Having a Yard Sale - Exhausting Work

I love going to yard sales, but being on the other end, preparing for a yard sale and then having it is exhausting work. We started by offloading about ~500 pounds of “stuff” from Nine of Cups and transporting it to my sister Lin's. It turns out that was the easy part. How ever did we ever accumulate so much? Once we got all the crap … I mean good stuff ... to Lin's and unloaded, we had to sort it and price it, plan and market the yard sale “event” and then actually participate for two days while people showed up, looked and hopefully bought all the treasures we had for sale. We've done this many times before and we've been reasonably successful at it. We measure success by 1) how much $$ we've made and 2) how much stuff is left at the end of the sale that needs to be carted off to a thrift shop or to the dump. Here's what we've learned …

1. Marketing your yard sale event. If you tell them ... they will come.

Marketing and advertising is important. You've got to let people know that you're having a sale and advance notice is important. We listed our yard sale in the local community newspaper, on craigslist and several local websites that are designed specifically to advertise yard sale/garage sale. Most are free and well worth the effort.

Additionally, signage is critical.

Catching someone's attention when they're driving is difficult, but someone who spots your signs and heads to your yard sale might be a potential buyer. Use brightly colored signs, with consistent colors (some folks might miss the verbiage on one sign, but follow the color), with clear, concise information: Yard Sale, location and date(s) are the key and necessary elements.

good signage

Make sure to place signs in strategic places to insure you draw as many potential buyers to your sale as possible. If you put them out a day or so early, people might make sure to put it on their agenda for the weekend. Also, be a responsible citizen. Remove your signs when your sale is over. We keep track of the number we put out, so we're sure to retrieve them all at the sale's end.

2. Price your stuff to sell

I know you paid $100 for that dress or lots for those skis, but if you want to sell them for anywhere close to what paid, you might consider a consignment shop that specializes in designer clothing or used sports equipment. Otherwise, be happy to get $10-$15 if you're lucky. People go to yard sales for bargains. Things are only worth what someone is willing to pay for them. If you want to move your “merchandise”, you don't have to give it away, but price it reasonably low so it will sell. OR be prepared to donate it or pack it away till the next yard sale.

3. Preparation is important.

Pre-pricing and pre-sorting are two tools to success. We usually use colored adhesive dots with associated published prices on signs scattered around the sale area, e.g. red dot = 50¢, green dot=$1, etc. There's nothing worse than having to ask someone for the price of each item and the only person who knows the prices is with another “customer”.


We try to sort items in advance and put them into the same area ... electronics, antiques, clothing, glassware, kitchen, books, toys/games. If something is particularly distinctive, we put an extra little tag on it with some info … “vintage teapot made in England”. Some folks like to root around in boxes full of junk. You can certainly leave a few boxes of miscellany for this purpose, but usually some sense of order is appreciated. Don't leave good items stuck in their boxes. Take them out so folks can see what they're buying.

Also, make sure you have change ready … lots of dollar bills, quarters, etc. If you're selling higher priced items like furniture, have larger bills available. What's worse than making a sale, but not being able to make change?


5. Be ready on time

If your sale is scheduled to start at 8am, have everything out and ready by 8am. People expect that you'll be ready to go when you say you will. Be prepared for early birds and either embrace them or turn them away. Though sometimes frustrating, we prefer embracing.

6. One man's trash is another man's treasure.

Things we don't think will sell, usually do … and vice versa. It's an amazing phenomenon. We put out everything there is to sell and at the end of the sale, we decide if what's left is worth keeping. We usually donate to a locate charity … preferably one that's willing to pick up.

So … how well did we do?

Unless you plan to have your sale inside, one thing you can't control is the weather … especially in New England. The weather forecast vacillated between thunder & lightning, hail and heavy rains to overcast. We took our chances and as luck would have it, we were the only ones who didn't cancel our yard sale on Saturday AND there was no rain. It sprinkled a bit, but we were ready with tarps and never needed them. People showed up steadily and bought lots. Sunday was a bust with off/on showers and few customers. Still, we felt the whole ordeal was successful and worthwhile.

In total, the family netted just under $800 for stuff we didn't need and/or want any longer. We've called a local charity to pick up the rest and Lin's basement is pretty empty … lots of room for more stuff. We plan to celebrate with a New England lobster feast at home … then Lin and I plan to go to yard sales next weekend.

By the way, I logged over 10,000+ steps on my FitBit each day … the best kind of exercise … I didn't have to think about it.