How to have a moving sale

‘Tis the season for moving sales!

Spring and summer are peak times for families to relocate, and with that comes lots of decluttering. Since you already have to go through every item in the house while you’re packing, it’s the ideal time to sort the trash from the treasures and have a garage sale! Hosting a sale doesn’t have to be a stressful event. We’ll walk you through everything you need to cover from start to finish, so you can have a successful sale and continue marking things off your moving checklist.

Woman looking through items at a moving sale.


How to have a successful garage sale

Here’s everything to tackle before, during and after the big day. We’ll walk you through all the details below, but take a screenshot of this quick list to keep it handy.

  1. Sort through your belongings
  2. Price and label everything
  3. Choose the perfect date
  4. Check for permits
  5. Promote the yard sale
  6. Gather change and supplies
  7. Have help
  8. Set up before the sale
  9. Sell your items
  10. Get rid of the leftovers

1. Sort through your belongings

Begin sorting through your house at least 3-6 weeks before the sale. And work smarter, not harder — if you’re moving, sort and price as you pack, so you only have to touch each item once. As you collect things, clean them off. Removing dust, lint or dirt can help improve the chances of sales. If you need help figuring out what to get rid of, we have decluttering tips to help you determine what to keep, what to sell and what to throw out before your move.

2. Price and label everything

Since you know what you paid for this stuff, it can be hard to let it go for a bargain. But, it’s best to set emotions and price tags aside so you can price things reasonably. Remember, you don’t want to move it— so price it to sell! Of course, name-brand, lightly-used or relatively new items can be priced higher. Remember that people shop sales for good deals, so be flexible with your pricing when they negotiate. Put a price sticker on everything (or make clear signs for categories like “Books $1” or “This table $1 each”).

Here are some garage sale pricing strategies to help you figure out what to charge:

  • Baby clothing: $1-3 for gently used items, a quarter to 50 cents for well-worn ones. Or sell for $5 per bag.
  • Kids clothing: $3-5 for gently used items. $1-3 for well-worn ones. Sell bundles of 5 pieces for $10.
  • Adult clothing: $3-5 for gently used items. $5-10 for nicer pieces. $20 per bag.
  • Shoes: $3-7 per pair, depending on size and condition.
  • Coats: $5-15 depending on condition and warmth.
  • Books: $1 each, or bundle them eight for $5 if you have a lot to move.
  • Jewelry: $1-3 each for costume jewelry, more for nicer pieces.
  • DVDs: $2-5 each, or bundle them three for $5 if you have several.
  • CDs and records: $1-3 each, bundle five for $3.
  • Electronics: No more than one-third of the retail value (make sure they are in good working condition).
  • Décor, toys, games: $1-10 depending on the size and condition.
  • Furniture: $10-30 for well-worn or lower quality pieces, or no more than one-third of the original price.

Pricing tips: Consider pricing in 25-cent increments to make giving change easier. Group things for bulk pricing and have a “free” box for stuff that may not sell, but you want gone. If multiple families are selling together, use different colored tags for each.

3. Choose the perfect date

Weekends allow people to browse on their time off. If you have a lot of stuff, spread it out over Friday, Saturday and Sunday — or Friday and Saturday at the least. And don’t forget to check the weather. Sunshiny days are the best for moving sales! Once you nail down a date, let the neighbors know so they can prepare for extra traffic in the area.

4. Check for permits

Many cities or Homeowners Associations require a permit to have a garage sale. But don’t fret; they aren’t hard to get. Check with the city clerk or your HOA regulations to find out what to do. You may have to go down to the city or community offices, or it may be possible to apply online.

5. Promote the yard sale

It may seem old school, but it’s still a good idea to put an ad in the newspaper classifieds (online and in print). Many people still search those listings for local sales. Then, go online with your promotion, posting to social media marketplaces, local groups and online classifieds. If you’re willing to accept credit card payments via an app, be sure to include that in your listing.

A couple of days before, place signs at nearby intersections (check local regulations first) and be sure to include the date, time and address in giant, bold print on bright signs.

On the morning of the sale, take pictures of everything set up and share them online with your friends and any local sale groups. Sometimes seeing the items can make someone come shop. Tip: When you post pictures, make sure to say “No holds” so people don’t try and claim items online.

6. Gather change and supplies

Leading up to the sale, collect plastic and paper grocery sacks and newspapers so you can wrap and package items. Also, gather things like tables and hanging racks to display stuff (ask friends to borrow theirs if you need more).

