Have you been wondering, “Is having a yard sale really worth it?” Before you take the plunge, I’ll share my experience, including tips to help you have a successful yard sale.
Every year, the time for our community yard sale would come and go. It would seem like a good idea, and I would mean to prep, but I just never got anything together in time. Finally, a journey towards minimalism inspired me to actually go through with it. The thought of a bit of extra cash was also pretty enticing since I had just added our fourth child to the family. Mama needs a new minivan!
If I was going through a large part of our household stuff anyway, I figured I may as well spend a bit of extra effort to try and earn some money from it. I honestly had no idea if I’d make more than a few dollars, but I was pleasantly surprised with the result.
Here is what I learned:
1. Give Yourself Plenty of Lead Time
To have a successful yard sale of any decent size, it’s going to take more than a night or two to prep. As I went through our household cleanout over a period of weeks, I stashed clothes and toys for the sale in boxes in my closet. As it got closer to yard sale day, I created a staging area in our front room where I piled everything and then organized it by category. I added items from the rest of the house that I knew I wanted to get rid of. Larger items I staged in the garage or on the porch.
It took me several hours to go through and tag everything with a price the week of the sale. I got all my labels from the dollar store—they were pre-marked with amounts (hello time-saver).
2. Get the (Older) Kids Involved
If you’ve got kids age 5 or older, they can get in on the action. Mine helped with going through the items in their rooms. Read more about this process & tips here. They also helped make signs, take items outside for the sale, and load up the van with the leftovers after. They were pretty excited about it.
My 10-year-old son asked if he could sell cookies at the sale, enterprising little guy. He made his own chocolate chip cookies from scratch (with a little help from his dad), set up his own stand, and sold them in bags for two for $1. He sold out!
Even the baby sat outside and hung out with us. It made for a fun family day, and people were so nice. There were lots of customers with kids too.
3. Combine Forces
The fact that our community was having its yard sale day helped boost our traffic. If you don’t have a neighborhood that does this, see if you can get some neighbors to join in or ask some friends to drop unwanted things off so you can market your sale as multi-family. It definitely seemed like people were showing up because there were multiple sales to visit. They would ask about other sales, and we would gladly point them in the direction where we had seen others. The extra signs from other sales also helped push more traffic into the neighborhood.
I honestly meant to offer to our friends that they could drop things off at our house for the sale, but I didn’t remember in time. I would try this in the future and even offer to have them hang out with us if they wanted.
4. Consider Your Payment Options
You’ll want to take a trip to the bank and make sure you have plenty of small bills and coins on hand. We got $60 in small bills and $20 in quarters, which I kept in a fanny pack (functional and stylish!).
I also wanted to provide a non-cash option. I mean who carries cash anymore? I don’t. After some research, I learned the Venmo payment app is not good to use with people you don’t know. However, Square is easy and completely FREE to set up—who knew? You just sign up on their website, and they’ll send you a free card reader. You can also buy a card reader at a local store (I got mine at Target), and Square will give you a $10 instant credit. Awesome, right?
I had read that others have had great success with accepting card payments at their yard sales. I put “we accept cash or credit” on our signs and in our online ad. I easily set up an online Square account and was ready to go. You know what—not a single person used credit. I guess they just expected to need cash? We also didn’t have any large items like furniture for sale. Still, I felt better having the Square on hand and may use it again in the future. It’s free and didn’t hurt.
5. Advertise, Advertise, Advertise
I feel this factor was the most important to our successful yard sale. I put out 16 signs around our local area. I used neon dollar store poster board and cheap wooden stakes from a home improvement store to make them. I didn’t want to spend a fortune on supplies. I drew a map of where to place the signs around high-visibility intersections. My husband thought I’d gone a little nutty. (Please make sure to pick up your signs when you’re done—don’t litter.)
I also placed a Craigslist ad the day before the sale with some pictures and a list of the types of items we had for sale. I was nervous, because I never put my address out publicly anywhere, but in this case, there was no way around it. People definitely showed up after seeing the ad, because they asked about specific items that I had listed in the ad.
