The Yard Sale

What is this?

I thought I was reading a garden blog, why is there a post about selling your stuff on here?  This is a legitimate question.  Stick with me and I will explain.

Just in case you missed it, the blog is not entirely about gardening.  There are some posts about healthy living, organic ideas and even thoughts on chemicals and the role government is playing in our lives.

Hey, if I can get my wife to take some photos and give me details on the yummy organic food she prepares, I could even add some recipes.

But, I envision the blog to be even a bit more than that.

There are times when the garden is well…being a garden.  Slightly growing and not changing much from week to week.  I can’t show you pictures of a plant and a week later show it again because it grew a half inch.  That would get boring, for you and for me.

When the garden is just doing it’s thing (growing) and there is not much to talk about, we should talk about things that can make life easier or get us back to the simple life.

Part of what is so great about gardening is the self-sufficiency of it.  What better way to expand on that than having your own business for a day.

These were things destine for the landfill becoming useful again.  That is good for the planet, and good for the soul.

The weather is heating up (at least where I live) and we are moving into the “sale” season.  Last year we had a sale and it went so well we are going to be doing it again this year.

So, lets talk sales!

Yard Sale.  Garage Sale.  Rummage Sale.  Which is it?

Last year we called ours a yard sale, but 75% of the merchandice was in the garage, go figure.

Going into it my goal was to make a couple hundred bucks.  If we came out closer to $500 I would have been elated.

Turns out, I lost my mind.  Our total was over $1,200.  I was shocked we could make that much money selling our junk.

We were not selling high dollar items.  This all came from lots of little things.

“One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”  I understand what that means now.

So why was our sale so successful?  What are some tricks of the trade?  

Location, Location, Location.  This is one that you really can’t change, or can you?  Our house is located on the corner of a pretty busy street, so I am sure we got the shoppers that had not planned on stopping, but saw what looked like a riot forming and had to get in on it.

So, what if you are not on a road that beckons traffic?  Find a family member or friend with a better location and ask them if they want to do a multifamily sale using their house.  To get them to agree, volunteer to do most of the work, like making signs and advertising.

Signage is critical to your success.  If they can’t find you, they can’t buy your stuff.  I am under the impression that you don’t need to plaster the neighborhood with tons of signs. Depending on the location you might be able to get away with just a couple.

The sign MUST be readable.  When someone is driving by at 30 miles an hour it is a bit difficult to read:

Yard Sale this Saturday Rain or Shine.  7AM – 3PM.  No Early Birds. Furniture.  Baby Items.  Books, Videos.  Something For Everyone.  Multifamily.

All in tiny print on a 8-1/2″ x 11″ neon piece of paper stapled around a utility pole.

Our sign in front of our house:

Yard Sale.  Saturday. 7AM

Large crisp bold lettering on a large 2′ x 2′ corrugated plastic sheet.   Easy to read and it has all the information they need.

I think putting what you are selling on the sign is a mistake.

  1. It takes up room on the sign and makes it harder to read.  Harder to find the actual date, time and location.
  2. Someone might be looking for something in particular that you actually have to sell but because you left it off the sign they don’t stop by.

If the sign is a directional sign and not the sign in your front yard, then add the address and an arrow at the bottom.

For goodness sake, use a big fat marker and not a ball point pen or fine tip anything.  Pretend you are writing the sign for your grandmother who hasn’t renewed her glasses prescription in 50 years.

On the day of the sale tie a balloon to the sign, or put a pinwheel on it.  Something to attract more attention.  If people believe there is a circus performing at your location, more power to you.

Wait until a few days before the sale before you put out the signs and advertise.  That way you will know the weather forecast.  You really want to consider skipping a week if you know rain is a possibility.

Advertise.  I don’t think you need to go wild with this, and try not to “buy” advertisement. There are plenty of free places you can post your sale.  For those of us in the United States search for local sites to post your sale, or post them on a national site like:

This is the place where you list a lot of your items for sale.  Try and make people believe this is the sale they need to go to.

Host it legally.  Check with your local community if there are any restrictions in regards to yard sales.  Some communities require a permit to host a sale.  Some have restrictions in regards to signs.  So make sure you check before you get started.  The last thing you need is the police knocking on your door.  Oh wait the garage door is already open.  Try and make a sale.  “Mr. Policeman, I have some toy handcuffs that might interest you.”

Ditch the kids for the day.  If you have small children, say under 5, consider having someone else watch them for the day.  They will just get under your feet and keep you from helping the customers.  They also love to move around and play with the things you are trying to sell.

If the kids will be sticking around and they are old enough, have them run a lemonade stand in the driveway.  It gives them something to do, they feel like they are part of the sale, and it keeps your customers hydrated and happy.

Move your cars.  Consider parking them as far down the street as you are willing to walk back from.  This way they will not take up those precious parking spots near your home.  If people can’t find a place to park or it is to difficult to squeeze in a spot they might drive on.

Start with a lot of change.  You will probably want at least $50 in $1’s, $50 in $5’s, $10 in quarters, and some big bills.  This will become very important if your first customer buys $7.50 worth of stuff and has a $50 bill.

Price it right.  In the end you don’t want to have to haul a bunch of stuff back inside.  So, price it low enough that they can’t help but buy it.  You will make more money selling a lot of stuff priced on the low side than a couple things priced on the high side.

I would highly suggest you don’t price anything less than a quarter.  You won’t have to deal with pennies, nickles and dimes that way.  This will save you a lot of time counting change and keeping it organaized.

