How to Hold a Small Living Estate Sale to Sell Items Fast

Do you have a large number of vintage and antiques that you’d like to sell quickly? One of the ways you can do this is by holding a living estate sale. It’s kind of a “high class” garage sale that allows you to sell lots of items in one fell swoop.

That means no listing item-by-item on eBay or Facebook Marketplace, no dealing with auction houses or antique shops. Hold the sale in the comfort of your own home and get ready for it at your own pace, whether you’re a collector or an antique dealer.

How to hold a small living estate sale

Table of Contents

Video of the Small Living Estate Sale
Where to Hold Your Sale
How to Display Your Merch
Advertising Your Sale
What to Do With Leftovers

Why an Estate Sale?

If you’re anything like me (a vintage and antique seller), then you have stuff. A lot of stuff. And like me, you may have reached a point where you have too much stuff.

In fact, you may have more stuff beautiful collections than you could ever hope to sell in your lifetime, even if you sell regularly in an antique booth and on Etsy, eBay, and FBMP (like me)!

The idea of holding a “garage” or “tag” sale implies that you’re just selling household items, when in fact you may have some pretty nice vintage and antique items to sell.

Holding a living estate sale could provide a solution to your dilemma! The real key is to describe the sale properly in your advertisements in order to entice the correct audience. We’ll get into all those details below.

Setting Up Your Estate Sale

1. Select & Price Your Merchandise

For about two weeks prior to the sale, I scoured my work room and garage for items I wanted to sell. This included items I’d purchased years ago, which:

  • Were mistakes
  • Were no longer that popular in my niche
  • Wouldn’t otherwise sell for much
  • Didn’t fit my booth aesthetic and I didn’t want to ship
  • I no longer liked(!)

I also went through my house looking for items to sell–some vintage/antique, others simply household items I no longer wanted or needed.

Pricing labels for small living estate sale

For pricing, I primarily used white mailing labels that I had picked up at a garage sale. I simply cut them to size. I used a thicker permanent marker so the prices were easy to read.

Because I wanted to clear out a lot of merchandise–most of which I purchased for very low prices–I could price my items very low. I’m sure this helped with my sales(!).

2. Decide Where to Hold the Living Estate Sale & Clear the Area(s)

I wanted to hold the sale in my house so I wouldn’t have to worry about the weather or the temperature. But a small living estate sale could also be held in a garage and/or driveway, though I’d recommend using a tent to protect your merchandise and customers–just in case.

I decided to use my fairly large foyer and much of my kitchen (the eat-in and bar areas), which ended up working very well.

To prepare for your sale, remove any furniture and wall art that’s not for sale and which won’t help you display items. I did this a week before my sale.

For me, that meant removing everything but my kitchen table and a piece that was too heavy to move. I put blue painters tape on the doors along with a stick that read “NFS” (not for sale).

The NFS stickers went on anything in or outside the house that wasn’t for sale, e.g., garden ornaments, front door wreaths, etc.

3. Creating Displays

Make sure you have enough tables, shelves, crates, and other furniture to allow you to optimize your space and display your merchandise well.

Here’s an example of a 6′ table and shelf that I used against our kitchen wall for display. The addition of the shelf allowed me to display many more items than I would have been able to, using just the table–and at eye level.

Underneath tables you can place boxes and/or crates with items like books, frames, and other low-priced items.

I priced all books (except a couple of antique ones) at $1 and all small to medium frames for $1 as well. I tried to price uniformly like this for as many items as possible.

For example, I priced a large collection of pins at $2 each and displayed them in a mixing bowl (also for sale). Several sold! Similarly, I had small shoe boxes filled with bracelets and beaded necklaces priced at $1 each.

Vintage items on display at small living estate sale

Here’s how I set up the bar in my kitchen using a crate and two easels to display artwork.

Vintage and antiques on display at a small living estate sale

I made good use of my kitchen table, covering it with a cloth and adding a onel-tier shelf to the center to create more space for display.

Vintage and antique merchandise displayed at a living estate sale

In the foyer, I used a folding sewing table to replace this table and hung a chalkboard (for sale!) where this mirror normally hangs.

A variety of vintage items being displayed at a living estate sale

This stepped display piece holds a lot of stuff. I placed it beneath our coat rack and hung a number of items from the rack, too.

Vintage artwork on display down a hallway.

Down the hallway from the foyer to the kitchen, I displayed numerous pieces of artwork.

