One man’s trash is another man’s treasure – so is it any wonder we all love garage sales?
However, if you’re doing a spring cleaning and plan on hosting a garage sale of your own, they can quickly become logistical nightmares when not done properly.
For this reason, we gathered the best garage sale tips and tricks that will help you make it a smooth sailing experience. And hopefully a lucrative one too!
Garage Sale Tips and Tricks
To start off, here are the 21 best garage sale tips and tricks in the book. Some of them will be expanded on a little later in this guide, so keep reading to get the full value!
1. Gather Your Goods
It’s in your best interest to set aside some time – a whole weekend preferably – for going through your house. Do a full spring clean: check under the beds and on the cupboard’s top shelf, raid the attic and the basement, open every drawer and cabinet. Go through every room and get the whole family involved.
What you’re doing is gathering goods you’re unlikely to use in the future. If possible, set aside a whole room to keep everything together, or clear up some space in your garage.
Later in this guide, you’re going to learn more about what can be sold at a garage sale and what you should chuck out, re-purpose, or donate.
2. Keep a Box Handy
Chances are, not everyone is going to be as willing to let go of some things right away. This is expected – give everyone a week to reconsider each item before hosting the garage sale.
Let them know there’s a spare box or container set aside. As the week goes by, any new items added to your garage sale inventory can be popped in there.
3. Consider a Multi-Family Garage Sale
If you’re looking at the gathered goods and realizing there’s nowhere near enough to warrant the effort of a garage sale, don’t give up just yet! You have friends, family members, and even neighbors who might be going through a spring cleaning of their own.
Consider pooling your collective inventory and hosting one multi-family garage sale – just be sure to keep track of who’s selling what.
Designate areas in your storage space for each participating family and oversee the collection at least a few days ahead of time. Later, we’ll show you how to keep track of who’s who on sale day.
4. Clean It Up
Nobody wants to buy dirty items at a garage sale. This is one of the reasons you should plan the event in advance.
Once all the goods are gathered, spend some time carefully cleaning each and every item. Most can be cleaned by wiping with a damp cloth, but be sure to put some elbow grease into it.
The cleaner your inventory, the newer and more enticing they’ll look to buyers. This, of course, means they’ll be willing to spend more!
5. Pick a Date (and Watch the Weather)
Once your inventory is fully gathered, start thinking about a date. It’s worthwhile considering a multi-day garage sale if you have the time. Most garage sales are hosted on Friday and Saturday mornings, but don’t be shy of starting on a Thursday and/or extending into Sunday.
The best time of year for a garage sale varies from one area to the next. As a general rule, wait out the August heat in favor of September’s cooler temperatures.
6 or 7 AM is a good time to start the day. Cap it off at noon or shortly after so you and your family can enjoy an uninterrupted lunch and have the afternoon to yourselves.
Most weather websites give reasonably accurate forecasts a week in advance. Have a backup plan if there’s unexpected rain or wind, but plan for the mildest possible weekend that fits your schedule.
6. Pick a Good Location
Just because you’re the host doesn’t mean your home is the best location. Garage sales are best hosted on slightly less busy streets (not quiet, but not the busiest either), where there’s plenty of visibility, parking space, and – of course – selling space.
Later, you’ll learn more about spacing and layouts.
7. Check on Permits
A lot of cities now require citizens to obtain a permit before hosting or advertising a garage sale. Visit your local city or town halls to follow up with a clerk in-person, or check their website. Some areas even allow you to submit a permit application online, which can take out a lot of the hassle.
Whatever you do, don’t try to host a garage sale without first obtaining the necessary permits (if any). You’ll end up getting shut down and fined, causing embarrassment and unwanted expense.
8. Start Advertising – Newspaper
Contact your local newspaper to inquire about advertising space. Typically, newspapers charge $15 or less – and every household in the neighborhood will get a copy for free.
Budget for the advertising space you can afford and plan your wording accordingly. Keep it short and to the point, with your address, date, time, and a few of the big-ticket items.
If you go over the booked space, your ad will get chopped short by an editor rushing for deadline – or you’ll be charged by the word, which gets expensive quickly.
9. Advertise Online
Advertising online is always free, especially with these sites:
- Facebook (more on advertising here later)
- Garage Sale Hunter
- Garage Sale Source
- Yard Hopper
- Yard Sale Search
Post on as many of them as you like, but aim for at least 3. You have more wiggle room in terms of word count, but don’t come across like a sales executive. Be warm and welcoming.
You can even include a link to Google Maps so people can find your garage sale easier.
BONUS TIP: Don’t start advertising too soon – wait until 1-2 days before your garage sale.