So what if you have something to sell that is really only worth a dime?  Consider lumping it together as a set with something else.  For example if you want to sell a magazine for a dime, sell 3 for a quarter instead.  It actually will make the buyer think they are getting a deal and they just flip you a quarter.

Keep the money on you.  Use an apron with front pockets.  This not only protects you from someone snatching the money box, but also frees you to move around the sale and not stuck behind a table.  Plus this identifies you as the host of the sale so people can easily find you with questions or to make a purchase.  Most importantly, you will look cool.

Have a lot of stuff to sell.  The more potential items to sell, the more you can make.  You are not going to make $1,000 selling 25 items.  Go through everything.  With each item ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. Is this something I have used in the last 6 months?
  2. Do I plan on using this in the next 6 months?
  3. Does it have sentimental value to me?

If the answer is “no” to these questions.  Sell it.

They even will buy the crap.  When you get to an item that you figure is trash and you will just throw it away.  Hold up.  Put it out there.  Even the stuff you think is trash will sell.  We put out some stuff that was so trashy I was embarrassed to let people know it came from our house.  But, honestly that was some of the first things to sell.  If it is butt ugly, it will sell.  I wonder what they are doing with this stuff?

You sale needs to be organized.  Especially clothing.  The chances you will sell a shirt hanging up is a lot better than someone fishing through a box of clothes all thrown together. Not only did we hang our clothes, we hung them up by size.  If someone needed a certain size they could find out quickly if it was available.

You can make a cheap clothing rack.  Buy some PVC Pipe and put it between 2 ladders.  Instant hanging rack.

Put small items in clear plastic bags and sell them as a set.  For example don’t try to sell one matchbox car.  Sell 10 for one price.  Mix the good quality with the lesser quality.

Your sale should flow.  Make a traffic pattern with tables and your large items.  It should lead them through the sale, almost forcing the buyer to view everything before they are spit out on the other side.  This is where you wait ready to take the cash.

Put some of the larger or popular items at the end of the driveway.  That way when people drive by they will think there is a lot of good stuff further in too.  You need stuff to draw them in.  Like a mosquito to a bug zapper.

Make shopping easy.  Months before the sale start collecting grocery bags and boxes.  Offer them to people before they start shopping.  It is like the “cart theory”, that you will buy more if you can carry more.

Also volunteer to assist anyone that needs help taking things to their car.

Have a power cord ready for people to test electronics.  You might even post a sign saying that they can test it (with your help).  Even if you tell someone that the thing should work, they need to see it for themselves and should not have to take your word for it.  You might even find that your old 1975 Betamax video player doesn’t work as well as you thought.

Preparation.  Months before the sale start organizing the stuff you want to sell.  We used a corner of our basement and anytime we found something we didn’t need anymore we would say, “Take it to the yard sale pile”.  Then when it is time to price things, it is all in one spot.  Our pile got so large I am pretty sure it developed a summit.

Clean.  Cut your grass, clean your garage.  Trim the bushes.  Pretend you are trying to sell your house, make it look good.  It is not everyday you have strangers walking around your front yard and in your garage.  We actually had multiple compliments on how nice the lawn looked.  Did it help us sell our stuff?  I have no idea, maybe.  Even if it didn’t I got to strut around like I was a big shot, always loads of fun.

Have fun.  This might be your only chance in life to “own a store”.  There is rush that happens when someone picks something up to give it a look over.  Don’t ask me why.  I never thought I would get so excited enough to yell, “She is buying the toilet seat cover!  She is buying the toilet seat cover”!  Don’t worry, I won’t spend that 50 cents all in one place.  I think I will just deposit it and live off the interest.

Good luck,

Leave a comment, especially if you have a tip to share.  

Teaser Photo Attribution By:  Eastlaketimes

17 thoughts on “The Yard Sale

  1. That’s insane that you made that much money! You have amazing garage sale skills… I always figured it wasn’t worth the trouble.

  2. Good post – I especially agree with the price it right suggestion. Your stuff is not worth as much at a garage sale as you might think it should be. If the idea is to get rid of it, you really do need to price it low or people will walk on by. I’ve noticed lately that people have some unrealistic ideas of what their stuff is worth.

    By pricing low, we’ve been able to clean out stuff before moving house, get rid of outgrown kids furniture and toys and just generally get rid of clutter that was no longer wanted. Priced right it goes fast and you dont have to find anywhere else to store it afterwards.

    • I think people remember how much they paid for things and want to get as much as that back, even though it is worth so much less used. Garage sale shoppers are looking for a super bargain, not even just a bargain.
      I try to think like a shopper and note how much I would want to pay for my things if on the other end.

  3. Thanks for this advice – very useful and also very inspiring – I’ve been kicking the idea of a yard sale around for a year or more, this will give me the impetus to actually do it!

    One question – did people try to haggle a lot, or did they tend to stick to the asking price? I’m not sure I’d be very comfortable getting involved in lots of bargaining.

    • You will get a couple hagglers. But surprisingly it wasn’t that bad. The worst is when there is something for 50 cents and they want to give you a quarter. I am like…Really? You want to bargain over a quarter?

  4. Wow! What a score — you know, you probably could have put a price tag on this advice. :) Thanks for the tips — they may come in handy someday soon.

  5. Dickering is part of the fun of having/going to yard sales. I always price things a little bit higher so I have room to dicker. If they don’t dicker and pay then whoopee for me. If they look like they are unsure, I have the room to offer them a lower price. If they are good dickerers we all have fun and everyone feels like they got a good deal. great tips and good luck to everyone having a yard sale this summer!

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