Top Tips for Throwing a Successful Yard Sale

Throw the best yard sale in the neighborhood with these clever tips.
By: Kimberly Tchang
Yard Sale

Yard Sale

With some careful planning, you can declutter your home and get some extra cash. The first step is to go through your things and decide what to sell, keep or donate.

Conquer Your Clutter

One method that works well is to put yard sale items aside all year long. Designate some boxes or shelves in a closet or attic, and discard any unwanted clothing and household things there. When you've collected enough, it's sale time. If you're sorting through your clutter for the first time, break the job down into small, manageable tasks.

"It's not realistic to think you can tackle 20 years of clutter in one day," says Barry Izsak, CPO®, certified professional organizer and author of Organize Your Garage in No Time.

Follow these tips to make the sorting process less painful:

  • Easy Does It. Make the unemotional decisions first. Start with things you can easily let go of, like 10 years' worth of magazines you've saved.
  • Start Small. Begin with one drawer or one cabinet at a time, then move on to the next. When you've finished an entire room, begin the same process in another. "This is the perfect time to ask yourself, 'What can I let go of? What can I live without?,'" says Barry.

Keep It Clean

Once you've decided which items to sell, it's time to break out the dust cloths and wipes, and give everything a thorough cleaning. People may shop yard sales for bargains, but that doesn't mean they want to sort through someone else's dirty, dusty toys and glassware.

"Having a heavy layer of dust on something is a big turnoff," says Betsy Pruitt of Belly Feathers. "If I see one item like that at a sale, it paints the way I see all the other items."

Get the Word Out

When you've decided on a date for your sale, start advertising on Craigslist.org a week or two in advance. Make the most of your listing with these tips:

  • Tell Me More. Do you have a bunch of kids' items, furniture or vintage tools to sell? Whatever you've got, be specific so people have a reason to come. "Nothing makes me more crazy than seeing a listing for a multifamily garage sale with just the address," says Mandi Gubler of Vintage Revivals.
  • Picture Perfect. Entice potential buyers with photos of your best items.
Original_Jennifer-Jones-yard-sale-prices_s3x4

Original_Jennifer-Jones-yard-sale-prices_s3x4

The Price Is Right

Decide how you'll price things beforehand, and use color-coded stickers to make it easier to keep track of different-priced items.  

Be realistic about what people will pay at a yard sale. "If you paid $80 for something, you'd better start out selling it for $40," says Barry. "The primary goal is to get rid of it."

Think Like a Merchandiser

Make a great first impression with a sale that's well laid out and attractive.

Original_Mandi-Gubler-yard-sale-mirror-and-frames_s4x3

Original_Mandi-Gubler-yard-sale-mirror-and-frames_s4x3

"People will value your things a little more if they see you're putting your time and effort into your sale," says Jennifer Jones of I Heart Organizing.

Big-ticket items, like furniture or baby strollers, should be front and center where drivers can easily see them.

Put something equally eye-catching at the back of the sale like a large painting, mirrors or a floor lamp. It doesn't have to be your best item, "but something interesting that people will be willing to wander through your whole sale to see," says Betsy.

Nobody wants to stop at a sale that looks picked over, so keep reviewing things throughout the day. As items sell, close any large gaps by moving things closer to the street, so it appears you're still well-stocked with potential treasures.

Try these other display tips to make your sale a success:

  • It's All in the Details. Thoughtful touches can help your sale stand out. Try wrapping sets of baby linens or fabric with twine or ribbon, says Jennifer. Betsy suggests displaying jewelry on custom card stock that matches your sale signage. "It makes items seem much more special and interesting, and they sell more quickly," Betsy says.
  • Tables Everywhere. Don't make people bend down to look at your things. Use regular tables for most items and low tables for kids' items.
  • Hang Them Up. Hang your clothes on a portable rack to add a boutique feel to your sale.
  • Display in Groups. Do you have several lamps, purses or picture frames to sell? Group them all together in one place so buyers can easily see what you have.

Follow the Signs

Yard Sale Sign

Yard Sale Sign

When the big day arrives, make sure people can find you with clear, consistent signage. Place signs at every entrance to your neighborhood, and include arrow signs at every turn.

Don't clutter your signs by listing your address and everything you're selling because drivers won't be able to read it. A large, simple "Yard Sale" sign with the date and an arrow pointing the way works best. 

Make It Fun 

Create an inviting feel right from the start with colorful balloons on your mailbox. Set your iPod to shuffle, and provide some background music while people shop. To keep people shopping, set up a table and offer refreshments and small snacks.

Everything Must Go

  • Free For All. Have a box or two of free items at your sale filled with things you would typically donate anyway. "People like that because they don't expect to go to a sale and walk away with anything for free," says Jennifer. "And it's one less thing for you to take to Goodwill."
  • Super Sale. Decide in advance that by a certain time, any items you have left will be 50 percent off. During the last hour, offer everything for free. "People took things that they might not have bought otherwise, which made our job easier at the end of the day," says Betsy.
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