Garage Sale Advice

The Former Garage Sale Queen had another garage sale a few weeks ago.  Even though I’ve decluttered and donated and flat-out-trashed huge amounts of stuff in the past three years, I still managed to scrape together enough clutter to justify spending ten dollars for a newspaper ad.

And to be willing to greet strangers in my driveway before 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning.

Was it successful?

Yes . . . because my goal was to get rid of stuff.  I made enough money to justify the time I spent, but not enough to inspire any dances of joy.

And, even though I consider myself a total expert on the subject of how to have a garage sale, I still learned a few more lessons.

Lesson #1:

Buy or borrow one of those markers that identifies counterfeit bills.

No, I didn’t receive any counterfeit bills.  BUT, the biggest shopper at my sale spent twenty-seven dollars, paid with a $100 bill, and hauled off a lot of stuff AND seventy-three dollars of my real money.

My ever-so-amazing ability to imagine worst-case-scenarios was at its best for the rest of the day as I stressed about whether or not that $100 bill was real. And whether or not I had just paid someone a  lot of money to take my stuff home with her.

Thankfully, it was real.  But I didn’t know that until Hubby took it to work with him and checked it with one of their special pens.

I think for my next sale I’d prefer to get a pen ahead of time, so I can sleep better after the sale is over.

Lesson #2:

I already knew Craigslist is a no-brainer for advertising garage sales . . . since it’s free.  However, I didn’t think it was a necessity because it’s not the primary way people find garage sales in my area.

BUT . . . the Monday after the sale someone emailed me to ask if one of my large items had sold.  It hadn’t (and I had whined and complained about that several times to my husband) and she arranged to come pick it up within a few days!  The beauty of Craigslist is that it’s free AND you can be much more specific about items than you can in a twenty-five-word newspaper ad.

Are you planning a garage sale soon?

I’ve given tons of advice for having a successful sale.  Just click on the pink links to get to the corresponding posts.

How to have the right expectations for your garage sale.

How to price your items for a garage sale.

How to effectively advertise your garage sale.

How to set up your garage sale.


I made some webisodes with garage sale advice, but I’ve been too crazy-busy to get them edited and uploaded to my YouTube channel.  Hopefully, they’ll be coming soon!


Oh, you’re wondering about the Amazon link to the marker?  It’s most definitely my affiliate link!

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

How to Get Buyers to Your Garage Sale – Tips for Effective Advertising

You can put a lot of work into getting ready for your garage sale, but if no one comes . . . you’ve wasted your time and energy.

Before I share tips to get people there, please be aware that you need to check the regulations for your city. Some cities require permits, limit the number of sales you can have, and even limit what you can sell. I was very surprised to learn last year that many of the towns in my area do not allow the sale of new items at garage sales. Some people said that they had been shut down or fined for selling new clothing or items they had gotten for free with coupons. It isn’t the case in all areas, but you should check beforehand to avoid any problems. It would be frustrating to lose any of your hard-earned profit because of ignorance. Also, many cities limit where you can place your signs and have city workers who will pull them up. You may not know why your traffic suddenly decreased until you go looking for your sign that evening.

Now, for the fun stuff. First, just like with expectations and pricing, you need to learn how things work where you live.

Learn when to have your sale:

Know that generally, your first day will be your best day. My aunt (the queen-mother of all garage sale-ers) lives in Kansas. In her city, it is common to start a garage sale on Thursday and hold it for several days. Where I live, however, a garage sale starting on Thursday is uncommon, and so most people don’t even look for them on Thursdays. Then, when they do look at garage sale listings for Friday or Saturday, if they see that they missed the first day of the sale, they assume that it’s been picked over and put it on their list of “if I can get to it” sales.

Consider starting your sale early. You want people to come to your sale first, while they still have all of their cash. If most sales start at 8 a.m., and you start yours at 7 or 7:30, they’ll hit yours first. Of course, they’ll get there at 6 or 6:30 . . . (Don’t try starting your sale at 10 a.m. People will still be there at 8 am, and you’ll just be mad. If you don’t go ahead and start, they may not come back, and if they do they’ll have already spent quite a bit of their money by 10:00.)

You should also try to find out when garage sales typically end in your area. Here, all garage sales are done around 2 pm, and people don’t come after that. My next door neighbors should have read this post, because they stayed open one Saturday until 6 p.m. I watched and they had maybe 2 people stop by after one o’clock (other than my kids who kept buying things for nickels).

