So, you want to have a yard sale. That’s great, and with the right preparation and effort, sales can be quite profitable, but if you don’t plan well you may end up wasting a lot of time and energy for very little reward.
We’ve developed this program to be a detailed step-by-step guide to planning and executing an amazing sale. When you finish this challenge you’ll be prepared to make a profit and may even become a yard sale addict.
So if you’ve never had a sale before, or even if you’re an old pro, this guide will help ensure you get the most out the experience.
Many people decide to hold sales when they are struggling and while understandable, this can lead to rushed planning and less than lucrative results. A good sale should focus on a specific goal.
Perhaps you need to pay off a credit card, want to get a head start on holiday gifts, or you’d like some extra money to take a weekend trip. Whatever your motivation, having a clear goal in mind can turn your sale from a hurried, desperate attempt to get some cash into a fun, rewarding challenge you’ll benefit from long after the sale is over. The more you can enjoy the process, the better.
The biggest take away here is that as with everything, you get out what you put in. Successful sales require a lot of sweat equity and hard work, there’s no getting around it.
Take the time to plan properly and I guarantee you’ll have far better results. Whatever your goal, make it a challenge that motivates you beyond just “some extra cash would be nice” and you’ll find that the hard work you put in is much more rewarding.
I’ve broken the process down into daily steps to help you stay motivated and on track.
Day One: Location
The first thing to consider when planning a sale is your location. If you live in a busier neighborhood or on a main road in your town, this is simple. For others, the location needs to be considered before anything else. How is parking on your street? Does your home have curb appeal? Is it easy to find with well placed signs?
If you live in an area that isn’t ideal, consider hosting a sale elsewhere. Some ideas are at a friends home, at your church, or even outside a local business if they are willing to host you for a fee.
Perhaps you have a friend who lives in a better area with high traffic who would also like to have a sale and you can work together. Many subdivisions will have a neighborhood sale. Our village does a city wide sale twice a year. If these things don’t exist in your area – use this guide to go big!
Exercise: Write down ideas for possible locations for your sale. Contact others who may be interested in participating if you need to use a location away from your home.
Day Two: When
Once you’ve figured out where you would like to have your sale, the next step is to consider the best time. If your town has an event that draws outside traffic it can draw a larger crowd. On the other hand, if your neighboring town is having a big event, it could negatively impact potential crowds.
Also, consider the weather in your area. We are prone to having a lot of rain in early Spring and more cooperative weather in May, but by June we are often sweltering. May tends to be the best sale month in our area. Also, this is the time yard sales in general are just getting started and you have a lot more eager people wanting to shop.
Exercise: Look at local event calendars for your community and surrounding areas to determine the best time to host your sale.
Day Three: Begin Presale Prep
Presale preparation requires you to set aside an area of your home or garage for collecting your sale items. You will need this space for both preparing your items and for organization purposes. Contemplate how large your sale will be and plan your pre-sale space accordingly. You will need to have room to sort, clean and even price your items beforehand.
Exercise: Dedicate a pre-sale space and start moving items to this location. This should be done several weeks to a few months prior to your sale.
Day Four: Develop a Room by Room Plan
Gathering items for your sale is going to require time, energy, planning and patience. A successful sale requires more than a few tables of junk and random tchotchkes gathered at the last minute. You’ll want a variety of items in good condition to create a great sale. Think of it more like a mini flea market.
A good sale requires a plan for every room of your home. Rooms with closets and storage areas are the best places to start. Then work your way into areas like the kitchen, garage and other utility areas. Figure out what areas will have the most items to sell and then make a plan to work through them systematically.
Exercise: Make a list of each room and prioritize it according to how long it will take to go through and sort. A storage room will generally take a lot longer to tackle than a bathroom. The most time-consuming rooms should be moved to the top of the list.
Day Five: Phone Friends and Family Members
The best sales are those with plenty of variety. Several weeks prior to your sale is a great time to accept donations. Some people really want to clear their houses of clutter, but don’t want the hassle of having a sale themselves.
Many times they’ll happily donate items to you and let you sell them and keep the money. Start collecting donated items no less than a month in advance and keep them your designated presale area.
Exercise: Put the word out that you’ll accept items for your sale if anyone wants to donate them. You can also invite friends to participate in your sale if they choose. The idea is to grow the sale and have plenty of variety.
Day Six: Sorting Preplan
Preparing for a sale involves a lot more than choosing a few items to throw out on a table. Use this time to also sort and organize your home and make it more efficient. While you go through the rooms in your home you need to have 3 designations: Keep, throw away or sell. One of the best ways to do this is to adhere to the following rules:
If you use the item regularly and it adds value to your daily life – keep it.
