Checklist for running a great garage sale

By Karina Rook

It was my first time, I was nervous and excited all at once, and I wanted my garage sale to be a success. I did some online research, asked around, and felt pretty prepared, but I sure learned a lot on the day!

My top three biggest mistakes were:

  1. Running the sale over 6 hours (half that time would have been enough)
  2. Letterbox drops in the neighborhood (only a few neighbors came)
  3. Not asking for help (one friend helped out, but two or three would have been better)

Overall though, it was a fun and rewarding experience, and there was great satisfaction seeing so many people happy with their treasures. People were very friendly and we got rid of over 90% of our stuff.

So, here‘s what I did, step-by-step:

A week before

  1. Selected a date and timeframe (a Sunday from 9am to 3pm). Saturday was too much sport/shopping going on for potential buyers and we had tons of kids toys to clear out.
  2. Made a flyer and put it into the school newsletter. Flyer had a map, short list of items being sold, and our reason for the sale (moving overseas), as well as date and time. Also, added a warning that prices were doubled before the start time of 9am.
  3. Started collecting display boxes. A visit to the local fruit shop gave us plenty of large, shallow trays ideal for preparing our goods for the sale.
  4. Booked 6 trestle tables to use during the sale (our school let us borrow them).
  5. Bought pricing stickers and found ‘bum bags’ to use for collecting money on the day.
  6. Started a plastic bag collection for buyers to use.
  7. Did a letterbox drop of 200 flyers to neighbors (not recommended)
  8. Organized for the pet dog to be looked after on the day.
  9. And the big one, started moving everything for sale into the spare room, pricing (and cleaning) as I went. Everything needs a price to prevent people pestering you on the day, and to allow helpers to know how much to accept as payment. I put similar items together into a tray so that they could be moved quickly onto the trestle tables on the day of the garage sale.

The day before

  1. Drew a map with the kids planning where tables would go, and what would be on them. To attract drive-bys, we had a table of books at the entrance to the driveway, then garden implements and tools from the shed in view (so the men would agree to pull over), kitchen items and homewares under the carport, and kids toys in the backyard (to keep kids away from the road).
  2. Put up tons of flyers near the supermarket, train station, pedestrian crossings, etc. Anywhere with foot traffic is ideal. Reminded friends about the sale, confirmed with our kid’s friends that they could attend to help out.
  3. Prepared the yard to make open spaces, and remove items not for sale.
  4. Made up large signs (I used a waterproof pen) to put near the driveway and the nearest cross streets to attract drive-bys. Make these large and easy to read with very little detail. Simply ‘Garage Sale’ with an arrow is enough. We used spare boxes for our signs, using a brick inside to stop them falling over.
  5. Went to the bank and got lots of change, notes and coins.

The morning of

  1. Got everything set up on tables outside, tallest items at the back.
  2. Put signs up with balloons.
  3. Issued the ‘bum bags’ with change to all helpers.
  4. Politely asked early callers to wait until 9am, kept them off the property (one tried to jump the neighbor’s fence to get a look at items!) I was firm, but polite.
  5. Had an extension cord ready for people to test electricals. Plugged in lamps, digital clocks, etc so people could see that they worked properly.
  6. Let our helpers browse first and take items they wanted.


  1. Answered people’s questions about items, chatted with them, advised them to make a stockpile of items away from the main sale (so someone else didn’t accidently sell the stuff they wanted)
  2. Very little haggling was needed as we priced items cheaply, but we were generous too. After all, we knew items would be disposed of if not sold on the day!
  3. Played pop music quietly, served cupcakes, kept smiling.
  4. Tidied up the tables as we went, moving items from the ground up onto tables. Put the best items in prime positions.
  5. Offered to deliver a student desk to a neighbor who didn’t have a large enough car.
  6. The kids got to keep all the money they made from selling their belongings (as an incentive to get rid of stuff), so if I sold something of theirs I gave them the money straight after the sale.
  7. Tried not to ‘bad-mouth’ the merchandise, or provide long stories about where we got it, how we used it, etc.


  1. Cleaning up and disposal of items that didn’t sell. Important to do this on the day, otherwise those boxes of junk just keep hanging around.
  2. Counted all the money ($600) and celebrated!

Our garage sale was a win-win experience full of positive vibes and lots of conversations with people in our area. Have you got any good tips to share?