15 Do’s & Don’ts For Your Garage Sale

Jessica DeBano

I love garage sales because its chance to wake up early, pick up your friends, grab some coffee, and rummage through other people’s belongings. And sometimes, if you’re really lucky– you get to take it home! For 2$, of course.

We are people. And as people, we acquire things (some more than others). For instance, I have an extensive collection of ‘American Girl’ doll clothes that were purchased between 1998 and 2003. I will never part with these items. Partly, because they hold so much sentimental value, but I tell my boyfriend that I’m saving them for “our future daughter” (hint hint). Whether it’s decades old doll clothes, or clothes from high school (that you’ll probably never fit into again), we all have things we can afford to part with. If you’re like me, and you love decluttering, your first garage sale might be the best way to help your beloved things find new homes!

This past weekend, I held my first garage sale and I’ll be honest: It was a complete dud. Within 5 hours, I managed to sell ONE item. Uno! And what’s funny, it wasn’t even my item. It was my boyfriends pelican gun case. I’ll be the first to own my mistakes and let you know this came down to poor planning on my part. I’d like to save you the heartache, and misery of sitting in your garage alone at 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning, like I did this past weekend. There were things I would have, and should have, done differently. There are so many tips I could include but I decided to focus on what lacked in my garage sale and what will help yours be a fantastic success!

Here is my list of 15 Do’s and Don’ts for your first garage sale:

Do plan on a date ahead of time.

I waited until the night before to start executing my garage sale. This meant getting off work at 5 p.m., and organizing/pricing items. I was up until 2:45 a.m.! Getting everything staged/priced took longer than I anticipated. I would highly suggest planning/staging everything earlier in the week to avoid a late night.

o declutter. And then declutter some more.

This is the number one thing I would have done differently. I felt like I had peeled a lot of stuff from inside my house/closet but I still felt like I had so much stuff remaining in my house. I got rid of things I didn’t like, and kept things I still loved but never used. Despite my efforts, I still found myself attributing feelings to some of my items. It’s important to ask yourself “Have I used/worn this item in the past 6 months? In the last year? 2 years?”  If you answered no, you probably won’t miss it, and won’t notice if it’s gone.

Do ask, first.

Always ask the owner of the item before you sell it. My coworker had given me clothes/items and I sold them in my garage sale. Afterwards, I asked. And luckily, she didn’t mind. It’s a good habit to ask your boyfriend if he doesn’t mind you selling his PlayStation before it’s in the backseat of someone else’s car.

Do buy heavy duty tape.

My signs didn’t hold up. I used masking tape. I knew this wasn’t the best tape, but it was 2:45 a.m. and it was going to have to do. Do yourself and your garage sale a favor and buy heavy duty tape that will withstand the elements. Later that afternoon, I found my signs face-down in the ditch.

Do make change, early.

Again, this one comes down to lack of planning. It dawned on me around 2:30 a.m. that I didn’t have change. I made a mad dash to Safeway. Safeway was closed. Luckily, a gas station was able to give me $40 in change. Just get change ahead of time. You won’t regret it.

Do have a variety of items.

Diversity is the spice of life. Most of my items were focused on one specific demographic: girly twenty-somethings. This limited my audience. Most of my items were girly, and thus, I didn’t attract a lot of men. Having a variety of items will attract a variety of different people from all walks of life. Ask your dad, brother, or boyfriend if they have any items they’d like to contribute to your garage sale.


Do designate someone to get coffee.

The night before my garage sale, I went to sleep around 3 a.m. and rose at 8:00 a.m. I had no one to get me coffee. I couldn’t go myself because I was afraid of missing customers. With conviction, I encourage you to make plans the night before about who will be retrieving the much needed coffee.


Do pick the right location.

Maybe your house in the middle of nowhere might not be the best location for a successful garage sale. I live 30 minutes out of town, and I’m sure this was a contributing factor to my lack of customers. Plan on hosting your garage at a convenient spot that will get lots of customers. Perhaps your friend will host a multi-family garage sale with you. Or maybe your current employer will let you have a sale in their parking lot, or a local church, or a supermarket parking lot. Get creative!


Just do it.

“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”  The same can be applied to garage sales. Don’t let the overwhelming task of planning/executing a garage sale, and it being a potential flop (like mine) keep you from saling your garage.


Don’t rely on signs to attract everyone.

Signs are great. Fluorescent yellow signs are even better. But passing cars are focused on the road and might not always be able to read your sign. I posted my garage sale on Craigslist and Facebook groups to ensure public visibility. Make sure you include your address, hours you will be open, and include pictures that will give users a good idea of just how great your garage sale is!


Do not have your garage sale on a holiday weekend.

I chose a weekend before Memorial Day Weekend to have my garage sale. Choosing a date that doesn’t fall on a holiday weekend is going to ensure your customers don’t already have plans and/or will be out town. A Saturday and Sunday sale is always going to be the most effective.


Don’t go it alone.

Garage sales are meant to be fun! Ask your friends/family to help you setup. It will make the work go by faster and easier. While you’re at it, invite them to hang the day of the sale to avoid sitting alone in your garage. Luckily, I had a very eager 10-year old to hang out with, otherwise it would have made for one, longgggggg boring afternoon. In the garage sale world, more is always a good thing.


Don’t part with anything you can’t live without.

Make sure everything you put out, you are willing to get rid of. I made the mistake of putting items out just for the sake of putting items out. Which resulted in me, taking them back and apologizing to my hair curlers for thinking I could ever be without them. Just make sure, you don’t do this for every item.


Do not be discouraged.

Some people are going to visit your garage and not purchase one item. Save yourself the heartache, and don’t take it personally. Garage soling isn’t about selling the most items, and making the most money. It’s about the experience. Don’t take it personally if people visited your garage and didn’t buy anything. Thank them for their visit, and tell them to have a good day.


Do not give up!

Just because I had a rough first go, doesn’t give me and my beloved items an excuse to give up. Instead of boxing your items and taking them to the transit site, ask yourself “What could I have done differently?” and take action to make your garage sale even better than the first.

Best of luck,


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