Numerous Neat with Knight clients have hired me to coordinate and manage their yard sales over the years and that is how I have learned that most people are overwhelmed at the thought of having a sale and some even have an outright hatred for the experience and refuse to host them at all. Some people choose to live with the clutter, while others hire someone to plan and execute the event, and others just donate unwanted items to charity. Though I do not judge anyone for what they decide to do with their stuff, I — as a Professional Organizer — have broken down the project into manageable tasks so that you can plan a successful yard sale where the ultimate goal is to unload your unwanted stuff and count your cash.

All you will need are sale items and shoppers. However you coordinate the two is up to you. You can simply grab some stuff, set it outside, and start quoting prices to whomever drives by or you can create a mini-store and advertise so that hundreds of people attend. What follows are the steps towards planning a successful event that falls somewhere safely in between the two scenarios mentioned above.


Start by purging your home of items that you no longer want or need. Whether you realize it or not, numerous unnecessary items come into your possession each year as gifts, hand-me-downs, bad purchases or freebies, and the first step toward clearing them out is to decide what will stay and what will go. Instead of wondering if you are “allowed” to part with these things, ditch the items that do not have an impact on you or your family in your current lifestyle and make room for what does.

The easiest way to separate yard sale items is to always have a bag, box or area to store things that you no longer use. Anytime you come across something that you decide to part with, put it in the sale box. The upside to this technique is that you spread out the sorting process over an extended period of time (weeks, months or years), you instantly eliminate clutter from the main living space, and you have a chance to get things back if you later decide that you misjudged an item. Once this collection grows to enough things to fill a few tables, start planning for the sale.

If you are doing a speedy overhaul, de-clutter by starting with the bigger items and work your way down to the smaller things. You can also break the work up into smaller projects and address one area, closet or room at a time until each space is clear. One technique is to put a person in charge of de-cluttering each room, another is to set a timer for 5-10 minutes in each space and pull out anything that you instantly know you do not want.

Remember you are not looking for things that would be nice to sell or things that someone else might want; instead, you are deciding what you love or need and removing the rest. You should also understand that there is a distinction between the things that you do not want anymore versus the things that are sellable. Adhere to the old saying that, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” but also know that sometimes, “One man’s trash is just another man’s trash,” and remove anything that is damaged, stained, overused or missing parts to avoid lowering the quality of your sale.


Choose a date and apply for a sale permit (if your city requires one). Learn the rules about signage and frequency of sales that may be allowed in one year. Advertise the event by word of mouth, flyers and signs in the neighborhood, ads in the newspaper, posts online at craigslist and social media sites. Ask your friends, family and neighbors to help out and consider inviting them to bring their own items for sale. If you like, each vendor can man a table just like they do at flea markets. Besides adding to the merchandise, having multiple sellers involved will probably widen the circle of potential customers.

The weeks or week before the sale, categorize all items in the way that a thrift store might do. Separate similar items into different boxes or bags that are easy to carry and transport. Sales usually have sections for furniture, clothing, shoes, purses, jewelry or accessories,  baby/kid’s clothing, toys, kitchenware, appliances/electronics, holiday items, assorted home decor, books, DVDs, sporting goods, hobby supplies and tools. Clean the items and make sure to test appliances beforehand to see if they work. Label things accordingly with relevant information on stickers or index cards.

Judging from recent experiences, I strongly recommend pricing items beforehand or at least knowing what you plan to charge. You can price each item individually, create a color code system where each color tag stands for certain amount (have a sign that explains), price each table of items at the same amount ($1 table, $5 table), or price each category of items together (all pants $4).

Deciding what to charge is often one of the most challenging aspects of the project. When you price, remember that the items are used and are going away because you do not want them, need them, or prefer to have cash instead. You are getting money for your stuff and gaining space for your house, so think of the discounted sale as the price of buying back your space. Oclytis Johnson, sale expert and author of “Business Success Tips,” states that “the wrong kind of stuff for a garage sale would be good quality items that are overpriced.” Instead, he says that the bulk of your items should be under $20.

For specifics on pricing, there are online and printed resources that list general amounts to ask for certain items as well as guidelines for calculating percentages of what items originally cost and may cost now. You can also check online to see what similar items are going for and be willing to shift your pricing if the item does not seem to be selling.