How to Organize a Rummage Sale

How to Organize a Rummage Sale and Knock It Out Of the Park
Written by Oana Schneider

There are many people in the US who choose to organize rummage sales a few times a year and in order to achieve that you need to be organized, creative and friendly. However, there are 10 rules to organizing a rummage sale and we’re ready to tell you all about them, so listen up!

Why rummage sale? First of all, it could start like a fun activity and grow into a real source of profit within a few years, especially if you know what people want to buy and are realistic about your prices. Without further ado, this is how to organize a rummage sale and knock it out of the park:

1. Collect things that you no longer need year round

In other words, don’t throw anything away, unless we’re talking used wrapping paper, extremely damaged items and so on. You could donate your clothes to charity, but how about sell them and volunteer at a canteen instead? Try gathering everything in a shed somewhere. Also, when someone asks if you need this or that item, always give a positive answer, take everything home and save it for your rummage sale. What better way to de-clutter your home and make money at the same time?

2. Write everything on a piece of paper

Yes, keep track of all the items you’ve gathered over time so that you have enough time to think about your strategy. Don’t overlook fixing up some items that don’t work or just look back. A coat of paint will increase the value of your merchandise, so why not do it? You might also want to look online and visit other rummage, yard or garage sales and look for really cheap items that you could flip. If you’re crafty, this could be your next big project.

3. Enroll a few helpers

You won’t be able to take care of everything, so enroll a few friends, siblings or just your family. Explain to them what you are trying to achieve, how you want things to look like and have a little brainstorming session to split the responsibilities. The men could fix some old furniture that you plan on selling, the girls could take charge of the decorating pieces, while the kids could give their input on how to place everything.

It’s important to plan the sale ahead of time (about a month before, to make sure your little helpers clear their schedule) and then start working on the actual staging process a few days before. It’s important to figure out where everything is going to be placed, next to which other items (you can organize your items by price, utility, color or eye level/ above eye level and so on. The important thing is to get them organized, basically, no matter the criteria).

4. Yes, advertise!

It really doesn’t matter if you’re from a small or a big town, as long as you know how to properly advertise your business, because that’s what it is. First of all, put up banners around town, send fliers and posters to your local restaurants, shopping areas, business buildings, schools, country clubs if there are any in your neighborhood and don’t forget to create an event on Facebook to invite everybody, in which case think of a fun and intriguing description, a few teasers portraying items you’ll be putting up for sale and so on.

5. Timing is precious!

You have to be careful when choosing the date of your rummage sale. Our advice is to pick a spring, summer or early fall date. Needless to say, winter is the worst idea! The best, however, is probably spring. People tend to spend more money during spring because they feel the need to mark the transition from cold to warm in a significant way, which means they’ll be looking for benches, rocking chairs, picnic blankets and baskets, good china, colorful jewelry and clothes and so on.

If you picked July or August as a date for your sale, take into consideration the heat wave and make sure to open your little market early in the morning, taking a break for lunch and opening up again after the sun goes down. You really have to work with what you have!

6. Establish good prices

Yes, you have to make a profit, but high prices are not going to win you any fans! Visit other garage sales, take a look at those prices and try to imitate other vendors. Also, you may want to invest time and/or money into your price tags: go for something bald, a popping color and a nice font. You want your sale to look well-organized, trust-worthy and a good investment, not a sloppy garage sale put together at the very last minute.

7. Offer treats

OK, maybe not offer. But putting up for sale some home baked cookies and lemonade could be a great idea, especially for those customers that spent more than 30 minutes deciding what to buy. Plus, who doesn’t like cookies? Ask a kid to sell the lemonade or cookies (this will make you more money, people tend to be more generous around kids!).

If baking is not your strongest suit, then maybe you can ask your mother or your grandmother to help you out. Make sure to give the treats a nice presentation: nice wrapping, cool slogans, and maybe colorful lemonade cups. Think like an investor and act like one too!

8. Team up with other businesses maybe?

Yes, if you are selling household items, how about you team up with someone who sells handmade jewelry, beverages, and handmade dolls and so on? You’ll be able to use the same location and diversify the merchandise, which will only make your customers feel excited. There is one golden rule when associating with someone else: make sure you are not selling similar items or one of you will end up selling nothing because of the competition.

9. Decorate and be organized!

By all means, don’t forget to make your little sale look good: try decorating as much as possible, creating posters, banners and even matching t-shirts, if you have some plain shirts and a really good sharpie at least. How to decorate? Well, paper flowers, origami, plant pots and anything you can think of.

If you happen to have some wooden boards around the house, how about building yourself a nice shed, just in case it starts raining all of a sudden? Also, make a list of all your items and cross off the list the ones you already sold in order to keep track of your belongings. After a couple rummage sales you’ll get the hang of it!

