How To Host A Low-Key Yard Sale

When Sherry and I hosted our first yard sale over four years ago, we remember feeling rushed to get everything outside and set up, being stressed about how to price everything, and constantly obsessing over how much money we had made as the day went on. It’s like we were both so excited to sell stuff that we didn’t like (so we could go buy more stuff that we did like) that it became a bigger deal than we initially expected.

Fast forward a few years (we also had a moving sale back in 2010) and we found ourselves hosting another clear-things-out yard sale now that it’s 2012 (I guess our pattern is every two years?), but this time we aimed for a distinctly more relaxed attitude. Why? Because this is how we approached it:

  • Our singular goal was to get rid of stuff. Any money that we made was just icing.
  • We sold a few higher-value items on craigslist ahead of time (to get more money for them and not have to stress about them during the sale).
  • Everything else was priced to sell. If someone picked it up, we wanted them to take it even if it meant selling it very cheaply.

We were so focused on getting rid of stuff because somewhere between moving to this new house (and not having a use for everything that worked in our first house) and generally collecting items for various blog and book projects, we found more and more of our house turning into storage (hello playroom or basement – even our sunroom was filling up). So it was about time to send a slew of stuff home with other folks (where it would get more love than we could show it, and free up three rooms that we’d love to be functional for us instead of piles o’ stuff).

Oh and since we know folks will ask- the reason we didn’t tell the entire interweb about our yard sale was safety and manageability. We didn’t want to dole out our home address to the world at large, and since we didn’t want to spend extra money and time hauling everything to a more neutral location (the goal was to get rid of stuff simply and cheaply), it just had to be something that we did the old fashioned way- with signs and an ad on craigslist without revealing we were the hosts. Hope you guys understand!

Even though we were trying to keep it low key, it still took a bit of pre-planning on our part. We had to pin down what we wanted to kick out of the house for good, so last month we got our purge-hats on, sorted through closets, cabinets, and full rooms to sift out what we could part with. We did our best to be ruthless. If it hadn’t been used in a while and we couldn’t articulate a specific future use for the item, it got moved right to the yard sale pile. That pile lived in our sunroom for the days leading up to the sale, but starting bright and early (actually it wasn’t even bright yet) on that Saturday morning it all made its way out into the driveway.

Our inventory was actually a mix of our stuff and my sister’s – although some of the tables that you see below were just for display (we didn’t sell those two white pedestal guys on the right). We didn’t bother pricing anything ahead of time (again, this is our low key approach) and since we both agreed that the goal was purging, we didn’t stress about how accurately our prices were set (truth be told, they were all probably lower than they could have been, but it meant things moved quickly and no one walked out empty handed). For us, if someone left with something, that was a victory. It was really freeing to just say “how about a dollar?” and watch things clear out nice and quick. Of course the bigger items like chairs and dressers and bookcases went for a little more, but all of the stuff on the tables and laid out on blankets was pretty much a dollar or less. I think if you’re in the mindset that we were in our first sale you might want to price things higher, but it does mean that you run the risk of selling a lot less.

We didn’t get any great shots of the sale in action since there was, well, lots of action that kept us both busy. It was only at lulls like this that we broke out the camera. But this was after around 60% of our items had sold.

The crowd was pretty strong through about 10am. When things started to slow down, Sherry and I made the decision to expedite the process and we dropped prices to ridiculous lows. At this point the goal of getting rid of stuff overrode even our patience to sit in our driveway all morning. Yup, we priced our pile of kids clothes at five for fifty cents, pillows were two for $1, and we even stuck “free” stickers on items like the old ladder that the previous owners had left in our basement (easy come, easy go).

Oh yeah, and if you’re wondering where Clara was this whole time, her Grammy took her on an outing when she woke up around 8am (we were up a few hours before she arose setting things up, and were so grateful that she slept so long) and then returned her around 11am. After that she just hung out and upped the cute factor of our sale by drawing in the driveway.

By about noon things were so slow (and our inventory was so low), that we were actually only left with these four big-ish items (and about 30 small things that fit into two manageable Goodwill boxes). So we slapped a “free” sign on the few remaining large items and posted a curb alert on craigslist for them.

