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Cash Not Trash

By on December 16, 2004

garage sale
photo by John Beagle
Hosting a garage sale is a great solution for ridding yourself of clutter and making some extra money. To have an effective, efficient, and successful garage sale, it takes some preparation and basic know-how. Part of the apprehension in having a garage sale is the fear of a negative outcome. Let’s cover the basics to optimize the best results.

First Things First
Before you start planning, phone your local authorities to inquire about any permits you may need and any provisions or ordinances they may have. Some communities may prohibit the sale of food items or used bedding.

Plan ahead what you’d like to do with remaining leftovers that don’t sell. Donations are always welcome at thrift stores, some shelters, and even some nursing homes. Call ahead to these establishments and get information on any items they don’t accept or how and when they accept drop-offs.

Decide if you want to include others. Maybe you have friends or family that would like to add some items to your sale. You may want to consider an entire neighborhood or block sale. This can cut your advertising costs down considerably.

Safety Tips

  • Have a phone handy if possible.
  • Post a sign on any entrance doors that states “Off Limits”. You don’t want anyone inside your home or wandering around the perimeter of your home.
  • For safety reasons, consider sitting outside of your garage. Being inside the garage is often remote and not visible from roadside.
  • Keep your cash box in a safe location.
  • Don’t permit any hanging sale items or tables to obstruct your view.
  • Don’t place items right next to the road where they could be easily stolen.
  • If you have a pet, please make sure it’s on a leash.
  • While making change, always keep the money handed to you in plain view. This prevents anyone from claiming they gave you an amount they didn’t.
  • In many areas, it’s illegal to post signs on utility poles because it’s a potential hazard to workers. Check before placing your signs.
  • Be sure the items you’re selling have not been recalled or pose any potential hazards. You should avoid selling older cribs, strollers, helmets, playpens, carseats, and baby gates.
  • Consider not posting your full address in your ads. You can share main cross streets and let visitors follow your signs.

Gathering the Goods
You can start at anytime to declutter and organize items you don’t want to keep. You can start organizing your unwanted items into boxes. There are many practical items that are great sellers, so don’t overlook anything because you think it won’t sell. You never know who might purchase it. Every little sale adds up. You should try to have a wide variety of items. Many collectors and dealers frequent garage sales, so don’t be afraid to include one of a kind type items. (Ex: one single glass or one individual candlestick)
Items to consider selling

  • Baby items
  • Household items and kitchen appliances
  • Toys
  • Books or magazines
  • Craft supplies
  • Linens
  • Plants
  • Tools

Go room to room and start cleaning, purging, and placing all your unwanted “stuff” into your garage sale holding boxes. Don’t forget to go through closets, dressers, basement, attic, and even the garage to haul out your “junk”.

As you’re placing items into the designated sale boxes, note if anything is easily cleaned or repaired. It’s much easier to go through this process as you’re slowly accumulating and collecting, than to inspect everything all at once while you’re pricing items later.

Planning the Date
Your best day to host a sale is on Saturday because most people get paid toward the end of the week and are looking for sales on the weekend. The majority of garage sale days are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. You may want to consider hosting your sale more than one day, but you’ll want to have a lot of items if you opt for a multiple day sale.

All is not lost if you decide to have your garage sale on a weekday. The benefit of having it during the week is that the people attending won’t be garage sale hopping and holding out for better deals elsewhere.

Try to avoid a date that conflicts with any major holidays, as they may not be as profitable. Keep in mind that you can’t accommodate everyone.

Be prepared for early birds. Someone always comes early! Decide if you’re willing to accept people arriving any time prior to your advertised time of your sale. Don’t be afraid to turn folks away, if they come knocking too soon and you’ve decided not to permit early birds. You’re better off to be prepared than to have possible regrets later. If you do plan to permit early birds, be prepared the day before your sale or at the very least an hour before.

