Organizing a Garage Sale

Organize a sale while organizing your house.

Organizing a garage sale may be an arduous task, but it will de-clutter a home while adding some cash to the family's bank account. Make the actual sale easy by staying organized from the very start of the process.

Start Sale Plans Early

Whether it was organizing financial paperwork or simply finishing the weekly checklist for house cleaning, a time comes when too much stuff and too little money calls for hosting a garage sale. Sales are often held in the late spring, summer and early fall in areas of the country that have winter seasons. Getting started long before the sale date will ensure its success.

Begin gathering items at least three weeks before the sale. While it may be tempting to start with boxes in the attic or garage, these items are all ready packed away and not cluttering up the home. Instead, make a list of the rooms in the house and go through each of them. This can be done while cleaning or as part of a separate occasion. The kitchen, bedrooms, family room, dining room and bedrooms are all likely to have unwanted and unused items that will be someone else's treasure.

Early Organization Tips

The key to organizing the sale, however, lies in the early task of gathering the items. Do not just toss them in a box or corner together, to be sorted and priced in the wee hours before the sale begins. Follow these steps for early organization and stress free success:

  1. Have price stickers, pens and boxes ready for each room.
  2. Price according to item (all blue jeans for a dollar or all silverware for ten cents apiece) to make it easy for customers who visit the sale. Remember to color code or use initials if hosting the sale with another family.
  3. Sort clothing according to size, folding it all with the sticker clearly visible, before packing it into the box.
  4. Label the box for the room it came from.
  5. Keep a separate box that moves from room to room for items that would fall under "knickknack" status, as these items will likely come from every room in the house.

Garage Sale Checklist

With everything all ready sorted and priced, displaying the items on the garage sale day is incredibly easy. Other things to remember to cross of the pre-garage sale checklist include:

  • Advertising: Hang fliers on community bulletin boards, put a notice in the church newsletter or even take out a two-dollar ad in the local paper. Highlight the top items (furniture, DVDs or electronics or used baby clothing) that are sure to sell well.
  • Display Tables: Borrow folding tables from family and friends. Tables should be strong enough to hold lots of items and sturdy enough for elbowing people to bump. A tarp on the ground is perfect for displaying children's toys.
  • Hanging Racks: Mobile hanging racks hold special occasion clothing, kids' costumes, jackets and suits. These clothing organizers are great space-savers for garage sales and the home.
  • Money Belt/Box: Secure a moneybox before the day of the garage sale. Some people like to keep the money in a fanny pack or money belt, while others set up a table near the entrance/exit of the sale. Tables are better for keeping track of items from multiple sellers.

Organizing a Garage Sale Day

Be prepared for everyone when the door rises on the garage sale day. This means everything should be ready to go before the sale time begins. Before opening the doors, set up the following things:

Have change ready on sale day.
  • Tables
  • Display items for sale, grouped by category (clothing, cookware, home décor)
  • Have plenty of change on hand (ones, fives, tens and coins)
  • Notebook, calculator and plastic bags for fast checkout

Wear comfortable clothing and shoes on the day of the garage sale. Expect to have several "early birds" show up, wanting to catch a few deals. To avoid them, keep the door closed; open the garage door if they are welcome.

Some people hit the sale looking for the best deal they can bargain for. Whether it is a discount on furniture or a used video game system, shoppers will be looking for a bargain. People who want to get rid of everything often work out a deal, while those who are looking to make money may want to wait until the last hour of the sale before cutting prices.

Use lulls in the sale to reorganize clothing and move merchandise. As things sell, more optimal positions are open, allowing for better display of items. Expect that buyers will make a mess, so ask a few teenagers or neighbors to help keep up.

After the Sale

After the sale has closed, organizing a garage sale is not quite over. Though it may be tempting just to toss everything in a box, it may be worth going through once more. Look things over, sorting into three piles:

  1. Toss: Put items by the curb in a box marked "free;" take whatever is left to the dump after 24 hours.
  2. Donate: Donate nicer items to non-profit charities or churches that need clothing or toys.
  3. Keep: Keep some items on hand for later sales. Leave the price tags on and keep boxes labeled.

Finally, add up the money. Take out the initial change amount and give it to the person who donated it. Add up each person's take and the money, splitting it per everyone's profit.


Organizing a garage sale is a lot of work, but often goes the distance when it comes to debt reduction and creating more space in a home.

Organizing a Garage Sale