10. Create Yard Sale Signs
Once again, double-check with local legislature as to whether you’re allowed to put up yard sale signs (as well as how many and where) before putting effort into creating them.
Later, you’ll discover some great ways to make cheap, attractive handmade garage sale signs. For now, just have them ready in advance so you can put them up a couple days before.
Also have a few extras. This way, in the morning before you start, you can replace any damaged or missing signs.
11. Sort Your Items
With everything planned, start sorting out your items. Put related goods together so they’re easily accessible for when you start organizing them (that’s a later step).
If you’re hosting a multi-family garage sale, keep track of what belongs to who while sorting everything together. The easiest way to do so is to use color-coded price stickers. For example, green for Family 1, red for Family 2, etc.
12. Set the Prices
When everything is carefully rearranged according to type, start setting your prices.
We created a separate section later in this guide to help you make the right pricing decisions, but if you’re hosting a multi-family garage sale, make sure everyone’s on the same page so the pricing is consistent.
If you already attached color-coded stickers, simply write the price in using a fine-point marker. Otherwise, scotch tape and white labels work wonders.
13. Have Enough Change Ready
Depending on your pricing, there’s always the chance the first customer of the day will need an odd amount of change.
It’s best to prepare for this in advance. Ask your bank to supply you with some reusable cash envelops so you can move extra cash into the house during the sale to avoid having too much money outside.
While you’re there, exchange larger notes at the teller so you have plenty of $5 and $1 bills, as well as at least $20 in quarters.
14. Have Bags for Customers
Have you ever gone to a garage sale, bought a lot of small items, and had to juggle them back to your car?
Don’t be that host. Even if all you do is save your shopping bags for a couple of weeks (a good, environment-friendly choice in any case), make sure you have carrier bags available for your customers.
If need be, you can always ask friends, family members, and neighbors to help you collect some shopping bags, or buy a pack of cheap, unmarked ones at the dollar store.
15. Plan Your Layout in Advance
The last thing you want to deal with minutes before your garage sale is a cluttered, hard to navigate layout. Even if it’s only the night before, spend some time planning the layout to ensure customers can easily walk through without creating congestion. Additionally, optimize your item layout.
You’ll learn more about organizing your garage sale layout in a later section. To optimize your setup speed in the morning, spend an hour or so the evening before marking out your layout with masking tape.
16. Get Your Items Organized the Night Before
Before you head to bed, there’s one more thing you need to take care of.
Go through your inventory room again and make sure everything is organized. You need to set everything up about an hour before you open, so make sure you’re able to move things out of storage and onto display as quickly as possible. Plan to unpack everything starting with items that will be displayed closest to the curb.
If there are lots of small, related items, you can always keep them organized in boxes. Be sure clothing items are neatly hung on their display racks in the meantime too.
17. Be Willing to Offer Package Deals
Sometimes, buyers hesitate to spend money on odd items. For example, that set of weights you have priced at $50.
If you do see someone hesitating over an item and you know you have some related goods, be willing to offer them a package deal. Throw in the yoga mat or workout DVDs with the weight set free of charge to guarantee a sale.
18. Be Prepared to Bargain
Garage sales are a great place for practicing bargaining skills – both for the customers and for you as the seller.
Know what your minimum acceptable price is for your item. If a customer tries to negotiate below that price, be kind but firm. Regardless, be prepared to bargain, especially with larger items and buyers who purchase a lot of goods at once (similar to a package deal, but with discounts).
This doesn’t mean you can’t display non-negotiable prices, though. Just be sure to mark those items as such.
19. Have Help At the Ready
Having someone (or a few people) who are ready and available to help customers move larger, heavy items like furniture can be the difference between a sale and losing one. Be sure to place a note on or near such items so buyers instantly know help is at hand if they decide to make a purchase.
You also want to have a few helpers who can clean up any messes and tidy up any piles customers create throughout the day. If someone’s picked up an item and later changed their mind, setting it down again in the wrong section, a helper should discretely move it back to its proper place.
20. Drop Your Prices Toward the End
It’s the last day and you’re sitting with a lot more items than you hoped for. The crowds are also starting to thin out, decreasing the chances of a sale.
Never fear. If you’re more concerned with getting rid of things than making some extra cash selling them, put up a sign toward the end of the day advertising a massive discount – 50% off never fails to attract notice!
Of course, there may be some items you aren’t willing to discount. You can either move these back into storage to sell later (see next point) or mark their prices as non-negotiable and add “on select items” to your discount sign.
21. Have a Plan for any Left-Over Items
You’re still guaranteed to have some left-over items after putting everything (or nearly everything) on a discount. The biggest reason is basic psychology: when people see there are few items on display, they’re less likely to stop and browse.
