So Long, Stuff: Secrets of Successful Yard Sales

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Want to get rid of your clutter and make a little cash? Have a yard sale! But planning and executing a successful yard or garage (or tag or estate) sale takes a bit of work. These tips will help anyone looking to de-junk for profit. 


Check out Other Yard Sales
How did they advertise? What did they sell? What were the prices like? What was the condition of the goods? How were things laid out? Were there a lot of people during the time you were there? Get chatty with the person in charge and see if she is willing to tell you a little about her experience. (Of course, try to buy something, too.) 


Work out the Legal Stuff
Check with your village, town, or city hall to see if you’ll need a permit. There also might be laws regarding where you’re able to post signs and advertisements. 


Make Room for Crowds
If you anticipate the masses, figure out your parking situation. If your street is too narrow or you’re afraid of blocking driveways, look for nearby streets that can accommodate extra cars. 


Prep Your Items
I’m not suggesting that your beloved collection of ceramic pigs won’t sell like hot cakes, but every potential item for sale should be given a thorough look. Make an honest evaluation of your stuff and start by asking yourself—if I were at my own garage sale, would I want to buy that? Is it sellable as-is or does it need a little elbow grease to show its true colors? Some other tips: 


  • When going through your things, make three piles: #1 Give away. #2 Sell. #3 Throw away. Promptly dispose of piles #1 and #3. 
  • Wash all clothes and clean out the pockets of pants, dress shirts, jackets, etc. 
  • Go through pages of old books and remove any paper used as a bookmark. Sometimes these papers are items with personal information on them, like receipts with your credit card information. 
  • Wipe clean any dusty items. 
  • Try to sort and categorize all the things you’ve collected and cleaned. 
  • Store all cleaned and sorted items in separate plastic bags. If your items need to be stored in a corrugated box, cover the box in a plastic bag. 
  • Top items that bargain hunters look for at garage or yard sales are books, children’s toys, old tools, kitchen gadgets, and the occasional antique. Keep this in mind when sorting through your junk. 
  • Never sell undergarments, swimwear, half-used or old makeup, pet supplies, or baby equipment at a yard sale. 


A special note on baby equipment. For safety reasons, you should never try to re-sell it. There may be a recall on that particular model or certain parts of that model. In fact, anything with metal, paint, or plastic that a kid might use should not be re-sold without checking the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Handbook. Though you’ve probably seen many high chairs or car seats for sale at a garage or yard sale, it’s probably wise to avoid risking a child’s well-being for the sake of making a few bucks. 


Put a Plan in Place
Picking the right date and thoughtfully designing the layout of your space can add to the success of your yard sale. It also helps to involve others, from family members to neighbors, who may be around that day in the planning process. 


  • When deciding on the date, don’t pick a holiday weekend. The best days to have a garage or yard sale are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Never schedule it for a Sunday.
  • Look at the forecast and see what the weather will be like. Do you need to rent or borrow a tent?
  • Make sure you have enough tables to display your things. Borrow from neighbors and family members if you need to.
  • Ask neighbors and family members if they want to participate. Do they have anything they want to get rid of? Do they want to help out on the day of the sale? Are there kids who want to set up a refreshment stand?
  • Put an ad in the local newspaper or put up flyers where allowed. Pin up flyers on bulletin boards at the supermarket, community center, and elementary school and also local businesses like coffee shops or hardware stores. Advertise on local news Web sites, community Web sites, and Web sites dedicated to finding garage or yard sales. Be concise in your ad; list the date, address, and time frame. And if you don’t want people rummaging through your stuff before you’re ready, be sure to clearly state “no early birds.” 


Price Your Goods Competitively
Lets face it—you’ll never get back all the money you paid for that rhinestone cowboy hat. But there is someone who will most definitely take it off your hands. Yard “sailors” are not paying retail prices or even box store prices. They come to these types of sales to find bargains. So be mindful of your audience and price your goods appropriately. 


  • Most items should be priced from 10 to 30 percent of what you originally paid. 
  • Books are generally under $2.00; paperbacks, no matter what condition they’re in, generally sell for no more than 50¢ each. 
  • Children’s clothing usually sells for anywhere from $1 to $5, depending on the size, type of clothing, and condition. 
  • As for men and women’s clothing, price jeans at $5; t-shirts, $1; dress shirts, $2 to $5; dresses, $5; jackets, $5 to $10; and sweaters, $2 to $5. 
  • Media: CDs are $1 each, DVDs are $5 each, software CDs are no more than $20, VHS tapes are $1, video game CDs or cartridges no more than $5. 
  • Toys: board games are $1 to $5, stuffed animals are $1, and dolls are $1. 
  • Be sure to devise a list of discount prices if more than one of the same item is purchased. 


On the Day of the Sale
Before the start time of the sale, take a look around your yard or garage and see if there are any last minute things you need to do. 


  • Keep everything clean, presentable, and organized. 
  • Place signs on your front yard advertising your yard or garage sale. 
  • Group and label sections or boxes of like items, such as “Women’s clothing,” “Books,” or “Kitchen Gadgets.” 
  • Be sure that every item has a price tag and that it’s visible. 
  • Decide how you want to handle hagglers. Do you want to keep all prices firm? Is there room for haggling? If so, what’s your bottom line? If you don’t want to haggle so early in the day, you can let your shoppers know that if the item in question is not sold by a particular time you are amenable to a certain percent off the price tag. 
  • Make several signs that say “All Sales Are Final” and place them discreetly around the area. 
  • Have lots of shopping bags—paper or plastic—for sold items. For breakable items, have a stack of newspaper to wrap it in before bagging. For jewelry, have plastic snack bags to place items in. 
  • Have plenty of small bills and change handy and keep your money in a fanny pack or cash box—but be sure the cash box is near you at all times. 
  • Write down all transactions in a notebook, notepad, or ledger. This helps you keep track of items during the sale, so you’ll know if it was sold or stolen. It also helps you figure out how much money you made at the end and what items were the most popular—all helpful tidbits just in case you want to hold another sale. 
  • Make sure that anything in your yard or garage that isn’t for sale is hidden away, covered with a tarp or blanket, or completely roped off. Make a sign that says “Not for Sale.” 
  • Set an easy mood: play soft music in the background, sell beverages on the side (bottled water or cans of soda are the easiest), and set up garbage cans. 
  • If you’re selling accessories or clothes, set up a full-length mirror nearby. 
  • If you’re selling small electric appliances, have an extension cord available to test the appliances. 


When it’s all over, donate any leftover items to nonprofit organizations like the Salvation Army. Break down the tables, put your boxes away, and then have a celebratory glass of wine. (Oh, and don’t forget to take down your signage.) You just pulled off the perfect yard sale!

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