How to Throw a Radical (Successful) Rummage Sale

Last weekend we had a rummage sale. We'd been holding on to quite a few things that we realized we just didn't need. On top of all that, I had a ton of things left over from the wedding that I knew would sell, so it was absolutely time to attempt to clear out our house and hope to make a few extra bucks, as well.

Aside from our own items, we were joined by our friends and neighbors who were looking to unload some things, as well. Between two couples and a friend who was selling some records, we had a variety of merchandise to attract all sorts of buyers. If nothing else, it was an excuse to get rid of things, hang with friends and maybe meet some neighbors.

It ended up being quite a success; between our three groups of sellers, we made a total of nearly $1,300. Without selling a lot of big-ticket items, I've got to say that is not too shabby, my friends.

There were a few reasons I believe we had such success... especially because we weren't blessed with the nicest weather (it rained steadily all morning until 10:30, so we had to set up in two different areas - one in the house and another out in our garage). Had the weather been on our side and let us set up in the yard as initially planned, I'm sure we would have made a lot more. But so it goes.

So, below, I've got seven tips that will help any rummage sale.

As with selling any product or service, the critical step in attracting buyers is through creative marketing. Thankfully, between the five of us, we're all pretty creative, and one of us (e'hem, this little lady here), has been working in marketing for six years. We had an idea how to draw in the crowds - specifically the folks who live in and around our neighborhood. 

Do you live in a rural area? A suburb with a lot of children? A neighborhood with a lot of 20-somethings? Take a look at your inventory and figure out if your stuff would appeal to your neighbors. If so, great! Write the ad that would grab your attention. We happen to live in a pretty eclectic neighborhood with a good mix of "hipsters" (for lack of a better term), young families and just a few old folks who have lived in the neighborhood forever. So, when writing up our Craigslist ad, I thought about what would attract me - something attention grabbing, funny, with a good list of what's going to be available. 

Here's the ad we posted on Craigslist:
Super Rad Rummage Sale of Your Dreams

Do you love totally awesome things that were previously owned by someone else? Well you’re in luck, friend. We’ve got all sorts of INCREDIBLE THINGS that just may BLOW YOUR MIND. The deals are going to be UNBELIEVEABLE. Come for the magnificent collection of goods and stay for the rockin’ tunes, treats and good company. Heck, even enjoy a beer on us as you peruse the goods!

When: ONE DAY ONLY: SATURDAY, SATURDAY, SATURDAY! June 22nd, 8:00am - 3:00pm

Where: [OUR ADDRESS] Milwaukee (three houses down from Groppi’s) - in the front AND back of the house

Why: Because our stuff is totally awesome, but we have too much of it and also we want new stuff, so come buy our slightly older stuff!


  • TONS of music on vinyl from our record-collecting friend who has finally finished weeping enough to part with these musical gems - 45s and LPs
  • Vintage and rustic wedding decor items (blue Ball jars, doilies, burlap, fabric bunting, etc.)
  • Vintage collectibles, like DOZENS of hobnail milk glass vases
  • Tons of wedding-y items
  • “Fancy” plastic dishes (dinner and salad plates), looks-like-silver forks, knives and spoons. Lots of nice plastic cups and champagne glasses
  • Fabrics and vintage hankies
  • Kitchenwares - dishes, silverware, food processor, coffee mugs, cookware
  • Ladies’ and men’s clothes of fashion and name brand style (if you care about that kind of thing)
  • Vintage t-shirts of varying levels of irony
  • Shoes - some that have never been worn (women be shoppin’; am I right?)
  • Accessories - sunglasses, belts, jewelry, all those extras that make you look GOOD
  • DVDs of some of the greatest cinematic masterpieces of all time (including the likes of “Snakes on a Plane”)
  • Scholarly books of merit (both hardcover and paperback, if you can believe it)
  • Handmade jewelry
  • Cat stuff - Our cats love rubber bands so come buy the floor-to-ceiling cat tree we bought that they simply stare at from the ground
  • And much more!

