How to Have an Awesome & Profitable Yard Sale, Part 2 (Think like a Retailer)

How to have an Awesome & Profitable Yard Sale, Part 2 (Think like a Retailer)


Garage Sale

A Nicely Set-up Yard Sale (picture from

First, I’d like to apologize for being late on Part 2. Honestly, my own yard sale took much more time than I had planned (I was selling a sizable vintage collection for a neighbor, in addition to my own things, and 3 other friends joining the sale) and frankly, I wanted to take a day or two off to recover 😉 As I said in Part 1, hosting a yard sale is a lot of work! So without further ado, here is Part 2.


This is your most time-consuming task, but well worth taking your time to do well. Whenever possible, do it the day before your sale (or earlier) Helpful Hint: However long you think it will take you to set up, triple the estimate. I’ve been doing this for years, and it still almost always takes longer than I think it will.

1. Use tables and furniture to display your wares. Nothing looks worse (and sells less) than items thrown on the ground. Even the nicest things look cheap and crappy on the ground. Don’t do it. Borrow tables if you need to. The same goes with clothing racks. Clothes look best on racks. Hang everything you can on hangers.

2. Cover tables with tablecloths, old sheets, etc., anything to make them look a little nicer.

3. Organize your wares by category. Put kitchen with kitchen, clothes with clothes, etc.

4. Merchandising. Think like a retail store and display things neatly and place like with like. Use risers (these can simply be stacked boxes, anything to add different height levels to place your items on) Plug in and turn on tvs, computers, and lamps. Make it look like a place you’d like to shop.

5. Atmosphere. A little background music sets the mood, just be sure and play something with wide appeal. (no Death Metal or Gansta Rap 😉

6. If you are doing the sale in your garage, remove or hide anything that is not for sale. If you can’t, then at least put a sign up that reads “Not For Sale”. If you don’t that will be the one thing everyone wants to buy.

The Night & Morning Before your Sale

Be sure you have all your ducks in a row. This is probably when you’ll be putting up your signs, be sure and give yourself plenty of time to do this (see Part 1) Remember to put up your “All Sales Final” & “Cash Only” signs where you will be completing sales. Have your change, (and fanny pack) ready; your calculator, pens, ledger, bags and boxes good to go, and do a final walk-through of your sale to make sure everything is priced and looks good. I usually prep my coffee and breakfast before I go to bed as well, so I don’t have to get up too early. Then, on the morning of, you can relax knowing everything is done, grab your coffee, and open your sale when you are ready.

Talking to People

You may think this goes without saying, but be nice. Smile. Engage people and say hello, but don’t be pushy. There’s nothing worse than going to a yard sale and having the hosts telling you the history of every item (without being asked), or telling you why their stuff is so great, etc. I usually leave those sales quickly. No one likes a pushy salesperson! When people arrive at your sale, just smile and say something like “Hello, thanks for stopping by. Let me know if you have any questions”. On the flip-side, if people are rude to you (believe me, this happens) remember, it’s your home, and you can ask them to leave.


Most of the people who come to your sale are great, but unfortunately you will need to be concerned about safety. (I have been ripped off more than once at my own sales) Here are a few things to be aware of:

1. Do not host a yard sale alone. You will need help, and like the saying goes, there’s safety in numbers. Thieves will target people alone. (besides, it’s a lot more fun with friends 😉

2. Keep the money ON YOUR PERSON at all times. Do not use a cash box, or anything that can easily be separated from you. When you build up some cash, go lock it up in your house or in your car. Don’t count the money or take it out in public.

3. Never Ever Ever let anyone in your house. “Can I use your bathroom?”(or “can my kid use your bathroom”) is an old trick to get in your house to “case” it or pocket valuables. Politely point them to the nearest public restroom. I don’t care if they are acting like they’re about to pee on your lawn, don’t fall for it. Ever. For any reason. Got it?

