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Setting Up a Garage Sale

Updated on May 7, 2016
Anna Marie Bowman profile image

Anna wears many hats: writer, mother, crafter. Over the years, she has found what works and what doesn't for herself and her family.

What Is There to Planning a Garage Sale?

Planning a garage sale seems like a simple enough task. Just set up some tables, slap some stuff on them, and throw up a sign. Then...wait for the people to show up. For the most part, it is that easy. Then again, it really isn't. Not if you want people to show up and buy your stuff. It used to be that easy, but if you have ever thrown a garage sale, you learn a few things. I don't have a great attachment to most of my stuff, and I hate clutter, so I have had several in the past few years, and I have learned several things. Some garage sales went well, and some did not. I have learned from my mistakes, and have practically become a professional at it. I could host a fact, that isn't a half bad idea. I could market it to the History Channel or HGTV. I go around, throw garage sales for people, and make them tons of money. If the television show developers are reading this...feel free to contact me.

Well, enough day dreaming, and back to reality. I have put together a few tips to planning a successful garage sale. I can't take into account all the factors that might befall your garage sale, but I can offer some experienced advice on what works and what doesn't.

Picking A Date and Time

Both the dates and times of your garage sale are very important. Trust me on this. Planning a garage sale on the same weekend as a huge event in your area may seem like a great idea. There will be a lot of traffic out on the road, and while this is true, most of the traffic will be headed to fun get-togethers, events, and the sort. They often won't be headed to your garage sale, although some will. Plan a garage sale for a day that not a lot is going on in the area. You will get more attention.

Also be sure the weather is going to be nice for the days you plan on having your garage sale. You can't always predict whether a freak rain storm will roll through your area, but check the weather forcast for your area, and see what the weather will be like. I recently had to postpone a garage sale when a tropical storm threatened to head our way. It missed us, but I postponed the garage sale just to be on the safe side. No point in putting all that stuff out if the rain is going to keep everyone away, or even potentially blow my stuff down the street.

Days of the week are also an important consideration. Sundays are not a great day for garage sales. You just don't seem to get a lot of traffic on a Sunday. I don't know if it has to do with people going to church, or people just taking a day to relax on the weekend. Most people I know plan their sales for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, or at least Friday and Saturday. You can add in Sunday if you want to, but like I said, there is not a lot of traffic on a Sunday, but it can earn you a little extra money, and clean a little more of the clutter out of your home.

Time is also an important factor. I have learned that there are the groups of die-hard garage saler's in every town; they often know each other, see each other at sales, and they get started very early. Despite having it posted that the garage sale started at nine am, I had several people show up around eight-thirty, while I was still setting up. Plan to get things set up and open your garage door very early. This may not sound like a whole lot of fun, getting up that early on a weekend, but as the saying goes, "The early bird gets the worm", and it is a saying that those who frequent garage sales know all too well. I suggest getting the sale set up and running by eight or nine in the morning. I also suggest a large pot of coffee.


Advertising for your garage sale? Really? Yes, really. It's important. It used to be just as simple as slapping together a sign, and placing it at the end of your block, so everyone knew where you were. That approach may work, and it may not. It's best to do a little advertising. What works for a small business, or large business, for that matter, will work for you, as well. No, I am not asking you to take out a full-page ad in the paper, or make your own commercial.

Where do you advertise for a garage sale? There are several approaches you can take, or do all of them and get as much exposure for your sale as you possibly can. Newspapers are one way to go. Though fewer and fewer people are getting actual newspapers anymore. It still can't hurt, because, after all, people do still read the paper. Some papers even have online classifieds, as well. That will give you two places for your garage sale posting to appear, instead of just one. Social networking sites are also a good way to get attention for your garage sale, especially if you belong to a local group, or have a lot of friends who live in your area. Even if your friends may not be looking for anything, someone they know might be, and they can steer those people in your direction. Another option is They have a whole section devoted to garage sales. It is easy to post on their site, and you don't have to be a member.

Be sure when you do advertise that you include a list of the type of things you will be selling, that way people looking for specific items, can get an idea of what you are offering. Include a few pictures if you can. (Craigslist allows posting of a few pictures.) Also, be sure to provide clear information regarding the location and dates and times for the sale. If it is possible, include a map, or directions from a major street. The more information you provide, the more likely you are to get people to come.

Setting Up

So, you have made your signs, put them up at strategic places, posted information online, and in the paper. You have all your stuff gathered what?

Now you set all of it up. Sounds easy enough. It is, for the most part. You are going to need tables. I ended up needing more tables than I thought I would for my last garage sale, and ended up having to drag my dining room table out into my garage. The more stuff you have, the more tables you will need. Common sense there, I guess.