They were all gone within a few hours. Hooray for curb alerts. The great thing about them is that you don’t even have to be home. Which was handy since we weren’t. We were busy dropping off those two boxes of leftover stuff at Goodwill. Yard sale key: nothing comes back into the house!

By the end of the day I think we made somewhere in the neighborhood of $350 at the sale itself. Not our most profitable, but once you throw in what we made by selling a few items on craigslist ahead of time we were more in the neighborhood of $650. Not bad, right? As for those other items that we sold on the side (via craigslist & neighborly word of mouth) we happily sent all eight of our old dining room chairs off to live with someone else (she’s planning to recover them all – and send us pics!).

And we also sold our two extra new dining chairs to another person (for our purchase price of $62 each) who already sent us this photo of them living it up on her porch:

It felt great to give all of that stuff a nice new home. The lesson there? Had we wanted to make more money we would’ve sold more stuff on craigslist. But since photographing, listing, and coordinating pick-ups eats up lots of time, it was more efficient to achieve our “get-rid-of-all-the-things!” mission by putting most of our stuff in a kill-a-million-birds-with-one-stone yard sale. In the end, we’re both really happy with how the yard sale turned out – mostly because it taught us that we don’t need to be all uptight about hosting one. Which will hopefully encourage us to hold them more frequently and keep unwanted things from building up in our house.

Has anyone else hosted a yard sale recently? Do you have any tips or interesting stories from yours? We had a tense moment during ours when our wires got crossed and Sherry accepted money for an item that I had already set aside for someone else. Neither woman would back down so we did the mature thing and let a coin toss decide who took it home. Take that Judge Judy!


  1. Ashlee says

    My neighborhood has an annual yard sale each year the first weekend in June. Most families drag the same things out, year after year, and try to sell the old dusty items at full retail??? Of course, I have always advocated the rock & roll approach (love a 5 for $1!…with the caveat you have to take 5). Whatever remains at 11 a.m. gets boxed up into “mystery boxes” and sold for $3 each. I used to try “free” but found people were more likely to take it at a low, low price versus free. Of course my neighbors were out in their driveways until 4 pm, without selling a thing. Crazy cakes!

    • Ashlee says

      I group my mystery box items into categories; kitchen, household, ladies clothing, books, etc. That gives people a general idea of the contents, but no digging through the box before purchase! For some reason this fascinates people & the boxes go really fast. It has eliminated my post sale Goodwill errand!

    • Lindsey d. says

      Ha! In my neighborhood, when we started saying everything was free, people looked at us like we were crazy, confirmed the “price” and started grabbing stuff up! At the end of an eight person/couple yard sale, we had two boxes left for Goodwill.

    • says

      Haha! After years of trying to find the perfect spot for it, I fessed up to the fact that it just worked better in someone else’s house. A really nice lady bought it (for what we spent to buy/redo it) so I was glad!


  2. says

    Very good timing! I was just telling Aaron that I’ve been thinking about doing a yard sale (although it will have to wait for the spring). I definitely want to keep it low key and as stress free of an ordeal as I can!

    P.S. Did you only get rid of kids clothes that you don’t want anymore or all of them? I don’t want to part with mine (or pick through them) until I’m sure we’re done.

    • says

      I had this reckoning with myself that I was putting clothes Clara never wore into bins for the possible next kid and I realized if she never wore them (for reasons of them being not practical, etc) I was probably not going to ever put them on a future child, so I realized it was crazy to store things that didn’t even get use from one kid in the slight possibility that they would somehow be more practical for a future kiddo- ya know? But I still have tupperware containers full of clothes that Clara wore & loved up in the attic!


    • says

      I totally get that. I do have lots of clothes leftover from Ruby (first) that she never wore and if I’m honest with myself I know my potential future girl won’t wear them either. We were definitely smarter with the second (Archer – a boy) and only bought things that we knew we liked.

      I was just thinking about this last night knowing that I didn’t want to buy more bins just to hold stuff we wouldn’t want.

      Thanks Sherry!

  3. Jaime says

    I’ve had yard sales before and definitely sell things way to cheap… but I just want to see them gone.

