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Hosting a Successful Garage Sale

By Kim Robson:

Finally, summer’s here! This is the time for swimming, backyard barbecues, neighborhood block parties, and, if you’re in crazy cleaning mode, garage (or yard) sales. It’s part of the American way of life. Every Saturday morning, slow-moving cars prowl neighborhoods for baby toys, kitchen accessories, and oddball treasures.

Get organized for a yard sale with this yard sale checklist, and follow these tips for a successful yard sale.garage_sale

Gather Your Goods

A couple of weeks before your sale, scour your closets, cupboards, bookcases and basement for yard sale finds. A good question to ask yourself is “Have I used it within the last year?” Or set a percentage rule: a firm 10 to 20 percent of all books, videos, clothing or bric-a-brac must go. The goal is to clear out the clutter.

Store the goods in a staging area like a guest room, corner of the garage, or a seldom used dining room. You’ll need room for cleaning and pricing your inventory, so choose a location that has some space. Banker’s boxes are great for containing and sorting your growing stash.

Get kids to contribute items by offering a cut of the profits. Children will get on the bandwagon when they see there’s cold, hard cash in the deal.

Do Some Research

Spend a morning or two visiting sales in your neighborhood. Make note of price ranges. There’s no sense labeling kitchen utensils at 50 cents apiece if 10 cents is the going rate.

Check with your municipality and homeowner’s association. Some jurisdictions require a permit or limit the number and timing of yard sales.

A two-family yard sale gets twice the traffic for half the trouble. Or consider a block yard sale.

Set a Date

Plan your sale for early in the month. Avoid holiday weekends: when families leave for vacations and other special event days like high school graduations, that could dampen your flow of shoppers.

Choose your day and plan a one day sale, maximum. Saturday sales attract the most shoppers. Start your sale as early as possible (no later than 8:00 am) and plan to wrap up around 3:00 pm.


The secret to a successful yard sale is foot traffic. Craigslist is the standard for online yard sale advertising. With a section devoted exclusively to garage sale listings, it’s the place to publicize yours. If you have big-ticket items to sell, spring for a newspaper ad. Mention furniture, baby items, electronics and tools, but don’t waste space on “miscellaneous.”

Make lots of signs. Use neon poster board and deep black markers. Make the directions BIG and SIMPLE. “YARD SALE” and a large arrow should suffice. Weighted cardboard boxes are great at intersections and corners. They won’t flap in the wind, and they let you to point signs in several directions.

yard-salePrep and Price

Clean your items. No one wants to buy dirty dishes or rumpled clothes. Use plastic zip bags to corral children’s game pieces, display jewelry, and hold hardware bits.

Price every item. Yes, haggling is part of the yard sale scene, but people are more apt to buy when they know the price range. Use masking tape for labels.

Remember, yard sales have their own economy. The goal is to get rid of stuff, not get back what you paid for it.

Set Up Shop

Make sure your sale is visible from the road, and haul a few big ticket items like furniture, appliances or exercise equipment out front. Remove everything that’s not for sale from the site. If you can’t do that, then drape the not-for-sale items with a tarp. Consider renting a few folding tables, or even throw a sheet of plywood across a sawhorse. Hang clothing from strung ropes. Display books and videos, spines up, in shallow boxes.

Display sale items to their best advantage, assembling them in groups. Electronics should include cases, cords and accessories, and for best effect, include a printout from a retailer showing the original purchase price! Plug in an extension cord for testing electronics.

Be prepared with at least $40 in small bills and change. Wear a fanny pack to stow cash and process transactions quickly.

Don’t just sit there. Get up and talk to people! Be friendly and enthusiastic. Share lots of information about your items. Offer free coffee, and entrust your children with a donut concession. If people are eating, they’re staying – and buying.

Have an Exit Strategy

At 2:00 pm, post a large “HALF PRICE – EVERYTHING MUST GO” sign. Schedule a 3:00 pm pickup with a charity like Goodwill, or take the leftovers to a thrift store. Whatever you do, don’t let the survivors back into the house!

Be considerate of your neighbors and remove all your sale signs. Then, go count your proceeds – you’ve earned them!

About Kim Robson

Kim Robson lives and works with her husband in the Cuyamaca Mountains an hour east of San Diego. She enjoys reading, writing, hiking, cooking, and animals. She has written a blog since 2006 at kimkiminy.wordpress.com. Her interests include the environment, dark skies, astronomy and physics, geology and rock collecting, living simply and cleanly, wilderness and wildlife conservation, and eating locally.

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