, do some online research to determine current market value and decide how low you are willing to go. These are items that hold their value— include a copy of an appraisal or bill of sale if you have it.
For large items, like furniture and appliances, use a big sign to write detailed information about the piece on it; age, flaws, etc. If an item “sorta” works, make sure you write “As Is” on the sign.
If you can’t decide on a certain price for an item, write “make an offer”, or “$25 or best offer.”
If you are hesitating about selling an item because you think it won’t sell, think again. That old saying about your trash being someone else’s treasure is so true!
If you're worried about customers trying to return something, put up a big sign that says; ALL SALES FINAL.
Pricing for a multi-family yard sale
A multi-family yard sale will bring much more traffic than a single-family sale. Be sure to keep any receipts for expenses such as; advertising, price stickers, marking pens, signage supplies, refreshments, etc., to be split later among each family.
Inventory larger and more expensive items before the yard sale. Sometimes price tags come off, and in the flurry and excitement of the sale, things are lost or forgotten. This could help you avoid a price dispute later.
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For multi-family yard sales, use different colored stickers for each family or mark stickers with their initials. As items sell, peel off the stickers and place them in columns under each family’s name. Total up at the end of the day.
Occasionally, a sticker will refuse to come off— simply write the price in the column instead. Or a sticker will come off and the price will be unknown. If the owner of the item isn’t there to give you the price, you will have to rely on common sense and gut instinct to name one.
Be willing to negotiate
Many people will want to negotiate the price of items down; if you have never negotiated before, don’t be intimidated by the process or by pushy people.
Price expensive items (like furniture and appliances)10 to 20% higher than your bottom price — this will leave room for negotiation. Don’t allow yourself to be persuaded to sell for less than you’ll accept, especially if it’s early in the day.
Be confident when a customer wants to haggle. Don’t show signs of hesitation or weakness! If you do, they will take advantage of you. Know how low you are willing to go.
Yard sale fans love saving money, so be willing to give them deals when they buy in quantity. For instance; if one book is .25 cents, let them buy 5 or 6 books for $1.00.
For non negotiable items, be sure to write, “firm” on the price tag.
At zero hour, go ahead and slash prices and make bulk discounts so that you don’t have to carry everything back inside after the sale.
How to organize yard sale tables
Presentation is everything, even at a yard or garage sale. In the same manner as home staging makes a house more attractive to home buyers, staging garage sale goods will make your stuff look more inviting to customers.
Tables are the best way to display yard sale items. Although there are a few people who love the 'thrill of the hunt' and enjoy diving into boxes, most will appreciate nicely displayed merchandise.
If possible, organize your tables and hang clothing the night before the yard sale and store it in the garage. There never seems to be enough time in the morning.
Avoid placing piles of stuff on the ground, throwing random things in boxes or strewing goods across the yard like flotsam and jetsam.
Display your most attractive (and valuable) stuff front and center, but near the cashier so she can keep an eye on it.
Organize and place like items together, such as; kitchen goods, toys on one table, tools in a different section, and so on.
Don’t put out dirty items…ugh. It’s a real turn off. Customers will get the impression that everything has been neglected. Run dirty glassware through the dishwasher to make it sparkle. Certain toys can go in there as well. Wash musty clothing and hang it up to get the wrinkles out.
Clothing will sell better if you hang it up. This also saves time, as you won’t have to refold it after people rummage through it.
Don’t use nice hangers; customers will want to take them—use cheap wire hangers.
Hang clothing on a clothing rack, a dowel, rope, or chain stretched tightly across the garage, attached to a tree, an open ladder, or to the side of the house or porch.
Sort clothing by type; men's shirts, women's pants, coats, etc.
Baby and children’s clothes are an exception to the hanging rule. Arrange clean kid's clothing by size and fold neatly on tables.
Place books with spines up in a bookcase or in boxes so people can easily read the titles. (Put a “not for sale” sign on the bookcase if it’s not for sale, because someone will want to buy it!)
Place large items of higher value near the road to capture the interest of those driving by. Make sure they are too big to be “removed” by those who haven’t paid. Set out items of interest for men and women; furniture, table saw, lawn mower, bicycle, floor lamp, golf clubs, etc.
If you have anything of high value, like silver, jewelry or depression ware, designate one person to watch over that table, or put it near the cashier.
I always have a “Free” box at my yard sale for items not worth trying to price, or things that have value but are missing pieces. It makes people feel like they’re getting a deal. Kids especially love “Free” boxes.
