Garage Sale Tips Part 4 – How to Set Up Your Sale

More Garage Sale Tips from the Girl who Knows Too Much


So it’s time to have your garage sale. You are in the right frame of mind, you’ve decided on your pricing basics, and you’ve planned ahead enough to get people there.

Now let’s talk about set-up. Here are a few questions to consider:

Should I do it alone, or with a friend?

Do you have neighbors who would like to have one? A neighborhood garage sale is a great idea, even if it’s just three or four of you deciding to do it on the same day and going in on an ad together. People love to park once and hit several sales, and will likely be sure that they make it to your sales that day.

If you’re having it with a friend who isn’t a neighbor, choose to do it at the house that’s easiest to get to. Like I said before, it’s okay to have a sale at a house out in the country if you live in a place where people use the newspaper or Craigslist garage sale listings as their primary way of finding garage sales. I’ve been to many crazy-busy sales well outside the city limits that had enticing newspaper ads and good directions. But if you have a choice, make it the easiest location. Where we used to live, I had sales with a friend each year, and we generally did them at my house, which was fairly easy to find. But one year, she needed to sell a couch, so we did it at her place. There were four turns to make inside her neighborhood to get to her house, and our traffic really suffered.

Do I have to put a price on EVERY SINGLE THING?

Basically, yes. When things are not clearly priced, many people are afraid to ask. They’ll assume your prices are high. It also makes things more enticing to see the price, if the price is low. That brown frame may not be cute enough to warrant getting your attention and asking about the price, but if they know it’s only 50 cents, it’s automatically cuter, and they’re more likely to pick it up. It also gets crazy in the middle of your sale. You may think that you’ll be able to watch to see if people seem interested in certain items, but when a big wave of traffic hits, your observations of nuances will fly out the garage door!

Now, the way to make this easier is to price categories of items, like I talked about in my pricing post. This works best on very specific categories, such as clothes, shoes, stuffed animals, videos, books, etc. Random items like knick-knacks and toys need to be individually marked, because having a table that says “Everything on this table – 1.00” will get confusing as people pick up things and then set them down somewhere else. It can also be overwhelming if you happen to be inside for a moment (or on a doughnut run) for the person left in charge, who doesn’t have any idea which table something came from. I generally make bright signs and attach them to the box of shoes saying “All shoes – 50 cents.” For clothes, since I have several tables and hanging areas of them, I put a sign on any designated clothing area, and hang signs up randomly that say “All clothing – 50 cents.”

Do I have to hang up all of my clothing?

I CAN’T hang up all of our clothing, there’s just too much. I used to have a fabulous hanging rack, but it was too huge to store, so I recently got rid of it. I’ll miss it when I have this coming sale, but with my new why-in-the-world-do-I-need-that-humongous-thing-that-I-only-use-once-a-year mindset, I’m glad it’s gone. You can use a mop handle placed between bookshelves or ladders to make your own hanging rack. I’ll probably hang some things on the fence that is next to our driveway, but most of my clothing will be folded this time. Folding clothing and stacking it on a table is the next best thing to hanging, but be aware that any neat piles will be destroyed in the first five minutes of your sale. If you have enough tables to spread out, separating boys from girls or kids from adult clothing is helpful.

Some people are willing to dig through bags and boxes of clothing, but you will definitely do better if you are willing to put them out and make it easier for people to see what you have.

How much change do I need to have?

This is my personal opinion, but I don’t think it’s necessary to have huge amounts of change before the sale starts. Most people are going to have small bills, and once you get going, you’ll be able to make change from your profit. But it’s always possible that your first customer will want to pay for a 50 cent item with a 20 dollar bill. I try to have about 30-40 dollars worth. 20 ones, a few dollars in quarters, and some fives.

How do I handle the money?

