Each summer, my mom would hand us boxes or bags and tell us to go through our room and get rid of the things we no longer liked or used. She also had us help with going through other rooms in the house. Then we’d price the items we wanted to sell so we could put them in our yard sale. We had to get up early on the day of the yard sale and help set up, try and sell things to our friends and then take it all down and give away anything that didn’t sell. For as long as I can remember, we did this every single summer. Even after I moved away to college, I could count on my mom holding a yard sale. I learned how to let go of unwanted/unused items, how to price to sell, how to count change and many other skills.
So when my in-laws decided they wanted to sell the home they’d been in for 26 years and needed help getting rid of stuff, I volunteered to help sell it. I had sold plenty of my own items using Facebook yard sale groups (a post I will do soon!) and knew I could help make them some money as they purged. As their unwanted items continued to accumulate, I knew I was going to need to do a yard sale. The thought kind of excited me because I love the challenge of selling things to others (although I am definitely not a sales person and could never be one).
For the last two weeks, I’ve had two words on my mind: yard sale. Eat, sleep, breath, yard sale. Eat, sleep, breathe, yard sale. Slowly our garage filled up with all the things they wanted to get rid of. Finally, this last weekend, I held a yard sale at my house and made over $1100. How? Let me tell you.
Advertise Like Crazy If you’re going to spend the time that it takes to sort through your stuff, price it and set it all up in your yard, you better make sure that as many people know about your yard sale as possible. I am part of 15+ Facebook yard sale groups and two neighborhood Facebook groups. In addition, my city allows you to submit your yard sale information and they will post it in their yard sale listings for free. So when it came time to let people know about the yard sale, I posted in every single yard sale group I belong to, the two neighborhood groups, the city listings and my personal Facebook page. That is over 20 listings that expose 1000s of people to the date, time and location of my yard sale. The day before the sale, I posted in each of the groups I just listed and also included pictures of some of the best items I was going to have for sale. Items such as furniture, tools, baby clothes and home decor are great because people are always looks for good deals on those things.
*Extra Tip: Clean the items you’re selling to make them look as nice as possible, both before taking pictures and during the yard sale. People will pay more for something if it looks clean. Even if what you have is nice, if it is dusty or has cobwebs on it from being in storage, people won’t look as closely at it. If they do look close, they might not want to pay as much as it’s worth because it’s dirty.
3 B’s: Big Signs, Big Words and Balloons
Part of advertising for a yard sale is making it as easy as possible for people to get to you. This year, I bought two pieces of white poster board and three yard sale signs with a place to write my address on them from the dollar store, as well as balloons (all the same color). During the summer, there are a lot of people who do yard sales. If you want people to come to yours, you have to do two things: 1) get their attention and 2) tell them where to go. When making a yard sale sign, I only include the following: the words YARD SALE (or MULTI-FAMILY YARD SALE or MOVING SALE), the date, the time and the address, and usually in that order. Use black sharpie and make your words big and bold. I generally write in all caps. Don’t get fancy. The mistake a lot of people make is trying to fit too much in a small area and then you can’t read anything because you don’t know what to focus on. Give people the basic information they need to know and they will come. Another way to get a person’s attention is balloons. How often do you see balloons attached to a sign and wonder what it’s for so you look when you pass by? Other people do the same thing. Be consistent so people can follow your signs. (This is why I use all the same color poster board, markers and balloons on each sign.) Place your signs at crossroads (like a four way stop) and at the entrance(s) to your neighborhood. Include arrows on your signs so they know which direction to go.
Organize Items Into Categories
This tip might sound like a no brainer, but if you’ve ever been to a yard sale where anything and everything is just thrown haphazardly onto tables or blankets, you know this is important. Whenever I do my yard sales, I always put similar items together: home decor, tools, craft supplies, games/toys, holiday/seasonal, jewelry, kitchen, etc. As I’m sorting and pricing, I try to keep the same things together in bins or boxes. Then, a day or two before the sale, I set up tables in my garage and start sorting the bins/boxes into tables so I know exactly how much I have in each category. This year, I had a ton of home decor stuff so I found that I needed two tables to display it. Kitchen items also needed two tables. Yard and tools needed one. And so on. Doing this makes set up go a whole lot smoother the morning of the sale.