There are a few options here, especially if you don’t want to have them cluttering your basement again:
- Sell your goods online
- Visit your local consignment shop and arrange to be paid cash upfront (rather than a trade-in or delayed payment)
- Donate your items
What to Sell at a Garage Sale
So you’ve got a big pile of items gathered in your garage, basement, or a room temporarily designated as the “garage sale” inventory store.
Part of your task in sorting through these items is to separate what can be sold from what can’t (or at least what you shouldn’t expect to sell). Here are the 12 items most likely to sell – and relatively fast.
1. Clothing in Good Condition
We all need clothes – and we all want to look good in them. Savvy shoppers and frequenters of yard sales, secondhand stores, and online reseller platforms know you don’t have to pay retail prices for that luxury.
Another thing such people know is, when properly looked after, quality holds up. And that’s exactly why they shop secondhand.
As mentioned earlier, the best way to display any clothing you’re selling is to hang them up on stands. Separate the men’s from the women’s and arrange them in order of size if there’s a range. This makes it easier for buyers to find what they’re looking for as well as check for stains and wear-and-tear.
Remember to have a mirror somewhere nearby – and if possible, some sort of private changing area.
Most men who like working with their hands are attracted to tools like moths to the flame. It doesn’t matter if it’s relatively recent or vintage models – as long as it works, they’ll find a way to fit them into their budget.
If you do have any tools to sell, be sure to charge up the batteries and have a power strip nearby to test those that need to be plugged in. And definitely put some elbow grease into cleaning them beforehand!
3. Garden Tools
Spring fever doesn’t just mean spring cleaning and bird eggs hatching – it also means every hobbyist gardener is growing increasingly eager to get back into the dirt.
So if you have any kind of garden tools, you can be certain they’ll sell. Make sure they’re in good condition, of course, but if the lawnmower is run down or the rake’s handle is going to rot, price them accordingly and be upfront about the condition.
A sale isn’t necessarily guaranteed, but particularly handy bargain-hunters will know how to fix ‘em up.
The closer you are to a college town (or any place where young people are likely to move in, really), the faster your furniture is likely to sell. And with DIY projects becoming all the rage once again, there are plenty of folks looking to find old furniture that can be repurposed in surprising manners.
As always, make sure the furniture is spotless and be upfront about any issues. This is one item you need to be flexible with when it comes to price.
5. Vintage Crockery
If you have any crockery that isn’t considered ultra-modern or a retro remake, chances are most people will consider it relatively vintage. Be sure to advertise and mark individual pieces (and sets) by their brand name. Collectors and new homeowners will flock to your garage sale.
6. Shoes and Handbags
Some people suggest never buying shoes at a garage sale, but guess what? Hardly anybody ever listens to them.
As long as the shoes you’re selling are in good condition and someone comes along with the right size feet, they’ll sell. Kids especially grow out of their shoes so fast that secondhand pairs are almost the only way parents can afford to keep up!
The key to selling both shoes and handbags at a garage sale is to advertise them by brand name, make sure they’re clean and odor-free, and – if possible – display them with the original boxes.
7. (Costume) Jewelry
Don’t bother trying to sell high-end or otherwise valuable jewelry at a garage sale – you’re better off heading online. But if you have lots of cheaper costume and statement pieces, they ought to sell like hotcakes.
Just make sure to place them near (or even at) your cashier area, possibly in a glass cabinet if you have one. Otherwise, you’ll sell few and lose many to opportunistic pockets.
8. Entertainment Items
Toys and games – both the “vintage” and collectible board games as well as console and PC games – will almost certainly sell. Most people who frequent garage sales have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or are collectors themselves.
Clean up the items and make sure they’re in excellent condition (especially those for younger children). Check you have all the pieces for any board games you’re selling and any electronic games are in working order.
E-readers might be the latest craze, but if you have the right books, physical copies will always sell. Make them super cheap (especially if there’s any sort of damage) and they’ll fly off the shelf – possibly in bulk!
10. Electronics and Appliances in Working Condition
It’s a good idea to place any electronics and appliances you’re selling near the tools section. This way, you don’t have to run too many power strips through your window so interested buyers can reassure themselves everything works properly.
11. Camping Gear
New camping gear is nothing less than pricey these days. But if you recently upgraded or are downscaling for any reason, savvy campers know garage sales are the best place to find quality camping gear in good condition for cheap.
Make sure they’re clean and odor-free and include them in your advertisements.
12. Exercise/Sports Equipment
Last but not least is exercise and sports equipment.