10. Serving with a smile!

Don’t be mean to people, even if some of them will try and bargain with you for the last cent! Remember that their goal is to get the lowest price and yours is to sell at a reasonable price. A technique that anyone can use is the overselling: when someone is indecisive about buying an old vanity for $30, for example, you can jump in and make a suggestion: you can get both this vanity and a lovely flower pot for $35, deal of the day!

The idea is to push forward another item in order to make the total amount of money seem like an irresistible offer! Remember to always be nice, polite, to offer assistance and ask people what they are looking for. If you connect with them, they will feel more at ease when buying something.

We wish you good luck with your rummage sale and don’t forget to keep track of all your items, your expenses and profit as well as the things you could done better. Sometimes being nice and warm to your customers matter more than a well-organized rummage sale, but who says you can’t have both?

About the author

Oana Schneider

Oana Schneider is a published author located in Chicago, Illinois, who currently works for as a communication specialist and blog editor. She writes about lifestyle, family budget, has a degree in Communications and advocates for women’s rights. Her future plans include getting a Labrador and losing a few pounds.


  • I’ve been thinking of selling off a bunch of my unwanted items that have been taking up space for years. Now that spring is here, I think it’s a great time to finally do it. There are a lot of excellent tips in your article that will definitely help me out. It’s a little stressful just thinking about it but I’m sure everything will go smoothly if I listen to some of your advice.

    I think advertising is definitely going to be the biggest factor when it comes to selling all of my old items. Getting people to show up is probably the toughest part but after that it’s just a matter of negotiating the right price.

    • Spring is a time of renewal, and the time when people tend to get rid of old things they don’t need. A rummage sale is never a bad idea, and it’s not like we do much with the junk (or simply unused items) that we leave around the house. It’s always a smart idea to turn these items into cash!

  • Great ideas. It is definitely helpful to have a shed, or separate room, closet, or the like, to store sale items in. It can also help you get and stay organized, because you can sort them out, and add price tags or labels ahead of time. My neighbor and I do this type of sale a couple of times a year, usually in the Spring and Fall. Every time, we get better, because we learn from the previous sales, so we’re pretty organized at this point.

    A few things I’d add are: 1. Get a cash box or other container to store and sort cash, and make sure you have a good supply of change and small bills, so you can make change. 2. Consider accepting PayPal, Square, or other payment types. It’s particularly helpful for larger or more expensive purchases, such as antiques and other furniture, electronics, etc., so there’s no need to mess with exact change,or large wads of cash, which could lead to problems. 3. If more than one seller is involved, use different color tags for each seller, and collect like-colored tags, so at the end, you can calculate how much each person has earned, unless you’re planning to split the proceeds evenly, or donate them all to charity.

  • These are some wonderful tips. I’ve participated in rummage sales for work, in the past, and adding a bake sale seems to up the profit margin. If it’s during the summer and you’re offering cold drinks at a reasonable price, people will snatch those up!

    I like the idea of writing everything down. It never fails that I’ll participate in a rummage sale and go back later to find that I’ve left some of the items at home, or in the garage, because I lost track of them. It also helps, I would imagine, if you’re having the sale with others. That will help you keep track of what belongs to who both during the sale and when you’re packing up anything that’s left.

    Decorating is a great idea. It shows that you’re putting a bit of effort into it, and you’re giving the sale a touch of class! I like that, I think I’ll try that the next time we have a sale.

  • Keeping an inventory of everything that is being sold is always such a smart idea. It guarantees that you know what you should have in your pocket at the end of the day. Plus, it helps you see what items were popular, assuming you’ve broken things up by category. Writing everything down is such an important part of sales and inventory that you shouldn’t pass it up, even for a rummage sale.

    • I agree because it is very important and my experience has been exactly the same and it is indeed an important part of sales I would say.

  • I wish this article had been around the last time a friend of mine tried to organize a rummage sale, haha. This is a great guide. I helped out and tried to sell off some of my stuff there, but it was all a bit haphazard and we didn’t have very many customers. Part of it was lack of advertising and part of it was location, I think. I also believe it’s important to keep track of an inventory, which was another thing we didn’t do. If I ever try to hold a rummage sale, or help out with another one, I’ll have to keep all this in mind.

  • Great tips mentioned in this article. I especially like the suggestion to offer treats. I know when I am out and about rummaging, especially if it is a neighborhood sale, I get hungry and thirsty. A water to cool down is very much appreciated. Placing flyers all over the place is a smart idea as well. It is best if you can organize several other houses on your block or surrounding area that are having a sale as well. This will draw people in and you will have better luck. Remember not to mark your prices too high. If you truly want to get rid of your items, the prices really do matter.

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