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A Decades’ Worth of Yard Sale Experience

If you’ve been around for awhile, you know that we love browsing a good yard sale. We’ve been known to alter our routes on family walks, make (safe and legal) U-turns on road trips, and plan our weekends around hitting up big neighborhood sales. And while perusing other people treasures is great, hosting our own yard sale is always one of the highlights of our summer! We’re pretty tight with many of the families on our block here in Chicago, so organizing our sale (almost) every year acts as a great excuse to hang out with friends and make some money; not to mention, the benefits of a good old-fashioned house purge can’t be beat. On top of all of that, anything that doesn’t sell gets donated to local charities immediately following the sale.

We’ve written about yard sales previously here, here, here, and here. We even made a yard sale video here! As if that weren’t enough, our pals Chris and Julia posted recently about their big summer sale. That’s a pretty deep yard sale rabbit hole, friends.

We took a year off last summer while we renovated the garden apartment, but we were back at it this past Saturday with one of our biggest and most successful sales! With a decades’ worth of experience hosting sales, we’ve picked up a few tips and tricks along the way to keep things fun and profitable, so we hope this helps if you decide to host your own.

Win the Internet.

This probably goes without saying, but advertising your sale online is pretty much mandatory. We had a number of people mention to us this weekend that they saw our sale posted online, realized they were nearby and decided to come have a look. The name of the game is foot traffic, and posting online helps a ton.

  • Post to “virtual” yard sale groups in your area. In larger cities, these groups are often hyper-local and specific to one or two neighborhoods, so the chances of someone coming by increase if they’re geographically closer. (See above.)
  • If you have a large selection of specific items – kids stuff, records, furniture, designer clothing, sporting goods etc, consider posting in more specific local groups that would appreciate your items. For example, in years past, we’ve had a lot of mid-century furniture for sale, so we posted in a Chicago MCM furniture group with permission from the admins.
  • Update your posts and ads in real-time with photos and/or videos of what people can expect.
  • Craigslist has recently added a very nice garage/yard sale listing option that allows you to enter in parameters such as date(s) time, and even drop a pin so people can get directions right to you. It’s super handy!
  • YardSales.net is also a great resource where people can use interactive maps to plot out sales in their area. A reader actually told us about the site a few years ago and we’ve used it every year since.

Signs. All of the Signs.

While social media is a great way to wrangle in people that are actively looking for deals, good old-fashioned signs are a great way to pull in traffic from nearby. My Aunt Karen, who is a champion yard sale shopper/reseller, used to say that when you go to a yard sale, “you never know what you need until you see it”. Karen is right, and the signs are an attempt to bring in people with the same mindset – passersby that might not have been looking for your online ad, but stop by on impulse.

  • Use bright colors to grab attention from as far away as possible.
  • Make the address, day, and times extra visible.
  • Use signs to “funnel” people to you from main roads. Large signs with the address and times get posted near major intersections, then smaller signs with arrows tell people where to turn to get to you.
  • If you plan on an annual yard sale, avoid putting the actual date on your signs, or leave an area blank so the date can be updated each year. This will save time, money, and waste each year.
  • In our neighborhood, clever signs seem to go a long way. My personal favorite said “B.I.G. YARD SALE” with an arrow and a picture of Biggie Smalls at the bottom (seen above!), and you can see more favorites in last year’s video (around the 1:20 mark) – right before I fall off of a street light pole.

The More the Merrier.

When we were back in our condo, the yard sale was a building-wide affair. It usually included a “sidewalk sale” where the bike shop located on the ground floor would even clean out their basement and sell overstock items at crazy low prices! This always made for incredible traffic, and it brought the bicycle crowd out in droves. Now that we don’t have the cycling crowd (or a building located on a busy corner) to bring in that same traffic, we’ve adapted.

