How to Organize a Garage Sale Like a Boss

Jen SmithMake Money, Personal Finance16 Comments

yard sale bowls

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I love garage sales. There are so many good deals, nice people, and interesting items that give you a peek into your neighbor’s lives. I’m no professional but I’ve been known to pull over for an impromptu browse when I see a neon sign.

With our love for all things saving and making money, Travis and I thought it’d be a great idea to help my mom host a garage sale to help with her upcoming move. I realized quickly that there are more steps to organize a garage sale than I thought.

So now that I’m a pro after hosting one garage sale in my adult life, here are the things that worked best for us and the things you don’t have to waste your time on.

Deciding the Details of Your Garage Sale

There’s always a lot going on where I live so I wanted to pick a day with as little happening as possible. It would suck to plan this whole thing to find out it conflicts with a major event. I used the “Events” tab on Facebook, you can input a date and it’ll show you upcoming events.

Disclaimer: If your only available day conflicts with a big event, don’t worry too much. Serious garage sale shoppers stop at nothing to get their fix.

The other important detail is day and time. We decided to hold ours on a Saturday from 8am-5pm. We held our sale in a fenced-in backyard so we could set up the night before and minimize work in the morning.

yard sale

our sale on and poppin!

I read that serious buyers would show up early and without fail, at 7am they were there. We were mostly set up so we just let them in.

The morning was the busiest. We were steady until 1:00 then really quiet for 45 minutes. We had a late rush at 1:45 then it was steady again for another hour and a half. It started sprinkling at 4 so we packed everything up a little early.

I’m glad we decided to start at 8, I couldn’t imagine people showing up at 5 or 6am. There is not enough coffee in the world for me to be ok with that. If I could do it over I probably would’ve ended at 1. The last rush of people was nice but not worth the sitting around.

How to Advertise Your Garage Sale

The first step to a successful sale is good advertising. Our first step was to set up a Facebook event and invite all our local friends. We wanted all our friends to come to our sale but we did it more for two reasons.

1. Have Multiple Sellers

We were inspired by another sale that had six or seven different people selling in one place. Having a “multi-family” sale not only means more items but also a larger variety.

People with different interests accumulate different stuff and if you don’t jive with one seller’s items you might like what another seller has to offer.

Financial guru J.D. Roth suggests theming your sale to set it apart. He looked at what he had most of and listed his sale as a “Geek Garage Sale.” You might think you’ll drive people away by niching down but you actually make your sale more attractive.

Multiple sellers mean more exposure, we set up the Facebook event asking for people to sell with us and we got two responses. We then asked those people to share the event with their friends.

garage explosion

probably no room for multiple sellers here

2. Coordinate With Another Garage Sale

Sales that happen on the same day aren’t competition, they’re advertising! I discovered this one by accident and it by far brought us the most traffic. A volunteer at my work had planned a sale for the same day as ours. She was nearby so I suggested we print out fliers for each other’s sales and hand them out to people as they left.

The flier was a simple half-sheet of paper with the sale address, times, and highlights of what we were selling. This is a great option for people who want to host a multi-family sale but don’t have space. And I’m sure if none of your friends want to host you could easily find nearby sales on Craigslist and email the seller to set something up.

3. Post Your Garage Sale Online

Craigslist is where all the serious buyers and sellers go. I posted on Monday and then another with a rephrased title on Thursday.

I also Googled “garage sale” and posted to every site that popped up on the first page. Most of the garage sale listing sites are in the same family of websites which made filling out the details easy (thanks auto-fill!).

Preparing Your Sale

Go through the boxes of stuff you haven’t seen in years before you put them out. My husband was going through one I’d put out and found a copy of my social security card, I had not intended to sell my identity.

And if you can’t put everything out the night before like we did, you should do as much as possible to limit your stress on the morning of and have time for more coffee.

1. Garage Sale Pricing

We used a combination of methods for pricing. For clothes and items we had a lot of I made a sign with individual and bulk prices, I bought price stickers and put them on other items. A lot of stuff we left blank. When people asked how much we either yelled out a price or asked “How much you offering?”

