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. says

    For our last yard sale, we just said, “Everything is $1 unless it is priced otherwise.” Saved us a ton of time since we only had to price bigger items.

  2. says

    We had a moving sale this summer. We went through the house and seriously thought about each thing, “Pack it and haul it? Or sell it?” A ton of stuff ended up in the sell it pile and we ended up making $3k!!! And most of it was not big ticket items either. There were bigger furniture items that we have gradually been selling on Craigslist as well. Our motivation was just like yours – Get rid of it! We were making some insane deals and stuff was just disappearing right and left. It’s the only way to do a sale! I actually think you make more money that way than trying to price things higher.

  3. says

    I just moved into my new house, so I am already starting a pile for the Spring garage sale. By the time I get unpacked and organized, Spring should be here! The last time I had a garage sale, I put all of the little things on tables and put a sign on the table for each item priced at $.50, $1, etc., so then I did not have to mark each individual item. By the end, I mass reduced prices like you, just so I would not have to haul the things to Goodwill.

  4. Emma says

    Good call on keeping your addy private. I would have done the same. Also, being the strange emotionally involved person that I am, I’d be worrying about you if you’d posted “we’re having a yardsale and here’s our address” in advance. Safety first!

  5. says

    Kev and I have never tried a yard sale. For one, it costs $50 for a permit here in Dallas county, so unless we expected to make a lot of money, it just wouldn’t be worth it. And we just tend to donate to Goodwill or Salvation Army.

    We love when other people have them, though!

  6. says

    There are annual garage sales each May in our neighborhood but I hate the idea of people clawing around INSIDE my garage…. maybe that sounds weird but I just don’t want people scoping out our non-sale items that live there. I love the idea of having it as a Yard Sale instead of inside the garage sale. Maybe next May we will be brave and participate in our driveway.
    {must rid our basement of old college Ikea stuff that someone else could love}

  7. Reenie says

    I LOVE going to them….. but will prob never have one myself. I helped my Mom one time ~ and that was enough for me. HA!!

  8. Val says

    Every two years seems to be the sweet spot. We had our last one two years ago and lately I’ve been feeling the need to do it again. And I totally agree, there are two different kinds of yard sales: one where you’re looking to make money and one where you’re looking to just GET IT OUT of the house. But either way, nothing comes back inside.

    But I got so jaded by folks relentlessly, psycho-haggling last time (it’s 50 cents…if you don’t think it’s worth 50 cents, then don’t buy it) that I refused to leave any of it on the curb at the end of the day. I was so over it that I was loading up the donation stuff while talking to myself, “If you want this crap, you’re going to have to go pay the Salvation Army for it, you cheap @!##*&! You’re not coming back over here to take it tonight!!” Probably not that serious, Val…

    • Kathy V says

      Val, I am SO with you on that! I had a yard sale 2 years ago and my goal was to get rid of everything. I sold baby clothes really cheap, most items .50 or 1.00. However, there were a few special items like fancy sweater sets or designer dresses that I had tagged for maybe 3.00 and people were offering me .50 for them. I would refuse and none of those items sold. I had the same attitude: if they weren’t willing to pay a few dollars then I’d rather give it to a friend who would appreciate it or to a woman’s shelter.

  9. MaryB in Richmond says

    How on earth are you successfully selling anything on Craigslist? The last few times I or any of my neighbors have tried it, we’ve gotten nothing but scam replies (“I would like to send you a check for more than the cost of the items …”) and nary a nibble from a real buyer.

    Thoughts? Are we just pricing things too high — although it sure didn’t seem like that, to us …

    • says

      We like to search other similar things to see what the going rate is and undercut it. Then we take nice photos and write a nice description so it hopefully seems like a worthy listing. Seems to work! We have a few other tricks so we’ll have to write a post on it for ya soon!


    • Sarah says

      I do the same, Sherry.

      Quickly search for the like item and then undercut my price.
      Oddly enough, I sold a turtle (real one) on craigslist.
      I posted the Turtle as free and then in the body of the listing I went on to say that his tank and equipment would be $$… I got it out of my house within 1/2 hour.

