A Step-By-Step Guide to Hosting A Successful Yard Sale

Yard sale season is upon us, friends. And if you’re anything like us, your consistent decluttering has unearthed stuff in nooks and crannies you totally forgot about.

What’s the best way to get rid of those items you no longer need, while also making some extra cash?

A yard sale, of course.

Whether you’re a newbie or just need a refresher on the ins-and-outs of “yard sailing,” this step-by-step guide to throwing a successful yard sale will give you the ultimate low-down.

So grab your finest DVDs, Pyrex mixing bowls, once-loved jackets, a couple friends, and some lemonade, and get ready to host your most successful yard sale yet.

Click any of the below links to jump to a specific section:

What to sell
When to host
What to do a week before
What to do the day of
How to price items
What to expect
Creative yard sale tips
Cleaning up
Celebration

What to sell at a yard sale

A table full of cups, bowls, and other miscellanea at a flea market.

This is the most obvious step but it might also be the most difficult one. Before you get too excited by the prospect of hosting a yard sale, figure out what you’re going to sell first.

Go through the belongings you have stored in your closets, basement, or garage, and sort everything into piles like “keep,” “sell,” and “donate.”

Also, take a look around your home to see if there’s a chair you’ve been avoiding sitting on because you dislike it. Or if there’s a painting you’re sick of looking at.

When going through your items, you’ll be looking through old stuff that probably hold memories for you. It’s bound to get emotional. That’s okay!

Pro Tip: Use our handy guide on what to do with sentimental items.

But really, don’t hold back. If you come across things you haven’t used in over a year, it’s time to let it go. And with the cash you’ll make from the yard sale, you’ll be able to buy things that you *will* want to use.

When to host a yard sale

An open planner and flowers are on a vintage desk

Give yourself ample time to plan and prepare for the yard sale. If you’re hosting one with multiple people, it might take longer to get everyone on the same page.

Check the weather. Then check it again. Plan for a day that won’t rain, and make sure it’s not going to be too hot.

Also, don’t plan a yard sale on a major holiday as people will probably be out of town. Or they’ll have plans instead of just wandering around town for a yard sale. Not that there’s anything wrong with wandering around town, looking for a yard sale.

Definitely host your yard sale on a weekend since that’s when most people aren’t working. Ideally, host it on Saturday and Sunday to get the most traffic. More traffic = more sales.

Start early. Like 7 AM early. Early birds walking around their neighborhood love to poke around yard sales. Ideally you’ll be open all day. Even more ideally, you’ll have friends that can join you so you can work in shifts. Basically you’ll want to camp out on your lawn all day to be available to the most amount of people.

Pro Tip: Know when people get paid, and plan accordingly. If most of the people in your neighborhood work for companies that pay them every other Friday, host your yard sale the following weekend.

What to do a week before

A handmade sign for a yard sale.
j.sanna via Visual hunt / CC BY

Do loads of prep work. Grab tables. Find cardboard for signs, and put the signs up a few days ahead of time. Make sure your signs have all the basics:

  • The words “yard sale”
  • Your address
  • The date
  • An arrow pointing to your place

Feel free to also get crafty and employ your design skills.

In addition to physical signs, post on Craigslist, tell all your friends, and write something about it on Facebook. Spreading the word is essential to having a big turnout.

Get pricing stickers from a dollar store when you’re grabbing sign supplies, too. If you’re having a sale with a few friends or families, assign each group a different color sticker. That way you’re not wondering whose grandmother’s vase that is when a customer tries to buy it.

Plus, having more families means you can advertise that on your signs, which is an instant crowd winner. You can also choose the person’s yard with the best location. Choose an active residential neighborhood with a mix of ages.

Coordinate how you’ll set things up, who will run and get lunch, and what everyone’s roles are the day before. Price all your items the day before (more on that in section #5). And set the items aside so that when you’re ready to haul them to the sale or to your front yard, you’re not struggling to find anything.

It’s also a good idea to get your cash and cash drawer squared away before the day of the yard sale. Always over-estimate the amount of change you’ll need, especially if you plan on selling a range of higher and lower priced items.

It’s always better to have more change than not enough. The last thing you want to do is risk turning someone away because you don’t have the right change to give him/her.

What to do on the day of your yard sale

Closeup of a white picket fence

We said it once before, and we’ll say it again: Get up early, even if you’ve done your prep work the night before.

Ready your team. Go over the game plan once more if you’re working in shifts.

Set up your tables and other displays in a way that’s easy to navigate and visually appealing. Your curbside appeal is a major ticket into getting traffic to your sale.

