Garage Sale Questions

I have never held a garage sale. I helped with a friend or family member’s garage sale. I don’t know if I’ve even ever been to one ever. Basically, I could not know less about garage sales.

I keep waffling on this idea of trying to sell some of our stuff at a garage sale. One big concern is that we don’t actually have enough stuff to sell–I’m actually worried that people will show up and feel disappointed or misled by what I have available. Is this ridiculous? It’s a very real fear.

I oscillate between worrying that no one will show up and fearing there will be so many people that I won’t be able to keep up when I’m out there by myself (there is no scenario where I can have help, so I have to be the only one out there). Finally, I doubt that whatever money we might make is worth the considerable time and effort required to throw this thing. In order to actually have this garage sale I have to do some major working making my garage look presentable (the sidewalk in front of my house it too small to have much out there so much of it will have to be in my actual garage). I have to collect all the stuff, sort it in some meaningful way and decide how much to ask for everything. I also have to make fliers, hang them, and take them down. Oh and I have to get change at the bank, which at our local branch is a 30 minute endeavor. So yeah, it’s a lot of work and will require a lot of hours, and it might not provide much of a return. But then the idea of making a little something for all this stuff feels nice… I’m just not sure what to do.

I really don’t know if anyone would come. I’ve never seen a sign for a garage sale in our neighborhood, nor have I happened by one. Not in three years of living here. They just don’t seem to be a thing. Maybe no one will come by at all. And what if I put it on Craigslist and people come from far away and they think all I have is a couple random boxes of worthless shit. Ugh. Where are all these feelings coming from?

Okay, let’s just assume I am going to put this thing on. Can those of you who have done this before answer me a few questions? I feel super clueless about all this and would really appreciate any insight you can give.

How should I advertise? Fliers? Craigslist? Something else? (If I put it on Craigslist do I post pictures of the good stuff? I’ve seen that a lot.)

My husband is out of town and I will be driving my son over to my in-laws before the start time of 9am. Everyone says people will come earlier. Will it be okay if I’m not there until right before I want to start (probably I’ll be back around 8:30am)? Any suggestions on how to handle this hiccup?

Also I only have until between 9am and 1pm to do this thing. Is it even worth it?

How much change do I get from the bank? Is $100 in ones enough?

How much do I charge for things? Do I just put stuff in boxes with a price listed on the box? Do I do stuff like, $3 each or 4 for $10 or just stick with $3 each? Some suggested those colored stickers and I liked that idea…)

Ugh, I feel so overwhelmed. And yet… I have so many DVDs and kid’s books and toys and stuffed animals (really, really nice stuffed animals) that I would otherwise just be donating. It seems like I should at least try to get some cash for them. And I do have more time than usual right now, because it’s summer break. I think I am going to try it. Worst case scenario it will be a learning experience. Best case I will make a couple of benjamins. That would be nice.

So lay it on me. Anything and everything you want to tell me about garage sales. I’m all ears. (And thank you Polly for the garage sale advice you already gave me. It was super helpful!)


  1. What about a Facebook yard sale? Those are HUGE here. Basically you search for the yardsale group near you, then put up pictures of your stuff with prices. If people want it, they comment/message you and you set up a time to meet.

    If you do a real life one, 9-1 in the summer might be rough – it gets so hot during the day. Around here (and remember I’m cross country from you), they usually do 7-12. Advertise with fliers, facebook groups, those local freebie papers, and especially local mom’s groups if you’re doing a lot of kid stuff. If’s is mostly/all kid stuff, make sure to point that out.

    1. This is mostly the stuff I haven’t been able to sell online. I am a part of a FB Buy and Sell group in my area and I’ve put all the bigger items on there, so this would be the little stuff that doesn’t sell as well on FB, like smaller toys, books, DVDs, etc.