    One thing that our city does is have ‘curb side pick up’ weekends to try and help reduce the garbage that ends up in the landfill. There’s normally only two a year (at the beginning and end of summer) and they announce it on the radio, news, papers. You just put everything you don’t want at the end of your drive way with a ‘free’ sign. It’s great to drive around the city to see you find. There’s lots of junk but always some treasures too. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

  4. says

    I love that you did a coin toss. Genius. We had a yard sale a couple months ago with a friend (we sold the home items, she sold a lot of clothes–perfect balance) and she accidentally sold her black Gap skinnies for a dollar. She was devastated. Luckily, she ended up selling enough dollar jeans and shirts to buy another pair. Hahaha.

  5. says

    One of the reasons I haven’t had a yard sale is because I don’t have tables to display things on – I’m impressed with all of your tables! I did recently buy a clothes rack to hang things that are intended for a future yard sale. I also have a room piling up (that’s 5 items for my pile up :)) with baby things that I will soon craigslist. Yours was definitely successful – I like the nothing brought back in rule.

  6. Marsha says

    Oh, how I would have LOVED to happen upon a yard sale of yours! Being Canadian, that’s not likely to happen though! Nice profits, worth the effort :)

  7. says

    That’s too funny – I was just wondering the other day what you had done with that rocking chair! You know, because I just sit around thinking about other people’s furniture. I had a major purge yard sale this summer too and it felt so good to get rid of everything! I think every two years is a pretty fair schedule to keep!

  8. Rachel says

    I love the laid back garage sale idea! We did the same thing when we moved out of our old house. We had so much junk to get rid of–and no time to price everything–so we priced a few larger items and hung up signs that said all unpriced items are 50 cents! We made a few hundred bucks even selling things so cheaply. In the end, it’s better to sell something for 50 cents than nothing at all!

    We’re having another sale this weekend! I love the feeling of purging all the unused stuff.

  9. Yana says

    Bonjour! So lucky you can organize your own yard sale. I live currently in France near Paris and it is forbidden ! We have to enroll into a “vide grenier” that is a giant sort of yard sale in a specific spot that you pay around 7€ for 1 meter and we have to bring everything before 6:30am. You are right about getting rid of stuff you do not want anymore. Better sell to someone who is happy to buy it instead of bringing it home after a full day ! (Have been reading your blog for years. This is my first comment! :-)

  10. tjack says

    Congrats on a great yard sale. It just feels good to get rid of all the clutter. Were any of those items secret book projects? I think I remember reading that you were going to sell them.

    In other news, we are planning to see y’all in Cincinnati! We live in Columbus so we are going to try and drive out there with a 5 month old. My husband is humoring me, especially since we are planning on buying our first home this year. We will buy y’alls book when we get there!

    • says

      The secret book projects are going to be auctioned off for charity! But we did get rid of some leftover book clutter that we accumulated. So excited to see you in Cincinnati!


  11. Angela says

    We had a garage sale last weekend with the same goal, just get rid of it!! Our son made sugar cookies and sold them too which was fun. A neighbor was our best customer. She came over at least a dozen times over the course of the two days. At one point on the second day her husband had told her, enough, so when he and the baby fell asleep for a nap she said she snuck out the back door to come over!! I think she now has our basement in her house!!! :-)

  12. says

    Before we moved, we told others via word-of-mouth what we had and what they could take for free. We lived in an apartment, and having a sale was too much of a pain. (We did CL some stuff, and that was lovely. Including selling my car in under 24 hours after listing at what we listed it for!)

    We decided, too, that if the hub does his PhD overseas, we’re opening up the house with a donation jar. Take what you want and leave us something in return if you feel it is best for you to leave a financial contribution.

    I’m not sure this will happen, as the PhD decision time is about a year away and it appears to be focused on the options within the USA.

    We might still opt for this to clear stuff out before (likely) moving the next big trek.

    • Jen says

      As an American who just finished a PhD in Europe, I say tell him to do it overseas! It’s a great way to form life long friends from a different place and so interesting to see how different universities work even if they have the same degrees and accreditation! Sorry I know that’s unrelated to YHL but wanted to add my 2 cents.

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