Vintage artwork on display down a hallway.

Here you can see the artwork from the other end of that hallway.

Vintage furniture and other items for sale outside

I also made good use of our driveway and placed some furniture and larger pieces out there. What a blessing that the weather cooperated with blue skies and sunshine over the two days of the sale.

Vintage furniture and other items for sale outside

More stuff!

4. Block Off No-Go Zones

To prevent shoppers from wondering around the house I strategically placed tables and chairs to act as road blocks.

For example, I put a card table in the doorway to our family room, a small table between my office and the foyer, and a chair and garbage can to block off the kitchen from eat-in area. Below you’ll see how I blocked off our living room with a check-out table.

5. Set Up a Check-Out Area

My living room is immediately adjacent to the foyer, so I decide to place the check-out area in that space. I moved furniture out of the way, threw down a large drop cloth to protect the carpet, and placed an 8′ table in the entrance.

Check out area at living estate sale

Here’s how I set it up–near the front door for good flow. My sweet son served as cashier and he used a metal cash box that he took with him whenever he left the room. I hung a small business sign and provided newspaper for wrapping and bags to hold merchandise.

Video of Some Living Estate Sale Displays

1. Print: Facebook Marketplace & Craigslist

In your print ads, you want to distinguish your sale from typical household garage sales. You accomplish this by calling it an estate sale and by describing the types of vintage and antique items you’ll have available.

To avoid being misleading I called it a “mini-living” estate sale so buyers would get the idea that it wasn’t an entire house.

I started advertising on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist about seven days prior to the sale, including both photos AND videos, which I updated through the week. I didn’t buy newspaper or ads because they are expensive and I didn’t think they were necessary.

To give potential buyers an idea of my pricing, I made sure that my photos and videos were clear enough to allow them to see the prices. I think this can be enticing, especially if your prices are low.

With both FBMP and Craigslist, I posted twice–once at the beginning of the seven days and then again three days before the sale. Below you can read the written portion of my advertisement:

Facebook Marketplace & Craigslist Ad

Fantastic mini-living estate sale held by a vintage and antique seller who needs to de-hoard her garage. I’m opening boxes that haven’t seen the light of day in 10 years! Prices will knock your socks off–most are between 25¢and $5. 

Available items include vintage, antique, & some contemporary:
Books: $1 each
Frames: $1-2
Brooches: $2
Beaded Necklaces: $1
Artwork: $1-10
Linens: $1-3
Glassware: 25¢-$3
China: 25¢-$3
Kitchenwares: 25¢-$3
Other cool stuff!!!

Photos represent a small portion of what’s for sale. I’ll be opening boxes and setting up all week.
Sale is inside so entry is limited. 
Friday & Saturday, 11 am to 3 pm

2. Signage

I made signs using dollar store 11″ x 14″ poster board that comes in packages of six pieces. I used extra thick markers to make the signs that really stand out.

To keep things simple, I called it an “Estate Sale” and added a large arrow pointing in the direction of the sale. I put the dates and times at the bottom.

3. Balloons

I like to tie balloons to my mailbox to make it easy for shoppers to find the sale. I also think it sets a kind of festive tone for the event.

Secure Help

Particularly if you decide to hold a sale in your home and need to limit entrance, it makes it easier to run things if you have at least one helper.

While I ran the door, my sweet son acted as cashier; we really had a lot of fun together. On the second day, which was much slower, I relieved him of duty.

Decide on System for Letting Customers In

I was quite surprised (and not quite prepared) for the large number of people who began to gather outside my house before the start time (11 am–I am NOT a morning person, LOL).

When I went outside to tie balloons to my mailbox, I began chatting with the handful of ladies waiting in the driveway. One, a reader(!) and another a fellow seller at the Gristmill Antique Center, suggested I use the number system that many estate sale professionals use.

Since I had a large number of blank stickers (for pricing), I grabbed a bunch and wrote out 25 numbers and asked one of them to hand them out for me. By the time the sale started, they’d all been used and there was a long line of people waiting to shop 🙂

Because the area I had set up was limited, I only allowed ten people in the house at a time. I stood watch at the door and let new shoppers in as previous shoppers left.

The system worked very well.

Some Friendly Faces

To my great surprise and joy, several local gals who follow along with all my Adirondack Girl @ Heart antics attended the sale. I LOVED chatting with them and took selfies with four.