      Also, I’m in SF so heat is not an issue. (I chuckled reading this because it’s been foggy and SO COLD here these past weeks. I almost wish it were too hot to throw a garage sale. 😉

  2. Are there neighborhood yahoo groups you can join? One of our friends in mountain view told me that each of the elementary schools there has an unofficial yahoo group that roughly corresponds to the neighborhood and is mostly used for buying and selling stuff. Is anything like that mentioned on your kids’ school’s webpage?

    1. I really don’t think my daughter’s new school has something like that. It’s population is mostly low-income, immigrant families. I’ll ask around but I highly doubt it.

      Most of the stuff I’m trying to sell is the smaller stuff that isn’t easy to sell online. All the bigger items that I could get $10+ I’m selling (or trying to sell) on Craigslist or a FB selling group I’m a part of. This would be the stuff that hasn’t sold there, or that the consignment shop wouldn’t take.

  3. My family did a couple of garage sales when I was growing up. I think you have to have a few bigger items (>$10, maybe even furniture/appliances) around to entice people to come. Or team up with someone else so you have overall more items.
    Can you sell the smaller stuff in lots on facebook/craigslist? I’ve sold random small amounts of kids’ clothes in a lot before. I’ve seen people post lots of books or toys; price the lot at least 20% less than the amount you would expect selling individually (if you were going to sell books for $1/each, you could price 10 books for $8). You may not get quite as much $ overall but its less effort and you get the whole lot out of your house in one go.
    Even though it may not be hot, I think garage sale hunters tend to set out early morning and get it done and go about their day before traffic or other activities kick in.

  4. If you’re going to do a garage sale, price only big things and get colored dots for the rest to indicate price. Then you either dot each item or a box that you know the contents of, or just price categories (kid books 50cents, movies $2, etc). I took pictures of the set up and posted them on Craigslist, not individual items but including the big things (baby gate, stroller, grass seed spreader, mini fridge). We put up signs (Garage sale today) at the end of the road and in front of the house. People turned up early, most before noon. It doesn’t have to be fancy. We viewed it as a chance for someone who needed our stuff to get it at an affordable price and not a chance to make lots of money. Also it meant many of our donations didn’t need to be hauled away (big plus!). So I would personally go with minimal prep, maybe invite a garage-free friend to join you or chip in some big attractive things, and only do it if it’s minimal stress. My mom obsessed about the garage sale we had (both our stuff when we moved out of the house they were selling) and it was much simpler to just go with it, price a few things, and be done.

  5. I think it might be worth a try. Price to sell. Anything that doesn’t sell can be donated to the Salvation Army. You can schedule a pick-up ahead of time, so that all that effort to clean the garage will be worth it!

  6. I personally haven’t found it worth it to sell little stuff–literally not worth the little we’d make. Plus we never accumulate enough stuff to make it big enough (regular trips to goodwill with a bag or two). I’ve sold big stuff (baby things) on CL and a few things on eBay (plus books on which is part of eBay) and the rest is donated. I often wonder when I see garage sales with just a few old clothes books and toys why they bother (not referring to you here). I think it does help when people have a few pieces of furniture to sell or something like that.

  7. We just finished our first garage sale…and had many of the same concerns as you. Here’s a few things I learned:

    1) You will absolutely have people arriving early! Put a sign out saying that you won’t be selling before your start time or “no early birds”. Even then, folks will still arrive before you want them to.
    2) Check with your city’s rules about posting flyers for garage sales…and even garage sales themselves. There’s a city next to us that has certain months in which garage sales are allowed.
    3) We had three 6 foot tables and several ground cloths worth of stuff…and were told that we were a “medium sized” sale for most people who stopped by. Not sure how you compare to that…
    4) We had $150 in change from the bank…and still had to run out for change once (a scary number of people wanted to pay for things with $100 bills).
    5) Yes! Colored stickers are very helpful.
    6) We advertised on local b/s/t groups, craigslist, and had a few signs. I think we maybe had 30 people buy things, and maybe 50 stop by total. Most of those had just seen our sale while passing by…so, I’m not sure how much good our advertising was.
    7) Mark things a lot lower than you think.

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