Some of these are going to require a power strip. All will need a cleaning (especially if they’ve been gathering dust). And if you have any bicycles, be sure to pump up the tires!
What Not to Sell at a Garage Sale
Before you let your eyes turn into dollar signs, be aware some items shouldn’t be sold at a garage sale. And some items that can be sold might not sell.
1. Faulty or Outdated Electronics
Sure, some handyman might take it upon themselves to fix it up and use it (or resell it). But if you have any faulty electronics or other appliances, it’s best to look for ways to recycle them or sell for parts.
The same goes for outdated models. Unless it’s considered vintage, very few people are going to be interested.
2. Intimate Garments
Don’t even think of trying to sell used underwear, socks, or swimwear. Find ways to recycle or donate them.
3. Helmets and Other Headgear
This is a bit of a “maybe” scenario, but many people actively avoid buying any sort of helmets or headgear (such as hats) at garage sales. Unless you can demonstrate you’ve had them thoroughly cleaned, don’t get too eager at the thought of turning them into cash just yet.
4. Bedding and Mattresses
Bedding and mattresses are another iffy area. If in very good condition and exceptionally clean, you might still find a buyer. And, to be fair, new homeowners and students are more likely to purchase such goods at a garage sale.
But many will find their minds wandering in the direction of bed bugs and other such nasties, forgetting the hotel they stayed in on their last vacation probably had bedding and mattresses in similar (or worse) condition.
5. Baby Cots and Bedding and Baby/Toddler Car Seats
Child safety is paramount. You might get a buyer willing to risk it, but most prefer buying brand new or (ironically) from a family member.
6. Damaged Children’s Toys and/or Baby Equipment
This is an absolute no. Once again, safety is the main concern here – if there are any loose bits, sharp edges, or even scratches, most savvy parents will shy away from such goods.
You’re more likely to end up with a kid throwing a tantrum and having their parents beat a hasty retreat without purchasing anything.
7. Personal Beauty Items
You’d be surprised at how many people try to sell their old makeup, shaving kits, brushes, curlers, hairpins, ribbons, etc.
One word: germs. Rather give these away to people you know. Unless, of course, they’re brand new and in their original packaging.
Unless it’s store-bought and pre-packaged, don’t bother trying to sell food. Most people are increasingly picky about ingredients (half of which they don’t understand in the least).
If you do try to sell your famous death-by-chocolate cake, be prepared for endless questions from vegans and people who think they’re gluten intolerant (but are actually just having a negative reaction to the preservatives in store-bought foods).
Creative Yard Sale Ideas
Just because there’s a winning formula doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Spice things up with these creative yard sale ideas!
1. Handmade Signs
Big, colorful, and short but expressive wording is the way to go with handmade signs.
Include a big arrow pointing toward your location, the word “sale” featured prominently, and – if you have space – the dates and times. Thick lettering is best to ensure your signs are visible from moving cars.
And if you’re having a garage sale because you’re moving, use the words “Moving Sale” instead of garage or yard sale. You’ll attract more people because they’ll know you’re more likely to have larger items.
They’ll also assume you’re desperate enough to sell that you’re willing to accept exceedingly low prices.
2. Use Balloons and Party Banners to Attract Attention
Balloons are a great way to attract more attention to your signs. Tie them on in the morning when you do your rounds.
Add a few more to your postbox to better mark your location and use party banners to create colorful eye-magnets. People don’t care what’s on the banner – they’ll notice the movement and the color and be drawn toward your sale.
3. Sell PRE-PACKAGED Store-Bought Snacks at Cost Price
As mentioned earlier, don’t bother with homemade goods. Stock up on some cheap store-bought snacks from the dollar store and sell them at cost price (or for a small profit). People who munch while they shop are more likely to linger.
4. Offer Refreshments
The same goes for those who are able to quench their thirst! Some great ideas include:
- Small bottles of water sold at cost price or for a small profit
- Hot coffee in take-away cups for the early morning
- Setting up a lemonade stand for your kid(s) to run
How to Organize a Yard Sale
Many of these points were touched on earlier, but it’s good to keep them in mind.
1. Set Up an Hour in Advance
No matter what time your garage sale opens, start setting up at least an hour in advance. If this means getting up at 4 AM so you’re ready to set up at 5, do it. No matter how much planning and organizing you’ve done in advance, you’ll probably still wish you had more than an hour.
2. Use Tables
As mentioned earlier, use tables everywhere. Bring out your dining room table and desks, borrow folding tables and patio furniture – do whatever it takes to use tables for almost everything.
