How to Have a Successful Garage Sale Pt. 3 – Setting Up Your Sale

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So now you’ve made all the early preparations for your garage sale and have made your advertising arrangements.  If you want to have a successful garage sale you’ll need to give some thought to table and item placement.

First, be sure you have these items on hand:

  • Plastic sacks
  • Batteries and extension cords to test toys and electronics
  • Spare sheets to cover tables with (it makes your sale feel nicer)
  • Duct tape and blank paper
  • Pricing stickers or masking/painters tape for any items that aren’t priced already
  • Notebook, pen, calculator (I use my phone) and fanny pack
  • Get change the day before you sale starts.  I usually get $50-$60 in ones, a roll of quarters, and 3 or 4 $5s. I’ve found that getting larger bills isn’t necessary because early shoppers will pay with $5s, $10s or $20s. I’ll usually pull a buck worth of nickels and dimes from the van in case they’re needed.

Item placement and flow are the most important things to consider when setting up. 

  • Set your tables up in a U shape around the walls of your garage. If you have a double garage put tables in the middle too.  Leave enough room for 2 people to walk between each row of tables if possible.
  • Outside the garage set tables up in rows heading toward the garage, taking into account any available shade. If you don’t have enough tables, you can display large items on the ground between your tables outside. Little items should always be on tables.
  • It’s all about traffic flow- leave room for shoppers to navigate through your sale.  If all your rows of tables butt up against walls they aren’t as likely to go down all the rows.
  • If you need extra tables and can’t borrow any, use sawhorses and doors, boxes turned upside down, or even tubs or chairs with boards on top.  Shoppers don’t want to bend over to check out your wares. Even if you only raise the items up 1 foot it’s still better than being on the ground.
  • If you have your items boxed by like item it will be easy to see how much room you need for each type of item. (there is a purpose to my pre-garage sale organizing!) Just plop those boxes on top of the tables until you’ve doled them all out. :-)
  • I do not recommend setting items on the floor in the garage unless they are taller than the tables.  Once inside the garage most shoppers won’t look at the floor.
  • Put as many of your large items outside the garage as possible– these will draw buyers in to your sale.  Many people will drive by and look for furniture or children’s items and if those can’t be seen from the street they’ll keep on driving.
  • Place kids toys closest to the street to help keep the rest of your sale uncluttered.  Plus the kids are more likely to stay outside playing than to mosy around “playing” with other sale items.
  • Make sure that children’s clothes are grouped by size/gender and at table height.  If they must be left in a box due to space issues, be sure they are well labeled and grouped by size.  Only fill the boxes halfway so there’s room for people to look through them. If you have multiple card tables it works well to put each size on a different table and put a few inches between the tables.  This really helps keep each size on it’s own table. If my clothes aren’t pre-sorted, I save this step until last because I can always do it during the slow parts of the sale.
  • Pin children’s outfits together with a safety pin or bobby pin. Otherwise they’ll get tossed apart and end up being sold separately – if at all!
  • Use small boxes, baskets or bins to group smaller items and keep them contained. This also takes up less table space.
  • Take advantage of height– post signs on walls, hang nicer clothing items, or hang bags.  These will catch eyes quicker than on tables. As items sell from the walls, hang other items up. Also use  small boxes or shelf stackers to display items at the backs of tables better. Last fall a lady bought an item that was at the back of the garage because she could see it well.  She said she’d had her eye on it from when she first walked up the driveway!
  • Move some items toward the end of your driveway to give them extra attention. Shoppers will note them when walking in or when leaving.  I’ve made a lot of sales when folks are leaving and notice something on the way out.
  • Leave an area where you can set items while tallying prices.  My area is often just the steps into the house. Keep a notebook, pen, duct tape, pricing stickers, blank paper and empty plastic bags at that location. If this area is visible from the road, it may be a good place to hang your garage sale permit. (if one is required in your area)
  • If you’ll be pulling your tables into your garage overnight, leave the empty boxes beneath the tables so you can easily pack things away and pull the tables in.  Your first shoppers will often help you unload the boxes too!
  • If your garage is behind your house or opens to the side, make a sign that says something like “Sale in Garage” with an arrow pointing back to it and put it in your front yard.

With these tips you’re well on your way to a very successful sale!

On Thursday, I’ll post some tips for running your sale and cleaning up afterwards!

This post was originally published on April 10, 2012.


  1. I remember when I had my first garage sale and forgot to get adequate change before it started. Lost a lot of money giving people the items for what they had in their pockets.

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