How to Organize a Yard Sale

How to sell your home and make a faster, more profitable sale

Yard Sale SignMy all time favorite yard sale sign!

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 learned a lot of garage sale tips and tricks.

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.

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 extra money while unloading clutter from your home. Learn how to organize a yard sale by following the steps below.



How to organize a yard 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 area. Go to your city’s website and 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 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 you can try.

I like using wooden stakes I can pound in the ground. Look for wood bundles at most home improvement stores--simply staple your garage sale sign to the stake.

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.

Following are tips on how to organize a yard sale long before the event. I like to go through stuff 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 a yard or garage sale.

If you haven’t used an item 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

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

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 a lot more good stuff!

Be careful who you invite to join in your yard sale--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.

Set a 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 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 anyway, perhaps because most people have run out of money or they think 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. Estate sales always attract the most buyers.

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 like; 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;

How to organize a yard sale with free advertising. Use 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.

How to make yard sale signs

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

Sale signs can be purchased at any home center if don’t want to make your own. Below are some yard sale sign ideas to attract attention:

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

Lettering should be large and bold. Red or black letters are easily readable. Be sure the “Yard Sale” part is really large and include a directional arrow. Signs can also be cut in the shape of an arrow.

The cheapest of all garage sale sign ideas is a weighted box. Fill a large box with rocks and staple directions on the sides.

All you need on the sign is; 

  • Yard sale with an arrow
  • Date
  • Time
  • Address

Posting yard sale signs

Post signs out on the roadside of the nearest busy street near your home.

Post signs (with arrows) at each turn leading to your house. After you place 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. (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.
  • Tables for display, 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 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 may not have time to run inside for a drink!
  • An extension cord to test electronic items;
  • 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 tend the cash box--never leave it alone. When the cash box gets 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.

Often someone will hand you a ten dollar bill and insist it was a twenty. To avoid this, keep the bill in plain sight where you can both see it while you make change.

As a cashier, you will at times be overwhelmed and flustered. Stay calm and take your time.

How to organize a yard sale--one week before

Sort and price yard sale goods

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

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 garage sale set up less stressful.

Garage sale pricing guide 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, visit garage sales in your area to get a feel for pricing. You might also pick up some garage sale tips and tricks on how to organize your own sale.

The general rule is to price stuff about 1/4 to 1/3 of the 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. This will keep buyers from driving you crazy asking for a price 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.

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

Don’t put stickers on collectible paper 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 add in your head in case of calculator malfunction. (That happened to me once!)

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

Yard sale glassesPut price stickers on everything

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

Bundling like items into see-through bags is another 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 high priced or items that were 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 collectibles, do some online research to determine current market value and decide how low you are willing to go. These items 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." 

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.

To prevent customers returning items to next day, 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.

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

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 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 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 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. Unless you really want to get rid of an item.

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 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.

Garage sale set up

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

Presentation is everything, even at a yard or garage 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, 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.

Display your most attractive (and valuable) sale items front and center and near the cashier where she can keep an eye on it.

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

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

Don’t put out dirty items…ugh. Buyers will get the impression that everything has been neglected.

Run dirty glassware through the dishwasher to make it sparkle. Certain toys can go in, as well.

Wash musty clothing and hang to get the wrinkles out.

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.

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 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.

Garage sale toy tableDisplay "like" items together

Place books with spines up in a bookcase or in boxes so titles are easily seen. Put a “not for sale” sign on the bookcase if it’s not for sale, because someone will surely try to buy it.

Garage sale Christmas ornamentsKeep holiday items together

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 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. 

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.

Keep an extension cord handy so buyers can test electronics 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 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. 

Cute English Springer Spaniel puppiesI couldn't resist posting this picture of my English Springer Spaniel puppies. Be sure to keep all cute pets inside the house on the day of the sale.
  • Keep cats and dogs inside the house during the sale. Customers don't want dogs 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 people showed 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 come 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 to watch out for at a yard sale

Put away everything you don’t want to sell. Customers always find things you never intended to sell. Your outdoor decorative objects or garden tools WILL find their way to the cashier’s table.

Unfortunately, there are a few bad apples out there. Most people are kind, but there is a certain pushy garage sale type who will try to intimidate or confuse you to get something cheaper or for free. Hold your line!

Some buyers will add everything up themselves and become affronted when you add it up again. Most people are honest, but it’s to your advantage to double-check their totals.

Beware the loud, bossy customers who demand special treatment or insist that you help carry their stuff to their car. I always make a point to assist elderly people with their purchases, though.

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

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 doors open or unlocked. One of my friends left the garage door to her house open during a sale once. A shopper entered the house, picked up an item inside, brought it back out and wanted to know the price. 

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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