How To: Hold a Successful Yard Sale

A well-planned yard sale will leave your wallet fatter and your home de-cluttered. Proper planning, skillful organization, and a sense of humor will save the day —and your sanity. Here are tips to ensure success.

Even if you’ve had numerous yard sales in the past, here are a few pointers to make yours more successful.

Start Early
Even if your next yard sale is months away, start sorting through your belongings to get ready. Put each item in one of four storage containers: Keep, Toss, Yard Sale, and Undecided. “If you’re not using it in the next year, don’t keep it,” says Dave Valliere, senior product manager for home storage at Yardsalequeen.com . Except for maternity clothing and plus sizes, adult clothing doesn’t sell well either.

‘Ad It’ In
Advertise online and in your local paper. If you have baby items or antique furniture, say so. People will scan the ads looking for items they need, and if you have what they’re looking for they’ll come to your yard sale. “If your ad says ‘antique furniture’ or ‘60s modern,’ those kinds of identifiers will definitely be lures to people,” says Bruce Littlefield, author of Garage Sale America. “If I see ‘baby clothes’ and ‘Fisher-Price,’ I’m not running over to that sale,” Littlefield says. “But people who have a newborn will go.”

Sign Me Up
Check local ordinances on sign placement. Make your signs easy to read from the road and similar in design so people can follow them. “We get more business at our sale because our signs are professionally done,” says Nikki Fish of South Bend, IN, who hosts a major yard sale every year but enjoys shopping yard sales even more than selling. Paint or draw the arrows after you plant the signs to make sure the arrow point in the right direction. “Wild goose chases are very frustrating,” Littlefield says. With that in mind, take signs down when your sale is over.

Price Pointers
Visit other yard sales and thrift stores to get ideas on pricing. “My thrift store sells hardcover books for $1,” Heiska says. “If I were to try to sell my books for $3, people wouldn’t buy them.” You’re in business for the day to get rid of things you don’t want. Price accordingly.

To make it easier for shoppers, you can group items at the same price on one table, mark prices with colored stickers — all green stickers are 50 cents, for example — or put price tags on each item. Be sure you have lots of small bills and coins to make change.

And remember, everyone negotiates. If you keep your sense of humor and a smile on your face, your prospective buyers won’t be offended whether you accept their offer, make a counteroffer or turn them down, says John Lundgren, author of the ebook How to Turn Your Garage Sale into a Money Machine.

Finally, make sure price tags don’t damage the item. “If you put a price tag that’s going to pull off the cardboard of an old board game and ruin the aesthetic, people may not want it,” says Littlefield.

Timing
The most popular start time is 8 a.m. Saturday. But there are regional differences. Yard sales begin later in upstate New York and earlier in the South. Check ads in your local paper to determine local custom. If you have lots of stuff, host a two-day sale for Friday and Saturday, Saturday and Sunday, or two Saturdays. “If something doesn’t sell the first day, drastically reduce it the next day,” Heiska says.

Caging Early Birds
If you don’t want people at your home the day before, don’t advertise in the paper and don’t add arrows to your signs until sale day. “The moment you put your signs out, your yard is fair game,” Littlefield says. The night before, block your driveway so the doorbell doesn’t wake you. But be realistic: Mentally subtract at least 30 minutes from your advertised start time so you’re ready for early birds. “If they show up while I’m setting up, I’m happy,” Heiska says. “My goal is to sell the stuff. I don’t want to risk them not coming back just because they’re here before my official start time.” But don’t dicker with early birds. Stick to your prices. “If they discover this great pitcher that’s highly valued and collectible and you want $20, don’t let an early bird walk away with it for $10,” Littlefield says.

Lure Them In
Put the good stuff, the big stuff, and the manly stuff in easy view. “If a man is driving and he happens to see a lawn mower, a fertilizer spreader, a circular saw, or a weight bench, he’s more likely to stop,” says Heiska.

Don’t Sell It If It Isn’t Yours
Don’t sell your toddler’s toys, your husband’s baseball card collection, or Grandma’s heirloom dishes if the owner isn’t ready to let them go. “I remember buying some toys for my son and the little kid [who lived there] still wanted them,” Heiska says. “It was heartbreaking for me.” That makes other prospective buyers uncomfortable, too. If an item is not for sale, cover it up and/or add a sign that says “Not for Sale.”

Mind Your Money
A forgotten cash box is an easy target for thieves. Use a fanny pack, apron, or pocket to keep money with you at all times. If you’re worried about counterfeit bills, buy a special counterfeit detector pen at an office supply store. Make a mark on the bill, and it turns a different color if it’s counterfeit. Don’t take checks or large bills.

Space Is Important
Give people room to browse. If they feel pressured or watched, they’ll leave. “Every time they put an item back, they’re almost rejecting you and it’s embarrassing to them,” Lundgren says. “You have to back off and let people look at your items. Say ‘Good morning,’ then have a cup of coffee or chat with a friend.”

When your yard sale is over, store the leftover items in your bins for the next sale or donate them to charity and deposit your earnings in the bank. Your home will be less cluttered and, in a week or two, you might just be ready to go yard saling for your own new treasures.