How to host a successful yard sale/garage sale.
Yard sales can be a real pain in the argus and for some folks they just aren’t worth it. I usually make around $1000 at my bi-annual(ish) yard sale, so for me, it’s worth the aggravation. Lots of folks have asked me why my yard sales are so successful and how it’s possible to make as much as I do at them. I’m gonna let you in on all of my tried and true tips! (Tip one: It helps if you have cool stuff. 😉)
There’s lots of time left this summer to host your own sale and get rid of all that schwag that you don’t love anymore, so let’s get to it!
- Get organized. Start gathering stuff and planning for your sale about a month before you want to have it. If you don’t have enough stuff to fill at least 6 tables, get your neighbours and friends involved. Almost everyone has stuff they can get rid of. Many people will see a piddly yard sale and simply drive past it, so the bigger the better.
- You’ll need supplies: price stickers, markers, signs or poster board and stakes for advertising, tables, tablecloths (actually important!), a box of handy-wipes is a plus, a float of about $50-100 in change, plastic ziplock baggies in a couple of different sizes (good for jewelry and other small items and keeps everything neat) change rollers for after the sale and a cash box or a money belt of some kind. You can buy all of this stuff at any dollar store.
- Dust/clean everything you’re including in the sale.
- Price EVERYTHING, ideally well before you’re setting up your tables. You will 100% NOT have time to price stuff as you put it out. Yes, it takes some work, but most people won’t ask the price and you’ve just lost a ton of sales. I often invite some friends over to help me price stuff about a week before I host the sale. They get wine and munchies and first dibs on stuff, I get much appreciated help! It’s okay to have cheaper items thrown in bins marked with a price (ie. everything in this box 25 cents each!) If you’re about to price something for a nickel, consider putting it in a free bin.
- As you price stuff, try to keep like items together. Dishes in one box, books in another, etc. This will make set up day much easier.
- Arrange for tables. Borrow what you need to. You can set boards across chairs, use your patio furniture, sawhorses and boards, the kitchen table, crates, tv tables, card tables…gather as many display surfaces as you can. Buy cheap, solid colour vinyl table cloths from a dollar store or white sheets at a thrift store to cover the tables. The cohesion really makes a HUGE difference in displaying the items, which makes people buy more stuff.
- Set up a plan for what you’re going to do with the stuff that DOESN’T sell. Is there a donation centre nearby? Are there any orginazations you support that are accepting donations for their own yard sale, or who donate it to those in need?
- Be ruthless in your pricing. This is stuff you don’t need anymore, so aim to get rid of it. People will buy way more of your stuff if the prices are great. If you have some really rare or unusual items for sale, check to see if you can find similar items online, and price a little lower. Occasionally I’ll have an item still unused and in its box, and when I do, I find the item online, print out the ad/price for it and stick it on the box. Then I’ll price whatever I’m getting rid of at 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of new.
- Leave a little leeway in your pricing so that you can wheel and deal.
- I usually make a sign for items like books (ie. 25 cents for small paperbacks, $1 trade paperbacks, $2 hardcovers or as priced!) Then I price any rare, recent or huge books individually, and try to keep those in an accessible spot near the other books. CDs and DVDs I usually price in the same manner. Very new/recent dvds I’ll price up to $8, but most DVDs I’ll price at $3-$5. CDs I usually do between $1-4. There’s not as much of a market for CDs and DVDs now, so take what you can get.
- Make big, bright signs! I use neon poster board with huge black block letters. I make about 6-8 double sided signs (One piece of poster board folded in half makes a decent, visible size plus folding it over makes it sturdier.) I put these at either end of my street and then at the main thoroughfares on the busiest street near my house.
- My signs usually read “Yard Sale!” (Or “Garage Sale”) followed by the address, date and time. Add arrows as necessary. You may want to leave the date off entirely, then you can reuse your signs next time. Make sure to remove them when your sale is over!
- Don’t let your kids make the signs, unless they have unbelievable penmanship. A crappy sign done on a piece of cardboard in illegible crayon-scrawl is not doing you any favours. Get kids to help by having them make signs for their own sale table, where they call sell their own stuff. (Help them with pricing.) Kids can also sell lemonade or freezies. It’ll make ’em happy, they’ll make a few bucks and it’ll lend to the atmosphere of your sale.
- While you’re sign-making, make one that says “Early birds pay double. I’m serious.” Or if you’re feeling generous tell them they can help set up tables or do some other work for you.
- Post about your yard sale on free sites like Craigslist or Kijiji.
- I always create an open event listing on facebook, and invite friends. I also encourage them to invite their friends. I will link to this on my own facebook page every couple of days leading up to the sale.
- I always create a few posters on the computer talking up the sale. Include the address, date and time of the sale, and list the types of items for sale. I always include something goofy on the posters; “Shopaholic is Downsizing! Come take advantage of amazing prices on…blah blah yadda yadda.” I get the posters (about 25) printed at my local copy shop on brightly coloured paper, then I post ’em in my neighbourhood and in nearby neighbourhoods. This helps get people pumped for the sale.
- I always like to say on my posters and on any online advertising that it’s cancelled if raining, and will be rescheduled. I don’t write it on my poster board signs, cuz if it there’s rain in the forecast, I’m not gonna put those up anyway. I’ll just fix ’em for next time.
SETTING UP FOR THE SALE/DISPLAY
- The evening before, make some wraps or sandwiches for you and your helpers. You’ll be busy, and you’ll need lunch the next day!
- Have your boxes of sale items plus any larger items in one area of your house so they’re ready to go in the morning.
- If your sale starts at 9, plan to start setting up at 7 at the latest. It always takes longer than you think. Get help from friends or loved ones!
- Set up your “Early Birds Pay Double!” sign. Some jerks will still start opening boxes of your stuff. Accept that they were raised in a barn.
- Set up your tables! (I usually sketch out a layout of where I’m going to place the tables beforehand. This is definitely overdoing it, but it’s WHO I AM.)
- Cover your tables in the vinyl tablecloths or the white sheets you’ve purchased. This seems like a crazy step, but this makes all the difference. It adds a sense of cohesion and a well thought-out feel to your sale. Looks matter! You will get more sales when you follow this tip.
- Try to keep like items together. Dishes all in one spot, books in another, board games in another, etc. I keep small items like jewelry in individual ziplock bags and small, expensive items near the cash table. If you have a friend or two helping you, try to have one stick close to this table at all times. People do sometimes steal from yard sales, so be aware.
- If you have any small signage (ie. “All CDs $2!) tape those up.
- Put eye catching, larger items close to the front. (I put that kind of stuff on the boulevard between the street and the sidewalk that passes my house.)
- Make it an event! Be cheerful, play music in the background if you wish (not too loud, and not too crazy. 50’s and 60’s stuff works, cuz people get happy when they can hum along to stuff. Really.) Sell coffee and donuts in the a.m. or lemonade or freezies later in the day. I like to make my yard sales seem like a party!
- There’s not a lot of worthwhile traffic after 12 pm. I start my sales at 9 and end them at 2. You can stay open as long as you want, but it’s likely that you’ll be standing around for an extra few hours in order to make 26 bucks.
- Remember to stay hydrated!
- Don’t forget to take down your signs when your sale is over! You don’t want your yard full of weirdos when you wake up NEXT weekend. Or maybe you do, I don’t know you that well yet.
Have fun… and let me know how it goes!