How to Set up Your Garage Sale (Layout Tips for More Money)

Like in every retail store, the layout and placement of your items is extremely important for your garage sale to be a success. The first impression should be of neatness and organization

How to Set up Garage Sale

Table of Contents

When you are setting up your sale:

  • Think like a store-owner.
  • Think like a shopper.
  • You are displaying other people’s “treasures” and not your unwanted “junk”.
  • Remember what attracted you and what turned you off at other garage sales you have been to.

You want customers to be able to:

  • browse slowly
  • easily see all your items
  • feel comfortable while browsing
  • feel that they can and want to stay for a bit longer
  • and of course, feel compelled to buy

Draw up a plan of where your tables are to go and how your items will be arranged on each table

If you have more than 2 tables it will be easier to pre-plan your table arrangements. Measure the sizes of the tables you will be using and the size of your garage, driveway and front yard so you can easily work out how best to arrange the tables rather than panicking on the day. While you are in a planning mood, it’s also a good idea to mark how the items are to be arranged on each table. This will:

  • ensure you have enough table-space
  • reduce the stress on the day of deciding where everything is to go
  • and, if you have helpers to set up on the day, you can hand them a prepared box of items to go on a table along with the plan of how the items are to be arranged. You just have to come along afterwards to add the finishing touches. Stress-free.

Make sure your garage sale doesn’t appear disorganized, untidy and dirty

Same applies to your garage, house and front yard too. People will judge your sale by first impressions. Should they bother stopping or should they continue to the next garage sale on their list? Make sure your customers are presented with a welcoming and organized entrance from the street.

Shoppers are more willing or expect to pay more if a sale appears clean and organized. They’ll, subconsciously, think that your merchandise has been looked after or well maintained during its life.

Encourage people to stop by letting them see what sorts of things you have for sale

Line your big items along your driveway or in the front yard and not tucked away in the garage. Having your display spill out onto the driveway and front yard also “softens” the barrier between your garage and the public which helps shoppers enter your “space”.

Keep walk-through spaces between large items along your driveway or yard

This will enable shoppers to walk between large items so they can easily check it from all angles.

Make the front attractive and like a fun event:

  • String up balloons
  • Run ribbons between posts
  • Stick up shiny pinwheels over the front yard, fence, walls, letter box, etc.
  • Hang flags, streamers or pennants from temporary flag poles
  • Hang Christmas or party lights
  • Put up inflatable or cut-out Christmas or Halloween figures
  • Anything that is going cheap at your local party supply store. Shoppers won’t notice what’s on them, just the colors.

You need to decide whether you will station yourself at the entrance or at the back of your garage sale

This may not be a problem though as you will probably be up and walking around tidying up your displays and making your garage sale look busy during the day anyway. If you decide to position your ‘checkout” at the entrance, this can be intimidating for people as they come in but:

  • It’s easier for you to greet them as they arrive.
  • Customers know where to go to pay.
  • You can check that no one leaves without paying.
  • It helps to make sure your garage sale doesn’t look deserted (a bad sign to people as they slowly drive by).
  • If you are on your own at any time, it’s safer than being at the back of your garage sale where you can’t be seen from the street.

If outside, set up a canopy or umbrella over your check-out table or where the cashier will be standing/sitting

Much more comfortable for the person and also helps shoppers see where they need to go to pay or ask questions. Also, I find it more pleasant haggling & dealing out of the sun.

Have a table or box of items for 50c or 25c each positioned near the entrance to your garage sale

  • Make sure it has a big sign that can be seen from the street.
  • It attracts people, gets them into a buying mood and, if the items are children’s toys, also keeps the kids occupied allowing their parents (with the money) to spend more time browsing.
  • A version of this is to have a lucky dip where you have two sealed boxes with a hole at the top big enough for a hand to go in. One box, appropriately decorated, is for boys and the other for girls. Inside are individually wrapped treasures appropriate for children (eg small toys, character figures from fast-food promotions, pad & colored pencils, etc). Some of these you may have bought from the local discount store to help fill the box.

Long narrow tables work best

People then don’t have to reach over too far to reach items at the back or move things out of the way. Place larger items at the back and smaller items at the front of tables.

Arrange your tables in a U-shape

If your garage is big enough, set up your tables around the walls to form a u-shape. This will give you maximum free space in the centre for shoppers to walk around and pushers to be able to maneuvered.