4. Don’t let people “help” you add up their purchases, or rush you. One scam that I have fallen victim to was a group of  “shoppers” (thieves) that come to your sale, one person buys something small with a $100 bill, while you are trying to get the change, he is changing his mind or trying to add or subtract something while his partners are distracting you by asking questions in the middle of it. Don’t let this happen. Firmly say “one person at a time” or “wait” and do not allow yourself to be rushed. This is another instance where not being alone at your sale is key (when this happened to me years ago, I was alone at the sale. They made off with most of my money and some merchandise) Take your time, do not allow people to push or rush you. Also, when someone hands you a bill and you are making change, keep their bill in view (but in your hand or on your person) until the transaction is complete, so they can’t say “I gave you a $20” when they really gave you a $10. And finally, don’t take checks.

5. Watch the little stuff. Keep all small and/or valuable items (like jewelry) near you so you can keep an eye on them. Thieves like to pocket small things. Also, watch people’s bags, and if someone buys purses or bags of yours, always check inside the bags. It is a very common trick to place other items in the bag and “forget” to tell you about it when they pay. (This happens at MOST of my sales).


Your sale is over, you’ve got a pocket full of cash, and you’re probably more than a little tired. There are sale left-overs strewn across your lawn. What now? Time to clean up. First step, lock up your cash in the house. Most people donate their items to a charity such as Goodwill or Salvation Army. (this is what I usually do). If this is your choice, you’ll need to box it all up and drive it to their donation center (check online for the center nearest you) Some people will box up their leftovers and save them till the next sale (I always think I’ll do this, but by the time the sale is done I’m over it, and just want everything the frick out of my garage! 😉 or you may want to give some of the items to friends. Some people will just put their leftovers out by the dumpster for anyone to take, but if you do this, be sure and take care of any mess left behind. And finally, your last task, take down all your signs. Be responsible, don’t contribute to litter and urban blight. I know you’re tired, just get it done. (This is honestly my most hated task. At this point in the day usually all I want is to relax with a cocktail or take a nap, but I kick myself in the butt and do it)

OK, if I haven’t scared you too much, you are now fully prepped to have your own Awesome & Profitable Yard Sale.  Go forth, de-clutter, have fun, and make some cash. Still have questions? Ask me in the comments section below.

How to Have An Awesome & Profitable Yard Sale, Part 1: Organize & Prep (Think like a Shopper)

It’s that time of year again…YARD SALE TIME! I hold a Yard Sale every year. (my annual sale will be on June 1st) With all the yard sale & thrift store shopping I do, I’m always “trading-up” my things, redecorating…and accumulating. This is my yearly “Purge”. With a life-time of yard sales on both sides of the table under my belt, I’m here to pass on my hard-earned selling wisdom in this 2-Part Series…


How to Have an Awesome and Profitable Yard Sale, Part 1: Organize & Prep (think like a shopper)

1. The first step is to Pick a Date. Be prepared, yard sales are a lot of work, and take time. Unless you have already gathered your goodies to sell, pick a date at least 2-3 weeks in the future. Believe me, you need that time to clean out your crap and get ready. Saturdays are the best days for a sale. Some people like to run 2-day sales, but not me. Most people are out shopping on Saturdays so that’s when I do it. I will sometimes do another sale the following Saturday if I have a lot of leftovers. Check the calendar, and don’t plan your sale on a major holiday weekend (many people go out of town).

2. Invite friends and neighbors to join your sale. I say this with a caveat. In general, more stuff & more sales = more traffic & more money. (ie: stating “Multi-Family Sale” or “Block Sale” brings more people to shop) However, this can also be a pain in the ass. I always invite a few friends to join my sales (There are 4 of us this year) but I only ask those I know will follow “the Rules”, which are: All their items must be cleaned, priced, at my home before set-up, and the friend must be present for the duration of the sale. (this makes your sale more fun, too!) You can add your own “rules” if you like, but these are the most important. If you decide not to invite friends to join the sale, at least let all your immediate neighbors know the date and time of your sale as a courtesy.

3. Purge! Go through every nook and cranny of your home and pick what you want to part with. Get some big boxes and go at it. Two boxes per room is good if you have a lot of clearing out to do: one for Yard Sale items, and one for Trash. One room at a time, one drawer at a time, one shelf at a time, take any item you no longer need, no longer use, or no longer like and put it in the “For Sale” box. Anything broken, stained, missing pieces or just plain worthless goes in the “Trash” box. Do this for every room in the house. You’ll be amazed how good it feels to get rid of stuff! Now toss the “Trash” boxes, it’s time to organize your sale stuff.