Try to group like items together. Like, putting all the kitchen goods together, grouping picture frames in one area, electronics in another. That way, if people are looking for specific types of things, say books, they aren't wandering all over the place, trying to figure out where you put all of the books. Putting a toaster next to your old lawnmower doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and will make your sale look slapped together and disorganized.

Presentation may seem a little silly, it is a garage sale, after all, but it gives a great impression. Instead of leaning all those old paintings against the wall, try hanging a few of them up on the wall of your garage. Put books on a bookshelf instead of in a box or in a pile on a table. It makes sorting through them easier, and means less work for you when you have to reorganize them after the customers has rifled through them. Instead of folding all the clothes and stacking them on a table, hang them up on a portable clothes rack, or find a creative way to hang them up. Once again, it makes it easier for people to see what is there, frees up space on the tables, and means less reorganizing for you.

Now what about pricing? All those stickers...all that work...It is a LOT of work. It's up to you whether you want to do it or not. Odds are, someone is going to pick up that vase and ask you what you want for it, even if you did take the time to put a sticker on it saying '$4'. If you want to price your items, price them a little bit higher than what you are willing to take for them, and be flexible if someone asks you what you will take for something. After all, the goal is to make money and get rid of things you don't want or need. You don't have overhead, you aren't paying someone salary or anything like that. If someone asks if you would take $5 for something you have marked at $7, take it. Basically, be flexible on pricing things and be fair when pricing items. That old Christmas decoration may have been a gift from a long dead aunt, but the person buying it doesn't care, and if you wanted to keep it that bad, it wouldn't be in the garage sale to begin with.

The last piece of advice on setting up your garage sale is to have plenty of change! Seems like a given, but it's those details that seem to be the most obvious that are often the ones that are left out or forgotten about. It will be one of those situations where everyone involved will have assumed that the other person remembered and took care of it, and turns out, no one did. Also have some bags and newspaper to wrap up fragile items, making them easier for the person buying it to take it home.

Don't Be This Guy! Funny Video!

Garage Sale Day

Now that you are all set up, you have got your change all ready, and your signs are up. Now you wait... People will show up. Trust me on this. I had someone show up before I even had everything set up at my last garage sale. She bought a bunch of stuff, too. I won't lie, it can get boring. It can be warm. And things may not always go as you had planned.

Preparation is everything. To keep myself amused, I put a radio out in the garage. It kept me entertained, and gave the shoppers something to listen to besides the drone of the bugs outside. I made sure to have plenty of coffee for the start of the day, and a steady stream of cold drinks to carry me through the rest of the hot summer day. A fan is also a good idea to keep the heat at bay.

It is best to have someone work with you. Talk your hubby into keeping you company, or at least sitting in for a few minutes for those all important trips to the restroom, and a brief rest in the air conditioning. Or convince your kids to help you out. If they agree to sell a few of their old video games, they may come in handy explaining what games go with what system, anyway.

Liven things up and have your kids set up a lemonade stand at your garage sale. That way, they are making a little money, as well, and the people stopping at your sale get something cool to drink on a hot, summer day. Better yet, drag the grill out, and sell burgers and hot dogs, too. Wouldn't that be an unexpected surprise? It saves them from having to stop for lunch, and makes you a little extra money on top of what you make at the sale itself. Baking cookies isn't a great idea, though. They don't hold up well in the heat, trust me...I made that mistake once.

The best advice I can give you is be patient. There will be stretches of time, usually on the last day, when you just say forget it, and want to pack it in early, but don't. Sometimes, that is when those last minute people show up, hoping to score an even better deal, because they know you are almost done. Give them a deal. Remember what I said? Be flexible with your prices, after all, do you really want to drag all that stuff back in the house?

Inevitably, there will be stuff left over. I have never seen a garage sale where every single thing ended up being sold. There are several things you can do with all that left over stuff. You can put it out at the curb, letting who ever stops by rifle through it, taking what they want, the rest ending up in the trash. You can drag it all back inside and save it for another garage sale, or you can donate it. There are a number of charities that are willing to come to your house, and take all that stuff off your hands, and you get a tax deduction for it, as well. I know The Salvation Army will do it, and there are a few others. Call a few places, and see who will pick it up for you.

Garage sales are a lot of work, but for someone like me, who seems to accumulate a bunch of stuff I don't need, garage sales are a great way to make a little extra money, and clear out some of that clutter in my home and in my life.

© 2011 Anna Marie Bowman


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