Introduction: Yard Sales and Garage Sales - How to Have the BEST One

Picture of Yard Sales and Garage Sales - How to Have the BEST One

This Instructable will help you to have your own profitable, organized and successful garage sale. It's fun (you meet great people) but it IS a lot of work, making the maximum amount of money possible at your sale will make it worthwhile.

Step 1: Designate a Place in Your Home to Store Future Sale Stuff

Picture of Designate a Place in Your Home to Store Future Sale Stuff

Pick a closet or a room or a large box and use that space to store the items you intend to get rid of, if one of the items is your son who is playing too many video games, make sure you have packing tape to shut up the box. Throw some gallon size zip lock bags in there to hold smaller items. Those small items then can be sold together for a great price for the whole bag. Such a deal.

The point here is that when you finish a book you are not going to lend out - throw it in the box. Can't find the saucer for the cup? - put the cup in the box. Aren't going to wear that sweater again? - throw it in the box. Just bought a new iron? - put the old one in the box. Did you receive a gift you are never going to use? - in the box it goes. Do your really need 3 watering cans? - put at least one in the box.

This serves two purposes - it keeps clutter down and keeps you organized.

Step 2: How to Find Stuff for Your Sale

Picture of How to Find Stuff for Your Sale

If your grandmother is blind like mine is this is really easy - just kidding. Anyway do ask her and other family members if they have stuff, offer to give them the money of course and maybe they can give a few bucks for the ad in the paper, we'll get to that later.

In my town there is a designated day each month were you can put big stuff out on the street to get picked up by the city's trash trucks. I call this Bulk Trash Sailing Day and I acquire a lots of great stuff this way, I always tell people I'm an artist if anyone gives me a weird look. You can say you are an artist too - the word needs more of them anyhow.

Get your kids into this early on and it makes an impression - my son wrote an essay on Bulk Trash Sailing to get into a new school.

Another great source for things is FROM other garage sales, I often buy something I know is a steal and keep it for awhile and then in a year or two I sell it for double what I paid for it and it's still a deal to the next person. This is an intuition thing maybe from "sailing" for over 30 years.

Step 3: What Sells and What Doesn't

Picture of What Sells and What Doesn't

Your trash is definitely someone else's treasure but it works the other way too - something you really like, something unique and ever so special, well it may only be special to you. Even if you've had it so long it feels like a part of you...

And this is a good time to get rid of any reminders of your former husband of 18 years who bought you, and you don't know how many other women at the same time, Steuban glass trinkets that declared his love - of Steuban glass trinkets.

Step 4: Pick a Date

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General rules here would be NOT to pick a holiday weekend, Superbowl weekend, the rainy season, the hottest day of the year or thereabouts, or a day when a marathon is being run down your street. I wouldn't have a sale in the summer here in South Florida or in the winter if I lived in NJ. After Christmas is better than before.

Decide if you have enough stuff to have a two day sale - if you really think you do you can be sneaky about it and advertise it for one day and put up a ton of signs for the other day. Leave town after you are so sneaky.

Read your local paper and see when most of the garage sales start. Then pick a time that is different than that time.

Step 5: Make Signs

Picture of Make Signs

DO NOT USE 8 1/2" x 11" paper with a sharpie marker. Get some cardboard and some dark paint and do it right. Just the facts; the time/the date/the address. Big letters! Arrows are wonderful and probably even better than an address if you have enough cardboard for enough signs.

Put them up early on the day before your sale so people see them coming home from work. I use wire to go through the sign and the street sign I am attaching it to. Duct tape all around a poll works great if the duct tape sticks back to itself.

The more people that come to your sale the better you will do, so do what it takes to get them there. People who see people at a garage sale tend to stop themselves. If no one is there and you have tons of stuff people will just assume the good stuff is gone - even when it's not.

Step 6: Place Your Ad in the Local Paper and Craig's List

Picture of Place Your Ad in the  Local Paper and Craig's List

It is really important to word your ad to attract the most people and even more important not to discourage the most people. This sounds weird but if I read an ad that lists a phone number I won't go to that sale because I will think that all the good stuff is gone - gone to the people who called the number and convinced the dude to let them in early. Hey I know this to be a fact because I used to do it.

So, in your ad on Craig's List you can get all wordy and talk about your free coffee, your grandmother and your friends who are bringing stuff. The magic words are: Moving sale, collectables, estate sale, multi-family, old stuff, tons of stuff. The words that will scare most folks away are: baby items, apartment (how much stuff could you have?), your phone number, designer brand whatever, size 24 clothes.