Arrange your tables in an L-shape

If your garage is small, position tables on two walls to form an L-shape. This will still give with enough room for people to walk past others shoppers.

Arrange to avoid accidents

  • Place breakables near the back of tables so they are less likely to be knocked off and …break.
  • Don’t put anything too heavy on a table that is made up of a piece of particleboard between two supports. Particleboard isn’t very strong unsupported like this.
  • Keep a high free-standing cupboard stable by placing it on the solid driveway rather than on the soft lawn.
  • Position a breakable item’s price tag in the front so shoppers can see it without having to pick the item up to turn it around or over.

Have tables or areas in your garage with specific types of items

Have specific tables for kitchenware, toys, bedding & linen, baby items, clothes, electronics, hardware, etc. It is easier for people to find things if you have grouped like items together. It helps people mix and matching or finding complimentary items. It also helps you because you only need one mirror next to the clothes or a small mirror next to the jewelry or a table of electrical appliances near one power point.

Have tables or areas in your garage with specific types of items to be next to other complimentary areas

Position related areas next to each other to help lead shoppers to other tables and to keep related items together. For example:

  • Position AUTO next to TOOLS next to GARDENING next to CAMPING.
  • Position LINEN next to BATHROOM next to KITCHENWARE next to DINING.
  • Position COMPUTER next to ELECTRICAL next to MOVIES next to BOOKD.

Arrange to show off items

If you are selling cups and saucers or plates then show them off by setting them out on the table with cloth napkins, candles, etc. Arrange dolls with doll accessories, a camera with photo frames, cooking utensils with cook books. Bundle bedroom linen sets together with a ribbon around it to make it look attractive and to keep it all together.

This will help with sales and also increase the customer’s perceived value of the item and so will be prepared to pay more or haggle less.

Ask a friend or relative with a knack for arranging or displaying items to help

A bonus of setting out related items together is shoppers may notice an item they didn’t previously realize they needed or wanted. A shopper may be interested in the plates arranged on a dinner table with candles, napkins and cutlery and also notices the candles “Oh look, those candles look nice with those plates. I should buy those too.” Yes, you should – ka-ching!.

Tips to dress-up your tables

  • Place different sized boxes on your table to create a stepped effect then drape a sheet over it. The place items that you want to draw attention to onto the steps.
  • Cover plain tables or wooden boards with colorful paper cloths from your local party store. Secure the corners with pins or double-sided tape so it doesn’t slide off the table as shoppers squeeze past or while picking up an item.
  • Use a plain dark-colored sheet or cloth to place light-colored items and plain light-colored sheet or cloth to place dark-colored items.
  • Mix related small items between large items rather than having a table off large items and another of small items.
  • Use a sheet of paper as a mat for a featured item to be placed on. The paper can be decorated or have sales messages, item information, etc to highlight it. Stick the paper down with tape or blu-tac to stop it blowing away if someone picks the item up.

Don’t squeeze too much on your tables.

Shoppers usually like to quickly glance over a table to see if anything catches their attention. If your table is jammed full of stuff, it will make it too hard for them and they miss things. Keep things evenly spaced over the table but don’t have it looking too sparse as this will give the impression that there isn’t a big range and shoppers may not bother to spend time at your garage sale.

Arrange jewelry to display and keep untangled

  • Jewelry can be pinned on a corkboard or a piece of dark fabric hung on the wall. This helps show them off and also prevent the chains form getting tangled.
  • Put pairs of ear rings in plastic zip-lock bags so they don’t become separated. You then also have somewhere to put the price sticker too.
  • Place jewelry on a lazy susan or a turntable to let shoppers inspect it from different angles without handling it too much.
  • Make sure there is a light above the display to make the pieces shine and sparkle.
jewelery display

Keep an eye on your valuables

Place valuable items like jewelry on the table near where you will be most of the time so you can keep an eye on them.

Don’t put out duplicate items

If you have two of the same item that people would normally only have or need one, keep the duplicate item out of sight. People are more likely to buy the singular item before it’s gone. Once one has been bought, then bring out the other one.

Don’t leave makeup out in the sun

I’ve never done it but I’ve heard it will melt.

Position price tags either on top or on the front of each item

This will cut down how often shoppers have to handle each item and so reduce the chance of breakage and your display being messed up.