In the days leading up to the sale, I got a few e-mails from people simply wanting to tell me they loved the ad and wanted to come check out our sale based on the ad alone. Fantastic!

But also knowing our target audience (and our neighborhood), I wanted to make some signs to put up to grab even more attention. Thankfully, our home is just a few houses down from a very heavily-trafficked market and less than a block from some popular bars and restaurants frequented by the aforementioned hipster-ish crowd. Through personal experience, I know that most 20-30-something hipsters love Internet memes, so I quickly threw together two ads to post outside of the market and bar/restaurant. Here they are:

These went over incredibly well. But in the case that these would have been taken down around the neighborhood at any point, you can't limit yourself to just Craiglist and posters... you have to take the next step, which leads me to....

You never know who is going to stumble across an ad or poster of yours. You never know who might be interested in what you're trying to sell. To that end, you'll want to make sure you don't limit yourself to posters and Craigslist. Chances are, you've got a few friends on Facebook or Twitter who live in your city that may want to see what you're got to sell. Post about your sale to your friends! They might tell their friends, and so on and so on. I am actually a member of two community groups on Facebook: A general Bay View group and a "Bay View Items for Sale" group. On Friday morning, I posted the Ryan Gosling ad above, as well as a link to our Craigslist ad, on the "Items for Sale" group. I had comments and likes left and right regarding that ad: People saying it was the best rummage sale sign ever, that is was funny, that they just wanted to check out the sale based on the ad... And I had quite a few people show up to the sale telling me they saw it on Facebook. It's the greatest place for free advertising.

Aside from online advertising, rummage sales still draw in a lot of people through foot traffic and just driving around the neighborhood. Through my adventures in rummaging, I notice I am always drawn to big, bright, obnoxious neon signs. Yes, they're a little cheesy and not always pretty, but they grab my attention if I'm driving by. So we posted two big, neon green signs on either side of our block - and one right in front of the market on the corner by our house. You couldn't miss the signs! We also placed a couple smaller hot pink signs in our yard and on one of the busier cross streets.

 To get even more attention on the sale (again, especially because we were forced to move operations inside for the day), we hung a brightly-colored pennant banner across our front yard.

You guys, no one was missing this.

When people got to the house (or the garage), we had to make sure they knew our stuff was broken up into two different areas. So we added signs by the front door that let people know that the "pretty things," which were pretty much everything I was selling from the wedding, were inside, but there was a lot more around back.

But no matter how well you market or how many signs you make, you still have to have a decent amount of merchandise that will appeal to a lot of different buyers. Which leads me to tip #3:

Our sale worked well because, with three different groups of buyers, we were able to accumulate a great variety of merchandise. I was inside the house in "wedding central," which held an entire room of pretty little things useful for weddings or parties. Our friend Kyle is a record collector, so he brought dozens and dozens of records to sell, and our friends and neighbors Andy and Emily brought electronics, jewelry and furniture. We all had a fair amount of clothes, books, accessories and home decor to go around.

When I drive around scouting rummage sales, I am always willing to stop at one that has a huge selection. There have been so many times I've driven right on by a rummage sale with only a couple tables of goods or, especially, only one type of item (this is especially true for sales that seem to have nothing but baby or kids items... trust me, I'll visit those in the future, but that stuff is of no use to me now).

Some people walked into our house and took one look at all the Ball jars, milk glass, doilies and "pretties" and were just not interested - and that's okay. I simply let them know we had a lot more in the garage, listed off a few items that were back there, and they went on back and often times bought at least one thing in the garage. 

Believe it or not, some of the older, gruff dudes were not interested in what was offered above.

BUT, they were totally interested in the records, furniture and clothes! It was good to have a huge selection.

But no matter your selection, to sell you've got to have things priced right.