I have found that it works best to have a belt-purse or pocketed apron. If you try to have a formal table, it can get very backed up, and I’ve been known to rethink quite a few items if I have to stand in line for long. If you are doing the sale with a friend, keep a notebook with you and when someone buys something, just make a running list rather than columns. When things get crazy, it makes it easier to keep up. For example, if someone buys 14 items of my clothing and a 2.00 item of my friend’s, I would write down 7.00 – N (for Nony), 2.00 – H (for Heather). Make sense? Then you can go back and add things up when you’re done.

How do I arrange things?

The more you have out, instead of in boxes, the better. If your sale will be visible from the street (this house has a rear garage), put your eye-catchers out where people can see them. Furniture, climbing toys, etc. are things that will make people stop and look at your sale.

Be aware that kids are going to play with any toys that you have. I did a sale with a single friend once who was irritated that kids played with the few toys she was selling. Really, though, if my kids can be occupied with a toy for a few minutes, I’m able to browse and am much more likely to buy something. For this reason, put your toys far away from the street, for the kids’ safety, and so the mom will be able to look around more easily.


Most of all, remember that this is a garage sale. While clothes and items need to be clean and put out where they can be seen easily, it isn’t a boutique. You don’t have to have fancy displays or matching hangers. While people don’t want to dig through your kids unsorted toy box looking for puzzle pieces, they also know that they’re not at Toys R Us. Be as prepared as you can be, but if the day comes and you have one more box of junk, it’s okay to just stick it out there. As long as it isn’t going to come back into your home, you can have the philosophy that if someone wants it, they’ll buy it, and if not, it gets donated . . . THAT afternoon!

I’m linking this up to Works for Me Wednesday at



  1. 1
    Martianne says:

    Thank you. We are planning our first garage sale since marriage and kids in two weeks and your posts are very helpful…

  2. 2
    The Prudent Homemaker says:

    I'm planning my first garage sale, and I was wondering what to do about the money. I have an apron with pockets that I wear all the time; I never thought to use that. Thanks for the great idea!

  3. 3

    I'm *supposed* to be doing a yard sale at hubbys work next weekend and I am SO dreading the pricing and setting up of everything. I have some stuff set aside for it but am really putting it off! I'm going to go back and read your other posts, I think they'll get me moving! Thanks for the great tips!

  4. 4

    I would love to add–try to get stuff off the ground as much as possible. You may not have that many tables, but be creative. What about using totes or boxes (even empty) as makeshift tables, or better yet, use them as table “legs” by placing something flat between them.

    Especially the smallest baby clothes. If you are a soon-to-deliver mom needing cheap clothes do you really want to squat on the ground to dig through a box of infant clothes? I’m amazed that so many people set those boxes on the ground and wonder why the pregnant women (who are more likely to buy those teeny clothes) ignore them (other than the occasional cute thing right on top) and instead really look at the teeny clothes at the NEXT sale they go to that has them at a more comfortable level. Sure, hanging clothes by size is even better, but teeny clothes should at least be up higher–stick that box on top of a box or rubbermaid tote, even if it’s full of stuff like your regular holiday stuff or kids clothes your saving. Those poor pregnant woman will thank you by buying MORE of those clothes you want to get rid of. As a mom of 7 who has outfitted them all ENTIRELY on thrifted clothing, I appreciated ALL the sizes off the ground while I was searching at 8 or even 9 months pregnancy to find clothes for varying ages of older siblings, not just the “new” baby yet to be born. Just a thought–there are tons of people selling baby clothes ALL the time–something so simple as getting those boxes up higher will help you sell yours while other people just donate theirs and mumble things about how clothes just don’t sell.

  5. 5

    for hanging clothes- go to the local home depot/loews…. get PVC pipes usually $3 each & yellow rope.
    thread the yellow rope thru the pipe and wrap the rope around wooden beams in the garage. this will make a sturdy, cheap & easy to store garage sale clothing rack.
    plus you can cut the pvc pipe to the lengths you need to fit your garage, and use the rope to adjust the height of the pvc pole based on your needs 🙂

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