Clearing the clutter: Tips for holding a successful garage sale

GARAGEMoving Moms are natural purgers. Who wants to bother lugging a bunch of old toys your kids have outgrown or clothing that no one wears to your new house? Relocating is stressful enough without the added burden of excess belongings. And with spring in full swing, we thought it was the right time to touch on the perfect purging strategy: GARAGE SALES! (or yard sales, depending on where you’re at!)

Don’t rush

It’s easy to get excited at the idea of getting rid of your old stuff and making money at the same time. But don’t get ahead of yourself. If you want to hold a successful garage sale, it will take time, planning and a lot of organization.

Start by grouping all of the items you’re willing to part with at the sale. That will help you gauge how much room you’ll need for the sale and whether you have enough items to draw a good crowd of shoppers!

Get the price right

Everyone loves a bargain at a garage sale but when you’re ready to start pricing your items, make sure you know what is typical for your region. For example, when I lived in Iowa, a toddler’s snowpants and matching coat would cost about $7 but in Calgary, most garage sales were asking $25-$45. That means you’ll have to do a little “research” (i.e. shopping) in your area. Or you could ask a neighbor or local friend for their advice on pricing.

Get noticed

It’s time to market your sale. Even the most organized garage sale that is full of great deals and products can be a bust if no one knows about it. So if your neighborhood holds a community-wide sale each year, consider joining in! Those events are widely promoted and often draw a large crowd. Otherwise, be sure to make signs big enough (and with large, clear lettering) that will lead potential shoppers from the main road nearest to your house right to your driveway. We suggest posting the day before with the dates and times clearly labeled to give people a heads up. Add balloons next to the sign to really grab their attention as they pass by! You can also list your sale on online garage sale websites,, community sites and in your local newspaper to get noticed!

It’ll take money to make money

Make sure that you’re ready for sales to come flooding in before your “opening time” because once you start setting up, people may stop by. That means you should have plenty of change on hand so when the first person hands you a $20 bill for that 25-cent toy. Make a trip to the bank the day before, if necessary, to get plenty of small bills and coins.

Get organized

This may be the most difficult AND most important step. We’ve all been to a garage sale that looks like the host simply opened the garage door and said, “here, have at it.” It’s not easy for the shopper and it’s a mess for you to deal with, too. So try organizing and labeling clothes by size and gender. Display them in plastic bins, in stacks on tables or hanging. Then have your pricing system labeled clearly (either by like items or individually marked).

Give it away

It seems counterproductive to have a box of free items at a garage sale (you’re trying to MAKE money, right?), but trust us on this one. Free items, like those trinkets from McDonalds and other small toys or decorative items, can encourage customers to stay longer and it also gives children a safe spot to browse. It may also lure in the people who roll by in their car to glance at your sale but would otherwise keep driving. Once they’re inside, they may find something to actually PAY for, too!

Additional tips:

  • Garage sale shoppers are looking for a deal and many of them are ready to haggle. So have a plan about how much wiggle room you have on prices, especially when it comes to big ticket items like strollers or furniture.
  • Don’t have quite enough items to make a substantial garage sale? Ask some friends or neighbors if they have items they’d like to sell and offer to put them in your sale. Just be sure to include a system for keeping track of which items belong to each person so everyone gets their fair amount of the profits at the end of the day.
  • Have a plan for the items that do not get purchased at your sale. You may want to donate them, try to sell them to a consignment shop or give them to a friend. And if you have arrangements made, then you can clear out the leftovers after the sale and be completely rid of those unwanted items!
  • Get fancy (and creative)! Hold a preview sale the day before just for anyone you know (or a friend of a friend etc) and offer them a special discounted price.

When the garage sale is finished and your house is all free of clutter, do something FUN with all that money you made! And enjoy the lighter load on your next move!

-By Emily Shedek

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