A tag or yard sale is an efficient, satisfying way to eliminate clutter and to "recycle" the belongings you no longer need, whether you're planning a move or are just trying to simplify your surroundings. The key to organizing one successfully is planning well in advance and being strategic. As they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure -- and you stand to make a sweet deal by following these steps.
Clear Your Clutter
First and foremost, clean. During the weekends before your sale, go through every room and purge, purge, purge. Take an objective look around your home and set aside all the things you don't use, don't need, and don't love.
Know What to Sell
Everything from furniture and antiques to clothing and toys can be sold. Aside from the obvious -- used cosmetics, undergarments, last night's leftovers -- very little is off-limits when it comes to selling things you don't want that others likely will. Outgrown baby clothes: Someone in the neighborhood might have a newborn. Gifts from loved ones that are collecting dust: Shed the guilt and get rid of them. Quirky collectibles from decades past: People go crazy for that stuff. When in doubt, just sell it.
Set a Date
Decide on a weekend for your sale. It's a good idea to invite neighbors and friends to participate, since multiple-family yard sales attract more customers. Even if you don't include your neighbors, be sure to alert them, so the extra traffic won't come as a surprise. You'll want to check with your town hall, as well, in case you need special permission for additional parking, for commercial use of residential property, or for temporary signs.
June through October tends to be the best time for yard sales because people are in the throes of preparing for the next school year and college moving, and the weather is pleasant enough. Set a rain date as well -- or be prepared to sell out of your garage if the weather doesn't hold up -- die-hard yard-sale shoppers will show up rain or shine.
Spread the Word
Call up your neighbors and family members, post an announcement on Craiglist and local news websites, and update social media with the details of your sale. Give the date and time, a rain date if there is one, and the exact address. If you don't want people showing up at your door at the crack of dawn, specify ''no early birds.''
Get Out the Art Supplies
Bring out the markers and posterboard and make easy-to-read signs to post around the neighborhood, directing shoppers to your home. Make a large eye-catching sign for your yard, too, so people will know they've found you.
Advertise the Bait
On your signs, make sure to mention any high-demand, valuable, or intriguing items and antiques that will be for sale.
Put It All Out There
Next, gather as many picnic, garden, and card tables as you can. Assemble everything you want to sell on the ground, then plan table displays.
Set Up Strategically
Lure shoppers with eye-catching arrangements of items -- group objects of the same color, for example. You can appeal to collectors immediately by grouping your most interesting items by era, style, and so on. Make items as accessible as possible, putting clothes on racks, books in boxes, and miscellaneous items on tables.
Keep the Kiddos in Mind
Keep kids' items separate so that little ones aren't aimlessly rifling through valuables or restlessly getting in the way of more serious shoppers. If you have a section of items like toys and sports gear for them to go through themselves, both child and parent will stay happy -- and maybe even purchase more.
Secure Your Pets
Even though you wouldn't mind Fido or Snuggles running around during your sale, your customers might. Especially rowdy pets should be kept inside most of the time -- they can be distracting, they may get into the goods, and most of all, you have no way of knowing potential pet allergies of those you welcome onto your yard.
Tell 'Em to Keep Out
Believe it or not, some yard-sale visitors are less gracious than others and may welcome themselves inside your home to survey the good stuff inside, especially when you're not looking. To emphasize that the key word of "yard sale" is "yard" and keep them from trying to buy (or steal) the belongings you actually want, keep your doors locked when they aren't in use.
An old-school lemonade stand, ice water, or of course, baked goods (should you be so ambitious) are a small gesture that go a long way. Shoppers and their kids get tired and thirsty, and a quick, refreshing break may be just the trick to motivate them into further deal-hunting.
Ready, Set, Resell
Set your prices high enough to allow for bargaining, but not so high that you'll scare off buyers. And let people know that you're willing to negotiate. If you have any question about the value of prospective yard-sale items, especially antiques, have them appraised ahead of time. You can also consult antiques price guides or online sales and auctions to learn the going rate for specific collectibles and furniture. Put a price tag on everything, no matter how small, and if an item is noteworthy, label it as such -- ''Gothic hall chair'' or ''Eastlake-style mirror,'' for example. For a multiple-family sale, color-code the price tags or stickers: That way, you will know whose item is being bought and can note it on a pad. The money can be divided at the end of the day.
Pack Up and Donate the Rest
By midmorning of your sale, much will be gone, so regroup and reprice your tables. Move items closer to the street for impulse buyers passing by, and reduce prices during the last two hours of the sale. By afternoon, consolidate: Pack unneeded goods, and begin bagging litter. We hope you end the day with big gains, but keep cardboard boxes nearby for packing what doesn't sell, and donate these items to a local charity.
More from Martha Stewart Living:
15 Kitchen Shortcuts That Will Change the Way You Cook
24 Bathroom Organizing Tips You Haven't Thought Of
10 Clever Ways to Save Space in Your Kitchen
12 Secrets for a Cleaning the Bathroom in Less Time
While you're purging unwanted belongings, learn to open up your most-used rooms even more.