If you're ready to do some spring cleaning or just tired of a potential avalanche every time you open the hall closet, it may be time to consider a yard sale. You don't need to invest a huge amount of time and effort, just a few hours for the actual event, and a bit of pre-planning a month or two in advance.
Decide on a Date and Start Planning!
Your first decision needs to be when you'll hold your yard sale. Saturdays and Sundays are the best days, but take into consideration the nature of your neighborhood. If you have a large population of Sunday church goers, you may want to stick to a Saturday morning.
Avoid holiday weekends, since most people will be occupied with parties and events or headed out of town. Check long-term weather forecasts to see if there's a big danger for rain or poor weather. While you can't predict the weather even the day before, make sure you have a backup plan in case you're rained out.
Spur of the moment yard sales generally have little success. For the most publicity, advertise early and in multiple ways. If your community has a public forum like a bulletin board, town crier, or online news board, post a notice there. Local online classifieds like CraigsList are a great place to advertise for free. Don't forget the tried and true method of big poster board signs on utility poles, just make sure you check with your local government that your yard sale signs are allowed.
Collecting Items for Sale
Start in the family storage areas: the garage, closets, shed - anything that's still in good shape but just not being used should be considered for sale. You may want to take some time to have a cleanup day, dusting off and testing anything you're considering getting rid of. Electronics and other mechanical equipment should be in working condition before being sold, and if it's broken but still useful for parts make sure you label it as such.
Give everyone in the family a box for their own rooms. Let the kids know that any of their old toys or clothes they're getting rid of will turn into money they can keep. A yard sale is a great incentive for helping your kids get the latest toy they've been asking for.
If you know you'll need help from neighbors with running your yard sale, offer them the opportunity to sell some of their own items. You'll get more merchandise to browse and give incentive for them to lend a hand.
Make sure everything is clearly marked with a price and if necessary a description. If something is missing parts or damaged, note that on the item and be prepared to discount it appropriately. Colored stickers with prices or easy-peel labels are good ideas, as no one likes sticker residue on their newly acquired item. If you have a lot of little odds and ends, try organizing them in an "everything's $1" flat-price box for easy selling.
Effective Yard Sale Set-Up
One of the biggest annoyances with yard sales is early bird buyers, those who ignore your start time and try to get there early for the best deal. Two of the best ways to handle this are either to impose a double-price penalty on any items they try to buy before your starting time, or to just outright refuse to sell beforehand.
Arrange your items on tables, workbenches, blankets and tarps to avoid just scattering things on your lawn. Try to group similar items together such as house wares, clothes, toys, and books/games. You want to make it easy for shoppers to look over all the items you have to offer and not make them dig through unorganized piles.
If your kids have items of their own to sell, give each one his or her own blanket or table space. Older kids can manage their own money, and younger ones can have their own space in the family cash box. Make sure to keep a running tab on who's sold what so the profits can be fairly distributed at the end of the day.
Place large, attractive items like good condition furniture, lawn equipment, and children's play equipment near the edge of the road to attract drivers. Many people don't even consider stopping for a yard sale until they drive by and see something they like!
The Essentials of a Yard Sale
Make sure you have plenty of small bills and change on hand as most customers will probably have larger denominations. The money should be handled by one person at a time and kept secure in a box or zippered pouch. Keeping a record of what sold and for how much is a good idea to make sure no one is shorted their share.
Be prepared to haggle! Most yard sale shoppers are in it for the bargains, and they'll try to knock you down on your prices the first chance they get. Know the value of your item and don't be afraid to mark it up a few dollars and let them talk you down. You should have a good idea of what you won't accept as a bottom price, so know your limits when dealing with hagglers.
A few weeks ahead of time, collect your plastic shopping bags from the grocery store to use at the yard sale. These are great for selling smaller items and always good to have on hand.
Anything that's not for sale should be removed from the front of the house or labeled appropriately. Keep all entrances to the house locked, especially if everyone else is outside. If you have any small valuable items for sale, keep them close to the cash table to avoid theft.
When It's Over
You'll be able to tell when things are winding down, either you'll be nearly out of items to sell or the number of customers will have dropped off. When you notice this happening and you still have an hour or two to go, start dropping prices to entice buyers.
At the close of the day, anything that's left can be great donations to a local thrift store or charity. If you itemize deductions, take it as a tax write-off. This way nothing useful goes in the trash, and someone can still benefit from your unwanted items.