When planning the date, clear your family calendar for the entire day. You may want to recruit some help, so make sure others are available to assist. Give yourself at least a couple week’s notice to organize well.

Getting the Word Out
You need to advertise your sale. You can advertise your sale in community papers, signs, local newspaper, word of mouth, laundromats, and grocery stores.

Advertising tips

  • Displaying balloons at your house is an eye catching way to show where you’re located.
  • Your garage sale sign(s) should have arrows, be simple, readable, and bright.
  • If you live on a side street, a few signs leading to your house is a good idea.
  • If posting a printed ad, be sure it’s printed on a weekend and offers a couple days notice because most garage sale buyers check out the ads Friday thru Sunday.
  • It’s best if you can mention the best items in your ad to show that you have a good variety available and to attract the most people.
  • Please remember to take your signs down after your sale too.

Pricing and Money Matters
Every item should be priced and easy to read. Label anything damaged or questionable “as is”. I recommend using easy to remove price tags. Stickers and string hang tags work best. There is nothing more disappointing than finding an item at a sale and the seller has added the price directly on the item in black marker. Color coded stickers are great if you’re holding a group garage sale with others.

It is sometimes beneficial to have current prices of what your items cost new. This can serve as a comparison to how good your prices truly are. Pricing can be set at about 1/2 the retail cost to you.

Prep tips

  • Post a sign if you’re not accepting checks and that all sales are final.
  • Don’t hold items without a deposit.
  • Be sure to have lots of change for your sale, a calculator, paper or sale’s slips for receipts, bags, boxes, and newspaper to wrap things.
  • If holding a group sale, plan with others the lowest price they’ll accept on their items.

Display Tips

  • Neat displays and groupings are recommended.
  • Long narrow portable tables work great.
  • Display large merchandise and some good items for both men and women visibly appealing from roadside. Items like tools, lawn equipment, weights, and electronics, furniture, baby gear, and bikes are good examples. If it looks like junk from roadside, people will drive right by and not bother to even stop.
  • Have an electrical source. This is for people to test any electrical items you have for sale. Maybe consider having these items plugged in already.
  • Place breakables towards the back of tables or higher for protection against breakage.
  • Leave enough walking space for shoppers.
  • Clothing can be difficult to sell. You should arrange them neatly. Consider displaying them by color or size. Hanging clothes is best, but you can also fold items neatly or try a “filling a bag for $1.00” special. You can also try box lots. This box for $5.00 or everything on this table $1.00.
  • Make sure that items that aren’t for sale are set aside, so buyers don’t try and buy them.

Smart Selling
Everyone loves a bargain. Be prepared to haggle and set your prices accordingly. Greet visitors and be friendly, but let them browse freely too. You don’t want to be a high pressure salesman, so I suggest you sit someplace out of the way, yet still accessible. You want to give your visitors some space to look items over, but be ready to answer questions, if they ask. You can share any information you have about items they are interested in.

Don’t allow anyone to intimidate you. Be firm and don’t reply in an uneasy or uncertain tone. If they offer you less than an item is worth, just nicely mention your price is firm on that item. If you’re flexible but hoping someone else will purchase it for your asking price, you can always ask them to swing by later and if it’s still not sold, you’ll accept their offer.

Boredom Busters
Plan some activities to keep yourself occupied, in case of slow times. Consider a good book, crossword puzzles, crochet, or cards to keep from being bored. You can play some music for yourself and the buyers.

You can also offer refreshments for a small fee too.
After The Sale
After your sale be sure to divide the money, if it’s a joint sale. Put your money in a safe place.
You can take down your signs and start packing up your items that didn’t sell. You can decide if you want to donate your items or keep them for your next sale.

It all makes “cents”. We’ve covered all the basics of running a successful garage sale. Hopefully, your sale will be profitable and it will encourage you to have more sales in the future. If nothing else, you’ll clear out some clutter , organize your home, and have some fun. You can then decide what you want to do with your cash from “trash”.