We had advertised the sale starting at 7 am, and people showed up as early as 6:30 while we were still setting up. It was kinda weird at first, but the people were actually quite nice. I made sure to update our Craigslist ad throughout the day to remove items that had sold, and I took it down immediately once we started packing up.
6. Create a Display for Browsing
You’ll want to have several tables so you can create an area people can easily browse through. I also used tarps to lay things out on the ground (like books) rather than customers having to sort through boxes. As areas on the tabletops cleaned out, I moved things around to prime spaces up front.
Clothes were organized in bins by size. Like items were grouped with like and everything was clearly marked with a price.
7. Don’t Even Try to Guess What Might Sell
My advice: just put it all out there. You never know what might sell. My husband scoffed at me when I was putting out some tacky old Christmas decorations that were dusty from the attic (they were there when we moved into our house). He said “just throw those in the trash.” Well I got to gloat, because they were the first things that sold, for $10!
I mean, I didn’t put out things that were broken or nasty, but there was definitely a ton of random stuff I thought no one would buy. The big thing I learned is people buy all kinds of junk. I have no idea what they do with it. On the other hand, some things I thought would be the first to sell, like a nice Bluetooth speaker, ended up not selling.
Clothes, toys, games, and sewing and crafting items were very popular. People showed up asking for specific toys I had in my Craigslist ad—Paw Patrol, Star Wars, and Transformers. Books didn’t move too quickly, but some did sell. So just put out what you want to get rid of and see what goes.
8. Have a Plan for the Leftovers
In addition to earning some cash, another big part of a successful yard sale is getting rid of unneeded items. The last thing you want to do is bring all the stuff you wanted to get rid of back into the house. This would completely defeat the purpose! I had agreed with the family upfront that anything that didn’t sell would immediately be packed up and taken to our local donation center. And I mean IMMEDIATELY. I didn’t want things sitting around the house or being driven around in the trunk for months. When it was time to pack up, we put the leftovers in the minivan and drove straight to the donation center. It was a big relief that everything was gone.
OK… there were a couple exceptions. A very few select items (5 or less) that did not sell and I thought would net $10 or more, I said I would give 1 week to try and sell, otherwise they would go. A child’s wool coat I sold on Poshmark within a few days. I cross-posted everything else on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and OfferUp. We got the most interest from Facebook Marketplace. One item sold on there and one on OfferUp. There were so many no-shows from Craigslist that I gave up. This part was way more frustrating than the yard sale, and I probably shouldn’t have bothered.
9. Try and Enjoy Yourself
If you’re going to spend this much time on something, you may as well try and have a good time. As mentioned earlier, try and make it a family affair where everyone pitches in and spends time together. Feel good about the process and getting control of your home back. The nice thing about a yard sale is, when it’s done, it’s done. I found it much less stressful than trying to sell things on Craigslist.
For an introvert, I actually found the sale day pretty painless. People were really friendly, and it was nice to be out with many of our neighbors. Hagglers started to annoy me at first (I’m asking $1 and you’re going to offer 50 cents?!), but I quickly let this go and pretty much said yes to anything. I mean, a little cash in hand is better than none, and I’m selling stuff I no longer want or need.
The kids had a good time. Growing up, my mom used to have a yard sale every year. I would help out, and I remember it being fun. For being good helpers, I gave my kids a couple bucks and let them go shop some other sales on our street.
10. Count Your Earnings
The best part was when we got to count up our earnings and netted well over $300! I couldn’t believe it. Our successful yard sale exceeded my expectations, which admittedly were pretty low. It can be nice to have a purpose in mind for your extra cash. We decided at the start of this process that we were going to put any earnings towards our family vacation fund. It helped the kids and everyone to know that the effort would help us take a fun trip together.
While I’m not counting the days til our next sale, it is a process I would do again. Our family had shopped yard sales before but never held our own. Overall, it was pretty painless and largely successful.
Will you be giving a yard sale a try? I’d love to hear about your experiences!
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