Your ad in the local paper should be without frills (read as desperate), not overly long (read as desperate) and should use the magic words. Try to get it to run Friday and Saturday if your sale is on Saturday. Friday sales are discouraged as that is read as desperate also - unless you live in a town where that is normal. Again, to find out what is normal read the ads that are in the paper.

Step 7: Tags

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Please spend a little bit and get some cool tags, make you own or use painter's tape because it is so easy to remove. Tags are great because you have room for a description.

I believe the reason the husband pictured here did not end up selling was because of a lack of perceived value. I think if his price had been $74.99 he would have sold in the first hour. I price everything with .99 at the end. For example $14.99 sounds like less than $15.00, it seems like a bargain. I makes people laugh - and spend money. No one actually wants the penny back though I always try to give it to them.

You are allowed to use a sharpie here - I encourage it as anything else is hard to read in the early morning light.

The most important rule for making the most money is PRICE EVERTHING before the sale starts. Work on it for days and days, you will only loose money if you are put on the spot to come up with a price as either it will be too high and the customer will walk or too low and you loose potential money. I can't stress this enough.

Don't let your friends who are bringing stuff over show up with unpriced stuff as you will be the one the customer comes to for the price. Being organized lets you schmooze with the customers, talking up an item; how long your grandmother owned it, how much it was new and how happy you are to see it go to a good home.

While you are diligently working away on this pricing thing (I think this is the hardest part), decide at this time if you want to bargain - and price your stuff accordingly. If your prices are good and fair and you don't want to bargain just tell the customer (as I do) that the price is right, it's a good price. All the customer wants is reassurance that he is getting the best price. Reassure them in a way that does not insult them for asking.

Practice saying this: "I sure don't blame you for asking but my prices are good, you ARE getting the best price". Alternatively, price everything 20% higher than you really expect and you may do even better. It 's all about how comfortable you are with bargaining and interpersonal relationships, psychology, peace talks in the middle east etc.

Step 8: When It All Comes Together

Picture of When It All Comes Together

Stuff placed on the ground looks like it should stay there - it looks like trash. Run around to all your neighbors and ask if they have a table to lend you, get more tables than you even think you need.

How much change to start with? You will need a handful of change but not much more than that, most people come with change. Try having 20 one's, 3 twenties and the rest in fives to make up $100. Make change even for the guy who wants something for 50 cents and he only has a twenty.

Respect your customers by not letting in any Early Birds. If you let folks in early then when people show up on time they will think the good stuff is gone and not be much interested even if there is a ton of good stuff left. This is the paradox of yard sales in that perceived value is everything, a table with only 3 or 4 things on it looks picked over. The 3 or 4 items may be great but the perceived value is not there.

The price does not matter as much as the perceived value. As you will see at the end of your sale there will still be fantastic bargains left but no one wants them if they think no one else wanted them. Store them for next year or donate them. So how does this work to your advantage? - in the weeks before your sale, shop at yard sales late in the day for stuff to sell at yours. Lots of times people are so tired they just give the leftovers to you for free.

Step 9: The End

Picture of The End

Basically it boils down to the following:

1. Hunt and gather before the sale

2. Price everything before the sale

3. End your prices with .99

4. Try not to put items on the ground

5. Pick an odd time to start

6. Don't let in early birds

7. Make big readable signs and put up lots of them

8. Make a big pot of good coffee (or iced tea) and offer a cup to everyone - it's friendly and it's what they do in Kansas City, MO, which I thought was so sophisticated, oh, and they had donuts too.

9. Let your son out of the box

10. Please rate my instuctable


bowlingbride (author)2016-09-02

Having my first garage sale in 3 weeks. Our huge neighborhood has a "subdivision garage sale" day once a year. Since our street is fairly short a dead towards the back, bringing traffic in may be a problem on a normal Saturday. I won't be as prepared with a short lead time, so I'm looking at this first one as a learning experience. The bins, boxes and stacked items in my basement were going to be donated. The "have fun and meet people" sounds worth it in itself. Free coffee as a conversation starter? Genius!!!

Ninzerbean (author)bowlingbride2016-09-02

Good luck, that coffee idea is a great conversation starter, as is "Do you collect anything?".

AlicaF (author)2016-02-19

Because of this, I had a GREAT yardsale! Thanks so much!!

Ninzerbean (author)AlicaF2016-02-20

You are so welcome! Thank you.

Sweetds1 (author)2015-08-19

Awesome advice. Thank you!

Ninzerbean (author)Sweetds12015-08-20

You're welcome - good luck!

firefightermeyer (author)2015-01-09


PadiDiver33 (author)2012-07-25

This was very helpful! I have never held a yard sale before, and I have been collect for a few months now. I live on an island and it is very hard to come by a "good" yard sale. I want mine to be great! The free coffee idea is real good!

