How To Hold A Fall Garage Sale

garage sale
garage sale
Photo Courtesy: John Beagle

One of the most ideal times of year to hold a garage sale is in the autumn, when temperatures are cooler (but still pleasant).  And while garage sales are a good way to make some cash, there’s no denying that organizing, holding, and cleaning up afterward can be a colossal task.  Handyman Matters offers a handful of tips that can save time, reduce stress, and make the process flow a little more smoothly.

  1. Pick a date.  Most people select weekends and quite a few do multi-day sales.  Saturdays tend to be ideal because many people have the day free.  A word of caution:  even a single-day sale will take a lot more out of you than you will expect, so unless you have an abundance of energy or a whole lot of stuff you want to “move,” you’ll be better off sticking with a single-day event.
  2. Make sure you’re “legal.” Some cities require a permit, and some Homeowner Associations either prohibit sales or restrict them to certain dates and times of the year.
  3. Years ago, everyone placed a classified ad in the local newspaper.  This has been replaced somewhat by the various social media outlets available.  People post on Craig’s List, on Facebook, and on community websites.  Classifieds can still be excellent advertising, provided the cost isn’t prohibitive.  Many papers offer discounted ads for garage and rummage sale listings, but if a listing is going to cost you twenty-five dollars or more, it probably isn’t worth it.  Posting hand-made signs at busy intersections and on telephone poles and street lamps in your neighborhood yields good results.  Use brightly-colored poster board if possible, but most important is to make your signs easily readable.  (Also, be a good neighbor and take the time to remove these signs when your sale is over.  You can incur a lot of ill will if you force neighbors to look at your signs still dangling from posts days or weeks after the event).
  4. Get organized.  Gather all of the stuff you plan to put up for sale and separate it by category (electronics, household goods, toys, etc.).  Decide where to stage the sale: in your driveway, your garage, your patio, the front lawn, or some combination of these.  Next, determine how you want to display your wares.  It’s easy to underestimate the amount of space you’ll need. It will fill up far more quickly than you can imagine.  You’ll need as many tables, shelves and other flat surfaces as you own or can borrow.  It’s a definite plus if you can arrange to display clothing on hangers.  The more orderly you can arrange your merchandise, the more likely it will be to sell.  Tag every item with price stickers, and keep an extra supply with you during the sale.  Tags are likely to fall off during repeated handling, and may need replacing.
  5. Have all the necessary “tools” at hand. Have plenty of coins and small bills (at least two rolls of quarters, $50 in single bills, ten $5 bills and five $10 bills), because you’ll need to make a lot of change.  Collect a large supply of plastic and/or paper bags for your customers to carry away their purchases.  Use an apron or a fanny pack to hold your money, not a cash box.  Have a pocket calculator available, as well as a tablet and a couple of pens or pencils.  If your sale items include electronics, have a power source on hand (power strip, batteries, etc.) so customers can test for themselves that they are still in working order.
  6. Complimentary items. It’s a nice touch to have ice water and cups available for your clientele.  They are likely to stay and browse longer.  Or if you—or your kids—are feeling particularly enterprising, you can have a lemonade stand (and cookies) and make a little extra on the side.


  • If they aren’t already aware, alert your neighbors that you will be having a sale, since it’s likely that customers will be taking up parking spaces in front of their homes and generally clogging traffic on your street.
  • Be aware you will almost certainly have “early birds,” people who just can’t wait until the posted start time. Either be firm (warning on your signs and ads that you charge double for early birds), or be prepared to start earlier than you’d intended.
  • Do not allow people into your home unless you know them. If someone asks for a bathroom, direct them to the closest public facility.
  • Establish a clear dividing line between what you’ve put out for sale and anything else that happens to be nearby. Otherwise, you are likely to get people asking you how much you want for your lawn mower or the potted plant sitting on the front porch.
  • Discuss with family members and anyone else who will be helping out with the sale what the policy on “haggling” is going to be. Earnest bargain hunters are going to negotiate for a better price, no matter how low you may have priced something.  If you are eager to be rid of items, that’s great.  If not, and you think you will be able to sell it later for the asking price, then tell your customer that they are welcome to check back later in the day, and if the object is still there, you’ll consider a lower offer.
  • As money accumulates, have a family member run the extra into the house for safekeeping, rather than keeping it all in your apron.
  • Keep things safe! Make sure all tables are sturdy and all merchandise positioned so that nothing is likely to fall on anyone.  Before you open for business, do a scouting trip leading from where customers will park, all the way to your staging area, and throughout the surrounding vicinity.  Remove all potential hazards, or post warning signs around things like sprinkler heads.
  • Finally, it’s a fact of life that no matter how much you manage to sell, you are still going to be faced with the task of getting rid of a lot of stuff that remains. Research to see if there are non-profits in your area who will pick up unsold items, and if there are limitations on what local thrift stores will accept.  Then you must decide whether to save or pitch whatever remains after that.

A garage sale is a big undertaking, in any event.  But following these simple steps can help take some of the stress and surprise out of the equation.

And remember that your local Handyman Matters office stands ready to help you out with any repair and remodeling jobs that might need doing around your home.