    • says

      I’m going to double in on this. Perhaps it will help.

      The biggest thing I sold on CL was my car. We had it state inspected on 1 May. The hub and I opted to skip a trail run that afternoon in order to photograph it and list it on CL. (Yes, it actually pained me to make this decision..)

      I had been researching the inventory on CL re: my car’s make and model. I knew what was selling, where, and how things were written.

      I’d say we began photographing the car at 4:30 p.m. and had it listed by 6:45 p.m. The hub is a writer and we tag-teamed on how we thought the ad should be written and its format. (We had is stream-lined and categorized the features. There was a space between each grouping.)

      By 9:00 p.m. we had three people who were interested. 1 was a way low offer which we momentarily considered, but passed. 1 we considered more seriously and the hub was e-mailing at a good clip, but it turned out to be a scam. (Thank heavens the hub has a good IT background for this stuff..)

      The last one was a local man who was looking for a car for his high school daughter. He came out the next evening, test drove it, returned for his daughter and wife, and by 9:00 p.m. on 2 May, it was gone.

      We marked it about $500 or so under Kelly Blue Book. We also threw in the GPS as the speedometer didn’t work. (Note- VA state inspection does not require a working speedometer. Bizarre but true.)

      With that said, some areas of the country are better than others for CL. Where we are now, CL is practically non-existent. KSL and the DI are the systems that people use (from what I know) in Utah.

      I’ll also add that my hub and I made it a game for creating the ad. We went into realistically and with the goal of having fun. It made all of the editing, picture taking, etc. enjoyable. The next night when the car sold, I was okay with giving up that trail run.

    • Liz E. says

      I would love a Craigslist tips post! I actually thought you had one already; I was planning to look for it haha. We have a few things (like a nice kitchen table/chairs) we would like to sell but kinda have trouble getting past the creepy factor of inviting a stranger to our house. Any tips on that? If it were something smaller or drive-able (like a car), we wouldn’t have a problem meeting interested buyers somewhere to see the item(s). But loading up a table and chairs in the back of our truck for a possible no-sale doesn’t sound economical or time-friendly!

    • says

      I always tell Craigslist newbies to delete any email that refers to your item as “the item”. Nobody talks like that. “Do you still have the item?” It’s just spam fishing for your real email address. Also, any message that has terrible typos. “Do U stil hav the item?”.

      And obviously crazy long winded requests. Once I got an email that in a few paragraphs asked me to lick on this video link to view an item they were looking for because they thought my item was the same and wanted me to confirm that it was.

      Low prices help. Lots of people will sell something a few years old for only 90-75% off retail. And they wonder why they have no luck and they blame craigslist.

    • Dina says

      Like Wendy, I sold a car on Facebook within 24 hours too. In my case, I think the key was lots of detailed photos (I made sure every angle, and even under the hood, was included so there was no doubt about hidden dings, scratches or other issues), and a specific explanation of why I was selling it (I didn’t want people to think I was just getting rid of a lemon). I explained that I loved the car but was moving from Philly to Boston to go to school and couldn’t take it with me. The guy who bought it said my ad jumped out at him because he was just finishing school in Boston and moving back to Philly, so he felt like it was fate! So I think it’s important to include details and make sure it doesn’t sound like YOU’RE trying to scam the buyer, too.

  10. julie s says

    everyone i know thinks yard sales are too much work and then are shocked to hear i made over $1000 at my last two sales. the key is to stay away from individual tagging – TOTAL TIME SUCK!! group like things on tables (housewares, womens, kids, etc.) make a few quick signs for each table and the big stuff and your done. if its not tagged people will ask or offer.

    …and price low, people will buy almost anything for a buck – why do you think dollar stores are everywhere. would you rather sell everything for $1 than a few for $5 and still be left hauling to goodwill.

    nice work keeping it simple!

  11. Whitney says

    I am so jealous of the people who found out about your yardsale!! I love a good yardsale but usually stick north of the River. : ) If I would have only known lol….

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