Have an extension cord handy so buyers can test electronic and appliances. The same with battery operated items. Having batteries already installed will help them sell better.
As items sell throughout the day, fill in the empty spaces on the tables where they are most accessible to buyers. This is good merchandizing, as it makes your sale look more inviting to people driving by or just arriving.
Clean up the yard and garage
The day before the yard sale, make sure the lawn is freshly mowed and dog piles cleaned up. Take care of anything that could possibly cause visitors to get hurt on your property; pot holes, loose gravel, slippery grass, or an uncoiled garden hose.
Remove personal property from your yard that might be mistaken as sale items. More then once I have had people try to buy my outdoor accessories!
If you’re having a garage sale, rope off everything inside the garage that you DON’T want to sell. Hang a blanket across the rope to separate that area from the sale items and put a “Not for sale” sign on the blanket.
Clean up any grease spots on the floor of the garage and remove potentially dangerous or sharp objects.
Clean up your home exterior and remove any items from the yard that you DON’T want to wind up in the sale.
The day of the yard sale!
- If you didn't post yard sale signs the night before, do it early on the morning of the sale.
- Start setting things out at least two hours before the sale begins.
- Expect “early birds”— you may have people sitting in their cars at 5:30 a.m. waiting for you to open up. In spite of posting, “No early birds” in my ads, people still show up an hour early and wait in their cars. Some folks will get out and start circling the edges of the yard like sharks. Don’t let people move in until you’re ready to open.
- Be friendly, helpful and enthusiastic, greeting everyone who shows up. Yard sales can be lots of fun and a great opportunity to meet new people. Share information about some of your items, ask people where they’re from and make friendly conversation. If making conversation isn’t your thing, ask a lively friend to assist you for the day.
- Have at least two people working the yard sale. One should be stationed near the cash box, and the other keeping an eye on the tables, filling empty spaces as things are sold, restocking refreshments and answering questions.
- Keep cats and dogs inside the house during the sale. Customers don't want animals barking and jumping on them when they get out of the car.
After the yard sale
End the yard sale at the time posted in your ad. You will have lots of work to do afterward.
Right after the sale, retrieve all your signs. I forgot a sign once and had people show up later that evening when I was in my jammies.
Decide ahead of time what to do with left-over items that don’t sell. Arrange for a charity to pick up left over items, or box everything up and deliver it yourself. Make a list of everything (and the original value) to declare as a tax deduction. Be sure to ask for a receipt.
You may even decide to hang on to some of the “better stuff” for a future yard sale.
If you had a multi-family sale, contact everyone to pick up their stuff.
Go count your money! Remember to split the expenses and credit the person who stocked the cash box with change.
What to watch out for at a yard sale
Put away everything you don’t want to sell. I had a sale once where I portioned off a section of the garage with a sheet to hide the stuff I didn’t want to sell. Customers went back there anyway and pulled out stuff from the back.
Your outdoor accessories and garden tools will find their way to the cashier’s table, as well.
Unfortunately, there are a few bad apples out there. I once had a customer remove the price sticker off an expensive item and say it was in the “free” box. I knew the lady was blatantly lying, because I had just finished pricing the item. Most people are nice, but there is a certain pushy type who will try to intimidate or confuse you to get something cheap or free. You are under no obligation to cater to these people.
Some buyers will add everything up and become affronted when you add it up yourself. Most people are honest, but it’s to your advantage to double-check their totals.
Multi Family Garage Sale Spreadsheet
Beware the loud, bossy customers who demand special treatment or insist that you help carry their stuff to their car. Don’t be lured away from the cash box or a table with small, easily pocketable valuables.
What not to do at a yard sale!
Multi Family Garage Sale Signs
Don’t hold a spur-of-the-moment yard sale! It will be a nightmare. A good yard sale requires at least three weeks of planning.
Don’t play loud obnoxious music, as music is taste specific and many people won’t enjoy browsing to it. Plus, the neighbors will get ticked off.
Multi Family Yard Sale Sign
Don’t leave your doors open or unlocked. One of my friends left the garage door to her house open during a sale once. A strange man entered the house, picked up an item from inside, brought it back out and wanted to know the price! My friend was appalled and told him to leave. The entire time, the man argued that he found the item on the garage sale table.
Don’t allow strangers into your house for any reason. If they have to use the bathroom, send them to the nearest public restroom.
Multi Family Garage Sale Signs
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