Whether you call it a garage sale, yard sale or rummage sale, these sales are a great way to declutter your house and make a bit of cash in the process. I recently just hosted my first garage sale. I learned a lot along the way in terms of do’s and don’ts.
I had been considering a garage sale for several months. Right before I started working from home, I transitioned our spare bedroom into an office/spare bedroom. Before I could paint, I had to clear the room and I realized I didn’t want to put most of that stuff back in afterwards. We still had all of Carter’s clothes and baby stuff. In nearly 8 years, that’s a lot of stuff! Here’s what our living room looked like with all the space bags of clothes waiting to be unpacked and sorted.
As we seriously consider a move to another house in our near future, this was just one step in our process to declutter and get our house ready to sell.
Honestly, I swore I’d never host a garage sale. I imagined how much work it could be (and I was right!). To say I was a veritable garage sale newbie was an understatement, but I did my research, called a few friends who are garage sale pros and ended up with a pretty successful sale. Here’s what I learned…
1 | Check the Weather, Plan Accordingly – after a few weeks of regular rain, last Saturday I looked at the next weekend’s forecast and saw no rain for a 4 day period. I also knew we didn’t really have a free weekend for at least another month. It was then and there I knew we needed to kick it into gear and have our sale. In the end we did have a little rain on Saturday afternoon. Just for about 15 minutes with heavy sprinkles. Really just long enough for me to pull everything inside and get irritated! For the most part though it was a gorgeous weekend and people kept remarking at how great of a weekend it was to be doing a garage sale. Make sure you have a back up plan if the weather isn’t cooperating.
2 | Location, Location, Location – we live in a pretty quiet neighborhood. It’s not a through street, so you need to mean to be here. It’s a great place to live, but doesn’t bode that well for convenient street traffic for a garage sale. Consider asking a friend to do a joint garage sale if you know someone with a really A+ location. If not, make sure you have great signage (see #7).
3 | Organization – presentation and organization matter. Make it easy for people to see what you have without having to dig. Most people are going to come and do a once over first before deciding to stay and look. Group like things together so they don’t have to do so much work. Make sure things are clean and well organized. I put all clothes inside the garage. Housewares were on one side of the driveway, larger kids toys and baby items were grouped together, etc.
Tables – we borrowed lots of tables. Consider renting them for the day if you can’t borrow. Having things like clothes up and off the ground makes things cleaner and easier to look through. We organized all of the clothes by size and made easy to read signs to indicate each section by age.
Hanging Racks – if you can hang adult clothing, coats or other items, do! I had one garment rack I had purchased from Amazon that I used for adult clothing. I created a small clothes rack for kids coats out of two saw horses and a broom stick. Here’s also a great idea with a ladder and two sawhorses on Pinterest.
Blankets – I didn’t have enough tables for everything, so for kids toys that I didn’t want to just put directly on the cement driveway, I put a stadium blanket down and the toys on it. This also really helped when it started to rain as we were able to just pull the blanket inside rather than each individual toy.
4 | Pricing – Price everything. Most people don’t want to have to ask how much things cost. I got some advice from a friend who is a garage sale pro who said she hung signs that said “all kids clothes $1 unless otherwise priced” I did this too and it was such a time saver. I did mark down smaller clothing items that were $.50 (like onesies) or a few nicer items that were $2-$3 (sweaters or items with tags still on them). I realized after a few people had asked about pajama sets that they weren’t willing to pay $1 per piece, so I changed my signs to indicate PJ sets were $1.
For other items to be priced individually, I used these labels for some items which were pre-marked f and then painters tape marked with a Sharpie on others, that needed more explanation.
If you’re unsure what to price things at, take a look at your local Craigslist ads or Facebook swap groups (see below) to see what things are selling for, or ask a friend who goes to garage sales regularly. Know that many people will want to negotiate with you. There were some things I marked up a little because of this, but because my motivation was more about getting rid of things than making a lot of money, I priced things appropriately or even low in some cases and was more apt to hold firm on the prices as I knew they were already priced to sell. This is completely a personal decision and depends on what the primary goal of your sale is.
5 | Show Me the Money – I had heard a good tip on “wearing” your money rather than using a cash box. This made a lot of sense, that way I could move around the sale and not worry about my cash box walking away. Some people use a fanny pack, but I used my Bagallini travel purse which has lots of pockets. I was able to keep my bills separated for easily making change. I started my sale with three $20’s, five $10’s, four $5’s, ten $1’s and a few dollars in quarters. This may vary for you based on the prices of many of your items. This ended up being perfect and I had no issues with running out of any certain amount.
