12 Garage Sale Tips To Turn Clutter Into Cash

Andrew Dehan7-minute read
UPDATED: August 15, 2022

Hosting a yard or garage sale is a great way to get rid of any items in your home you don’t need anymore and make a bit of money at the same time. It’s also a great step to take to get your home ready to sell.

And in the spirit of popular organizing consultant and author Marie Kondo, there’s no better time than now to turn your extra clutter into cash.

Yes, it can be a pain to drag all of your stuff from your home and take the time to set it up, but if you follow our advice, it will be worth it. Here are some garage sale organization tips – from planning to advertising to pricing – that will give you the best chance at success.

12 Garage Sale Tips And Tricks

1. Clean And Declutter Your Home

This is the hardest part, but at least you’ll get it over with first. The truth is that most garage sales are more successful if you have a lot of items for sale. If you just have a small table of things, it may not be worth your time and effort.

Maximize your spring cleaning routine by keeping your future garage sale in mind, leaving no space untouched. Go through your garage, basement, attic – every nook and cranny.

When combing through your items, try to be ruthless. Have you used any of these items within the last 12 months? If you have multiples of items, can you pare them down to just one? As Marie Kondo would ask, “Does it spark joy?”

2. Inspect Your Sale Items

Once you have a pile of items you don’t want anymore, take a careful look at them. See if the items are still in good working condition or clean.

It could be beneficial for you to spend some extra time wiping down bowls and plates or even washing some of your old clothes, so they look nice. Sure, people are buying your used items, but that doesn’t mean they’ll want to purchase dirty things.

You’ll also want to take a good, honest look at what will sell. While your Beanie Baby collection is quite valuable in your eyes, other people may pass on them. Same goes for old items like VHS tapes or ceramic knick-knacks.

3. Set A Practical Date And Time

If you’re wondering how to do a garage sale the right way, pay close attention to the advice in this section. The best time to host a garage sale is early spring, because shoppers are excited to break out of their winter hibernation and browse for bargains in the sun.

But if your spring cleaning lasts until June, summer is the next best time to hold your garage sale. Just keep in mind that no one wants to spend a sweltering summer day shopping outside in the sun. If the early summer months are too hot, you might want to have an end-of-the-summer garage sale in September or even October. These months can be successful because there is less competition.

After you decide on which month to host your garage sale, choose a date and time. The most popular days for garage sales are Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Fridays and Sundays may bring in a decent number of buyers, but Saturdays are the best day to host a garage sale because they will attract both casual customers and serious shoppers.

Depending on how many items you have to sell, consider holding a weekend-long sale and offer reduced prices on Sunday to clear out the rest of your inventory.

Most garage sales last 3 – 4 hours, typically from 7:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m., or 9:00 a.m. –  noon. Some garage sales may even go until 4:00 p.m. or 5:00 p.m. depending on how popular it is, or how many items remain after peak hours.

4. Check For Garage Sale Permits

You might think that after you gather your items and set a date for your sale, you’ll be ready to roll, but don’t forget about your city’s ordinances. Many cities require a permit and sometimes a fee before residents can host a garage sale.

If you want to check if your city requires a permit for hosting garage sales, call or visit your city hall or look online. Permits are inexpensive, with most fees ranging from $5 – $15. Some cities may also limit the number of garage sales you can have in a year, the duration of each sale, what can be sold and where items can be placed.

5. Research Average Sale Prices

When pricing your items, it’s important to remember one rule: price your items to sell. Don’t price your merchandise high and expect customers to negotiate your prices down because you will ultimately lose money.

Instead, create a fair price and stick to it. When pricing your merchandise, it’s helpful to reference a pricing guide or research the average resale value of that item.

Here are some price suggestions:

  • Baby clothes: $1 – $3
  • Adult clothes: $3 – $5 (Name-brand clothes and clothes with original tags can be sold for more money.)
  • Books: $1 for hardcover books, $0.25 – $0.50 for paperback books
  • DVDs/CDs: $3 – $5 each
  • Electronics: No more than one-third of the retail price for used items, or half the original cost for new items
  • Furniture: $10 – $30 for low-quality furniture, or one-third of the retail price for sturdy or new furniture
  • Home decor: $3 – $5
  • 6. Use Easy-To-Read Price Tags

Neon-colored stickers are best to tack onto items because they’re bright, attention-grabbing and much easier to use than tape. But remember to use low-tack stickers or tags that tie for easy removal on items that could be damaged by strong adhesive. Use a thin, black permanent marker when creating the price tags so numbers can easily be read.

