Clearing Items at the End of Your Garage Sale

You’re holding a garage sale to get rid of clutter and make a lot of money, but what happens when it’s the final few hours of the sale and there’s still quite a few items left for sale? Instead of panicking, keep these following strategies in mind to get rid of all your unwanted items like a pro.

During the Sale

Up the Hospitality

Providing free cookies and lemonade gives your kids a job, brings customers closer to the stuff you’re trying to sell, and encourages conversation. Refreshing your shoppers gives them good reason to stroll around a bit longer—and buy a bunch more!

Be Open to Bundles

If you have similarly themed items, sell them together. Someone may not want to buy a set of weights for $50, but they might change their mind if you throw in workout DVDs or a yoga mat. Or if you notice a customer holding multiple, unrelated items for a while, offer a discount if they buy it all.

Don’t Be Afraid to Bargain or Negotiate

Garage sales are a great way to test out our bargaining skills. And while you may have lots of bargaining experience as a buyer, selling isn’t something we get to try as often. Be kind, but firm, when an offered price dips below what you’re willing to take. Consider your options for selling the item elsewhere and proceed accordingly.

After the Sale

Now that the sale is over, it’s time to consider what you’re going to do with the items that didn’t sell. Surely, you don’t want them in your home anymore, but you don’t know what to do with them. Here are just a few ways that you can get rid of your items and either make more money  or donate to a worthy cause.

  • Take your garage sale online. Left with some stuff you think you can still sell? Post your items on online portals and or your local buy-sell-trade group on Facebook.
  • Visit your local consignment shop for cash. Take clothes, shoes and accessories to a consignment shop. If you can, choose to receive cash up front instead of a trade or after-purchase repayment.
  • Donate your items to a worthy cause. Of course, you can always drop your items at a thrift store like Goodwill or contact Habitat for Humanity to schedule a pick-up time.
  • Give your hard-earned cash a home. Count up your earnings and do a little celebration dance. Then sit down with your spouse to talk about how you’ll use the money. Be sure to include the cash as income in your monthly budget, and then put that cash to work!


A good yard sale gives you a jolt of money momentum. You can earn enough to pay for a quick summer vacation or polish off your starter emergency fund in a single morning. In the end, your house will be cleaner, and your wallet will be greener. This opportunity is closer than you think—in fact, it happens right outside your front door!

Were any items left unsold at your Estate Sale?

During the estate sale, the company you hired will do everything in their power to completely sell all your contents. However, that doesn’t mean they’ll be successful. Even if they drop prices, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to sell absolutely everything. Here are your options for the pieces that don’t sell.

Estate Sale Company Buyout

Before you hire an estate liquidation company, make sure you’ve discussed what they will and will not do. Some companies buy the remainder of the estate at a low prices. If you decide that this is the best option for you, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • You will not receive anything close to the price you had on the items during the estate sale
  • Prepare yourself to sell those items for low prices
  • Most companies will turn around and sell the leftovers at an auction, charity, flea market, or dump

This doesn’t mean that the leftovers don’t have value. Your prices could have simply been too high or the factors of the day might have been against you. But if any of the points above bother you, an estate company buy out is not the route for you.

However, these are all moot points if the estate sale company doesn’t offer a buyout in the first place. After the estate sale, you might be left watching the liquidation company pack up their own materials and driving away. If the company you hired to manage your estate does not buy the remaining materials from you, you are left with the responsibility of cleaning out the property. Here are a few options for cleaning out what’s left after the estate sale.

Resale Shops

If you still want to try and sell your items off, there are a few resources left to you. Some things to keep in mind are:

  • Many antique and collectible dealers (especially the ones that have storefronts) might be willing to buy some of your antiques or collectibles.
  • There’s always Craigslist. Post an ad on online marketplaces with pictures of the leftover items. You could sell them individually or as “all or nothing.”
  • Check the yellow pages for auction services. Some businesses auction off household items like lamps, rugs, art, furniture, and mirrors. They will usually take a percentage off what it goes for at auction and send you a check for the remainder.

Charity Donations

Most charities are willing to come pick up estate sale leftovers. However:

  • Most come with the stipulations that it’s “all or nothing.” Before the charity arrives, make sure there is no junk or trash remaining on the property.
  • Individuals who choose this option end up renting a dumpster, which is an added cost to consider.
  • After disposing of the waste, create a spreadsheet list of everything left in the estate. This becomes your list of donated items, which can be deducted from your estate tax return.

Throwing Leftovers Away

Many estate sales companies will have a list of recommended junk removal services for you to consider. While this option may cost you additional money, consider the following points:

  • It saves you time and energy in the long run.
  • This “all in one alternative” is perfect for people who need properties emptied quickly and efficiently.