Learn how people find garage sales in your area.

The best way to learn this is to ask someone you know who goes to garage sales, or by visiting other sales in your area like I advised in this post. In some areas, newspapers are the best way to advertise. Where I live, in a smallish town of about 20,000, you can usually hit all of the garage sales in one day. The paper is the primary advertising method. People who want to go to garage sales get a newspaper and then use it to find all of the sales in the area for that day.

However, where my parents live, the newspaper is not the primary advertising method. It is a much larger city, and looking at the newspaper is confusing because people generally don’t know where everything is, like they do in a small town. There, signs are the best way to find the sales. Knowing this can determine how many days you should hold your sale. In my small town, where the newspaper rules, a one-day sale is fine because the vast majority of traffic is informed and direct – they’re looking up my address. But in the larger city, a 2 or 3 day sale may be better as most traffic is “drive-by” and more days open means more people stopping by.

And of course, use Craigslist. It’s free and there’s no reason to NOT use it in addition to whatever other method is the norm for your area.

Get the most from your signs.

Signs should be in neon colors. My aunt and I often laugh and say that this should be required. Bright colors make them stick out from real estate or election signs, and if you can see them from farther away, you’re more likely to be able to slow down in time to make the turn. On your sign, your address should be the main, largest information. It is pretty obvious that a neon home-made sign at the corner of a neighborhood is a garage sale sign, so “Garage Sale” can be written smaller. The driver is trying to catch a glimpse of your address.

The picture at the top of this post shows the best sign method I’ve found. If you don’t have a solid metal sign that you can tape your neon poster over, putting it on a box and placing a brick or large rock inside the box to keep it from blowing away is a good solution. Posterboard on a stick may fold or flop in the wind, which will make it difficult to read.

If you live in a city that is strict about sign placement, you may need to ask permission to put signs in the yards of people who live on corners of streets that lead to your house. A creative and effective solution to this problem that I once saw was a family who moved their vehicles to the street corners where people needed to turn to get to their sale. They put huge neon posters on their cars giving directions.

Get the most from your Newspaper Ad and Craiglist.

Know when your paper comes out. I lived in a small town once whose newspaper was mailed out on Thursdays. Yes, mailed. Therefore, if someone had a Thursday sale, no one even knew about it until Thursday when their mail came. And here, even though the paper comes out daily, it doesn’t come out until late afternoon. Yes, late afternoon. So, if someone has a Friday sale, they need to be sure it comes out in Thursday’s paper. Make sense?

For a newspaper ad, use all of your allowed words, and use them wisely. For my paper, there is a set price for garage sale ads with a 25 word limit. There is no reason to not use all 25 words. “LOTS of misc.” or “Too much to list” doesn’t get people to your sale. They might come to yours after they go to the others who listed the items they were looking for, but by then, they won’t have as much money to spend!

Be specific in your ad. If you are selling any furniture, be SURE to list what it is. Couch, dining table, bookshelves, crib, recliner, bunk-beds etc. are all items that people specifically look for at garage sales. Along the same lines, if there’s anything that you feel is really worth something (and it didn’t sell on ebay or Craigslist first) list it in your ad. Designer purses and Dept 56 Christmas houses will sell much better if people come looking for them, rather than if people just happen to stop by.

I always list general clothing sizes as well. My ad will look something like this:

1234 Anystreet Saturday– 7am-? TONS of clothes, Boys 4-6, Girls 2-4, Women L-XL, riding toys, Books, home décor, teacher materials, videos, fridge, stroller, much more.

It doesn’t have to be beautifully written, it’s the STUFF that gets them there. If you’re in major decluttering mode like I am, you might try what I did last year. I put in my ad that all clothes would be 25 cents and most items would be under 1.00. It worked! I’ve seen other sales do this, and they’re always the busiest.

If you live in a place that is difficult to find, you should use your 25 words to give succinct directions to your house. An example might be: “Bellview Street – at the very end of Park Lane,” or “behind *** Shopping Center.”

On Craigslist, put your city and zip code in the title. You aren’t limited on words there, so you should list all the categories of items that you are selling, and specific directions. Always say “. . . and much more!”

If you plan ahead and make good use of advertising, you’ll have the best traffic possible for your sale. More traffic means more money, and best of all . . . MORE STUFF GONE!

I’m linking this up to Tip Junkie’s Tip Me Tuesday.

I’m also participating in Works for Me Wednesday at


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