Yard sale preparation

My wife and I have decided to put our house on the market. Our current home is too large and we would like to downsize. To get our home into order we have decided to have a yard sale. You don’t realize how much stuff you accumulate until you take an inventory. It is a bit overwhelming.

We are having the yard sale at my parent’s house because our home in the city isn’t conducive to a yard sale, so we are going to transport all of our items there. This is definitely a step I would skip if at all possible. Here are the things we have done in the last few days in preparation:

  • Browsing: Go through every room of your home and browse for things that you don’t use or don’t need.
  • Sorting: After doing the first walk through of your home separate everything into logical categories; kitchen, bathroom, baby clothes, baby toys, back to school college items, and then box them up for easy transport.
  • Trashing: You will inevitably come across some items that no one would ever buy. Don’t waste your time by including them in your sale, so get the trash bags ready.
  • Pricing: It is a yard sale, so price everything very reasonably. Nothing we priced is more than $5. Some furniture items will most likely be priced higher, but we marked those as “make an offer.”
  • Consultation: Try and get some pointers from a yard sale veteran in your neighborhood. We have the expertise of my mother-in-law who has had many garage/yard sales under her belt. She also frequents the yard sale circuit and is familiar with what people want and how things are priced.

Here are some additional tips from our experienced consultant:

  1. Start an hour earlier than other yard/garage sales. Since most start at 8am, start yours at 7am.
  2. Put an ad in the classified section of your local paper, Facebook Marketplace, and other online classified ad services such as Craigslist, to run the day before the sale.
  3. Be sure to mention key items in your ads, such as collectibles, antiques, maternity, furniture, baby clothes, electronics, etc. Those are the most looked after items.
  4. Directly after the your sale, make arrangements with a friend or family member with a truck to pick up the unsold items to take directly to a donation center.

We’re looking forward to this uncluttering opportunity and the extra money will come in handy too.


This post has been updated since its original publication in 2007.

11 Comments for “Yard sale preparation”

  1. posted by Nat on

    I would also add posting on the sale on Craigslist as you can post details about some of the more costly items and add some pictures. It’s also a good way to sell some of the more noteworthy items, especially if it’s still around after the sale. Just beware of wackjobs that show up at your sale wondering why you haven’t answered their email about a particular item. Duh, I was busy having a sale?
    Also, we found that there a lot of people who trawl the ads looking for free piles after the sale. Normally, we just take leftovers to Goodwill, but we left stuff out overnight in a truckload sized free pile. Everything but a two drawer metal file cabinet was gone by the next morning. Also, I would suggest checking out if Thriftmapper.com covers your area. It’s a sale mapping site.

  2. posted by Jeff on

    My wife and I have sworn off yard sales after comparing their returns to the results we got just donating items to local charities. We use ItsDeductible from Intuit to get a disinterested assigment of value for tax purposes, and the value of the deduction has been on par with what we’ve collected via yard sale.

    An added bonus — the local charity doesn’t come knocking on your door on Wednesday night prior to the sale asking if they can get a “preview” rummage through your stuff, as is common ’round these parts.

  3. posted by Melinda on

    I would add this. Keep in mind that you are not having a yard sale to get back the money you spent on items. You are having a yard sale in order to get rid of clutter. Make your prices lower than you think you should and be willing to negiotiate even that.

  4. posted by Andamom on

    Here in Brooklyn, we have stoop sales… They are similar to yard sales — but people display their items right in front of their apartment or brownstone (think townhouse). Some people seemingly host these sales on a regular basis — and post signs on flag poles, at the grocery store and libraries, and even around the subway stops. Another typical announcement is made with sidewalk chalk announcing the location and time.

    And like Nat wrote, many people take their leftovers over to Salvation Army or other donation drop-off. Of course, there are other options for disposing of items — including leaving major items on the curb. I wrote a post about this very subject not too long ago — http://andamom.com/?p=117

  5. posted by Lisa on

    We’ve had a hugely successful yard sale for three summers running. While a lot of it is great location (we’re directly across from a Target store, with a huge balcony on which to hang a giant YARD SALE THIS SATURDAY sign), part of it has to do with sorting. We turn our yard into a boutique for a day, creating “zones.” We use poles in the grass with large category signs on top (“organization & storage”; “kitchen”; “children’s”;”technology”; etc). We put the “man friendly” section stuff in the back with large signs — it gives female spouses more time to shop somehow.

