8 Surprising Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Yard Sale — And What to Do Instead

published Apr 3, 2021
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Garage sale yard sale old unwanted items and utensils.

Flowers are blooming, the grass is coming back to life, and the temperature is finally starting to become tolerable once again. As you begin to open windows and swap out your seasonal decor, it’s only natural to get the urge to declutter. Whether you attack your belongings Marie Kondo style or slowly pare down your stuff, the time to plan a yard sale is drawing near. 

Although organizing a garage or junk sale does take a bit of time and effort, the end result is doubly beneficial. Not only does culling an overaccumulation of stuff release mental weight while creating space, but trading unwanted items for extra funds is motivating. After all, hosting a sale is a fabulous way to save up for something special. Who knows? One fantastic tag sale may fund your next weekend getaway. Here’s how to get planning and set yourself up for success with these eight tips to avoid yard sale self-sabotage.

You’re not utilizing technology. 

It goes without saying that people check social media constantly, so use it to your advantage. Don’t rely solely on signage, but use them in tandem with posting your garage sale online. Add your event to Craigslist, and also put it on your local Facebook yard sale page.

Don’t be afraid to post it on your personal Instagram — the app’s Stories feature works great for this — and Facebook pages. Adding photos and naming specific items can also do wonders for online listings. Many folks feel leery about putting their address on a virtual platform, which is understandable. Instead, direct tech-savvy buyers to a specific intersection and tell them to look for signs once they get there. If you’re having a group sale, tag participating friends on your personal page so that they can share the information. However, avoid doing this on public yard sale sites.

Your signage is unclear. 

Having iffy signage is probably the number one way to confuse potential buyers. You have a fraction of a second to catch someone’s eye and draw them to your junk sale, so make every moment count. The key is to have large signage with specific instructions — which means that using floppy computer paper with 12-point font is likely doing more harm than good.

Cardboard or neon poster board works great to catch people’s attention and will withstand high winds and other weather issues. Clearly mark the date, time, and add a directional arrow. If you want to list items, use broad categories, such as furniture and books. It’s helpful to place directional signage at intersections close by, and if you’re rural, include a specific address.

Another point of note is to check your local ordinances for placard regulations. Many locales prohibit placing signage in busy intersections, and others have size restrictions to safeguard against obstructions. Some areas require a permit to hold a junk sale, so consult your local government website to ensure that your sale adheres to community guidelines. 

You’re not merchandising.

Buyers can get frustrated if they can’t easily tell which  types of items a seller has. You may have the ever-so-humbling experience of seeing people drive slowly by your sale, gawk from their vehicles, and eventually pull away. They can’t find anything that interests them, and then your potential buyers are gone in a heartbeat. 

Instead of laying your items out on tarps or leaving them in boxes, merchandise your stuff. Place items at different heights and display them in a way that makes sense. Hang better quality clothing, place decorative pillows on a chair, and use tables to display kitchen items. Doing so not only creates interest, but it makes buyers feel as though you care about and have taken good care of your things.

Your items aren’t marked. 

Were you a wallflower in school? The one who dreaded the mere thought of being called on to answer a question? I feel ya! Many folks shopping at junk sales are the same way. Even if they are interested in an item, they may walk away if they have to ask about the price.

Mark each item or group similarly priced things together. If you’re short on time, another option is to have tables labeled with price increments — such as $1, $2, $5, etc. — and organize your wares accordingly. The only caveat is that you have to remember where you placed items, but that’s where a cell phone comes in handy. Snap a quick photo of each table and refer to it as needed. 

Your prices are too high. 

If you’re looking to get top dollar for your items, a tag sale probably isn’t the way to go. An event that takes place for four hours on a Saturday or a few days on a holiday weekend is designed for getting rid of items quickly. And the way to do that is to sell it inexpensively. That doesn’t mean you need to sell your antique dresser for $10, but you most likely won’t get $400 either. Most buyers head to garage sales because they are looking for good deals, so don’t overprice or undersell yourself.

Consider selling more valuable items on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. Another option is to take them to a consignment or antique shop. 

You don’t account for digital payments.

In a perfect world, everyone would hit the ATM before hitting up a yard or stoop sale — it’s to be expect that the seller wants to trade in cash, right? But given the increasingly digital world, it’s important not to overlook incorporating technology into accepting payments. Doing so can increase sales immensely as folks buy on impulse. On the day of your tag sale, it’s easy to use apps like Square, Venmo, or PayPal to collect funds without exposing your information — or the information of your buyers. This is also helpful if your offerings are particularly special: Many buyers fill their pockets with small bills, so they may not have cash for higher-priced things. 

Your sale is out of the norm. 

There’s nothing wrong with a good challenge, but when something feels off about a sale, it may get skipped. Therefore, it’s best to ensure that buyers feel that your stop is worth their time. If you live in a highly rural area, folks may not want to drive five miles for a sale unless you give specifics, such as exact location and photos of your items.

Sleeping in is tempting, but be set up at a reasonable time, typically around 7 or 8 a.m. Also, avoid having yard sales too often, as avid buyers will skip recurring events in the quest to find fresh items.

You’re just plain rude. 

Kindness and courtesy go a long way, even when it comes to the rush of a Saturday morning yard sale. First of all, be present. If your flow of customers is a bit slow, it may be the perfect time to run inside and grab another cup of coffee, but don’t be away for too long. Being absent from your sale means no sales — or it could even mean theft. 

People are going to haggle with you. If a buyer has collected $30 worth of items, they may ask if you’ll take $25 or even $20. Don’t get offended, and if you say “no,” do it kindly. However, it may be worthwhile for the extra $5 or $10 to simply say “yes” and have cash instead of leftover items. For a successful garage sale, keep a smile on your face. Hopefully, that positive energy will translate into more sales, which equals less clutter, and more cash in the end.