If we’d had a smaller sale I wouldn’t have priced anything. When people name their own price they’re more likely to buy the item. The nice thing about putting prices on some stuff was that I didn’t have to talk as much. Introverts will appreciate pricing items individually.

I found pricing suggestions on Angie’s List and found that people will haggle you down whether the price is fair or not, so best practice is to price high.

beanie babies

People will pay $1 each for beanie babies

2. Garage Sale Signs

I bought signs to stick in the ground and neon cardstock to post on poles, fences, etc. I thought four signs would be enough but my paranoid husband thought we could put up every sign we had. He was right.

It was the neon signs that attracted the most attention. People saw the white signs in the ground but they got to us by the bright ones. Our signs just said “Yard Sale” with the address at the bottom and an arrow in the middle pointing the way to treasure land.

If you can, have someone check your signs midway through the sale. One of ours fell and was pointing AWAY from our sale.

The Day of Your Sale

First, give yourself more time to post the signs than you think you’ll need. We had a debate on which illegal places would be least illegal to post our signs. Every city has their rules so check yours to be sure.

I posted a Facebook Live video on my profile giving a tour of the sale. I called attention to some of the more enticing items and introduced all our sellers.

Here are some essentials that kept our ship sale-ing (lololol):

Chill music– It’s too early in the morning for all that hip hop, play something inviting that will keep the people browsing and your neighbors from yelling at you.
Fanny pack– Keep your money close and your fanny pack closer.
Free section– There are some things that no one will buy at your yard sale, doesn’t mean you can’t put them out, but don’t waste your time pricing them.

With a few hours left in the sale, I started posting big ticket items that didn’t sell to Facebook’s buy/sell area. By doing that I was able to secure a home for almost everything I posted.

I posted midday thinking people would come while we were still selling but nobody could make it until the next day so you could probably wait until your sale is over to post. Warning: responding to all those Facebook messages was almost more tiring than the actual sale.

After Your Sale

Take down the signs so people don’t continue to show up at your house, delete your Craigslist and other ads so people don’t roll by your house trying to get free stuff, and count your money!

We took name brand clothes that didn’t sell to Plato’s Closet and made $15 more. And we continued to post big-ticket items to Facebook buy/sell.

Bring leftovers to a thrift store or call one to see if you can have your stuff picked up. At the end of the day we split the proceeds with my mom and brought home $200 each, that’s without selling any furniture.

For the amount of work we put (and didn’t put) into it, I’m glad we did it. Purging is so cathartic and to get some spending money in exchange is just a bonus.

Tell me: What do you think about garage sales? Do you have any interesting garage sale stories or tips to share?


Run a yard sale

16 Comments on “How to Organize a Garage Sale Like a Boss”

  1. Thanks for this list! We’re moving, so we’re going to have a garage sale in the next month – it’ll be good to have your list of steps to remind me what I need to o to make sure people come buy all my stuff!

  2. Great tips on this list! I had never thought about partnering with someone else was holding a sale on the same day, but it sounds like it really worked out for you sharing leaflets around. I will definitely try that one for next time if I can find someone else selling on the same day!

  3. When we moved we sold all of our belongings through Facebook groups, and while it worked – it was a pain having people coming through at random times and all through the week. I think a garage sale is a great idea – one day, everything must go!

  4. I’ve got a growing pile of discarded items that I’ve been debating whether to have a garage sale or just haul it off to Good Will. I love how you’ve laid out the process – step by step!

    1. Thanks Lori! You can always start with Facebook Marketplace to see if your items are worth selling. Good luck!

  5. Great tips! We are having a garage sale this weekend. Its a neighborhood sale, so all the advertising is done for us, but we want to attract as many people as possible to our driveway! I like your idea of music!

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  8. We usually find that we make less than minimum wage at our garage sales, but are happy to see the stuff we think is useful go to a new home (someone else’s). Lately we’ve just been heading to the thrift store first thing to save time. Do you find that the amount you made was worth the time spent?

    1. We found that t was. I think it’s all in marketing your sale. Posting pictures of useful items to get interest peaked before the sale then hosting a shorter sale (like 5 hours) so you’re not wasting your time. Most sales are made earlier in the day.

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