The Complete Guide to Rummage Sales

With spring on the horizon, more opportunities to connect with our neighbors are opening up. There’s a whole population of people out there just itching to get back into their favorite hobby: rummage sales. Truth be told, beyond clearing our homes of unused items, rummage sales (or yard sales) are one of the best ways of connecting with neighbors. Rummage sales bring all the neighbors to the yard.


While some people aim to bring in sizable amounts of money from rummage sales, the even better prize of hosting a sale is the opportunity to talk with many different neighbors throughout the event. The most successful sales are those that enrich relationships between neighbors. It’s more about connection than compensation. Emptying the closets is a nice perk, too!


Whether you have experience with rummage sales or not, you can host a successful rummage sale in your neighborhood. Here are four quick tips on how:

1. Skip pricing items and make it a “pay what you can” rummage sale.


Instead of agonizing over the price of individual items, negotiating deals, or turning down offers, just ask neighbors to pay what they think is appropriate. Post clear, legible signs that say, “Pay what you can” and be ready to accept any price you’re offered. The beauty of this approach is that it honors the dignity of everyone involved. It’s easy for people that don’t like to haggle. It’s love for families trying to make ends meet. You might still have to make change, so be prepared to humbly do that. An apron with pockets is handy for stashing small bills for making change. People will sometimes ask you for a suggested price. Ask them, “What do you think is fair?” or say, “I’m happy with any amount you’re happy with.” Everybody wins when your neighbors take home a newfound treasure, and you don’t have to pack up anything at the end of the day.


2. Elevate your items to make browsing comfortable for everyone.


When items are spread out on tarps or blankets on the ground, it can be really difficult for many people to get down and take a good look at them. Setting your items on tables will make your sale more accessible to all browsers. An old door on top of two sawhorses can make a decent enough table. Sometimes churches or community centers have folding tables to lend or rent. Clothing and linens can be hung with clothespins from a rope if you don’t have access to small clothing racks. The idea is to lift items higher off the ground so people don’t have to bend over very far to see them. Doing so shows respect for neighbors with a variety of needs.

3. Prepare a mini concessions area.


My mother-in-law swears by this technique and has used it at her rummage sales for decades: take the time to prepare individually wrapped snacks to sell at your sale. For her, it’s rice cereal treats or chocolate chip cookies, packaged in little baggies. She arranges them neatly in a basket right next to her area for accepting payment. If baking’s not your style, keep a cooler of ice-cold water bottles for buyers. People come to rummage sales hoping to make a purchase. If they don’t find anything that suits them, they’re often happy to buy a snack for themselves or to share with someone they know. Having concessions available is convenient for people making a quick stop at your sale in the midst of their busy day.


4. Smile! Talk to everyone.


Rummage sales are not like shopping in a strip mall. They are social events where people expect to talk to and connect with others. They want to know your story and possibly share their own. People walking or driving by see your sale as a passive invitation to come up into your yard. There’s an understanding that you’ll be engaging with each other. Take the opportunity to say hello with a smile. Ask a question that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no like, “What are you shopping for today?” or “What can I help you find?” Asking the usual, “How is your day going?” can be effective, too. I like to ask neighbors how long they’ve lived in the neighborhood. It’s a great way to connect and get to know each other.


At the end of the sale, after all the hard work is put in, you’ll be rewarded with stronger neighborhood bonds, cleaner closets, and maybe a little pocket change.


What other tips would you add?

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