How to Organize a Yard Sale

For a faster, more profitable home sale

Large stuffed brown bear wearing a yard sale sign.My all time favorite yard sale sign, down the road from my house!

Knowing how to organize a yard sale will save you much time and frustration on the day of the event. 

I cut my teeth on yard sales at an early age, as my mom and her friends were always holding multi-family yard sales. My parents had the big garage and driveway, so our house became the designated yard sale place.

My first job was putting price stickers on 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.

Over the years I've learned a lot of garage sale tips and tricks; what works, what doesn't.

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, a yard or garage sale can be very rewarding; most people are kind and honest, and it's a great way to earn extra money while unloading clutter from your home.

Keep reading to learn my best garage sale tips and tricks!

How to organize a yard sale

Garage sale permits

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 location. Look under “permits”— some cities even allow you to pay online.

Posting yard sale signs

Garage sale tips and tricks.

Be sure to follow local ordinances regarding the placement of yard sale signs. Where I live, anything goes!

Many areas allow you to put flyers on signs, light or telephone poles.

Customer parking

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 yard sale, hold the sale at the home with the best parking and biggest garage or yard.

Collect yard sale items throughout the year

Garage sale tips and tricks.Price yard sale items as you collect them. You will be grateful you did later.

This is the best garage sale tip! I like to collect items all year long in preparation for a yard or garage sale. I 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 for your sale.

If you haven’t used an item in at least 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!

Multi family yard sale signs.Multi-family yard sale signs will draw more shoppers!

Advertising as a multi-family yard sale rather than a single-family sale will attract more buyers because people will be expecting to see a lot more good stuff.  Why not invite neighbors and friends to join your sale?

Be careful who you ask to join--make sure everyone has a plan to take back their unsold items.

I had an acquaintance 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 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.

Pick a garage sale date and time

How to organize a yard sale.
  • Check the weather forecast and plan your yard sale for a temperate day— sweltering or rainy weather may keep buyers away. 
  • If this is your first yard sale, you may want to cut your teeth on a one-day sale for starters.
  • One-day sale:  Saturday morning, 8:00 am to 3:00 pm are good hours. 
  • Two-day sale:  Friday and Saturday are generally the best days for a yard or garage sale. Saturday and Sunday (after 12:00 pm) will work as well.
  • Some people schedule multi-family sales for two or three days; typically Friday, Saturday and Sunday, after 12:00 pm. A three day sale is a lot of work— you’ll be exhausted the first day! Keep in mind that all unsold items will need to be taken inside each night and brought back out 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 anyway, perhaps because people have either run out of money or they think all the good stuff is gone.

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 the online classifieds AND local newspapers on Thursdays and Fridays, then spend the evening before the sale planning their route. 

If you are having an estate sale, moving sale, or multi-family sale, be sure to mention it in the ad. Larger sales will attract more customers, because people will expect better quality and larger quantities of stuff. Estate sales always attract the most buyers.

Schedule your ad to run one or two days before the yard sale, but one day is sufficient.

Keep the ad short and specific; address, days, and time. Be sure to list big ticket items like; furniture, sports equipment, tools, children's toys and clothing, craft supplies, collectibles, etc.

If you plan to accept credit cards, be sure to mention this in your ad.

Take advantage of online classifieds that offer free advertising. Online classifieds allow you to include more details of your sale in your ad. 

  • Local newspaper - Keep the ad short to offset the cost. Some newspapers offer special garage sale rates; 
  • Local Penny Savers or Thrifty Nickels;
  • Social media: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook— tell your friends!
  • Hang garage sale flyers on community, college, church and grocery store bulletin boards.

Yard sale sign ideas

Garage sale tips and tricks.Bright sign colors attract attention.

If you don't want to make your own yard sale sign, they can be purchased at any home center. Below are some garage or yard sale sign ideas that will attract buyers:

Use sturdy neon or light-colored poster boards for your signs. Attach balloons to draw more attention.

Lettering should be large, bold and easy to read. Be sure the “Yard Sale” part is really large and include directional arrows on all your signs.

Arrow-shaped signs are another option. Signs should look the same, so buyers know they're going to the right place.

My favorite garage sale sign is a large, weighted box filled with rocks. Staple or tape signs on two or three sides, so they can be read by people passing in both directions.