PadiDiver33 (author)PadiDiver332013-01-14

Actually had my yard sale this Saturday. Great sucess! Thank you for your tips! I got numerous compliments from the shoppers. Free coffee and doughnuts really sent it over the top! :)

Ninzerbean (author)PadiDiver332013-01-14

Oh that is great to hear! Thank you for sharing.

Ninzerbean (author)PadiDiver332012-07-25

I moved to an island too and they don't allow yard sales. So I guess I had my last one before I moved here, sad now that I realize that. But good luck to you!

powpowpow (author)2011-04-28

Hey this is pretty lovely!
We don't really have yard sales over here in the UK, a couple of american friends of mine had one when they moved back to the states after uni and i thought it was just a wonderful idea.

All hail the dawn of the Great British Yard Sale?!

Ninzerbean (author)powpowpow2011-04-29

You don't have yard sales? What do you do with all your unwanted junk? This is amazing to me that you guys don't have sales. Did your American friends have good luck with their sale? We have sections of the newspaper devoted to ads for weekend sales.

powpowpow (author)Ninzerbean2011-04-29

AMAZING! they did ok, mainly just friends selling to friends though, they managed to reduce the amount of stuff they had to ship to the US quite considrably. I have a big garden (by Northeast standards)...I think this yard sale lark sounds like the perfect way to break my hoarding habits.

Ninzerbean (author)powpowpow2011-04-29

If you truly don't have something like this going on - and here it is a culture in its own right - then you could make possibly quite a lot of money and have fun starting up a blog, tips for ads, how to write up signs, finding out if you need a permit, wow... if I lived there I would start up something - all these untapped homes full of generations of collectables and cool stuff.... maybe you could do what a lot of folks do here in that they have a central place like a church, where everyone brings their stuff to sell, they give a percentage to the facility, or a set fee, like $10. I started an annual one for my old neighborhood and we gave 20% to the association and the night before had a party where the "sales" were just open to neighbors and we had wine and snacks at every stop. I think it went for 3 years. Then I moved, as this 'ible makes clear I think.

powpowpow (author)Ninzerbean2011-04-29

Maybe you're onto something. We o have 2 odd little preserves, the Car Boot Sale (fill car with stuff, take car to prearranged site, unload goods onto a table and haggle like hell) and the Jumble sale (usually in aid of charity, at churches with lots of knitted fancies) but no yard sales.

I think bloggage is a definite if not to start up something new, a few big old posts on my own. I'll let you know how it goes! I'm so excited!

alibear0 (author)2011-03-16

This was the freakin funniest instructable ever... I think I peed my pants a little from laughing so hard in some spots. Very nice info, you rock!

Ninzerbean (author)alibear02011-03-16

Wow, Thanks!

AudSauce (author)2009-02-18

wow, i really want to go to your yard sale! id love to have my own, but alas, i have no yard.

doo da do (author)AudSauce2010-11-04

go for a trunk sale that mekes it portable

wats-a-username (author)AudSauce2010-08-06

"garage" sale ;P

wats-a-username (author)2010-08-06

do i rlly have to let my kid out of the box?!?!?!?

noahh (author)2010-08-04

Interesting ideas here. I frequent garage sales, and I've come to a few conclusions myself:
-People who are willing to haggle will make sales. -Garage sales tend to be way better when they are held to get rid of stuff, not make money. In my opinion, something at a garage sale shouldn't be much more than $10, unless there's a good reason.
-Describing individual items in the Craigslist ad helps bring people in, and even when it's gone, hopeful seekers will be there anyway and might buy something else.
-Someone should be at the garage sale, taking money and what-not. It is not fun to wait in the front yard for someone to come out or have to knock on the front door.

Just throwing in my two cents.

Ninzerbean (author)noahh2010-08-05

Yes, garage sales are better for the buyer when they are held to get rid of stuff but this 'ible was more about how to make the most from the sale you are having. Many folks go to sales just to buy stuff to sell at theirs, it is amusing to me to see the same stuff a week later at some else's sale. I have my sale to do 3 things - have fun, get rid of stuff (but more important than that, to know it is getting a new home), and make money.

I don't know if I have said this in the 'ible (it was my first one I wrote) but I make right around $1000 each year when I do this. It takes a lot of time to prepare the tags so that there is a small description and price. I thinks pricing things right makes all the difference - don't you hate it when things aren't priced at all the person is busy and you don't want to keep asking? I just leave usually.

