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Successful Yard Sale Secrets

Expert advice on how to make extra cash by selling your unwanted household items

Whether you are moving, downsizing or just clearing clutter, having a sale is a great American tradition. Yard, garage, estate, sidewalk — regardless of what you call it or where you hold it, a sale is a great way to give new life to your old stuff.

Also see: Tips for Smart Shopping at Yard Sales

I asked Lynda Hammond, author of The Garage Sale Gal's Guide to Making Money Off Your Stuff, to share her advice on how to pull off a successful sale. These are some of the tips she gave me, along with some of my own from my years of yard sale experience:


Before the sale

  • Get the family involved in the yard sale. Give kids (of all ages!) a reward as they sort through their stuff; divide up the tasks such as placing the ad, making signs and setting up a sno-cone or lemonade stand.

  • Gather up what you want to sell over a few weeks. Start by sorting household items, one drawer, shelf or closet at a time. A good rule of thumb: If you haven't used it in the past six months to a year — lose it!

  • If you are facing the task of selling an entire household full of items, you may want to consider contracting with an estate sale company that will do all the work for you! Check with their former clients and make sure they are bonded and insured.

  • Find a place to start putting all the items you want to sell so they are ready to go when the time comes. A corner of the garage works well.

  • Don't worry about putting a price on each item. Group items of the same price or just put up signs that say "Make Me an Offer." You may actually make more money that way — and what a time-saver.

  • Go to a few sales and see what you like about them. Ask what days are best for sales in your area, and think about the weather for the best time of year to have your sale.

  • Advertise on local websites, newspapers and community newsletters. Sale junkies plan their weekends around the sales they want to go to. To pique interest in your sale, list a few of the big items you'll be selling or unusual things such as vintage collectables or antiques.

Day of the sale

  • Start early, but keep in mind if you start at 7 a.m. some people will arrive at 6 to beat the crowd.

  • Signs are key to your success. Use the same brightly colored sign with "SALE" and an arrow on them. Find out where you can legally place signs, and get strategic about drawing people in. Place signs on both the main roads and side roads leading to your place. Check signs a few times throughout the day to make sure they are still up.

  • Organize your sale items. Make it look attractive and get things up on tables as much as possible. A nicely arranged sale makes your items seem more valuable.

  • Have a cooler of cold water or a thermos of hot coffee for guests to make them feel welcome.

  • Ask family and friends to help keep an eye on things and serve customers.

  • Schmooze! One of the best things about having a sale is the amazing people you'll meet. The more you banter with them the more they'll buy.

After the sale

  • Have a local charity lined up to come that afternoon and pick up what's left. If it's not in good condition, consider calling a bulk trash company.

  • Remember to take down signs.

  • Count your money and celebrate your accomplishment — better out than in, as they say. And now you have more room for your future yard-sale purchases.