If you haven’t used the item in six months and it’s a good, working item – sell it.
If an item is broken, filthy or beyond its useful life (pants with holes for example) – toss it.
Exercise: Ensure that you are able to dispose of items that may need to be thrown away. For example, old paint and cleaners may require special disposal. Determine how you will store or keep usable items. This is a good time to plan for better organization.
Day Seven: Mentally Prepare and Rally Your Household
A lot of us form attachments to objects, this is especially true for children. If you are having a sale, make it a family event and prepare for the fact that your plans to sell certain items may meet with resistance. This can be remedied by having your sales goal be something that will benefit everyone. Perhaps a family day at an amusement park or a camping trip etc.
Make your family members part of the process from the very start, but take a day to really explain what your goals are, how to decide what items to sell, give away and throw away.
Exercise: Have a household conversation about the upcoming sale, the rules, your goals etc.
Day Eight: The Real Work Starts
From here forward, we’ll be tackling the actual gathering of objects and making it a daily practice until all rooms have been covered. Start with the top priority room from your list. If it’s a common area, have everyone participate in sorting items. Your saleable items should then be taken to your designated presale area, trash should be removed and your keepable items organized before moving to the next room.
Sometimes this will take one day, sometimes it may take a week, month or more depending on your home, the amount of stuff you have accumulated over the years and how much help you have. You’ll be doing other steps simultaneously, but plan on this part taking at least twice as long as you think it will and adjust accordingly.
Exercise: Go to your top priority room and get started! Keep the practice going daily until you’ve moved through the entire list. You’ll be doing this in addition to the other daily challenge items until you’re done.
Day Nine: Gathering Supplies
You’ll need a lot of supplies to pull off the best sale. At this point, you’ll want to start saving grocery bags, boxes and other items. Gather pens, notebooks, markers, poster boards and other sign making supplies.
Purchase price tags, yard sale signs and other items as you are able. Local realtors sometimes offer free yard/garage sale signs to help them promote their own businesses so you may want to take advantage of that also.
You’ll also need to consider tables and displays. You can make large tables with a sheet of plywood placed on saw horses. Cover this with a large sheet to make it more eye appealing. Other options are folding tables, card tables and anything else you may have on hand.
For hanging clothes, you’ll want to borrow a hanging rack or purchase a roll of clothesline material to tie tightly between trees. You can also use a broomstick between ladders.
If your sale is outside, you’ll also want tarps or heavy plastic to cover any items you have set out overnight. This is also useful in the event of inclement weather to keep items from getting ruined.
*Tip* If you are selling with others at the same sale, use different colored price tags to keep your items separate and easily identifiable. This is easier than initialling every single price tag.
Exercise: Use your supply checklist and start gathering necessary items for your sale. Consider your displays and add anything else that you may need to the list. As you gather these items keep them in a designated place.
Day Ten: Borrowing Needed Items
Consider any items you may need for your sale that you can borrow – folding tables for example, or saw horses for creating tables. Perhaps you have a friend who has a canopy if you are outside to provide shade/shelter for delicate items. Borrowing is always less expensive that buying.
Exercise: Consider your needs and start asking around for any extras you don’t already have. Arrange to pick up these items a couple of days ahead of your sale.
Day Eleven: Red Tape
Some areas are more restrictive than others when it comes to how/where you can place signs and although few, some areas require a permit to sell. Don’t risk getting fined, be sure to know the rules of your location in advance.
Exercise: Double check any permit requirements, zoning restrictions and signage rules for your location.
Day Twelve: Research
If some of the items you plan to sell are collectible or antique, you’ll want to know that you are getting a fair price for those items. Do your research and see what similar items are selling for. eBay is a good resource.
Remember, most shoppers at yard sales seeking out collectibles are savvy and want to get a good deal themselves. They’ll often pressure you and try to haggle for lower and lower prices. Stand your ground, offer a fair price and be willing to “just say no”. If this is too much pressure, consider putting these types of items for sale in a consignment shop instead.
Day Thirteen: Pricing
Every item should have it’s own price tag for better sales. Most people won’t bother if they can’t find a clear price. Place your tags prominently on each item. The exception would be books where you should place the tag inside the cover to avoid damaging the book.
You can also offer small items for sale in separate containers, but clearly mark the prices on those containers. For example “50 Cent Toy Bin” on a basket of little toys is fine.