You guys, I still have quite a few "wedding" items left. I mean, I ended up making probably $400 alone on this wedding stuff, but a few items that I'd priced higher just didn't fly off the tables. I had my antique milk glass, the blue Ball jars and the fabric garlands and backdrops priced higher than the rest of the rummage-sale goods. Why? Because, as a former bride, I know these things will be bought by the right kind of people. Your average Joe Rummagesaler does not bring $100 to buy four pieces of milk glass, a fabric backdrop, some antique Ball jars and 18 feet of fabric bunting. However, they gladly paid a dollar for a t-shirt, four bucks for some pants, or a fiver on a floor lamp. But a bride-to-be will buy anything listed above if it fits her wedding style. And to be honest, I priced all of that stuff waaaaaaaayyyy below what they go for on Etsy, so it's not like they were overpriced. I had a few brides-to-be come in the early morning who spent a couple hundred dollars each on things (they seriously loaded up!), and the rest were looky-loos who thought things were pretty and crafty, but weren't sure what they'd do with them.

So, the lesson is price for rummage-sale expectations. Yes, you have a Tiffany necklace you want to sell, but even if that $50 price tag you slapped on it is 60% off its retail value, most rummagers aren't willing to spend that much. Either take it to a nice consignment or let it go for a ridiculously cheap price.

There is a reason most people are drawn to the clothes or accessories layered or laid out on mannequins - they've been strategically styled to draw your eye in to focus on those items. Think about a store like Anthroplogie - its clothes, housewares and accessories are displayed gorgeously throughout the store. Sometimes I just like to walk through the store because it's so pretty or interestingly merchandized. People are more likely to buy from you if you've got all your merchandise laid out within clear sight, organized in like groupings. I've got to admit: I walked out to the garage for a moment on Saturday and was a little perturbed when I saw there was a basket of my old jewelry just thrown in a basket, all tangled. Eric was so worried about setting everything up in time he didn't take the time to lay out the jewelry in plain sight. So I scrambled, untangled a few things and, lo and behold, some of that jewelry sold not long after. Think about it: Are you really going to take them time to rifle through a big box of mixed-up mumbo jumbo, or would you like everything to be laid out clear, so you can grab and buy as soon as it hits your eye?

Merchandizing is absolutely key.

If you read our Craigslist ad above, you may have caught that we offered a free beer with any purchase. Believe it or not, some people actually told us that's what drew them to our sale in the first place. It's not like we had a bunch of drunk folks stumbling around our property, it was just something fun and different that was offered. And honestly, we're pretty sure some people bought at least something small just to enjoy that can of PBR. 

But it doesn't have to be beer - offer baked goods, popcorn, have a lemonade stand - something extra to give that simple little push to entice rummagers to check out what you've got.

I had an excellent time at our rummage sale. I spoke with a lot of different people and got to know some people in the neighborhood I hadn't met before. Folks were friendly, and I found if I was extra friendly with them, many times they'd end up buying something they were on the fence about. I spoke with a couple women about our wedding who actually really wanted to see pictures! So I hopped on Facebook, showed them some pics, chatted them up a bit and they both bought a handful of items. 

Although I wasn't out in the garage at all, I know that Eric is a natural salesman (he is in sales, after all), so he was able to schmooze like the best of them. He'd offer compliments and just be charming and funny and people were more willing to buy from him because of his friendliness. Based on my experience, I'd be more inclined to buy from someone who was outgoing and helpful than someone who stayed seated, silent, in the corner with a box full of money.

Those seven tips are what I believe contributed to the success of our rummage sale. We were all surprised with how well we did - like I said, if the weather had been more on our side I'm sure we would have made at least a couple hundred more. Yes, it helps that we happen to live on a street with a lot of foot traffic, but if you market right, price right, have a decent amount of merchandise and are just friendly to everyone who visits, you'll likely have a successful rummage sale yourself.

What's the best rummage sale you've been to? Have you had success with anything I didn't mention above? I'd love to hear!


  1. Woah!! We would have done some damage at your sale...

  2. Ack!! Somehow I missed your rummage sale though I am I'm-pretty-sure-not-far-from-you (we live a street and an alley due east of Pastiche). And I'm certainly in the market for wedding stuff. EHRMERGERD, BUMMEHRR!

  3. I've yet to have a rummage sale, but DESPERATELY need to have one. We've got WAY too much stuff!!


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