Even a book, I will write a small note on the painter's tape saying if the book was a really great read - and it's only a dollar for hardbacks.

I never haggle with the prices because I want people to know that everyone is getting the best price and the person who buys 10 items is paying the same full price as listed, as the person buying one item. I always tell them it doesn't hurt to ask and I don't blame them but the prices are not made high to be brought down lower. 99.9% of the people leave my sale with a smile, a great deal, some coffee, or just had a great conversation and a human connection - I tend to talk a lot. I have even made lasting friends!

Thank you for your comments!

But you are right about sales being better when people are getting rid of stuff - those are the sales I love going to - but quite a few of those great deals are going to end up back at my sale in a few years when I tire of them.

jthangarcia (author)2010-01-18

This is really great advice. I was alsready planning on doing cookies, but the coffee idea sounds great. Thanks again for the tips!

jthangarcia (author)jthangarcia2010-02-04

just posted my first instructable. let me know what you think!

Ninzerbean (author)jthangarcia2010-01-18

My pleasure, even though I had sugar everyone just wanted 1/2 and 1/2 or black so it was pretty easy, I don't think it makes people buy stuff but it's a great ice breaker to start talking. Good luck, sell lots!

Lisa Fla (author)2009-02-04

My BIG question for you is: How did you get your hub and kids to assist. Mine refuse, no matter the bribe or punishment offered. Hub thinks it's too "white trash". Jerk.

Ninzerbean (author)Lisa Fla2009-02-04

With my son I let him keep half of what he makes on selling his own stuff. After all, I paid for it to begin with. This year I had him pick the star fruit on the tree and sell those for .99 each and he did very well. Another thought would be to have the kids pot plants up to sell, cuttings from the yard that will root. Here in FL we have a lot of plants that are great for that. It is sort of a white trash thing to some men - just like some men won't eat leftovers - look what they are missing! You'll have all the fun and all the money! I live in a very upscale neighborhood and I think rich people look for bargains more than anyone else. Just think of it as entertainment and making room and don't mind that they won't help. (it is a lot of work to get ready) I wish I had a better answer. This year I had 4 friends plus 2 of my sons friends join in to sell their stuff so besides the fun we had together they were all the help I needed.

Gage987 (author)Ninzerbean2009-06-26

"...I had him pick the star fruit on the tree and sell those for .99 each... " this gives me a thought lots of people can easily do projects from the site like and you could sell them people who have not laid eyes upon them before would love them and like to buy them and use for decor or kids toys

" I live in a very upscale neighborhood and I think rich people look for bargains more than anyone else." That's weird. My current neighbourhood is relatively uspscale and is surrounded by wealthy areas and I've had two garage sales here. Both times we put up tons of ads but we just didn't sell much of our second-hand stuff. BUT when we put the stuff that didn't sell in a garage sale in my hometown, which definately isn't upscale we sold almost everything, at the same price..

Gage987 (author)2009-06-26

lots of places have designated days a year when everybody puts on there walkin shoes and take turn going around the neighborhood while the rest of your "staff" host the sale

Kryptonite (author)2009-05-27

...Very nice of that kid to volunteer for the garage sale... "Got a spare kid? Put it in the box." Wait a second, I'd better not show dad this Instructable, Otherwise I may be the one in the box... :D

ezra zephyr (author)2009-03-05

the free coffee was a great idea!

Ninzerbean (author)ezra zephyr2009-03-05

It's really a good thing to say to folks besides "hi". "Would you like a cup of coffee?" is so friendly, it's sort of an icebreaker.

sebss (author)2009-02-26

I thoroughly enjoyed your tips check out my competing blog ideas on everyrthing from advertising to having a succesful garage sale I love Garage sales and think everybody should enter the wonderful quirky world that offers great and hard to find items at deep discounts. Check out garage sales tracker for great deals and tips as well