6 | Enlist Help – first of all, it’s more fun if you have people with you. Whether or not you’re doing a multi-family sale, it’s nice to have someone around to help move things around, move things inside if there’s rain (speaking from experience), go grab items you need or forgot, or fill in for you for a few minutes if you need to use the restroom or grab something to eat.
This little munchkin was not as much help, but it was fun to have him around. He was a little sad about selling some of the things he had outgrown (like these tiger slippers) so he kept asking me to take pictures of him with his old stuff. Once I agreed to split the money with him for any toys he sold, he was much more on board!
7 | Signage – Our signs were one of the top traffic drivers to our sale. I conned my husband into making the signs for me. My only real instructions were “BIG ARROWS”. If you’re driving by, you may not be able to read an address, but you can follow arrows. We included “Garage Sale”, our address (pixelated out in the photo), sale days, and BIG arrows. We purposely left the time off of the signs in case we wanted to extend our time. We put the signs up right before sale time and took them down when we were done each day. I bought these blank sign boards with stakes at Lowe’s.
8 | Advertising – gone are the days where everyone uses the classified ads in the newspaper to get the word out on their sale. (I remember those days, as my job in college was working in the Des Moines Register’s Classified Advertising department!). Aside from proper signage, for the most part, online advertising is where it’s at these days.
- Craigslist – don’t put your listing up too early or it gets buried. Try doing it the afternoon or night before. That way you get the people who are planning for the next day, but your listing will more likely be close to the top the closer to the sale you do it. List all your big items. If you have clothing, list gender and sizes. Include pictures. Don’t forget dates and times of your sale.
- Facebook Groups – local sale listings and swap groups. If you’re not already part of these groups, join some at least a week before your sale. Figure out which groups have the most activity and post your sale in those groups. You can either link to your Craigslist ad or upload your photos into the Facebook listing. I suggest putting them into the post. If you’re uncomfortable sharing your address on Facebook, you can have people private message you for your address. One thing to keep in mind with these groups is that you’ll have people messaging you about specific items to see if they’re still available or if you’ll hold them. Be wary of holding items for very long if you don’t know the person.
- Social Media – share with your friends and family on social media. I posted the link to my Craigslist ad on Facebook and had several people stop by who had seen it. I also posted a picture on Instagram and had a few local friends reach out for the address. Have your friend share as well.
- Local Media – If you’re having a larger multi-family or community sale, it may we worth taking an ad out in a local paper, most of these ads will also go online.
9 | Seasonality Matters – Since I had pretty much all of my son’s clothes and all of his winter coats since birth, and it was good quality stuff, I thought for sure they would sell well. What I didn’t think about was that people were mostly looking for in season items. His shorts, swim trunks, sandals and other spring/summer items sold pretty well. All of the fall and winter stuff was hardly touched, especially the younger aged items. I had forgotten that in those young baby and toddler years it’s harder to gauge what size they’ll be and buy ahead. If you have a lot of fall and winter items, consider a late summer or fall garage sale.
10 | Plan ahead for what you’re going to do with anything left after the sale. We sold all of our big stuff for the most part, but we didn’t sell as many of Carter’s clothes as I had hoped (see #9 for the seasonality factor). I ended up calling several people I knew with younger boys to see if they wanted to take anything before I donated it. I had 4 people take me up on it. The rest of the clothes will go to a local charity that help women and their kids get back on their feet after leaving domestic abuse situations. The few housewares and some other odds and ends went to Goodwill, and some building materials will go to the Habitat for Humanity Restore. If you plan ahead for these things, you can either arrange a pick up with them, or take it straight there from your sale. My rule was, once it was out for the garage sale, it wasn’t coming back in the house!
I was exhausted when it was over. (Did I mention that I managed to walk 10,000 steps each day without leaving my driveway?) I’m glad I did the sale though. We found homes for a lot of things that weren’t needed in our house anymore, made a little money ($800 for our vacation fund) and got to chat with a lot of neighbors who stopped over after not having seen them most of the winter.
If you’re considering a sale soon, good luck! If you’ve hosted a sale or you’re a regular garage sale shopper, what other tips would you give someone getting ready to host their own sale?