All you need on the sign is; 

  • "Yard Sale" with an arrow pointing the way
  • Date
  • Time
  • Address

Posting the physical yard sale signs

Post signs on the nearest intersection or busy street(s) close to your home.

Post signs (with arrows) at each turn leading to your house.

After you place your signs, do a 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. (I'm serious!) Put signs up late in the evening or super early the next morning.

Garage sale set up

You will need:

How to organize a yard sale.
  • Lot of tables for display, or sawhorses with plywood placed on top;
  • Chairs;
  • Plastic or paper shopping bags and boxes— you can’t have enough!
  • Newspaper to wrap fragile items;
  • A cash box, fanny pack or carpenter’s apron for money. Any small box with a lid will do for a cash box;
  • A calculator;
  • Garment racks or other system for hanging clothes;
  • Low-adhesive price stickers or Scotch Blue painters tape;
  • Bottled water— you may not have time to run inside for a drink!
  • An extension cord to test electronic items;
  • Tape measure;
  • Batteries for testing;
  • An extension cord to test electronics;
  • Post a sign prominently that states, “All Sales Final” to keep people from returning the next day wanting their money back.

Organizing the cash box

Cash box for your garage sale.Any small box will do. I once used a small fishing tackle box--it worked great!

In my experience, $100-$200 in bills is all you need to stock your cashbox. If you have some high ticket items, you may want to add more.

Have plenty of ones and quarters, as they always run out fast. Price your items accordingly so that you won't have to make change with nickels and dimes.

I like to stock my cashbox with:

  • 1 roll of dimes
  • 1 roll of quarters
  • 20 $1 bills
  • 10 $5 bills
  • 5 $10 bills
  • 5 $20 bills

Okay, this is more than $100, but I like to be prepared. Occasionally somebody will pay with a hundred dollar bill; that's what the 20s are for. In fact, it doesn't hurt to have extra cash in the house.

Assign one person to tend the cash box--never leave it alone. When the box is full, take excess 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. As a cashier, you will at times be overwhelmed and flustered. Stay calm and take your time.

Digital sales

If you  want to accept credit card sales, purchase an inexpensive credit card reader. Most people are familiar with Square. Be aware that you may have to pay a processing fee for credit card sales. 

Be sure to advertise that you'll be accepting credit cards in your garage sale ads.

One week before the garage sale

Sorting and pricing garage sale items

How to organize a yard sale.Organize and price yard sale goods ahead of time. You'll be glad you did!

Find a space in your home where you can store and sort yard sale goods. My best advice is to sort and price 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 in boxes; appliances, toys, clothing, collectibles, books, and so on.

Be sure that ALL items are clean; wash and hang up clothing, run dishes, glassware, even toys, through the dishwasher, etc. Good merchandising makes good sales!

Garage sale pricing ideas

Garage sale tips and tricks.Use neon-colored stickers and labels for pricing. Put a price tag on everything!

If this is your first yard sale and you are feeling anxious about getting prices right, check out the competition in your area to get a feel for pricing. You may also pick up some garage sale tips and tricks on how to organize your own sale.

The general rule for yard sale pricing is to start at 1/4 to 1/3 of an original price.

If an item is in mint condition (or brand new) and you have the original box with manuals, you may be able to sell it for half the original price.

Know the minimum price you will accept for valuable items.

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. Choose prices that are easy to add; like .25, .50, $1.00, etc. These are also easy numbers to add in your head in case of calculator malfunction. (It happens!)

My favorite pricing tools are bright neon-colored stickers. They're easy to apply and track. You can also get pre-printed price stickers.

Use a fine-point marker to write prices on plain stickers. 

Avoid complicated pricing systems, where each color represents a different price. Instead of referring to the pretty color-coded price chart that you spent all night making, customers will keep asking you for prices!

Pricing garage sale items.Use Scotch Blue painter's tape for pricing valuable paper products.

Pricing paper products

Don’t put stickers on collectible paper goods like; old magazines, cards, album covers, hardcover books, magazines and postcards. The adhesive may never come off and could ruin the value of the item.

Use low-adhesive stickers or pieces of Scotch Blue painter's 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 between the pages.

Choose prices that are easy to add; like .25, .50, $1.00, and so forth. These are also easy numbers to add in your head in case of calculator malfunction. (This happened to me!)

Yard sale glassesPut price stickers on everything

Pricing clothing

Rather than price every article of clothing, you may want to write up price sheets and post near the clothing area.

