Friday, August 2, 2013

How to Host a Successful Yard Sale: Tips from Trish Suhr

I just read that this weekend is the weekend of the "Worlds Longest Yard Sale" and although I don't live along the 127 corridor, I thought it was just about time to consider holding my own since a) I just cleaned out my garage and b) I have a daughter who loves everything about a yard sale. But I wanted to go to a pro to really get the tips to make it worth make while and have everything click on sale day. So to help me out, I had a chat with Trish Suhr, the Emmy Award winner from Clean House who’s been making us laugh for decades all while helping us clean up our act.

But before we get into the seven tips from Trish, there was one thing I had to know. What exactly do we call this it a yard sale, a garage sale, a sidewalk sale and estate sale? Everywhere I go, people seem to call it something different. Here's what we deciphered: it's called a Yard Sale in the south and midwest; a Garage Sale in the cold areas or anywhere you just rolled up the garage door and use it like a pop-up store; a Side Sale if it's held in the city on a sidewalk; and an Estate Sale, according to Trish, “If you have real nice shit.”

Moments of purge are great, and when you're feeling ready to get rid of stuff that that's the perfect time to have a yard sale, but sometimes the idea of making it happen is daunting and overwhelming. That's where this blog and Trish's expertise come in.

How to Host a Successful Yard Sale: Tips from Trish
  1. Get a clutter buddy, but don’t use your spouse. Choose someone who can talk you off your crazy ledge. If you do it buy yourself, it's likely you will get overwhelmed and you will not finish.
  2. Start your clean-out in your catch-all space. Determine where you tend to throw, store, pile stuff and make that the first room you tackle. For most people it’s the garage, or the largest, most unused space in your home. You tackle this room first so as you’re offloading clutter from other areas of your house, you have somewhere to put it.
  3. Create areas of Keep, Sell, Trash. Seperate the areas significantly, and make them larger than signle bins. As the cleanout continues, the piles will become larger than a single bin and make the sorting easier. 
    1. KEEP items should have a place of honor in your house, and a place to be put right away or it’s not keep. And to continue the decluttering, take it into the house, and put it away.
    2. TRASH items are defined as anything that's not going to make you money or move your stuff along. Be sure to pay attention to what can be recycled properly, and do so.  Simply search local recycling to find a list. As a note, despite the want you can’t sell half empty cans of paint, and it’s illegal to sale knifes, mattresses and child car seats. 
    3. SELL items are everything else.
  4. Select a date and time. Consider your community calendar to set the best date and time for your sale. Yard Sale season for most of the country is April-October. The best time frame is between 8 a.m. - 2 p.m. And Saturdays are usually the better day.
  5. Make Signage.  Use traditional signs, social media and craigslist to promote your yard sale. Set and post the signage on Friday afternoon & Saturday morning, then remove it on Sunday. For signs:
    1. In Neighborhood...Use only neon poster board and write with a thick marker. You can also add some plan helium balloons for around $5 to leave a trail through the neighborhood, people will follow. Use buzz words outlining what you have to sell.
    2. Online....Post the yard sale Thursday, Friday and Saturday to make sure it's appears at the top of the list, include your address and buzz words. Be sure to post pictures and name big ticket items. Simply snap a few on your phone, and add them to your post.
  6. Set up your yard sale like a Department store. Organization will make your sale more attractive and function better. Set up tables and areas just like you'd see in a store with designated areas of kitchen/bath, electronics, apparel, furniture, etc. Then arrange the areas by size, product, and so on. When you feel like you, yourself, would stop your car for this sale, you’re ready. Be sure to put at least one big ticket item on the outside that has curb appeal.  
  7. Run the sale smoothly. Wear a "money pack", a much better way to think of the fanny pack, with $300 cash in 1s, 5s, 10s. Don’t use coins, they make things difficult. If you have items marked for for $.50, suggest an additional item for an even dollar. 
    1. Have only one cashier so everyone know where to go, and set them up toward the end of the driveway.
    2. Use stickems, color or label, to designate items from different people if you're hosting a multiple family yard sale. This will allow you to know whom the sell belongs too, and who to check for prices.
    3. Place purchases in a bag...great use for leftover grocery bags. It helps people carry things, and denotes a sale. According to Trish,  "It's a nice way of saying ‘hey heifer did you steal,' because when a yard sale gets really busy people just walk off with stuff.”
    4. Provide a gift with purchase. Little things make your customers happy, even in your driveway. Provide something small for kids, like stickers, to help entertained while moms shop. Give that job to your kid during sale so their engaged as well. Other options are small drinks such as lemonade or capri-sun.
  8. Know the art of the sale.  There are Haggling Rules, and knowing them makes the sale much easier. Suhr's personal philosophy is to price the BIG ticket items with what you genuinely believe the value is. Then suggest buyers make a pile, and negotiate the total price. 
    1. Lower your prices at 11 a.m. to move your items. 
    2. Mark sold items with blue painters tape (safe for everything) so that people know what's no longer available.
    3. Provide customer service, even in your own lawn. Smiles, honesty and thanks go a long way.
  9. Schedule a post sale charity pick-up. A lot of charities will happily send a truck to pick-up any  unsold items at the end of your yard sale. So you don’t carry around this clutter after all your work, call a week prior to your sale and let them know you will have a donation 1 hour after the end of your sale. Just google “Charity Home pick-up” for a list in your area. 
    1. If you donate anything over $500, or combined worth of $500, take a picture for tax purposes. It's a requirement as of January 2013.
After you've completed your sale, your load will be lightened and you'll feel so accomplished.

  • Don't: Have a sale on a holiday weekend. People have other things to do.
  • Do: Make sure you have at least one or two big ticket items to attract customers.
  • Don't: Put stuff on the ground. It’s worth 75% less than your asking for it if you have to bend down for it.
  • Do: Hang your clothes with a spritz of febreeze to increase the value
  • Do: Clean your kids toys. To move kids stuff and kids toys – 5&under, spray them down with a lawn hose and hit them with white vinegar. Clean will double its value. 
  • Don't: Tell a customer something works when it has issues. They're buying something from your house and know where you live. 
  • Do: Mark “as-is” and be truthful when you’re selling.
  • Do: Run a powerstrip outside so people can test and make sure items work.


  1. And don't accidentally sell someone's sunglasses that they left on a table by mistake!!