Hosting a Garage Sale With Kids

A garage or yard sale can offer some obvious learning opportunities for older children — through counting and handling money, establishing a barter system, understanding the concept of value and price, assessing needs of potential buyers, understanding the impermanence and limitations of material objects, and so on.

So older kids can surely benefit beyond the instant gratification of money collection. But a three to five year old can catch the little lessons, too.

We’ve had two garage sales in the past month or so — casual, not formally promoted, mostly because we’re consciously laid-back to avoid overthinking the process. So laid-back, in fact, that we actually forgot to put out the Garage Sale signs for like, the first two hours! (Don’t do that).

Thinking it might be time to gather some odds and ends for a garage sale of your own? Here are a few tips for hosting a garage sale with kids…


1). Don’t offer up any of the kids’ cherished things for the chopping block without asking first — or better yet, without an unprompted offer.

Just because they haven’t played with these things, uh, seemingly ever, that doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten about them or are  willing to watch them set sail in some stranger’s car backing out of the driveway.

You want your kids to be assured it’s their help and presence that’s most important to you here — not their belongings.

It was a captivating twenty-something years with you and your kin, TV sets. But you may entertain elsewhere now. For a negotiable price …

2). Talk about impact upon your community.

Perhaps a simple yard sale may not leave a significant footprint upon your neighbors’ livelihoods, but don’t discount the smaller positive effects of this form of recycling. What you can no longer use or want can live on as another family’s treasure, capable of providing warm memories or a convenient service cheaper than a brand-new version off a store shelf.

It’s nice to watch others walk away with well-loved goods that feel good as new to them; the same goods you might otherwise walk out to the curb on garbage day. In our society of excess, people still have deficits in some area of their life. Could one of your items fulfill just what they’re looking for?

Seem a bit far-fetched? Too dreamy? Well, when your kids are around, dreaming out loud can’t hurt!

You can piggyback upon the acknowledgment of how a simple yard sale gives back to community by brainstorming even grander ways of how you can help others (idea: set aside at least a few designated boxes to donate to a charity or shelter of your child’s choice).

3). Figure out who gets which tasks and determine to remain occupied with only those tasks until further notice.

Who’s in charge of coming up with prices? Who’s in charge of publicizing the sale? Who’s the designated ‘people person’ who has to (I mean, gets to?) assist potential buyers? Most importantly, whose job is it to not forget to post the neighborhood Garage Sale signs?

Kids are especially helpful with:

  • The layout. Do you need tables, a clothesrack, bins for assorted like items? You’re but a marker and a piece of paper away from a hand-drawn blueprint.
  • Thinking outside the box. Sharp kid brains come up with helpful stuff you didn’t consider, like providing ‘shopping bags’ to browsers or bottled water on the house.
  • Stickering items and placing price signs.
  • Cleaning and dusting items.
MaiTai takes his job of price-stickering items very seriously. This item isn’t for sale, but it looks like he really wants it gone…

4). Remember, it’s not all about the money.

I know, why have a garage sale if you’re planning to just practically give stuff away? Still, I want to focus more on the bigger picture home-merchant experience than how many bills make it into our  palms.

First, I’ll bet no garage sale has ever re-homed a diamond chandelier or hand-carved antique circa the 1600s or anything else worthy of fetching a heavy wallet. You’d have more luck getting close to face value on eBay, Craigslist, and online sell/buy/trade groups than randomly at a yard sale.

Thing about a yard sale is it’s convenient for the buyer and the seller.

For the former (they the buyers), it’s first-come, first-serve; just claim it on the spot then drive off with it in a moment (a money exchange in there somewhere). Most likely, they stopped by on a whim and they’re doing you a favor by helping to de-clutter your home (say thank you as they leave!).

For the latter (you the seller), there’s no need to take photos of each item and post online with descriptions, or to arrange meet-ups with the buyer or visit the post office for shipping, which can be time-consuming if you’ve got a lot of junk to say goodbye to.

In any case it’s best not to get too wrapped up in profit because the kind of people whose ears perk up at the mention of “Garage Sale” are hoping for steals (not literally. Unless, well… see my next point).

MaiTai helped cut this full sheet of U.S. bills then counted them out for us. After first trying it on as a hat.

5). Consider safety and logic when inviting people to your house with promise of goods and gadgets in sellable condition.

They know where you live, because you told them on those signs, remember?

A few things to keep in mind:

If everyone’s engaging with potential buyers, who’s watching the front door? Who’s got the cash bag safe and sound? Who’s keeping an eye on the sticky-fingered looking folks while everyone else is wrapped up with showing items?

Don’t keep all your cash on hand. Decide how much you’ll hold for making change and do regular cash drops in the house as necessary.

Host your sale in the early sunlight hours when people are still feeling congenial thanks to recent coffee consumption (safety no-brainer’ness).

I’m not saying to instill paranoia into your child helpers or entertain unreasonable thoughts of crisis and threat yourself… just be smart.

MaiTai learns about the process of waiting (albeit in comfort) that accompanies a typical garage sale.

6). Have an ongoing collection of items with potential for your next sale.

Throughout the season, put aside anything you haven’t used or no longer wish to use. This is more efficient than trying to root out all sellable belongings a week before the sale.

Encourage your kids to consider, at least from time to time, whether they’d like to pass on any belongings they’ve grown out of via an upcoming family garage sale.

If you recently received an item as a gift and found you couldn’t use it as expected, always offer it back to the giver before trying to pawn it off at the sale for a few nickels, especially if it’s virtually new.

7). Other ideas:

  • Kids can build their confidence and experience with entrepreneurship by running a lemonade stand or selling home-baked treats at the yard sale.
  • You don’t need a price on everything. A sign or sticker that says “Make An Offer” works well if you prefer to hear the buyer’s idea of a fair price first.
  • If your sale has been combed through pretty well and you’re stuck with obvious ‘runts of the litter’ stuff, host a “Fill a Bag For a Buck” sale the next day.
  • You can’t expect much of a crowd in brutal heat, or drizzly, cold, and icy weather. Save yourself any wasted effort and stick to scheduling sales when mother nature is smiling.




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