Children’s clothing always sells well, especially if they're priced at .25 to $1 an item.

If you have a lot of clothes you just want to get rid of, have a table where customers can “stuff a bag for a buck.”

How to price new, unused or valuable items

For NEW, but unused higher priced items, include a recent sales ad that shows the current price and attach it to the item. Generally, you can get 1/2 of the original price for a new item.

New items still in the original box, always command a higher price. 

For antiques and collectibles, do some online research to determine current market value and decide how low you're willing to go. These items hold their value— include a copy of an appraisal or bill of sale if you have it.

Pricing miscellaneous items

Bundling like items into see-through zip lock bags is a 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;
  • Odds and ends of kitchen utensils;
  • Jewelry;
  • Christmas decorations.

For large items, like furniture and appliances, make a sign detailing it's condition; age, flaws, etc.

If an item “sorta” works or is slightly damaged, be sure to 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're 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 really true!

Pricing for a multi-family yard sale

Be sure to keep all receipts for expenses such as; advertising, price stickers, marking pens, signage supplies, refreshments, etc., to be split later among each family.

Keep an inventory list of larger and more expensive items. Sometimes price tags come off in the flurry and excitement of a sale. This will help you avoid a price dispute later.

For a multi-family yard sale, you can 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 on a ledger page under each family’s name. Total up at the end of the day.

Occasionally, a sticker will refuse to come off— 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 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 15 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 your bottom line.

Yard sale fans love saving money, so be willing to give them deals when they buy in quantity. For example; if one book can be purchased for .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 on the second day, go ahead and slash prices and make bulk discounts.

Do you want to allow holds?

Some customers will ask if you'll hold an item for them till later that day. In my experience, you'll never see them again. Other people may need to leave to get a truck to pick up a large item.

Be sure they have paid before they leave. If they never come back, all bets are off at closing time on the second day!

To prevent customers from trying to return items to next day, post a few big signs that say; "ALL SALES FINAL."

Setting up the yard sale

How to organize a yard sale.These teacups make a bigger impact as a group.

Presentation is everything, even at a yard sale!

Merchandizing your items into attractive displays will make your goods looks more enticing to buyers. 

Tables are the best way to display yard sale items. Although, there are some people who love the "thrill of the hunt" and enjoy diving into boxes.

If possible, organize your tables and hang clothing the night before the yard sale and store inside. Hang higher priced clothing, like coats and suits, separate from the rest.

Display valuable items near the cashier where she can keep an eye on it.

Organize and place like items together, such as; kitchen goods on one table, toys on another, tools in a different section, etc.

Clothing will sell better if you hang it up. This saves you time, as you won’t have to refold it after people rummage through it.

Garage sale tips and tricks.Here's a good garage sale idea for sorting small items.

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 coats, etc.

Children/s and baby 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 titles are easily seen. 

Place large items of higher value near the road to catch the interest of those driving by.

Make sure items near the road are too big to be carried off 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. 

Garage sale Christmas ornamentsGroup "like" items together.

If you have anything of high value, like silver, jewelry, or depression ware, put it near the cashier where it can be watched.

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 and kids especially love them.

As items sell throughout the day, fill in empty spots on the tables.

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, even an uncoiled garden hose.

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 around your home exterior and remove yard items that you DON’T want to sell.

The day of the yard sale

Garage sale tips and tricks.
  • If you didn't post yard sale signs the night before, do it early on the morning of the sale.

  • Start setting things out two-three 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," people still show up at the crack of dawn and wait in their cars. Some folks will get out and start circling the edges of the yard like sharks. Be firm about opening time.
  • Be friendly, helpful and enthusiastic, greeting everyone who shows up. Yard sales can be really 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 spots as things are sold, restocking refreshments, and answering questions. 

  • Keep cats and dogs inside the house during the sale. Customers don't want dogs barking or 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.

Decide ahead of time what to do with left-over items. Arrange for a charity to pick, 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 and add up their sales.

Go count your money! Remember to split the expenses and credit the person who stocked the cash box.

What not to do at a yard sale

Don’t hold a spur-of-the-moment yard sale! It will be a nightmare. A successful yard sale requires at least two weeks of planning.

Don’t play loud obnoxious music, as music is taste specific and many people won’t enjoy hearing it while they browse.

Don’t leave any doors open or unlocked. 

Don’t allow strangers into your house for any reason. If they have to use the bathroom, send them to the nearest public restroom.

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