Garage sale gurus weigh in on how to have a garage sale

Photo by sixteenmilesofstring – CC BY 2.0
Photo by sixteenmilesofstringCC BY 2.0

I asked my handful of awesome blog readers if they had any advice for how to have a garage sale. And many of them got back to me with a wealth of great info. It's interesting to note that from the American South, to the American West, to small town Australia… all garage sale advice was pretty much the same.

I thought I'd share their pearls of garage sale wisdom, in case YOU were thinking about having a garage sale, but didn't know where to start…

Best day of the week:

Saturday only. I can’t bear 2 days and it seems like most people are out on Saturday. -KathyRo

"I think Saturday's best. We've done two at my mom's house, both on Saturday, both went really well." –Joe

What time to start:

Brace yourself: people show up early. -KathyRo

"Get an early start. We thought we'd start at, like, 8am the first time. There were people on the front lawn at 7:30 as we were still bringing shit out. It's a real scene, man. Yard sale folk take this shit serious. The good news is that probably means you'll be done sooner than you expect to." -Joe

Really, whatever time you set it for, people are going to show up 30 minutes before-hand, so go ahead and be ready. But the good shoppers are always out early, so start at 6:30 when people still have money and looking to buy is your best bet… later than 9:30, or so, and everyone is shopped out. -soundtek

How to advertise:

Decide on a date and then advertise for it — whatever is best for your area (paper, Craigslist, online, etc). Also, make poster board signs in neon colors with directions on main streets so more people will see them, and also place them all the way to your road/house — people out looking for yard sales will stop by whether they’ve seen the ads or not. And yes, you do want a million people to show up — get rid of your stuff early and be done with it. Once you are done, take down all the signs, and if people don’t see any sign of a yard sale (or lingering junk), they wont stop by. -soundtek

I’ve seen ads in local papers, “Nickel Saver” types publications, community message boards, Craigslist, Facebook groups, and the timeline neon poster-board — but be considerate of your pole climbers/service-people and don’t put nails or staples into telephone poles. Have a couple of signs posted, people will find you. Don’t be worried about too many people, be more worried about putting a ton of work into it and having to haul a big load to Goodwill at the end of the day. –Sarah Brewer

Put up signs the day before. Like mid-afternoon-ish. Use lots of arrows. Keep it simple. Arrows, address, "YARD SALE!" That's it. Maybe use brightly colored paper and laminate if you can. No crafting necessary. Again, it's a total thing. People just see arrows and go for it.

You could also use Yard Sale Search. -Joe

I would say that it is SUPER important to put ARROWS on your signs that you put in the neighborhood. I hate there just being a small address listed, and I don’t know where the street is! When I had a sale I had a lot of people say that they came because they saw the signs and followed the arrows. I started with a main corner and put signs on all corners where people had to turn. –Kristin

How to price items:

Price by categories if there’s a lot of stuff (25 cent per baby-item in pile, etc). Then price individually if there are bigger pieces.

I would only price the bigger items, but be willing to haggle. For the smaller items, have a price you are thinking about and tell them if they ask, but be prepared to haggle. And usually, for the last 30-60 minutes of the sale when things start slowing down, do $5/bag and hand out plastic bags (or boxes, whatever) and whatever they can fit in a box (except for valuables that should be on a separate table), they get for $5 (or whatever price you are comfortable with). -soundtek

Have an idea of what you want to price things at, but don't get too hung up on it. The main goal is getting rid of the shit. Unless it's insulting, take what they offer. -Joe

How to sell items:

Your garage sale culture is probably going to be different than mine, but the one thing I’ve seen consistently is “professional” garage sale-ers are going to undercut your prices by a LOT. Don’t be offended and don’t say yes — haggling is expected. Pretend you’re on vacation in another country. -Sarah Brewer

Sell the story of the item along with the item itself. And lower your prices as you get towards the end of the day. -Kess

Extra tips that were awesome:

Keep in mind that messy or hard-to-navigate set-ups are turn offs, like things like big piles of clothes on a table (which will turn into a HUGE mess very quickly) or a lot of things jammed into a small space. -Sarah Brewer

I also had people who came for specific things they saw in my Craigslist ad. I took pics the night before and added them to my ad. -Kristin

Organise your local op shop/charity store to come along at 1pm (or an hour after your final sale) to pick up EVERYTHING that didn't sell. We live in a small country town in Australia, and we have two shops that have trucks for this service, so I really hope that your local stores do the same thing. This is my NUMBER ONE tip. -Jess

I also forgot… make sure you have lots of change (coins and $1 bills) and somewhere to keep the money. -Soundtek

Here's my biggest tip:

Have at least three people on your team. Because there were times that I'd have to run into the house to get scissors, or coffee, or bringing out more items, and, while Mike was haggling, there was no one left to talk to the other garage sale people. Plus, it's just more fun to hang out with a group during the boring down-times.

Any more advice for a garage sale virgin?