3. Place Larger, High-Value Items Nearest to the Curb
Things like furniture are the crowd-pullers, so place them prominently – which means nearest to the curb and the street. They’ll attract the buyers and draw them in towards the smaller, lower-value goods. Plus, it’ll be easier for your helpers to transport them to buyers’ vehicles once you cinch a sale.
4. Group Related Items Together
Cohesion in display is what we all look for in stores. No one wants to run from one end of the store to the other and back again just to pick up two related items.
The same principle applies to garage sales. Group related items together – this makes it easier for buyers and for you.
5. Hang Clothing Items Rather than Folding Them and Position a Mirror (and Changing Stall) Nearby
As mentioned earlier, hanging clothes on racks makes them easier to display and keep neat when buyers are rummaging for something that suits their style and fits their size.
Bring out a long mirror (borrow one if need be) and try to organize a changing stall of some sort.
6. Position Your Chair/Point of Sales Near the Curb
This serves 2 purposes: you can greet buyers as they arrive and as they leave, and they won’t have to meander through your garage sale, head to the back to pay, and then have to walk through everything again.
(On which note, it also minimizes the risk of them seeing something they want on the way out and deciding to pinch it rather than head back to pay again.)
7. Make Sure You Can Easily Transfer Cash into the House
You don’t want to sit next to the curb with an abundance of cash. One of your helpers – a family member or trusted friend – can either man the point of sales or run into the house with the excess cash for you. This is where reusable money envelopes come in handy!
Garage Sale Pricing
These will vary from area to area and should be thought of as a guideline. Be sure to compare prices to local online secondhand sales and other garage sales to get a more accurate, locally realistic idea of how to price your goods.
1. Clothing and Accessories
- Adult Clothes: $3 to $5 (up the price if unworn and still bearing the original label)
- Baby Clothes: $1 to $3
- Coats: $5 to $15, depending on style, material, and condition
- Costume Jewelry: 50? to $2
- Shoes: $3 to $7, depending on style, material, and condition
2. Books and Entertainment Items
- Books: 25? to 50? for paperbacks, $1 to $2 for hardbacks
- Blu-Rays and DVDs: $3 to $5
- CDs: $1 to $3
- Vinyl Records: $2, though don’t be afraid to up the price if it’s a rare collectible (be sure to advertise these, by the way – they’re very much back in style)
- Toys and Board Games: $1 to $3, depending on type and condition
3. Electronics and Appliances
For electronics and appliances, do some online research using sites like eBay, Craigslist, and the Facebook Marketplace. As a general rule, don’t ask for more than a third of the retail price.
4. Kitchen Items
- Dishware: $1 to $3 a piece (offer a slight discount for full sets)
- Silverware: $3 to $5 for full sets, $1 for 4 items
- Small Kitchen Appliances: similar to electronics and larger appliances, use one-third as your threshold and $1 to $2 for gimmicky items like lemon squeezers
- Antiques: Do market research on fair value – if you can find an antique dealer to give you an appraisal, they may offer to buy it from you too
- Decor Items: $2 to $7 in general, depending on the size, function, and condition, or $5 to $10 for working lamps
- General Furniture: $5 to $30 for low-value items, higher fair market value for “ready-to-use” furniture like sofas
BONUS: How to Mark Your Items
- Use plain white or neon stickers and a fine-point marker.
- For multi-family garage sales, use color-coded stickers. Remove them from items at the point of sale and stick them into a notebook to keep track of how much each family is owed at the end of the day.
- Opt for low-tack stickers.
- Price every item individually, unless you’re selling a lot of items at the same price – for example, a single sign reading “Books: Hardcover $2 Paperback 50?” on the book stand/table.
- Do your pricing the day before.
- Set flexible prices at 15% to 20% above your minimum to leave haggling room.
- If there are any items you aren’t willing to negotiate on, mark the price as “Firm.”
How to Advertise a Garage Sale on Facebook
Facebook is a great online platform for advertising your garage sale. With the right wording and a few choice pictures, you can attract potential buyers from far and wide!
There are a couple of ways to go about doing so:
- Add a listing on the Facebook Marketplace for “Assorted Goods – Garage Sale”
- Join local buying and selling groups and pages and post your ad
- Join local garage/yard sale groups and pages and post your ad
- Share your ad on your own wall and ask your friends and family to share it as well
A well-planned, advertised, and executed garage sale will give you a generous boost of cash while clearing the house of junk at the same time. What could be better!
The only thing left is to decide how to use that money. Put it toward your next vacation? Add it to your emergency fund? How about invest it and let it grow over the next few months to pay for a short-term goal, or years for a long-term one?
Whatever you do, don’t forget to share this guide and let us know what garage sale tips and tricks you use to boost your sales!