People after bargains and collectables love the hunt

Any items that are collectable or sought-after should be positioned near the back of your sale (but not hidden). People will go through the other tables at the front first before coming across you treasures. They will then be so excited of the find they will pay anything.

Avoid putting things on the ground

Some people find it hard to bend down for any length of time. Put items on tables, benches, boxes, crates, stairs, ledges, etc. If you run out of tables though, spread a blanket or sheet on the ground to arrange your items. As soon as you have some room on a table though, bring them up off the ground.

Avoid putting stuffed toys in a box

Instead, cutely arrange them throughout your tables. Have a bear reading a book or have two or three around you dinner set laid out for a meal, place some stuffed animals in front of your old TV. Not only does it help to sell stuffed animals at your garage sale, it dresses up your display.

garage sale stuffed animals

How to sell out-of-fashion clothes?

Put a sign “Children’s Dress-up Clothes” above your out-of-fashion dresses that no one is likely to buy to actually wear in public.

How to sell a hard-to-sell item

If you have an item that will be hard to sell, combine it with a desirable item for two-for-the-price-of-one deal. You are effectively giving away the unsellable item but you are using it to help get a higher price for your desirable item. People will think they are getting a bargain and are less likely to bargain you down to a rock bottom price as they may have with the single desirable item alone.

How to sell more toys and keep kids occupied?

Put sturdy play toys on a rug for kids to try-before-they-buy and also to keep them occupied while their parent do some more browsing.

Consider having a separate area for your higher priced items

Most shoppers will just scan across your tables without picking things up or poke around in boxes of stuff. To maximize sales, ensure your higher priced items are arranged and displayed together so there is no clutter, they are easy to see and look appealing. Keep your lower priced 25-50c items ‘rubbishy’ items on a separate table or area so as not to detract from the other items.

Have a separate area for handicrafts or your art

If you are including your own work, such as handicrafts or art, arrange it in a separate area. This will help keep a “psychological” distinction between “garage sale” prices and the higher prices you want for your work. You can also dress-it up more there to increase the perceived value than you could for your garage sale items.

Put a trash can at the front of your yard

This will help ensure people don’t bring trash, food, empty drink containers, etc. into your yard.

Keep the area safe

  • Make sure all electrical cords are taped down or covered by mats so they are not a tripping hazard.
  • Keep an eye on the stability of larger items sitting on soft ground.
  • Make sure shoppers don’t hurt themselves loading large items into their vehicle.
  • Keep power tools unplugged or the battery pack removed but handy for demonstrations.

Stop people driving up or parking on your driveway

This can be very dangerous with children present and when cars are trying to drive back out again. Put something across the driveway to stops cars but not people. Some things could be a large rubbish bin, saw horses or bunting between two crates. It could also be one of your objects (like a scantily-dressed mannequins) to get the attention of the male drivers as they drive by. (Is that too sexist? OK, have scantily-dressed male and female mannequins).

Avoid having clothes folded on the table

You’ll be constantly refolding them after people rummage through them or pick one up to check the size. If you’re planning on fussing over your ‘shop’ then this won’t be a bother but can be if you’re being run off your feet with sales.

Avoid putting clothes in a box for people to rummage through

All clothes should be hung up to make it easier to browse through and gives it more value compared to clothes than have been dumped in a box. A proper garment rack will showcase your clothes and make them easier to browse and be bought.

Other ways to hang clothes in your garage sale

clothes at garage sale
  • On a pole between two ladders but don’t pack them in too tightly.
  • On a chain tightly between two points and place the hangers through the links. This will stop the clothes sliding into the centre if you had used rope.
  • Pinned on a sheet or blanket hung on a wall.

Divide clothes into size and type

This will make it easier for people to find all the clothes in the size they are looking for. Pin on large tags that show the size, type of material and price. This works well for the big seller – children’s clothes, when a number of the same sized outfits are bundled together.

Try to include some clothes with bright and different colors

This will ensure the display doesn’t look to dark and drab.

Always use cheap clothes hangers

People will expect the hanger to be included.

Try to place clothes in a shaded area

Bright sunlight will make the colors of the clothes dull.

Try to pair individual items as a matched set

You’re more likely to sell matching items together than separately.The right way to prepare your selling space for maximum sales. How to make your sale items presentable and enticing. How your things look can make or break your sale.

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