To save some time, you can group items together and make a big sign for those particular items. For example, if you have a bunch of T-shirts, you can make a sign that reads, “All T-shirts are $1 each.” For individual items, make sure the price tags are on large labels so there is no confusion as to what the price is.

7. Advertise Around Your Neighborhood

Sometimes less is more, but not when advertising for a garage sale! It’s important that you put signs throughout your neighborhood that draw attention and direct shoppers to your event. Purchase a pre-made sign or create your own using dark, block letters so that it’s easy to read from a distance.

Before you hang up any signs, make sure to check your city’s local laws to see if they’re allowed. Maximize your advertising and extend an invite to your community by posting about your garage sale in local listings or bulletins. Your neighbors are your target audience, so you should do everything you can to attract their attention and support.

8. Spread The Word Online

In today’s age of technology, everything is online – even garage sale advertisements. Utilize technology to invite a wider audience to your garage sale by posting on these websites:

  • Facebook forums and groups

When posting about your garage sale online, make sure to avoid using all capital letters, only list the popular items you’re selling, double-space between items you include, and use catchy headlines and phrases to attract more shoppers.

9. Organize Your Garage Sale Space

Making your garage sale space inviting will help entice people to take a look at what you’ve got for sale. Of course, there’s no need to go all out and fully decorate your yard, but putting some thought into how you’ll display your items can help you sell more. Here are a few quick tips:

  • Group similar items together – or if you really want to get creative, color-code items as well.

  • Put your clothes on hangers and use a clothesline to hang them, or create some makeshift clothing racks with broom handles between two ladders.

  • Organize books with spines facing outward so buyers can easily browse their titles.

  • Use lightweight shelves to display small items.

  • Pair items that go together to help sell more items – put decorative cushions on a couch, or drape a scarf around a jacket.

  • Make sure there’s an area where people can test electronic items.

  • Display large items and most valuables near the entrance to your yard sale to attract customers.

10. Be Ready To Negotiate

Bargain hunters are to be expected, and there’s no reason why you can’t negotiate a price that works for both of you.

The best outcome is to try to get the buyer to purchase a few items, and then lower the price. Again, you can always encourage people to buy more by putting up signs that offer a discount the more items they buy, such as getting a free shirt when they buy three.

11. Have Change And Small Bills On Hands

Don’t rely on the shoppers to pay you the exact amount of money that an item costs. In fact, you’ll always need cash handy to provide customers with the correct amount of change, regardless of how they pay you.

Make sure to have a lot of small change: quarters, one-dollar bills, five-dollar bills and a little bit of everything else, just in case. You can organize your cash and coins by using a money box or an apron with multiple pockets.

12. Make A Plan For Unsold Items

Even if you don’t sell all of your items, don’t sweat it – you can box them up and take them to your local donation center so others can find value in those items. That way, you’ve accomplished your main mission of a yard sale, which is to get rid of unwanted items.

However, if you’re still looking to generate some cash, consider selling your items on these websites:

The Bottom Line: Preparation Is The Key To A Successful Garage Sale

A garage sale is a fun way to make some extra cash off of the unused items in your house, but it’s important to remember that a successful sale requires more effort than just putting a few objects under a “for sale” sign. Prepare for your upcoming garage sale by cleaning and pricing your items, advertising the date and time of the event and registering for any necessary permits.

If you’re interested in selling your household items without the commitment of an in-person sale, consider hosting an online garage sale. While this option became popular during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s also a practical way to sell household items during the winter or in areas with low foot traffic.

Andrew Dehan

Andrew Dehan is a professional writer who writes about real estate and homeownership. He is also a published poet, musician and nature-lover. He lives in metro Detroit with his wife, daughter and dogs.