You want to make sure that you’re pricing items to sell, but not underpricing them either. That beat up sofa with stains all over it isn’t worth $100, but if it can be cleaned and rehabbed, someone may give you $20. Be realistic.
Also, remember that people haggle at yard sales. Price a wee bit higher than you’ll accept and you leave some bargaining room.
Exercise: Start pricing your items, make sure prices are clearly marked and that you’ve already researched and planned your asking prices. If you are still clearing rooms, price as you go from here so that everything is ready on sale day.
Day Fourteen: Cleaning
Nothing is a bigger turnoff than a table full of dirty old stuff – even for yard salers. Make sure your items are clean. Run all clothes through the laundry. Wipe dust off of books and collectibles and polish furniture items. Clean items can often be sold for more.
Exercise: Go through your gathered yard sale items and clean or spruce up any items that are dirty, look dingy or have collected dust. If you are still pulling items from rooms, clean them as you go.
Day Fifteen: Go for a Drive
Drive the area and determine the best places to put your signs and get a count of how many you’ll need. Make a note of these locations in a notebook so you don’t forget. This will also help you with sign retrieval after the sale.
Exercise: Make a list of your ideal sign locations. Double check signage requirements in your area if you haven’t already and get any sign making materials you may be missing. If your city doesn’t allow you to staple a flier to a telephone pole for example, you may need wooden stakes to place your signs in the ground.
Day Sixteen: Make Signs
There are a few things to consider when making signs. First of all, you want your signs to show up so I would use brightly colored poster board with a contrasting dark marker. Cut your poster boards in half so that you get 2 signs from each one.
Remember, people are driving past your signs and have only a split second or two to see what your sign says. Use bold, easy to read block print. Save your fancy calligraphy skills for another day – people can’t read that on the fly.
The top of your sign should have one line “Huge Moving Sale” or “BIG Subdivision Sale”, or “Jumbo Rummage Sale” – use one buzzword and a simple description. Make this large enough to cover the whole top 3rd of your sign. It should stretch all the way accross.
The location should be in the middle in smaller, but also clearly legible from a distance text. Use a black sharpie.
The bottom third of your sign should have a clear, bold arrow pointing in the proper direction. Consider placement when making your signs.
Exercise: Pull out your sign placement list and make your signs ensuring that your arrows are pointing the right direction. Mark the back of each sign in pencil with where it needs to be placed.
Day 17: Advertise
You’ll be able to place signs a few days prior to your sale, but you’ll also want to consider other forms of advertising. Community bulletin boards are a great place to put fliers a couple of weeks in advance.
Do a search for local Facebook groups also that allow you to advertise your yard sale. Craigslist is another free option. If you have a local newspaper, they often have free or very inexpensive listings for yard sales during pique season. Keep in mind that most print publications have an extended lead time so be sure to have your ad ready in advance.
Exercise: Write up an advertisement for each of the following: a flier, social media post, and local print ad. Be sure your ad meets the guidelines for your local paper and avoid going over on words etc.
Day 18: Consider Post Sale Options
Every yard sale has unsold items and it’s a good idea to plan in advance what you’ll do with yours. If you’ve used this pre-sale time to declutter you probably don’t want to bring a bunch of unnecessary things back into your home. Any high dollar items should of course be kept and you can try listing them online, but other things aren’t worth the hassle.
Consider where and how you’d like to donate leftover items and make arrangements to drop them off or have them picked up after your sale.
Exercise: Determine where you want to donate unsold items. Call around and ask if they will pick up or if you need to drop off.
Day 19: Map Out and Measure Your Sales Area
Prior to set up you will want to know how much space you actually have to work with. This will vary widely per location, but knowing the area you have will help you map out and create displays that will be the most effective for you and your shoppers.
Once you’ve measured, you’ll want to draw out and record your measurements on a sheet of paper. This may seem like a silly step, but trust me this step is essential for a smoother set up and a better shopping experience for you and your customers. It will also help you create the most workable (and profitable) space.
Having a background in retail and craft fairs, I’ve learned the importance of mapping a display and how it can give you an edge in sales. If you’re also competing with other sellers on the day of your sale this can give you an edge.
Exercise: Determine the exact area you will set up in and measure it with a tape measure. Use a sheet of paper to map out the dimensions.
Day 20: Plan and Map Out Your Display Areas
Once you’ve determined the area you have to work with, the next step is figuring out the size of your display areas and how to make them fit your total space. Keep in mind, as you work through setup you’ll want to keep items grouped in a logical order. You’ll also want to keep more valuable items nearby where you can better guard against shoplifters. (it happens).