Up Off the Ground
One of the best tips I can give for hosting your own yard sale is to borrow as many tables as you can. I borrowed at least 12 from family and friends (in addition to the two I already had) and I still didn’t have as many as I would have liked. The reason having tables is important is because stuff sells better when it’s on a table as opposed to the ground. It displays better and it looks nicer. When you couple this with organizing items into categories, you will have more people buying things because it’s easier to browse through and it’s more visible. They don’t have to stoop down to sort through what you have. Get your stuff off the ground.
Another nice touch is to make signs for each of the tables indicating what is on them. Some people come to yard sales with specific categories they are looking to browse through. If you make it easy for them to find what they are looking for, they may be more willing to buy what they find. I’ve had plenty of customers come up and tell me they liked how organized everything was. People will notice if you take the time to add little touches like signs for your tables.
This is definitely my least favorite part of prepping for a yard sale. It takes a long time to label everything. But if you decide not to label your items, you’ll be frustrated during the sale when you have people constantly coming up to you asking what the price is for this or that. The only things I don’t label are clothes. Instead I put the price on a sign: $1 for long-sleeve shirt, $.50 for pants, etc. If you make signs for a group of items, be sure to have a list of the prices with you at checkout.
*Extra Tip: If you are hosting a group yard sale, I would suggest color coding or marking each label with the seller’s initials. Section off a few pages in a notebook for each family/person participating in the yard sale. Have the notebook with you at checkout. Take off the price stickers as you total their purchase. Then put each sticker in the notebook on the corresponding page.
Greet People When You See Them
If you’ve ever worked in retail, one of the most important things they teach you is to try and greet every person who walks in the doors. The same goes for yard sales. When you see someone come up, try and catch their eye and say ‘hi’ or ‘good morning/afternoon’. It lets people know that you saw them come up and they will feel good they were recognized.
Make Friendly Conversation
I always make an effort to talk to the person who is checking out. I will comment on the items they bought or compliment them on their shirt or purse or ask them what they plan to do with the item they purchased. It (generally) puts people at ease and it passes the time while you are totaling up what they bought. Smiling and being friendly will go a long way and people will feel good about their experience.
Sell Baked Goods and Drinks
If you have kids, and even if you don’t, selling baked goods and drinks at a little homemade stand just makes people feel more comfortable. We had a lemonade and cookie stand at our most recent yard sale with a cooler full of soda pop and bottled water. Last year, I had muffins and banana bread next to me at checkout and I had a lot of early morning shoppers buy some for their breakfast. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to provide something that people want or need, especially on a hot day. Plus, if you have cute kids manning the stand, you might get the neighborhood kids coming too!
Be Willing To Negotiate
It might be tempting to want to sell your things for exactly the price you marked them at, but when it comes down to it, you need to be willing to negotiate. You have to get into the mindset that you put these things out in your yard to sell and if you want to get rid of them, you might have to take a little less than you’d like. If it’s a decision between a few dollars and selling the item(s), just sell it for less. For example, I had a family purchase a ton of stuff, mostly small items, but it was about $85. This was a great deal for what they were getting. They asked if they could get a discount for buying so much stuff. I offered to knock off $5 and make it $80. And then, rather than asking, “Is that ok?”, I said, “Does that seem fair to you?” By forming the question this way, they had to think about what they were getting in proportion to what I was offering to do for them by lowering the price on already low priced items. There are always exceptions of course. We had a handful of things that I wasn’t willing to negotiate on. One was a Christmas tree from Costco that my in-laws had bought for $350 and used it one year. I had it marked at $75, which was a fantastic deal. There were a few people who offered $40 or $50 but I turned it down because I knew the tree was worth more and I knew that if I didn’t sell it at the yard sale, I could sell it online through a Facebook yard sale group.
So there you have it! My recipe for success! While I can’t guarantee you’ll make $1000 at your next yard sale, I can tell you that if you follow these tips, you’ll have a much better chance of getting there.
**Also, if selling items online is your preference, or you just don’t have the space or enough items to host a sale, you can check out these great posts about how to sell your stuff online. It’s a four part series which goes over the following:
- Part 1: Taking Pictures
- Part 2: Pricing
- Part 3: The Anatomy of a Post
- Part 4: Posting and Followup Etiquette