It’s the moment I’ve been prepping for for months – my very first garage sale. It took me literally years to get to this point. First, I spent years amassing a small fortune in Carter’s onesies, size 1 Nike tennis shoes, and super-soft baby blankets made from bamboo fiber. Then, I spent months debating whether or not to sell it all in a yard sale, or to just donate it to a local charity and use it as a tax write off. Once I made my decision to hold a garage sale, I then spent several weeks plotting out all my moves: how to arrange my wares, how to advertise the sale, etc.

In a word, any successful sale – whether it be a yard sale, a garage sale, or a moving sale – boils down to one word: marketing. You can’t expect to sell everything at a reasonably good price if no one shows up. Here’s my three-pronged approach:

Timing Is Everything

It’s more than just a cliched saying – in the world of yard sales, timing is everything. Planning your sale at the right time on the right date can make the difference between selling everything and stuffing it all back into your attic.

  • Watch the weather. In my neighborhood – where at least one person has a yard sale every week – the traffic seems to be the highest when the weather is mild. Too cold? Too hot? The buyers aren’t coming out. Too rainy? Nobody wants to shop in the rain. So even if you’ve been planning on holding a yard sale the 3rd Saturday in September for the last two months, you may want to rethink your plans if the forecast calls for rain.
  • Avoid holiday weekends. The Saturday before Easter and Mother’s Day may be prime time for floral shops, but not for garage sales. Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends are also usually a bust. Why? Because people typically have plans, limiting your pool of potential buyers.
  • Combine your sale with other families. There is power in numbers; the more households you have working together to pull off a successful yard sale, the better your chances of drawing in a big crowd.

Oh, and not only is timing everything, but so is location. I have a friend who has an annual yard sale… at her sister-in-law’s house. The reason: her sister-in-law lives in a nice neighborhood with easy access to local highways, while my friend lives out in the country where literally nobody drives past her house for hours at a time. Her sister-in-law never sells a thing, but good-naturedly offers up her yard for the good of the family.

Visibility Is Key

If timing is everything, then visibility is key. When I hold my garage sale, I’ll be using two main methods to attract buyers. The first is the Internet. An effective ad on Craigslist can get thousands of views, and reduce your need to pay for a print ad in the local newspaper. My friend – the one who uses her sister-in-law’s house – suggests posting your sale information three days prior. Then, she deletes her old post every morning and creates an entirely new one, so that her listing is always near the top of the page. Using Craigslist has an added bonus – ads clearly marked “yard sale,” “garage sale,” or “moving sale” on Craigslist are automatically picked up by the site Yard Sale Treasure Map, which helps garage sale aficionados plan their weekend shopping excursions.

The second way to increase your sale’s visibility is through effective signs. Have you ever driven past a yard sale sign and nearly driven into a power pole as you try to read all the tiny print? Well, I may be the only one who’s done that, but for the sake of all the driver’s out there: use large print and a small number of words. For example, my signs will say:

Yard sale Saturday, 7am—->

Yup, that’s it. On some of the signs – especially the ones that are located farther away from my neighborhood – I may post the name of my neighborhood or my cross streets. What I won’t post is my exact address: not on a sign, not in an online ad. The reason is simple: my husband, a sheriff’s deputy, takes our privacy and security very safely, and after a rash of garage break-ins blamed on over-zealous yard sale signs (you know, people often stash their goods to sell in their garage on the eve of the sale), he adamantly objects to revealing too much information. My friend, the yard sale veteran, concurs; she says a neighborhood or cross street is usually enough to get buyers where they need to be.

Think Like A Shopper

I don’t like shopping at Kohl’s. It’s not that the store doesn’t have great deals; they do, and plenty of them. The problem is that the store is not organized in a way that makes any sense to me. On top of that, everything from the clothing racks to the dressing rooms are chaotic, with merchandise strewn about like a teenager’s bedroom. It doesn’t make for a pleasurable shopping experience.

You’ve got to think like a shopper if you want to attract shoppers. Create order by placing clothes on hangers – and racks – based on gender, size, style, and season. Organize toys based on age groups or gender. Clearly mark the price (I’m not even going to touch yard sale pricing in this post; it’s a lengthy subject better geared for its own post) and be clear on whether you’re willing to negotiate or not.

My sale is just hours away – will it be a success? I’ll post a follow up in a few weeks to let you know how it goes.

Reader, what are your best yard sale tips?