ORGANIZED LIVING: How to Hold a Successful Garage Sale

For area bargain hunters, cooler fall temperatures (relatively speaking) can only mean one thing: Garage sale season has arrived.

Do you have some clutter you’ve been meaning to clear from your home? We all do! The timing is right to capitalize on this time-honored tradition—and earn some extra cash while you’re at it.

Here are some tips that will help you make your next garage sale a success.

Gather Your Inventory

Let the purging begin: Go through every room of your house with boxes or bags marked “keep,” “sell,” and “trash/recycle.” As you consider each belonging, ask yourself if anyone in the household has used it, worn it, listened to it, or enjoyed it in some way during the last year. If not, does the item have emotional significance to you? If the answer is no, now is the time to weed it out. If items are still usable (be honest with yourself here), save it for your garage sale. Everything else can be thrown out or recycled.

Be sure to check pockets, purses, and anything else that could hold unintentional gifts for your future garage sale shoppers. People have been known to find cash–and even credit cards—in items they’ve bought at garage sales.

Bring in Supplies

Gather the items you’ll need for your sale well in advance. That could include:

  • Pricing stickers (or tape and markers for a cheaper, do-it-yourself approach to labeling)
  • Tables for displaying merchandise
  • Racks or horizontal ladders for hanging clothes
  • Storage containers that customers can rummage through for tools, toys, and other items
  • Tarps or blankets for items that go on the ground
  • Bags that your customers can use to carry their purchases
  • Newspaper or sheets of paper for wrapping breakable purchases

One of the most important items you’ll need is something to hold your money, something that makes it easy to make change for buyers. Muffin tins and silverware trays are a few creative options. Stock your container with coins and small bills before the sale starts. Just remember to keep it portable so you can carry it with you if you need to step away from your “cash register.”

Another money-saving (literally) tip: Don’t tempt people. Keep your till to a minimum. If you receive a large bill, keep that in your pocket. And occasionally, after you’ve earned a lot—and of course you will—take out some bills and store them in a safe spot inside your house or away from the sale.

Price Items to Sell

The general rule of thumb for garage sale pricing is to ask for a quarter or third of what the items cost when they were new. If you have time, visit a few garage sales before your event so you know how people in your area price things, or check an online site like Craigslist.

Need more help? aggregates pricing data from online sites like eBay and Craigslist and provides info on thousands of items from small appliances to sporting goods.


Getting the word out is critical to a successful garage sale. Make lots of signs. Use neon poster boards and thick, black markers. Make your directions simple and big: People should be able to read them from a block away.

Consider taking out a newspaper classified, and definitely share your sale on social media. Online advertising apps like these can also help generate traffic:

Make Your Displays Customer-Friendly

Group your merchandise by category, just like retailers do. Your “departments” could include clothing, toys, kitchen items, tools, books, and linens, among others. Be sure to leave room for people to walk.

Visual appeal will help your items sell. Make sure everything is clean and displayed attractively. Whenever possible, arrange items on tables, except for toys—those should be at kids’ eye level.

Customers also want to know the items you’re selling work. If something requires batteries, add partially used ones so people can test them. Have an extension cord available for items that need to be plugged in.

Take a few extra steps to help your clothing sell:

  • Fold clothing so sizes show.
  • Separate items for babies, children, adults, males, and females.
  • Don’t make clothing piles too high.
  • Hang clothing, if possible, to make it easier for customers to browse.


It also helps to place big-ticket merchandise and your most colorful items closest to the street to draw people in.

Make Your Customers Comfortable

Make customers want to stay longer. Try playing music in the background, songs people can sing along to. Sell cold bottled water and even snacks. And try to keep yourself busy while customers are browsing. No one likes being watched.

Have a Plan B

No matter how effective your sale is, you can expect to have some unsold items at the end.

You can try to minimize that by offering deals during the last hour or two. Consider a fill-a-bag-for-a-buck special or buy-one-get-one-free promotion.

You also can arrange for a charity to pick up your leftovers, or drop them off at an area recycling site. You can find local resources for both options in our Back to School blog.