Now, if you have to hold an estate sale, it may be difficult to part with some items, but rest assured that liquidating your estate or your loved one’s estate is the best option.

Estate Sale Timeline

If you need to hold an estate sale, chances are that you’ve thought about the timeline of how an estate sale even works. While every company will have their own way of doing things, there’s a general timeline that companies tend to follow.

Sign the Contract

Once you’ve chosen your company: get a contract. Don’t hold an estate sale without one. Commissions and fees will be set in stone, as will the expectations of both client and company. If there are any exceptions to what will be sold, they need to be made clear in the contract.

The length of the contract depends on the company you hire. But it’s liable to be a several pages long—there are a lot of moving parts, after all. Ask questions. If you don’t understand something, get clarification. If you don’t agree with an item in the contract, say something. If you’re ultimately not comfortable with the contract, don’t sign it, and move on. But when you do sign one, make sure to retain a copy for yourself.

Item Photography

Often the first thing that an estate sale company will do once a contract is signed is take photographs—often even the very same day. This creates an inventory of the property, so the company can know what will be in the sale (and if anything is removed from the sale ahead of time). This is also helpful to the client, to have photographic evidence of what was included in the sale.

Property Staging

The company will need time before the sale to stage the property. How long this will take depends on the condition of the house and the amount of merchandise. The home of a hoarder, for example, will take considerably longer to sift, sort, clean, and stage than the average home.

The Sale

It’s unlikely that you’ll be encouraged to attend the sale. In fact, you may be asked to stay off the property entirely during the sale. If you’re the client, it’s unlikely that you’ll be encouraged to attend the sale. Having the client on-site can negatively affect shoppers, and make it difficult for the estate sale company to do its job. It’s important for you to trust the company you hire, and feel comfortable letting the professionals do their job. Ask questions freely beforehand. Feel free to check in at the end of day as well.

Getting Your Payout

Every company has a different timeline when it comes to paying their client following the sale. How much information about the sale you receive also depends on the company—if you want or need in-depth reporting about the items sold and their cost, talk to the company before the contract is signed, to make sure they can deliver the information to you in the way you need it.


Remember, this timeline is a general overview of the typical steps estate companies take to hold their sales and help you sell all the items that you need to.

Conducting a Background Check on an Estate Sale Company

If you need to hold an estate sale, you’ve probably looked into hiring a professional company to conduct the sale for you. While this is definitely a good way to go, because, after all, they are the professionals, it can be a scary step to take. Most estate sale companies, just like most people, are reputable and honest.  A few are not.  Sometimes we need a little help in decided which is which.

Here are some helpful tips that you can use to evaluate the reputation of an estate sale company:

  • Interview a prospective company in person.  They will want to see the property to be sold anyway, so set an appointment to get to know them.  Have your questions at hand so you won’t forget important issues.
  • Make sure they are a legitimate company: do they have a license, insurance, experience?
  • Can they provide references?
  • Do they charge a reasonable percentage for your neighborhood/city/state?  Estate sale companies usually make their money by charging a percentage of all that they sell.  That percentage differs from job to job, from company to company, from location to location.  Some companies, perhaps those in areas with a low cost of living, can charge as little as 20%.  Other companies, many in high population density areas and high cost of living zones, can charge as much as 50%.  The degree of difficulty of a job can also influence the percentage charged.  Picking the company that charges the lowest percentage might work fine or it might be a catastrophe waiting to happen.  Often, you get what you pay for.
  • Do they charge sales tax? Perhaps not all states require sales taxes to be collected, but many do.  Find out how the prospective company handles this.
  • Do they have a contract for you to read and sign?  If yes, read it over careful.  Have someone else read it, too.  Can they explain what it all means in a way you can easily understand?  Don’t sign the contract until you are comfortable with all the clauses.  If they don’t have a contract, I might be concerned.
  • Trust your instincts when you meet them. If you don’t trust them, don’t hire them. There is bound to be another company to hire instead that you might feel better about.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints filed against them or their owners (keep in mind that not all legitimate companies are members of BBB).
  • Most professionals would not risk their reputation by doing shady deals because it could obviously affect their futures in the industry. Do they suggest ideas that sound risky or unorthodox to you that another company would refuse to do?
  • If you are really a careful person, you can try running a background check on the company owner.  This might at least show whether they have ever been convicted of a crime, though it doesn’t prove that they are honest and honorable.


With a bit of caution and care, and a modicum of trust, you should have little difficulty finding a company that will handle your sale in a professional and upright manner. Best of luck on your sale!