4. Go through your “For Sale” items and Clean Everything. Clean items sell better. Way better. It’s worth your time. FYI one of my favorite cleaning tools is the Magic Eraser. These things are little white miracles of clean. They remove coffee stains of cups in a snap, grunge off pots and pans, shine up most plastics and much more. (just be sure and test for colorfastness in an inconspicuous spot if you are unsure). Windex-up your glass & mirrors and get everything shiny and pretty. Also, go through all clothes pockets, and drawers, etc. in any furniture you are selling. Chances are you’ll find some cash. If anything you are selling has small parts or manuals, put them in a ziplock bag and tape it to the item. Now it’s time to…

5. Price it!* (see section on pricing at the end of this list) This is VERY IMPORTANT. Yes, I know it’s time-consuming, but it’s crucial. A priced item is a sold item. Believe me, if you don’t price everything, people will be asking you every 30-seconds “How much is this?” How much is this”? It’s annoying as hell and will turn your Fun Sale into an I-Wanna-Run Sale. Besides, people don’t like to ask! They’d just assume not buy anything if they have to ask a stranger about it. I’ve been going to yard sales all my life, and I HATE asking. Just shut up and price it, all of it. I promise, you’ll be glad you did. You can get packages of yard sale tags at most grocery stores these days, as well as office supply stores. Be sure and annotate anything special about the item as well, such as the year on vintage items, where it came from if that’s important, or any issues the item might have. (always be honest!)

6. Figure out WHERE you’ll have your sale. I always set up my sale in the garage, for a couple reasons. One, I can completely set up the sale ahead of time and not have a “mad scramble” to set up morning of the sale. Two, I don’t have to be concerned with “Early Birds” (more on those in Part 2) Let me tell you, it is AWESOME to be able to leasurely get up the morning of the sale, make my coffee, and just walk out to the garage and open the door at the appointed time) If a garage is not an option for you, try your best to close off the area of your yard where you will have the sale. Use caution tape and stakes if you have to, with “NO ENTRY BEFORE ___am” signs. It is nearly impossible to get properly set up with people coming and grabbing stuff out of your boxes and getting in your way before you are ready (more on this step in Part 2.) Think through what you’ll need to display your wares. Lots of tables is best, so borrow them if you have to. A clothing rack is great if you have lots of clothes (and they WILL sell best when displayed “like clothes”, not strewn over a fence or on the lawn. If you don’t have access to a rack, find sturdy poles or pipes and hang them to display clothes on. I often use old doors on sawhorses as table, with old sheets over them so they look inviting. In addition to tables and racks, you’ll need…

7. Supplies! Get your supplies ready. You’ll need:

a. Fanny Pack*

b. Calculator

c. Ledger (or large pad of paper) & pens/pencils

d. Bags, boxes and newspaper (for purchases)

e. Extension cord (or easy place to plug in electrical items)

f. CASH**

g. Help (a spouse, friend, whoever…friends don’t let friends have yard sales alone.

h. Staple gun (with staples) and packing tape (for putting up signs)

* A Fanny Pack is a MUST. Yes, I know they’re out of fashion, (and I agree, they are hideous!) but o so necessary for a yard sale. Do Not, I repeat, DO NOT use a cash box! Keep all the money on you at all times. It’s way too easy for someone to walk off with your cash box. And don’t just shove it in your pocket, it’s too difficult to keep track of that way.

** Cash. Most people will show up with $20 bills fresh from the ATM, so you’ll need to have plenty of $1’s, $5’s and $10’s on hand, about $80 in change is good. If you have items priced under $1, you’ll need quarters, dimes and nickles as well (honestly I don’t do anything under $1, it’s just more hassle than it’s worth in my opinion)

