Top 5 Tips & Tricks for a Successful Garage Sale

That pile of outgrown kids’ clothes, toys, housewares, and baby items sitting in the corner of your basement keeps getting bigger. You meant to donate some things after the holidays, but you know that with a bit of time and effort, you could turn that pile of stuff into a pile of cash.

For many communities, the beginning of summer also starts the garage sale season. According to, there are 165,000 yard sales each week in the U.S., Americans make over four million dollars hosting garage sales, and 690,000 people have purchased items at a garage or yard sale.

By following these top five tips and tricks for a successful garage sale, you could clear some household space and fill your wallet.

1. Start Early & Organize

Planning for your garage sale could start months ahead, but even a few hours of dedicated time is all it takes to pull together a successful sale. Once you identify which items you want to sell, organize them within one area of your house.

I typically use a corner of the basement for this process. Clear bins or Space Bags work well for organizing clothes and household items. They’re also handy for carrying sale items from your staging area to your yard or garage. Group like items (i.e., clothing) together in the bins narrowed down into subcategories (women’s wear, baby clothes, etc.)

Additionally, organize and tidy up your garage space before the sale. Your garage space is your “storeâ€; sweep out dust, debris, and cobwebs. Move items like lawnmowers and bikes to a back patio, so people don’t think they are for sale.

Plan out your garage space to maximize foot traffic and buyer interest. I have always arranged my garage sale tables in an open horseshoe pattern around the inside perimeter of the garage. It’s good to have some colorful racks of clothes and big-ticket items displayed on your driveway to attract driveby traffic.

If your neighborhood hosts an annual garage sale, this is the best time to have your event as the advertising, maps, and publicity are already done. If you are not part of a neighborhood sale, consider advertising your event on Also, don’t underestimate the power of balloons or flags on your mailbox and bold, readable and colorful signs at the major intersections of your neighborhood to direct driveby traffic to your sale.

2. Price Your Items Right

Understandably, you would like to recoup some of the original purchase prices on the big-ticket items offered in your garage sale. For example, if a home appliance or furniture piece is in good condition, it’s reasonable to charge up to half the original price. However, most shoppers assume there is some wiggle room in garage sale prices, so I usually mark items five to $10 more than what I expect to get.

This way, if customers want to haggle over the cost of something, sellers can still get a decent return, and buyers, having “bargained†for the item, feel like they got a deal.

Consider making the second day a “half-price day†if you have a two-day sale. You may get bounce-back customers, primarily if you sell furniture and appliances. It’s customary to accept a cash down-payment on large items and then hold the item until the buyer returns by a specific time to complete the purchase and take the piece.

Be prepared to donate items that don’t sell to a local or community non-for-profit organization. End your sale early enough to load up and drop off unsold items. It won’t get done if you don’t do it right after the sale.

3. Sale Logistics

Plan on having at least $100.00 worth of change kept in a cashbox or worn in a money apron during the sale. At least two people should be actively working the garage sale. It’s impossible and unsafe to run a sale solo. Helpers are necessary to handle peak times of the sale, watch for shoplifters, straighten up “stock,†and switch off for meal and restroom breaks. One person should be in charge of the cash and notate the amount of change at the start of the sale. This will help you determine overall profits.

4. Entrepreneurial Endeavor

Older kids and teens wanting to make some spending cash and learn business basics can sell bottled water, soft drinks, prepackaged snacks, or handmade crafts at the garage sale. The availability of cold drinks on a hot day sold by a cute, enterprising youngster is hard for shoppers to turn down. This is also a teachable moment.

Kids selling refreshments or helping out at a family garage sale learn about advertising, cost vs. revenue, making change, and salesmanship. Kids can also learn about saving, spending, and donating after clearing sales profits. Be sure to refrigerate drinks prior to the sale and stock beverages in coolers with plenty of ice before the sale opens.

5. Be Weather-wise

While you can’t control the weather on the day of your sale, you can certainly plan for it. Since most garages aren’t air-conditioned, have fans ready to circulate the air and plenty of cold drinks nearby. Staging items on the driveway to attract buyers is a great idea, but make sure the items can be quickly pulled into the garage in case of a sudden rainstorm.

Whatever the outcome or profits from your garage sale, selling or donating unsold items helps the overall household organization. So learn from the experience and enjoy the extra space and extra cash!

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Lynne Conner is a freelance photojournalist with 30+ years of experience. She has won several regional and national awards for her work and loves writing about lifestyle, business, parenting, finances, health, religion and technology.  Her blog can be found at and she is currently working on her first book.