  1. I've joined a facebook group for selling stuff in my neighborhood, and a lot of people use the group to post pics of stuff they're planning on selling in a yard sale the next day. It gives them some advance sales and gives us the opportunity to scope out the stuff from home. Check to see if your area has something similar. It's great.

    Other tip: don't sell stuff that isn't yours. Seems kind of obvious, but if you have roommates or a recent ex's stuff, this is important.

    4 agree
  2. Consider having your sale on a day that is already bringing people to your neighbourhood. We had a sale at the same time as our local BIA's "foodie" day, and it went over so much better than other sales on regular Saturdays.

    Street or neighbourhood sales are also a great option, as are community centre or school sales. You may have to donate some cash to charity, or pay a table/tarp fee, but it's another way to ensure a bigger crowd.

    6 agree
    • GENIUS! As we were putting up our signs, we saw even bigger better signs for a garage sale nearby, so we walked there and posted one of our signs so that people could naturally progress from there to ours.

      2 agree
  3. This is great! My husband and I are right now looking at purchasing a home that is currently full of the old owner's stuff (she passed away). The current owner is taking care of the main floor but we've agreed that it will be our responsibility to clear out the attic and we're planning on hauling everything out and doing a massive garage sale. Will be bookmarking this for future use.

  4. when we decided we were cooked, we went back to our signs and wrote "free!!!" in huge letters on the signs, left all the stuff in the yard, and went inside. we went out every few hours to consolidate the pile as things disappeared. and when we woke up the next morning, *every single thing* except 2 that were badly broken was *gone*. we didn't have to take a single load to savers. totally the way to go if you live somewhere it would work (i'm all about doing things the lazy way).

    4 agree
  5. This is pretty obvious, but pick a day with nice weather! We had a sale a couple weeks ago that was the first day of nice spring weather where we live. People go out and look for yard sales when the weather gets nice, so take advantage of it. We had a constant stream of people all day long (and most of Sunday, too- we did the full weekend).

    • Agree with this– IF you can predict it. We scheduled our last garage sale for the day of the city-wide garage sale, which is supposed to be awesome because people are out in droves and there are at least two yard sales per block, etc. We prepped, we advertised, we were ready, we had a good start at 7am… and at about 9am it started POURING and that was the end of it. We had a single lonely customer stop by at about noon but we were done for. Sold maybe 10% of our stuff.

      The previous time we tried to hold a garage sale, we did the same thing– prepped and planned for months and advertised, etc. As luck would have it, the day of the sale was 100 degrees.

      Maybe I shouldn't hold garage sales…

  6. Whenever we have a garage sale, we always make sure to state prices (we only actually tag big $$$ items) in 25 cent increments. I will make your life easier, I promise! We also always have music playing during our sales. Be sure to keep tabs on the volume and content.

    For some reason, we seem to do better on Fridays in my area. I've noticed that there a large number of sales on Thursdays as well. We may have to phase out Saturdays all together!

    1 agrees
    • My sister always starts her sales on Thursday after work, but when we had our sale 2 summers ago, her husband put signs out Thursday morning… we made 1/3 of our sales before the "start" of the sale!
      And YES, easy pricing! Only worrying about quarters, and not other coins, is very nice.

  7. Some of our friends live in a remote part of the county, and we live in a well-travelled neighborhood. We offered to host their garage sale. We advertised it as a "multi-family" garage sale, because we ended up finding a a BUNCH of stuff we didn't want.

    2 agree
  8. My goal with garage sales is always to get rid of as much stuff as possible and if I make some money then yay! Some of the thrift stores near me sell groups of things (usually toys) in a plastic bag for $1; if you see something you want in one bag, you have to buy the whole bag. I wonder if this would work with garage sales? As in "this whole box for $3", buyer has to take everything in the box — no cherry-picking. Do logical grouping of things, of course, and try to put a couple special / higher-quality items in there. E.g., a box of toddler toys, or small kitchen items (spoons, S&P shakers), or a bundle of board games. Toward the end of the sale, you could even make mystery boxes — put everything that's left in a few boxes, seal them, and sell them each for $1. Kind of like those reality shows where people buy surprise contents of a storage unit. 🙂

    6 agree
  9. As a garage saler, if you have a price in mind for something, please just price it! I won't always ask about an item without a price (I don't want to be annoying, or have you thinking I'm 'cheap'), but if it's priced right I'll go ahead and get it.

    8 agree
  10. If you have a flea market near and your stuff isn't huge, don't garage sale, go there! For $20 or so you can rent a space and get such a huge crowd past it that the extra cost is worth it. They tend to start early but finish early, so just as the fun is starting to wear off, the crowd is getting thin and most of your stuff is gone too. Throw the last of it back in the car or truck and be sure to go by the charity shop on the way home. Six hours at a flea market beats a three day weekend garage sale and they're much more fun.

    2 agree
  11. I've bern doing this for almost 35 years love it lots of work be firm on your big items 75 cents to 3 except fr big items signs every corner to your street you will gt more people sometimes I gt upset with lets make a deal so I don't deal with thst my husband the banker I am the seller I do it Thursday fri sat. Because a lot of retired people are out during the wedk

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