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How to Prep for a Yard Sale

A cardboard yard sale sign stuck to the side of a mailbox.
Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock

Yard sales are a great way to make some money on stuff you no longer want, but poor planning yields poor results. Here’s how to host a successful sale.

It takes a lot of preparation to set up a yard sale, and it isn’t always easy (or free). As the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money. But you already spent money on the stuff you’re now trying to sell.

Before you change your mind about having a yard sale, let’s look at what you can do to get ready to host the rummage sale of the year.

Gather Your Junk

Before you even decide when to have your sale, make sure you have enough stuff to sell. If you only have one box of stuff to get rid of, you might be better off saving time and dropping it at a thrift store. But read on before you decide.

Just because you only have one box worth of stuff now doesn’t mean there isn’t more you could get rid of. Walk around your home and start to declutter. Ask other members of your household if they have anything to sell. Multi-family yard sales are popular, so talk to friends, neighbors, and relatives and see if anyone wants to team up with you.

Call the City

Before you set dates for your sale, find out if you need any permits where you live. Some cities do require a permit for yard sales and have rules for how many days in a row you can host one.

If a permit is required and you don’t get one, your sale might get shut down. You could also be fined.

Pick Your Dates

Once you have enough stuff to make a yard sale worthwhile, pick a weekend to have it. Depending on where you live, late spring and early fall are generally best, so you can avoid cold weather and the possibility of snow. If you host your sale too late in summer, the heat might keep people away.

It’s also impossible to predict what the weather will be like on the days of your sale. It’s a good idea to have a canopy or tarp on hand in case it rains or storms.

Advertise Your Sale

Once you have your products to sell and your dates, it’s time to advertise. If nobody knows about your sale and you live on a side street, your yard sale will be a ghost town.

A multi-prong approach to advertising is best. List your sale online where the dedicated yard salers can find you and use good signage the day of (more on that in a moment).

For a full rundown on how best to advertise your yard sale, check out our guide.

Stock Up on Supplies

Folding tables with clothes on them at a yard sale.

In addition to advertising, you might have to spend a little money on supplies. You need tables to set your sale items on, a table you can use to collect your cash, and some kind of cashbox to put it in. We recommend you keep your money on you in a fanny pack or a work apron that has pockets. You can sit on any old folding chair.

If you don’t have tables, try to borrow some from friends and family instead of renting or buying them. Get price tags and a marker (pen-ink is too light and hard to read), so you can price everything.

You also need change for your sale. Even if you don’t have any items priced less than a quarter, have some nickels and dimes on hand, in case you do some haggling to get rid of all that stuff. Start with at least $100 worth of change. You’ll need ones, fives, and quarters the most.

Start Pricing and Sorting

If you want to be super-efficient, you can price everything ahead of time. That’s not a must, though. You can price things as you set them out on the first day of your sale. Pricing properly is an art form, but the most important thing is to price things to sell.

If you can, set up and take down your sale each day. This protects you from theft and your items from stormy weather. Each day of your sale, give yourself an hour to set up.

Group similar items together. For example, put women’s clothes on one table and kids’ clothes on another. Keep all the breakables on a sturdy table off to the side. Instead of stacking them, it’s best to display books in a box with their spines up, so people can easily read them.

Put larger items on the ground or along the driveway. Things like magazine racks and small filing cabinets take up table space that’s best for smaller items.

You want your shoppers to have enough room to browse, and come and go easily. So, try to set up your tables and racks so they leave enough room for at least two streams of traffic.

Put Out Your Signs

If you set up your signs the day before your sale, people know to come back the next day. Make sure you include the dates and times of your sale on your signs. Unless your city requires it, you don’t have to include your address on your sign; the street name and an arrow in your direction are enough.

You can also put your signs up the first day before you open your sale. Put up the one in your yard when your sale opens.

Be a Good Salesperson

Greet customers when they arrive, be friendly, and smile. Tell people more about the items they look at and be ready to answer their questions.

Hold off on the haggling until the right time. Not all garage and yard sale shoppers are hagglers. However, if someone seems really interested in an item but keeps putting it down, don’t be afraid to ask them to make an offer.

Save the serious haggling for the last day of the sale, though, when you’re desperate to get rid of what’s left.

Ditch Your Leftovers

Don’t hold on to any leftovers until next year. Seriously—don’t do it. You dragged them out to sell because you didn’t want them. If you drag them back into the house, it just clutters the place up all over again. Leftover yard sale junk is such a problem, we wrote a whole guide about it.

The point of having a sale is to get rid of all your junk. So, lower your prices on the last day or near the end of your sale. Bundle stuff together and offer discounts.

When the sale is over, give leftovers away to anyone who wants them or donate them to a thrift store, or a homeless or battered women’s shelter. Many thrift stores give you a donation slip you can use at tax time to save some money.

If all else fails, leave the leftover items on the curb or the side of the road with a “Free” sign. Someone (or the trash collector) might just take them.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »
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