This step will vary based on what you are selling, but as a general rule you’ll want to keep items in sections with plenty of walkway space between tables. Clothes should be in one area, children’s toys in another, books in another, kitchen items in another and so on.
Do you have enough tables and ample room to hang clothing? You can do cut outs or simply draw on your paper to map out your zones in detail. You want your sales area to be full looking but not a jumble of clutter. You’ll want clearly defined areas and clear, tidy walkways.
Exercise: Draw out display areas based on your items and figure out how to place them while leaving enough space to move comfortably. You may want to try a couple of layouts to help you get a better visual. Don’t forget to include your checkout area if you plan to have one.
Day 21: Consider Selling Drinks
If it’s a chilly morning, hot coffee free or cheap, is a great incentive to keep people looking longer. If it’s a hot day, $1.00 bottled waters are also good sellers. If you have kids who want to participate consider letting them have a lemonade stand and keep the profits.
Exercise: If you decide to offer drinks, purchase any needed supplies.
Day 22: Begin Early Setup & Get Change
If you are selling in a venue or out of your garage, begin your setup the day before your sale. Don’t set up outdoor areas until the day of your sale unless you have a way to protect your items from theft. Stop by the bank and get change. I recommend a roll of quarters, $20 in singles, some miscellaneous change and a few fives and tens. If you can swing it, try to have at least $100 in change.
Print off our free sales sheets. If you have more than one family participating, print off a sheet for each family and label it with their name.
Exercise: Make sure everything is priced and ready to go and that all of your supplies from the supply list are available.
Day 23: Sale Day!
Get up before dawn. I know it’s hard, but yard saling in most areas happens in the early morning. You’ll also have “early birds” that show up before your scheduled time to contend with. Set up any outdoor areas if you’re hosting in the yard. If there is inclement weather be sure you’re prepared with tarps or covers or move everything indoors if necessary. See the additional tips below also to ensure your actual sale goes off without a hitch.
Exercise: Sell and have fun!
Day 24: Cleanup
You’re going to be tired after a long day of selling. When possible save cleanup for the next day. Box up donations, decide what you’ll bring back inside or sell online and where to store them. Deposit your earnings into the bank so you aren’t tempted to spend them.
Day 25: Sign Removal
In some areas you can be fined if you don’t remove your signs after a sale. Drive around and collect any signs you posted and dispose of them properly. It’s the neighborly thing to do.
Ten Quick Tips for Great Displays
- When possible keep items off the ground. Most people will not get down on the ground to dig through boxes. You lose sales when your items are hard to access.
- Place some display items or nicer items at eye level. This draws attention to your sale. A dress form with a cute outfit, or items hung at eye level are great.
- Consider how your sale looks from the street. You should have nice items clearly visible. Place furniture and other large items in the front.
- Have clear signs in your sale area that match your street signs. If you used pink poster board on the street, use it on your in-sale signs too. Consistency is appealing.
- All items should be clean, but this is especially true for clothes. Stains, body odor and wrinkles are a turn off and will lead to a bad sale.
- Keep areas full, but not cluttered. One big tip I learned in retail display is that sales improve when your area is full, but not overflowing or cluttered. This means getting up to straighten and tidy your displays regularly throughout your sale.
- Have a clearly defined checkout. If you are hostess, have a noticeable checkout table or wear an apron with pockets that clearly defines you as the sale host. This makes it easier for people to ask questions and get help.
- Have a special section for men’s items like tools. A lot of couples go to sales together and men are often much more hurried than women. If you give them a section of more manly items, they will tend to not rush their wives.
- Keep your walkways clear of clutter and wide enough for people to fit comfortably. People who feel cramped or uncomfortable will not shop as long. You also want to avoid the risk of people getting injured.
- Place your breakable items out of the reach of children and keep any smaller, more valuable items near your checkout area to avoid loss.
- Don’t forget to have an extension cord ready if you are selling electronics so people can test them.
- You may want to have “grab bags” of items that you can sell or give away. Make sure the item is worth what you price your grab bag for. A handful of small toys that would be hard to sell can be thrown together in grab bags for $1.00
- Dress appropriately for the weather and wear comfortable shoes, you’ll be up and down and moving more than you realize.
- Have a helper available for when you need to eat or take a potty break.
- Try to refrain from being on your phone or distracted when people are shopping. Don’t hover or be pushy, but greet everyone and avoid looking rude or disinterested. Put the phone down unless it’s important.
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