roverlandpark (author)2009-02-13

Great Instructable! I use many of these techniques for our garage sales. Just some thoughts to improve traffic: 1). Get your neighbors to have garage sales and advertise the fact. Garage Sale shoppers love the convenience of only having to get out of their car once for several sales. Plus, it allows your neighbors to be aware of the increased traffic even if they don't participate. 2). Definitely use signs with arrows (you want people to find your sale). Just make sure that your signs say the day, but not the date. You'll get to use them again. 3). Put your signs up on Thursday evening for a Saturday sale. People will see them on the way to and from work on Friday. More views equal more traffic. 4). Have lots of signs. I typically average 14. All at high traffic intersections with pointers. You want to make sure that if you lose a few to theft or code enforcement, that you still have high visibility for your sale. Also, ask your city government about what they do with confiscated signs. Often they throw them away. You may be able to go to the dumpster at city hall and repurpose the confiscated/discarded signs for your garage sale! 5). Use different sizes and colors for your signs. This allows you to have multiple signs at one intersection (think different corners). People will see one and not necessarily associate it with the other. 6). Open early. Look at when other garage sales are opening and open 30 or 60 minutes before the competition. People who go to garage sales often map out their routes based on location and start time. You want to be at the top of their list. 7). Have a free box. It's surprising how many people will buy something when they take something from the box. Think "Free Gift with Purchase" in reverse. 8). Have a limited time for your garage sale. After all, your time is valuable. When you close early, you may see people come at the last minute to clean you out. You need to get rid of the stuff, they can help. Also, it helps to place things at half-price during the last hour. You don't need the stuff and you most likely made most of your money earlier. 9). Donate your left-overs to a local charity and don't ask for a receipt. You need to get rid of the stuff. Do you really want to risk an audit for a few bucks? 10). Retrieve your signs immediately after your sale. You'll get to use them again and people will associate your garage sale with your signs. Also, you'll keep people from grumbling about littering their community with garage sale signs. 11). Weatherize your signs. I like to use my signs again and again. I just use clear packaging tape on the sign. Start at the top and work your way down with overlapping layers. It should repel most water (just like shingles would) 12). Purge regularly. If you don't have a strong emotional attachment to an item and/or you haven't used it in six months, put it in the garage sale. If it's gathering dust, it's not useful. Besides, do you really want your children throwing your stuff in a dumpster after you die? I'm sure there's more, but that about covers it. Like I said, this was a great instructable. BTW, while I do have multiple garage sales every year, I buy a lot of stuff at garage sales. you can't beat the prices and it's a great way to re-use stuff.

jimmyjamm (author)2009-02-05

This makes a sale simple-and fun! Can't wait to organise my first one soon...

davee52uk (author)2009-02-05

In the UK we get everybody together to sell stuff like this. They are called car boot sales, because the stuff used to be sold from car boots (trunks). They are usually on Sat or Sun mornings in the Summer. I have got loads of great stuff from them - just about all my fishing gear.

darus67 (author)2009-02-04

One more thing about signage:<br/><br/>USE ARROWS<br/><br/>If I'm driving down the street trolling for sales and I see a sign at the corner of Maple & Grant that says:<br/><br/>SALE<br/>123 4th St<br/><br/>Odds are I have no idea where 4th St is and I'm not going to bother hunting for it.<br/><br/>If I see a sign that says:<br/><br/>BIG SALE<br/>3 blocks<br/>====><br/>123 4th St<br/><br/>you can bet your bippy that I'm gonna turn.<br/>

Ninzerbean (author)darus672009-02-04

Absolutely. I live in a town based on a grid so everyone knows exactly where each house is located just by the street and the SE NE NW etc designation, the numbers tell us how many blocks from our two cross streets that divide the grid. For any other town you have a great point. Thanks for mentioning it.

Kush_Slayer (author)2009-02-04

i love garage sales i found a laptop from 1988 full working no harddrive for free, an old handheld game for $.25 that i can sell on ebay for around $50, another laptop from 1996 or 1997 full working for free, a really nice joystick(one of the fancy flight ones) for $1, among other things

BeanGolem (author)2009-02-04

My best find was an old Brother sewing machine (98% working order) for 20 bucks. And it has orange accents.

Ninzerbean (author)2009-02-03

Wow, another garage sale connoisseur! I would love to see your Instructable one day, I am sure I would learn a lot from your ideas and strategies. As far as my .99 idea, well, it's hard to argue with success.

Lisa Fla (author)Ninzerbean2009-02-04

I like to price everything to round out to quarters. If it's not worth 25 cents, make it 2 for 25 cents. For things that aren't selling quickly, put up a sign offering 4 for the price of 2, etc. Best trick - "grab bags". People can't resist trying their luck on a mystery. Use paper grocery bags or lunch bags. Set up a whole tabletop or box full of them. Make sure there is at least one "treasure" inside. Have some for kids, too. As you can tell, my priority is to clear out my stuff with no guilt and with a nice wad of cash to boot.

jswartzell (author)2009-02-03

Wow! What great instructable... I always thought having a yard sale would be a lot of work for little profit. But by following this guideline, only a fool will walk away without a wad of cash. To the author, let me know when your next sale is, I want to be first in line.

erich schenk (author)2009-02-03

i think these instructions are so good i'm going to have a sale this weekend and i live on an island....hope people can swim....i have lots of stuff that floats

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