8. SIGNS. Oh the signs. Critical to your Yard Sale success, and I’ve seen soooo many bad ones. The most important thing to remember is that they must be easily read from a moving car. No one is going to stop to read your sign. It must be BIG, NEAT and CONCISE, and must include at least 3 key things: What, Where and When. Simply, “YARD SALE, SATURDAY JUNE 1st 9am-3pm 1234 SPRING ST.” in BIG, CLEAN lettering. Don’t clutter it up with a lot of small words. Remember, must be read from moving vehicle! Every time I go out yard sale-ing, I see tiny signs printed on 8 x 10 paper in small type that no one can read. I don’t go to these sales because I can’t read where they are! Think like a shopper, and plan it out. A few more notes on signs: Have them all look the same (same color, same lettering, etc.). I’m a fan of those big florescent boards you see for sale at the grocery store. Get all the same color, it’s important to help people find you. Have fun with them! Make them distinctive, use bright colors, add balloons or whatever if you like, just make sure they are easy to read. This is what my signs look like this year:


They are 16″ x 20″ , and honestly should probably be even bigger. (I am lucky enough to have a friend with a print shop do these up for me cheap.) I also have a bunch of arrows that I will attach to the signs when I put them up. It’s easier than drawing them on the signs and trying to remember which sign goes where and in which direction. Also, while you’re making your sale signs, make a couple more that say “ALL SALES FINAL” and “CASH ONLY”. Then you’ll need to…

9. Figure Out WHERE to put up signs. You’ll want to put up signs at either end of your street, and at every major intersection and high-traffic area near your home, in every traffic direction. The more signs the better, always (I’ll be putting up 15 signs, but you could always do more than that). Put up your signs the night before the sale (you’ll have enough to do the morning of ) where they can be easily seen and high up. You spent all that time making great signs, so you want everyone to see them, right? Think from the point of view of the cars passing by. Be sure and take note of where you put your signs, because you’ll be taking them down right after the sale.

10. Additional Advertising. The local newspaper is a great place to place an ad, though you will have to pay for it of course. In my experience, Craigslist is the BEST place for ads. I’ll do a Craigslist ad for my sale 3 days prior, 2 days prior, the day before and morning of the sale. Make your Craigslist ad as detailed as possible. This is the place to talk about all the great stuff you are selling, and add pictures! People love pictures. Many people are looking for specific items, so list as much as possible. And again, be sure and clearly state WHAT, WHERE & WHEN! (Note: Do Not put your phone number in the ad. Trust me. AND state at the top of your ad: “NO EARLY BIRDS”. More on why this is important in Part 2) FLYERS. I print out a few flyers and put them up about 5 days before my sale on local community boards, coffee shops, anywhere it is appropriate. I add little pull-off tabs with the date and address at the bottom of the flyer. Are you on Facebook and Twitter? Post about your sale! I even create an invite on Facebook for my sale (you can see it here:

*PRICING. This is the most challenging part for most people, and a highly debated subject. Remember, you want to get rid of stuff. A Yard Sale is not a retail store or even Ebay. People expect Big Bargains. There are many garage sale pricing guides online (and some are better than others) but a good general rule of thumb is 10-15 cents on the dollar, unless the item is Vintage, Antique, Collectable, New with Tags, or Very Special/Unique. Even then, you can only get away with about 35% of retail. If you are unsure about your items, research the Final Sale Prices on Ebay, and price your items about 20% lower than that. Note: If you need to get more $$, then list it on Ebay instead of selling it at your yard sale. There are a few more exceptions to the 10-15% rule, namely books and clothes. Most books should be .50-$1 for paperbacks (depending on size and condition) and $1-3 for hardbacks, and clothes should be AT MOST 10% of retail if they are in new condition. CDs and DVDs should be $2-4. Price larger items with a mind towards bargaining. People like to haggle at yard sales, so for instance, if you want $10 for something, price it at $12: if you want $20, price it at $25, etc. Lastly, if you have these items, DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME cleaning and pricing, just recycle them: old tube TVs, VCRs, & cassette players; and anything stained, ripped, damaged/broken.

Remember, you want to attract as many people as possible to your sale, so Spread the Word as much as possible, and Think like a Shopper in all your sale-prep tasks. Next week in Part 2, we’ll talk about how to display your wares to get the biggest bucks, what to do the day before and morning of your sale, how to talk to people, safety, and what to do with the leftovers post-sale.


Have more questions? Ask me in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them in Part 2.