We’ve all done our fair share of shopping at retail stores, but you never really stop to think about how much work goes into merchandising until you’re called upon to do it with your own stuff—and in your own garage!

Start by reading these two stellar articles:

Now that you’ve read that sage advice (seriously, go read it!), I’m going to expand on a few points. Just to note, when you see text in double quotes (“like this”) it’s quoted from one of the two above articles.

I’ll start by pulling out one of my favorite excerpts, from the second article linked above:

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.”

Buy or borrow tables (or use sawhorses w/ plywood)

Long, narrow tables are best, so people don’t have to lean too far over to reach items. If you’re doing the sawhorses/plywood trick, don’t put anything super heavy on top—plywood can’t withstand much weight in this manner.

I had great luck borrowing tables by posting on Facebook and on our neighborhood NextDoor site. Lots of friendly folks were willing to loan me tables if I promised to pick them up and drop them off. Other friends borrowed from their church. Use your resources!

Arrange tables in an U-shape or L-shape

The U-shape, around the outer walls of your garage, will allow shoppers to walk around and people to push strollers through. If your garage is large enough, you can put a table or two in the middle, but try to keep at least two people-widths of space between the outer U and anything in the middle.

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.

All about laying out clothing

Baby/toddler clothes

“Fold and stack baby and young kids’ clothing on tables — and arrange it by size and type. It takes up less space than hanging them, and little pieces are easy to straighten and refold.”

Adult and Big Kids’ Clothing (on hangers)

Adult and big kid clothes do best on racks, arranged by size. They look nicer, are easier to browse through, and less likely to end up on the floor.

If you don’t have hanging racks (and can’t borrow from friends), improvise. Rope stretched between two anchor points isn’t actually the best plan; everything will sag toward the middle. A better bet: buy a length of cheap chain from TrueValue and spread it tightly between two points. Put the hangers through the links, and the clothes won’t slide. Sweet.

Other ideas: a squeezey shower curtain rod between two unmovable objects, or a thick wooden dowel between two ladders.

Avoid putting clothes in boxes for people to rummage through

I know it’s called a “rummage sale” (in some locales), but nobody likes to dig through a bin. Clothes should be on tables or hung up to make it easier to browse. Plus, clothes that are hanging or tabled will have a perceived higher value  compared to clothes than have been dumped in a box.

Put your clothes in a shaded area

The sunlight will make colors look drab and dull.

Pair up matching items

If you have a random pair of kid shorts and a T-shirt that just happens to match perfectly, pin them together into a set. They’re more likely to sell. Same goes with adult clothing, and in fact, I think it’s a better plan with adult clothing! It’s easy to put together cute kid outfits, but adult clothes are a little trickier for most people (okay, maybe that’s just me?).

Other layout tips

Organize similar items together (like with like)

Clothes should be located in the same general area of your sale, just as lawn & garden should have its own general area. Think through the amount of tables you’ll need to display all of your stuff.

Place complementary items near each other

Some examples:

  • Auto –> Tools –> Gardening –> Outdoors –> Sporting Goods
  • Linens –> Bathroom –> Kitchen stuff –> Dining
  • Computer/technology –> Books –> Music –> Movies

Display small stuff close to your checkout table

Keep valuables—like jewelry, silver, or other small pricey items—close to the checkout table so you can guard them from shoplifters, especially if they’re fragile. And on that note…

Keep breakables at the back of tables, or up high

Some shoppers will let their kids run wild like banshees at your sale (although I personally can’t imagine a worse version of hell than garage sale-ing with a kid in tow, BLECH). They probably won’t be willing to pay for anything their kids break, either, so keep that in mind when you lay out your breakables. Put anything breakable at the BACK of your tables, farthest from tiny hands.

Draw shoppers in with big, showy items near the street

Don’t hide your showy items inside the dark depths of your garage; put that stuff out where people can see it. The good stuff will draw them in and get you more shopper traffic.

Put a bin of super-cheap items (or toys) by the entrance

A bin of easy wins gets people in the buy mood, and if they’re toys, it keeps the kids busy so the parents (aka the people with the cash) can shop and buy. Speaking of toys…

“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.”

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.”

Place housewares/home decor on tables

Trinkets, small wall hangings, frames, vases, and the like do best on tables. Large wall art can go in bins on tables, hanging on the wall above the tables, or if you have the space, spread it out on a tabletop.

Block your driveway

Cars pulling into, or turning around in, your driveway can be dangerous with children present. Put something across the driveway to stops cars but not people. Examples: your trash or recycling bin, saw horses, or scantily-clad mannequins. 🙂

Make clear what’s NOT for sale

Move non-sale items out of your garage, or mark them with “not for sale” signage. If they can’t be moved out of the garage, drape an old bedsheet over them to hide the not-for-sale items from view. Assume this: if it’s visible, people will try to buy it, so cover it up.

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Like I mentioned up above, there are a couple of great resources on this topic already on the web. See my two favorites here and here.