  • We’ve found that a multi-family sale always increases traffic and, subsequently, sales. The more people and stuff, the better. Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd, right?
  • Most of our planning is done on our secret facebook group that we created for our block (plus “honorary” neighbors who participate in the sale – and parties). This year, we had around a dozen families/neighbors and the variety of items for sale was fantastic as always.
  • Division of labor is key. The whole group contributed in different ways – one couple helped make signs and brought doughnuts. Close friends brought beer and monkey bread. Another family made banana bread and (vodka) lemonade. A handful of guys helped move tables and set up. The more people you have to help, the more energy you spend making money!
  • Our yard sale usually takes on a bit of a “block party” vibe, which keeps things way more fun and helps us meet folks we don’t know. On Saturday we met a new neighbor who stopped back by later and shared some rare beer with the group. Nice!

Get Organized!

The more work you can do prior to the sale, the quicker you’ll get set up and start selling on the day of the event.

  • Don’t think you have much to sell? You could always start here. We work room-by-room, purging our closets, drawers, the garage, and the attic the weekend before the sale.
  • Be sure to grab about $100 in small bills from the bank prior to the sale. Having cash for change is a must! Almost every year, our first sale is an item that costs $1 to a person who only has a twenty. Be prepared.
  • Price and organize your items as you stage them. This will cut down on the “how much is this” questions and make people more likely to just hand over their money when they find something they can’t live without.
  • If weather allows, hang all of your signage the night before the sale. Again, more time to focus on selling your treasures!
  • As you tear down for the day, load leftover items right into the car. We make a run to our local charity drop-off the morning after the sale to free up space ASAP.
  • An important note on Earlybirds: If your sale starts at 9, people will show up at 8. If your sale starts at 8, people will show up at 7. We always specifically mention that we don’t allow early birds in our ads, but people will start handing you money as soon as your first items are laid out. We’ve come to accept this and prepare for it. It can feel frustrating, but we find that we make 75% of our money in the first two-ish hours – including that hour before the sale “starts”.

We hope these tips are helpful if you decide to host your own sale! Every year prior to the sale, we doubt wether we have enough stuff to sell, and without fail, we’re surprised to see how much we can actually purge. This year, we profited enough to pay for both of our plane tickets for our upcoming 10 year anniversary trip! Is there anything we missed? We’re always up for working smarter.

PS: Find more yard sale, flea market and thrift store posts right here (including some of our favorite finds!).

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  • gigi8.9.18 - 4:00 PM

    would love to see what your yard sale looks like and how you arranged your wares. Any pictures?ReplyCancel

  • gigi8.9.18 - 4:02 PM

    any pictures from the yard sale. would like to see how your wares were arranged and how do you decide the price for items.ReplyCancel

    • Kim8.9.18 - 4:06 PM

      Hi Gigi! We’ve shared pics in past posts (click on any of those posts linked in the second paragraph!), but this year was SO busy at the start, that I didn’t have one second to pull out my camera. It wasn’t until around 11 am that I told Scott that I hadn’t taken any photos, and by then, most of the sale was depleted! As for pricing, we price to sell. Large furniture pieces weren’t more than $75, smaller housewares (like end tables, etc) were around $15. Beyond that, everything was about $5 or less!ReplyCancel

  • Linda Taylor8.9.18 - 8:54 PM

    I like to arrange everything (smalls) on tables in our garage and then bring it all out at once, so at least you can kind of shorten the set up time and that makes those pesky early birds easier lol ;)ReplyCancel

    • Kim8.9.18 - 10:08 PM

      That’s a great tip! We used to do that for yard sales when I was growing up.ReplyCancel

  • Vritika | Villas in OMR8.11.18 - 1:32 AM

    The pictures of the arrangement, please….ReplyCancel

  • Haley8.21.18 - 8:27 AM

    We put a sign in our driveway for the early birds “Prices are double before 8am.” If they really want it, they’ll shop.ReplyCancel

  • Moo8.30.18 - 9:43 PM

    Hi, how do you prepare for the early birds?ReplyCancel

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