Keep an eye on your merchandise. If you have valuables out, make sure someone is watching them at all times. Also, make sure your items are displayed safely. There’s nothing worse than propping a vintage mirror up against a wobbly table and having to clean up shards of broken glass if a gust of wind knocks it down.

Have some bags on hand. This step is easy to forget, but your shoppers will appreciate it. It’s also an awesome way to get rid of those plastic bags you have in your kitchen cabinets.

Another good idea is to keep some newspaper around if you’re selling breakable stuff. Keep some under a rock near your bags and cash so that you can quickly wrap items after a purchase.

Don’t get overzealous and put out *too* much stuff. It can overwhelm guests if they see rows and rows of clothes to look through. Be discerning: Put out the things you’re more confident will sell. Donate the rest.

Check through everything once more beforehand. Make sure there aren’t any old family photos used as bookmarks in books, or wads of cash stuffed in old jacket pockets.

Last but not least: Maintain your cool. While it can be stressful dealing with strangers all day haggling over prices, niceness will ensure you can have many more yard sales in the future.

How to price yard sale items

Someone rifles through a collection of old LP vinyls

When pricing an item, consider what you spent, how long you’ve had it, and most importantly, how much you’d actually pay for it if you came across it for the first time. People are coming to your yard sale for a deal.

For your more valuable items, you may want to sell them on Craigslist, Ebay, OfferUp, or Facebook Marketplace to get the best offer.

Either put price stickers on your items (as mentioned before), write down the price on a card stationed nearby if it’s a larger item, or get ready to have people asking you what the prices of things are. Avoid winging it. Think of the prices ahead of time. You don’t want to be caught off guard and accidentally give something away for much less than it’s worth.

Pro Tip: Price things in 25 cent increments, so you’ll only need quarters.

Price most things to move. Get in the mindset to get rid of the stuff you no longer need. Some things, like more expensive items or ones that you’re really trying to make money off of, can be priced accordingly.

If you have a bunch of one item, like DVDs, price them all the same and put them in a box. Offer bundle deals too, like 1 for $2 or 5 for $8, and be open to offers on multiple items for a lower price.

Need more inspiration on how to price your items?

Check out this handy garage sale pricing guide by Garage Sales Tracker.

A rundown of what to expect

a woman looks overwhelmed by her yard sale
marmunia via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-ND

You’ll be interacting with strangers, so get ready. Introverts be warned: This yard sale may drain you. The day will be long. Bring a book for downtimes. And make sure you’ve got a chair to sit on.

If it’s sunny that day, give yourself, and if possible everyone else, some shade. Your customers will appreciate it.

Have food handy, or have a friend watch your stuff while you go grab food. This will give you a much needed break in the middle of the day.

Finally, expect to fill spots once things start to sell. You want to always be curating the space and making sure there aren’t holes in your display.

Extra points for creativity

a dress and hat are hanging and ready to be sold

This is where the fun comes in. If you’re design-savvy, show off your skills by making your displays beautifully cohesive. Organize by color, add decorations, or pretend like this is a vintage store you own.

Offer drinks. You don’t have to go too crazy. Some iced-down soda from Costco will be a godsend at a yard sale on a hot day.

If you have kids and aren’t able to get a sitter, give them the task of running a lemonade stand. Who knows, you might make some extra cash there, too.

Set out some mystery grab bags. Organize things by category, like children’s toys, rom-com DVDs, paints, and silverware. Then put them all in their own brown paper bags, staple them shut, label them, and sell them for a flat $5 or $10.

If you’ve got Square, use it. Although Square takes a percentage of every transaction, you’ll sell more items than if you’re only accepting cash. You can even advertise “credit and debit cards accepted” on your signs.

Put on music. Make it a party. You’ll want the music to be inoffensive and easy for people of all ages to listen to. (That means no heavy metal or dubstep.)

Cleaning up

Four tiny toys are ready to clean

Although it might be tempting to leave your signs and tables up until the next day, don’t do it. It’s best to get it out of the way that evening so you don’t need to think about it later. And because you’ll be doing this during summer, you’ll have plenty of time after you’ve closed up shop to pick up those signs while there’s still light left.

Remember, you can always donate things you don’t sell, or do a swap meet party with friends after.

And keep this rule: Don’t let an unsold item come back into your home. You’ve already mentally prepared to let it go. If an item doesn’t sell, then donate, gift, recycle, or toss it.

Celebration

Two girls are celebrating with their hands in the air

Finally, treat yourself to a nice dinner with the cash you made! Order in through DoorDash so that you don’t have to talk to any more strangers.

This article was written by Hannah Van Arsdale, a freelance writer and dog person based in Portland, OR.