    We do a LOT of prep work to make it look nice (shoe racks to display shoes, with chairs and a rug on the grass to make it nice to try on, etc), but then have fun. We reward good manners with discounts, and we surprise people by giving them items free (either b/c it just seems perfect for them, like a hat or a dress, or b/c they are kind and patient with other people at the sale). Our sale last month generated $1400 in profit — and we even got two tips!!!

  6. posted by Cliff on

    If you keep in mind that yard sales are NOT opportunities to make a profit, but instead are just removal extravaganzas in which the various movers and carters actually PAY for the privilege of carrying your stuff away for you, then why even bother to charge for the items? Just to make people want them, is what I think. Got an old pipe? Put a $5 price tag on it! Then all over your tables put “all prices negotiable” so as not to scare away free moving and carting services.

  7. posted by Alice on

    My favorite garage/yard sale method is $1.00 for any smallish items. From the $1. items I will then group, toss in bonus items etc. to see my clutter walking away. If it goes to the garage it doesn’t come back into the house. If someone says they are a teacher, from a church organization which helps those in need etc. I give them piles of whatever they think would be helpful. Antiques and Furniture tends to be a bit more realistically priced but still super cheap.
    TIP: I always have a free box which states:
    10 yrs. and under
    Choose 1 item free. Little kids are easily entertained by the process of choosing just one special item giving mom time to browse around.

  8. posted by Kat on

    I’d do the trashing after the sale. Anything you think isn’t worth selling you can put in a box with a sign saying that all the items in the box are free. You’d be surprised what people will find useful. If you put the box in the furthest corner of the garage, it also entices people to come in and have a closer look at your other items.

  9. posted by Garden Goddess on

    Instead of getting rid of what you don’t want to keep, how about taking out what you do want to keep instead and getting rid of everything else? I know it sounds like the same thing, but it’s not.

    If you don’t have yard space to do it in, then start with your largest room (like the living room) and move/stack what you want to keep all into the furthest side. Put a sheet over it and move the rest (which is the stuff you don’t want to keep) to one wall. Next, take everything out of the next room, clean the room, then just put back in what you want to keep. Pile the rest along another wall in the living room. Continue with each room (I’d do all the bedrooms together and the bathrooms together to keep like things together) and do the kitchen last. At the end you should have a clean house (except for the living room) and everything near the front door ready to take out for the yard sale. You could also do this in the garage if you have one, instead of the living room. I really think you’d get rid of a lot more useless items AND get your house really clean by using this method. Good luck either way!

  10. posted by Greg on

    1) Never price anything as “make offer”. That just angers buyers. Put a fair price on it. All prices are negotiable, and you can always lower it later.
    2) Best garage sale days are Thursday thu Saturday. Don’t bother with running it on Sunday. For some reason Sunday sales are generally a bust.
    3) When posting your ads, include lots of pictures. I like to update the photos at the end of each day of the sale. As others have said, make sure to highlight the potentially hot items.
    4) Selling clothes – don’t bother to price each item. Just have 1 sign that says $1 per bag, or 50 cents per item, or whatever. And please realize that nobody cares if your jeans or shirt is a designer item that you paid $75 for. In a garage sale, it is worth around 50 cents.
    5) Keep your small knick-knacks on a table close to you where you can keep an eye on them. Yes, you are trying to get rid of stuff, but that doesn’t mean people can steal them. The clothes table can be the furthest away from you. Nobody ever steals clothes.

  11. posted by Lisa on

    Good tips so far! A free pile is a wonderful thing. My parents vacation cottage was sold, and we had a short time to clear everything out. We had a free pile outside in the front of the yard for several weeks. Scrap metal dealers and home handy-people came by every day to check out the pile. My dad loved to build things, and had accumulated lots of raw materials over the years.
    It was so heart-warming to see people valuing these items, and walking away with big smiles, and none of those things ended up in the landfill.
    The garage sales and the free pile meant we met a lot of nice people who helped us clear out many years of stuff. We also made many trips to the Salvation Army to donate stuff, and a few final trips to the dump.

Comments are closed.