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How to Organize a Garage Sale in the DC Suburbs

6 minute read, by Closet America, on Jul 3, 2018

If you’ve come to the realization you no longer need all of the stuff cluttering your house, you may need to know how to organize a garage sale.

The only time you know the real value of a stock investment is when you sell it. Here’s to selling high! When you want to know the true value of the myriad unused items cluttering your house, have a garage sale.

Those 10 place settings you bought 15 years ago to accommodate the extended family at Thanksgiving that year; the pair of mountain bikes you and your husband were going to use on weekend explorations of the Shenandoah Valley; and duplicates, maybe even triplicates, of garden and landscaping tools lying around your garage—they’re now worth a fraction of what you originally paid. You’ve come to the realization you no longer need all of the stuff cluttering your house and you’re now wondering how to organize a garage sale.  

A successful garage sale requires careful planning. Based on our experience in working with thousands of customers who organized garage sales in preparation for installing a custom closet or doing a garage renovation we offer these proven tips on how to organize a garage sale. Chronologically arranged, use this list to track your progress and make notes as you go.

How to Organize a Garage Sale: The Checklist

Prepare for Success

If this is the first time you’ve done a garage sale, begin planning at least four weeks ahead, maybe more, depending on the amount and type of items you’re selling.

  • Set the date for your sale. Avoid holidays or weekends when local events may tie up traffic or make it difficult to get to your place. If your community has an annual garage sale, by all means, target that date; you’ll have loads more buyers.

  • Make a list of all the items you want to sell; this gives you a solid estimate of the number and types of items, and the amount of preparation work ahead.

  • Research: Visit local garage sales this weekend to see what is selling, how items are displayed, and the prices. You’ll find listings for garage sales in craigslist, garagesalefinder.com, or your local newspaper.

  • Determine if your community has regulations regarding garage sales. There may be a small permit fee, restrictions on signage, or penalties for failure to obtain a permit.

  • Inform your neighbors that you’re planning a garage sale.

A Week or Two Before the Sale

  • Begin gathering, sorting, and organizing the items in unoccupied space(s) in your house. The garage is the best staging location, though you might have to relocate cars to the driveway for a few days.

  • Determine how you’ll display the items for sale. Large, stand-alone items like furniture, sporting goods, and garden tools can be placed on the ground; books and CDs—in boxes; board games, jewelry, kitchen utensils, hand tools—on folding tables; clothing—on hangers.

  • Acquire folding tables, tarps, old blankets or quilts, boxes, and clothing racks (or pipes suspended by rope from garage rafters) to display your items for sale.

  • Advertise the date, location, and types of items your selling

    • Post a notice via social media and update it as you get closer to the day of sale. You may even want to post pictures of some of the items you’re selling.

    • Post an ad on craigslist .com

    • Schedule an ad in your local paper. Not everyone lives online. You’ll be missing a large segment of potential buyers if you don’t.

  • Signs: Subject to local regulations, plan how many you’ll need to direct people to your sale. Make them big enough to see and simple to read. Turn-by-turn signs can be as simple as “Garage Sale Today” with a left or right arrow.

  • Begin to determine pricing for your items. REALSIMPLE and Angie’s List provide good guidelines. Check craigslist or eBay to get an estimate for any unique items of value.

  • Decide how you will apply price tags. Depending on the number of items you have, this can be a time-consuming task. You can get small, easy peel, tags at your nearest office supply store. In a pinch, use masking tape and a permanent marker to mark the price. Be sure to clearly differentiate between “1” and “7” when marking the price.

  • Recruit help. Yes, you’re the backbone of this project and compared to all the prep work you’ve been doing the day of the sale might seem like a cakewalk, but make sure family or friends are available to help you the day of the sale.  

The Day Before the Sale

  • Check tomorrow’s weather for Northern Virginia and plan accordingly. If you expect rain and all the items will be in your garage, make sure there’s enough light so buyers can clearly see the merchandise.

  • Remind neighbors of tomorrow’s sale and ask them not to park on the street. Apologize in advance for the temporary disruption of the neighborhood’s calm and quiet.

  • Be sure all singular/unique items have price tags.

  • Stage all the items in your garage, grouping like items together.

  • Have coins, smaller bills, and a cash box kept in a secure location. Alternatively, have one person designated as the cashier throughout the day.

  • Send a reminder note to all of your helpers. If they’re driving, ask them to park away from your house.

  • Post an update to social media reminding friends and followers about the garage sale.

organize a garage sale

The Big Day

  • Get up early because there will be lots of last-minute things to do.

  • Pick up coffee, donuts, and soft drinks for your helpers.

  • Place garage sale signs throughout your neighborhood. Place them so that they are easily seen by drivers.

  • Assuming good weather, move items from the garage to the driveway. Arrange items with plenty of space for buyers to move around and inspect items.   

  • Keep the cash box in a safe place.

  • Expect people to arrive early. If you said 8 AM to 4 PM, experienced garage sale buyers will be queuing by 7:30 AM. Early birds know exactly what they’re looking for and how to drive a bargain.

  • Be friendly. Ask buyers if they’re looking for something in particular. Everyone who stops by can potentially tell a friend about the sale and bring additional buyers.

  • Negotiating: You’ve thoughtfully priced each item, yet some buyers will want to negotiate a lower price. This is a time to forget about any sentiment that you have attached to an item and your sense of the item’s value. Our recommendation, unless the buyer is offering you an insultingly low price, take the offer. You make some money and you have one less item cluttering up your house.

garage sale

Late in the Day

A few of the people who were early birds will be back looking for bargains and even freebies. And at this point, you’re likely to accept any reasonable offer, particularly if it’s a big item you want to unload. Late in the day purging is preferable to profit.

Avoid Future Garage Sales

After the final customer has left we’re hoping you’ve achieved the two key goals: less stuff in your house and more money in your pocket. You’ve planned, you’ve executed, and you deserve to kick back, relax, and relish your achievement.

You may have also come to the conclusion that you don’t ever want to do this again. And here we can provide a wealth of information and expertise to help you achieve and maintain organization throughout your home. Accumulated clutter is caused by two things: inadequate storage in your closets, office, pantry, mudroom, laundry, and garage; and failure to regularly purge these areas of unused items.  

Fortunately, we have years of experience in solving these storage problems and a wealth of ideas and guidance to offer in planning to make these changes.  

A few selected examples on design and organization to help get you started: 

Let the Professionals Help

Closet America is the leader in custom closet, office, pantry, mudroom, laundry, and garage design in the Northern Virginia, DC, and Baltimore areas. We’d welcome the opportunity to discuss your organizational needs before or after you’ve organized your garage sale. Schedule a free consultation with the Closet America team. We’ll meet in your home at a time convenient to you, and work with you to develop custom designs that will dramatically improve storage and organization throughout your home.


Lead Image by Flickr user Kurtis Garbutt

Image 2 by Bigstock user marilynv

Image 3  by Flickr user J


Closet America was able to work with my unique circumstances in order to give me the best use of my space.

Amy B.,
Fairfax Station, VA

Let’s Start Your Project

Whether you’re interested in a custom-designed closet, office, pantry, or garage, starting your project couldn’t be easier. Just fill out the attached form or give us a call to schedule your free in-home design consultation. You can download our brochure and you’re welcome to visit our Landover Maryland showroom, to see how beautiful our custom-designed organization systems look in person. We want you to experience the Closet America difference and see how we build organizing solutions for life.

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