As seen in Keybank’s Today’s Focus Magazine

Mentioned in MC Herald

Mentioned in Caller-Times,1641,CCCT_880_4794168,00.html

Mentioned in Neat Living


  1. Jason

    12/28/2006 at 12:27 pm

    Very informative posting. I found some useful ideas in the article.

  2. emily_hope

    2/17/2007 at 9:08 pm

    You’ve given some good advice on having yard/garage sales. We have had two major yard sales and did very well.

  3. Marie78

    2/18/2007 at 4:55 am

    You have great tips for having a successful yard sale. I have held one for the last two years. The first year I made over $200 over a weekend. Then last year it rained so much on the weekends that I ended up having it for only 1 day and made only half as much. I am already planning this year’s sale. I am going to wait for a beautiful 3 day weekend, and hopefully will do as well as the first year or better. 🙂

  4. mom23boys

    2/18/2007 at 11:00 pm

    Those are some very good tips!! I never thought of the safety aspect of having a garage sale, but after reading these tips I think it would be a great idea. I think I learn something new everyday!! Sometimes more than one thing.

  5. clutterbug

    2/20/2007 at 1:13 am

    A few years ago I used to have a garage sale almost every weekend from spring to fall. That was back when my basement/garage was alot neater. All I had to do was raise the garage door and I was in business.

    I hate it when someone stays and stays and lets their children go wild. Then, after sometimes an hour they approach you with maybe one little item to buy and want to know if I will take a dime, etc.

    I always had a Fill-In puzzle book to work on while having my sales.

    All this is making me want to start my sales going again. I used to buy all my stuff for only pennies at this Goodwill Outlet and charge higher and would make great profit. I collected stuff all winter and had so much stuff to sell but then there was a snake that got in my basement and I gave up on all of it and my husband has to go down there to do all the laundry because of the snake.

  6. Lori

    4/9/2007 at 1:08 pm

    This is my first garage sale ever. Thanks for all the informative ways and steps to take to make this sale successful. I will let you know how it goes!

    First Timer Out!

  7. MercifulGrace

    5/1/2007 at 7:27 pm

    Wonderful article! It’s been several years since I had yearly garage sales, but I’m working toward one this month. I’ve gotten a bit rusty on all this, and so this post was a nice refresher!

    Clutterbug’s story about the snake has made me very thankful that I don’t have a basement! 🙂

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  9. gsaleghost12

    7/12/2007 at 2:12 pm

    I am a big fan of garage sales, I’ve held 2, my 3rd one is going to be held tomorrow. I just read over your tips and I bet it is going to be successful. Your article is very good and I bet it will assist a lot of people. Believe it or not, I’m 12. Yes, young kids can love garage sales too.

  10. Shannon

    8/15/2007 at 10:41 am

    I just had a yard sale and made $2,000.00 We went through our garage, each room in the house, cupboards, etc.. and took things we hadn’t used in a year, this included videos, antiques (however none of the antiques sold-which was ok). This was our second yard sale this year. We had to have one to get rid of the junk, so we could get to the other stuff. I feels good to have cleaned out the excess. I would recommend this to everyone. We as americans seem to have an overabundance of “stuff” that we truly do not need, why not turn it into cash.

  11. Rose Mary Futrell

    8/4/2008 at 2:03 am

    Thank you for the 411. I have had yard sales in the past and have done well. I have 4 kids, so you can only imagine how much stuff we have collected over the years. But some things your article pointed out seems so simple and full of common sense, but you would not believe how many people just don’t think about these points. Thanks for catching me up to speed. And to all…….I wish you good hunting ……and good selling!!!!

  12. PR

    6/6/2011 at 3:33 pm

    Thank you for sharing these tips, especially the tip on not selling recalled items! An online tool I worked on, Simply Check ( can help you check for recalls & let your buyers know you checked. Hope you find it useful!

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