A couple of days before, visit the bank for change. We recommend starting with about $100. Get at least two $10s, six $5s, 40 $1s, and a roll of quarters. For sale day, don’t forget chairs and a lockbox, money bag or fanny pack for your cash.

7. Have help

Don’t do this alone! You’ll need help setting up and running the sale. If you need to direct people to park in specific areas, assign someone to help with parking. It’s also a great idea to have someone watching the inventory to ensure people aren’t changing price tags or taking things without paying.

8. Set up before the sale

 Set up as much as you can the night before. If you have a garage that you can close, stage as much as possible the night before, so you just have to open up and pull things out the morning of. If you don’t have a garage, set up tables and racks outside, then place items early in the morning.

It may seem like Garage Sale 101 to just put everything outside, but placement and organization can really matter.

  • Think about the overall flow of traffic. Create a sort of walkway leading people through items and have checkout at the end. Think about Ikea, where they guide you through the entire store before you purchase anything.
  • Hang up as many clothes as you can. It’s easier for people to shop through items that way. If you don’t have racks, place a curtain rod between ladders for a makeshift spot.
  • Group similar items together into easy-to-shop categories. Put CDs, video games, DVDs and records together, then keep kitchen appliances next to dishes, and so on.
  • Place children’s items far away from breakables. Consider having a “free for kids” box with small toys or stuffed animals. Happy kids will allow parents to shop even longer.
  • Keep big-ticket items near the checkout. Things like jewelry, electronics, video game consoles or stereo systems should be on a table next to the cash drawer where you can keep a close eye on them.
  • Put big or attractive pieces at the end of the driveway. If people can see the sale from down the street, it gives them time to stop.
  • Elevate as many items as possible. People won’t always bend over to check out things on the ground. If you run out of table space, use moving boxes as side tables.

9. Sell your items

On the morning of your sale, be prepared for early shoppers. It’s not uncommon for people to try and swoop in first. If you want to deter that, set up a sign alerting of no early sales. Or let the early shoppers come in — it’s less to put out to sell!

If you want to act like a salesperson, you can offer discounts or bundles as people shop. On the final day, consider making a half-price table or put out a sign saying “Final day — make offers!”

When you make a sale, keep a total (either with pen and paper or on your phone or tablet). If you’re managing multiple families, keep track of sales to split the earnings later.

10. Get rid of the signs and leftovers

After the sale, take down signs and online posts to avoid anyone stopping by after the fact. Even if the listings had dates and times, you could have people dropping by once the sale is over.

If you have leftover items, you may be able to donate them. Many local charities and shelters will even come to pick up your items. Call ahead to see what their pick-up or drop-off policies are.

Yard sale tips

As you go through the steps above, keep these tips in mind:

Use the right name for your area

These types of sales go by several names, with many of them being regional. While anyone moving would technically be having a moving sale, it might be better to call it something more familiar. In middle America, they’re typically called garage sales, with concentrations along the coasts referring to them as yard sales — but it ultimately depends on whether you actually have a garage full of stuff or just a yard. Call it a tag sale in areas around Massachusetts or Connecticut. And in Wisconsin, most people refer to them as rummage sales.

Don’t leave money or items unattended

Keep cash with you at all times, wearing it in a fanny pack or apron, or carrying the lockbox or money bag if you get up. If you start to have too much cash on you, take it inside and put it away.

Avoid garage sale scams! Use care with payments

For bills over $20, it’s a good idea to use a counterfeit pen, and it’s best practice not to accept checks. If you want to take digital payment, set up a separate account for the sale to protect your privacy. Put up a sign with the unique Venmo, PayPal, Cash App or other online payment method.

Lock your home

As long as you’re not having an estate sale that requires people coming inside to look at items, it’s best not to invite people in. Lock doors and windows, and don’t offer your restroom for public use.

Check all purchases 

Look inside items, like purses, bags and storage containers to ensure they’re empty of things you left there or that someone else put inside.

Put the kids to work or hire a babysitter

If your kids are old enough to help, give them a job. Perhaps they could set up a drink or treat stand, or help bag and carry items for customers. If kids are too young to help, hire a babysitter so you can focus on the sale.

Let us know how your moving sale goes!

With all this advice, you’ll be a garage sale pro in no time! We’d love to hear about the tips that helped you most. Come back and leave a comment afterward. If you have questions about hosting a yard sale, please let us know. We’re here to help!