We’ve been encouraging you to clean out storage areas, reduce clutter and organize your home. These worthy activities may result in a large collection of unwanted items. There are several ways you can rid yourself of extra belongings that you don’t need and don’t want to put in self storage. You can:
- give them away, which has federal tax deduction benefits;
- trade them online; and
- have a yard sale.
Yard sales have some advantages over other methods of selling unwanted belongings. Unlike selling items through online auctions or classified ads, a yard sale is immediate. If your yard sale is successful, you will be relieved of these unwanted items all at one time. However, the operative phrase here is “successful yard sale.” You don’t want to go to the time and trouble of staging a sale, only to find most items still in your possession at the end of the day.
Holding a yard sale can be fun too, especially if you are a sociable person who enjoys face-to-face interaction. Of course, yard sales are not just about socializing. The main goals are to rid your home of clutter and make some money. Achieving success with your yard sale takes planning, preparation, commitment and more.
Planning and Preparing
The first step in planning a yard sale is to choose a date when attendance will be as high as possible—most likely on the weekend. In most areas, spring and summer are the traditional yard sale seasons, so you will usually get the best results by choosing a weekend sometime between March and September. Holidays can be popular, but keep in mind that people are often busy with other activities on those days. Additionally, lots of stores have holiday sales and potential customers may be spending more time at the mall than in the neighborhood. You know your community best, but if you choose a holiday weekend, try to schedule it for the first day to avoid low attendance.
Once you’ve decided on a date for your sale, check into any rules and regulations for yard sales where you live. Some municipalities may require that you have a permit. Others may not require a permit, but there may be other rules, such as guidelines about the number of sales you can have in a given year or where and when you can post yard-sale signs. In some places, and within some regulated communities, you can be fined for posting unauthorized signs.
You may also want to consider the possibility of holding a multi-family, neighborhood yard sale. These events have become highly successful annual traditions in many locations because more customers drop by when they know there will be more merchandise to buy. If this sounds appealing, ask your neighbors if they are interested in joining in on a group yard-sale day.
Spreading the Word
Two weeks before the sale, you will want to alert potential customers about the date, time and location. You’ll want to announce your sale in as many places as possible, preferably without spending money. Options that are free or may cost very little include:
- Placing flyers on community bulletin boards at supermarkets, community centers and churches.
- Posting free online announcements on websites like craigslist.com.
- Putting an ad in a newspaper can be worthwhile, provided the cost to run the ad is modest. Some local newspapers may offer free online ads, too. Some communities have free local papers that run community announcements at no cost as well.
- Reaching out via social media. Tell your Facebook friends and Twitter followers about the sale, and ask them to pass the word on to others.
Special websites and mobile apps also offer tools and resources for spreading the news about yard sales. For example, at you can list your sale for free. Buyers can find your sale on a map via the website or with a smartphone app. This advertising method may bring customers to your sale from outside of the local community.
Pricing Your Items to Sell vs. Seeking the Highest Prices
Your pricing can have a big impact on the success of a yard sale. Ask yourself whether your goal is to make money or rid your home of lots and lots of unused stuff. Although the two goals are not mutually exclusive, lower prices can help move more inventory.
There are several pricing techniques used by successful sellers, including the Haggler’s Strategy and the Tag Sale Strategy.
- The Haggler’s Strategy – For many people, the fun in going to yard sales is really about the bargaining. If you enjoy negotiating, the Haggler’s Strategy may be for you. Sometimes hagglers do not even use price tags. Instead, the seller makes a list of all items and their desired price ranges. When a customer makes an offer, the seller may counteroffer based on the predetermined price ranges.
- The Tag Sale Strategy – In this approach, the sellers attach a price tag or sticker to each item that reflects the firm amount the seller expects to receive. The prices remain the same throughout the sale. This strategy may be more appropriate if your sale will include items with higher dollar values.
You will want to choose a pricing technique that fits your goals and your personal style. To determine what you will charge, visit someone other garage sales and observe what they charge for different types of merchandise—and what prices they ultimately get for such merchandise.
Accurately pricing items can be tricky when it comes to items with higher values. Writer Arianne Cohen offers helpful tips about pricing in “How to Have a Successful Yard Sale,” and she suggests these quick ways to find out how much value your items may have:
- eBay. Go to Advanced Search and check “completed listings.” Look for prices on identical or similar items.
- CraigsList.com. Search Craigslists across the country for a sense of comparison prices. Be careful—some people may undervalue items to sell them.
Thrift and consignment stores. Make a list of items you’re not sure about, and head to your local cheap thrift store. My vote: Rather than scanning the store, just take your list to the owner and ask. He or she might be able to price things without a second thought.
Another option is the check out the IRS’s list of values for donated items and use that to price your goods. You can download a Donation Value Guide at Goodwill.
Having a Successful Sales Day
As the countdown to your sale begins, there are a few things you want to remember. One very important task is to go to the bank and get one-dollar bills and several types of coins to make change during the sale. Also, gather your supplies in advance and keep them together in a bag or box. For example, collect your used plastic grocery bags and make these available for customers to use.
On sale day, make sure to display your items in an attractive way.
- Use folding tables or picnic tables to display items. (Be prepared to tell buyers that the table itself is not for sale.)
- Group items by household category to make them more appealing. All kitchen and cooking stuff should be arranged together. Display all toys and kids’ clothing together.
- Think like a department store—create sections on the lawn or driveway that show customers what a room in their home would look like with the sale items.
- Consider using Ziploc bags for collections of small items such as plastic toys, kitchen gadgets or accessories.
Last, but not least, to have a successful sale day, bring your good humor, patience and a friendly smile to your sale. Your positive disposition can make the yard sale fun and profitable. Best of all, and the point of it all, is knowing that you got rid of the clutter.