Thanks so much ladies for stopping buy; it was great to meet you!

Was It Successful?

I made $500 over the course of the two day sale and was pleased as punch. Everyone has different ideas of what success is–this was success for me.

In addition, I cleaned and organized my garage and made room that allows me to easily access supplies and merchandise.

Leftovers from small living estate sale

Despite having sold A LOT of stuff, I had plenty of leftovers, some of which you can see above.

I didn’t want to ever in this lifetime see any of these items ever again, so I boxed them all up and had it hauled to a thrift store. I pulled out a few items to sell via my normal outlets, but very few made the cut.

Talk about feeling free now that I’ve rid myself of some of the “weight” of all that stuff. Happily, I made enough room in my garage to hold future sales in one of the two bays. I call that success!

Take-Aways/What I Learned for Next Time

  • It takes a lot of work to get ready!
  • Be prepared with a number system for those who arrive early.
  • 11 am is not too late in the day to start a sale 🙂
  • A one day sale is sufficient.
  • I plan to hold more living estate sales in the future!


So how about it? Are you ready to hold a small, living estate sale to deal with your own “hoard?” If so, hope this article has helped you see your way forward. I’m extremely pleased with the results of the sale I held and can see myself holding more in the future.

Let me know in the comments if you’re thinking about planning your own living estate sale!

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How to hold a small living estate sale

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  1. This is a great idea! I’m a dealer as well, and having been trying to unload a lot of my stash recently at a local monthly auction, but that’s a slow process and results in very little money in my pocket after the fees. I’ve never had any type of garage sale, yard sale, etc., but I can’t wait to plan a living estate sale now for this summer. Thanks for the idea and tips!

  2. Diana, this made me want to do several things:
    1. Empty out drawers, cupboards, closets, shelves of ANYTHING I no longer notice or use.
    2. NEVER go anywhere I might be tempted to accumulate more things.
    3. Bow down to you in admiration for your organizational skills.
    4. Forbid you from accumulating any more stuff!
    Thank you for the tour, the instructions, and the inspiration to curb my desire to collect.

    1. Okay, that made me laugh out loud Jana!! So glad you’re feeling motivated, love the bow, but can’t promise I’ll be able to maintain #4–but I’ll try!!

  3. Your timing is impeccable. We just downsized significantly to a small cottage. Because our home we moved from sold much faster than anticipated (by word of mouth/never posted a sign in our yard nor did it make it to online sites), I didn’t have time to purge as I intended. I have so much stuff that got moved to our new home that I now need to get rid of. I may give this idea a go. Thanks for the great inspiration, instructions and pointers!

    1. You’re so welcome Lilli!! I’m glad my tips have inspired you–can’t wait to hear how your sale goes 🙂

  4. Nice article! Thank you ! Last weekend we had an outdoor “Dock Sale”, outside of the antique mall where I have a few booths. (Treasure Alley, Pier 11, Astoria, Oregon) I practiced a lot of the same things as you did with your mini estate sale. I got rid of a lot of stuff that has been stored in my carport and home, stuff that I bought years ago with the intention of selling, but never got around to it. Too much stuff! And as I learn more about what sells and as trends change, a lot of it I now know won’t sell at my booth. Lots of other vendors were selling too, so we had a nice variety of items, big and small, and lots of it. It was a warm, beautiful, sunny and windy day, and we were all spread out over a large area on the dock overlooking the Columbia River. Also, we chose to do it on a Sunday, the same day as the very popular Astoria Sunday Market. Lots of people in town with cash in their pockets, prepared to shop! It was a lot of work, but it was worth it. I priced smaller things by the table: I had a $.50 rack, a one dollar table, a two dollar table, a three dollar table, and a “priced as marked” table. I also sold a few outdoor chairs and two afghans. I cleared out a huge area of my carport, and I am determined not to fill it up again! Most of what I didn’t sell is going back to the thrift store, so I can feel good about donating to a charity. I made a couple hundred dollars, and am happy with that 😊

  5. Normally I would avoid your kind of sale like the plague, bc I’ve found that sales by antique dealers are usually way too high for my purse. So that’s why I loved your ad and especially approve of how you gave sample prices. Now that WOULD be a huge draw! I would definitely have been there had I lived closer. I think it’s a great idea to do what you did. Next time I need to de-hoard myself, I’m keeping this in mind.

    1. I hear you Florence–I typically avoid this type of sale as well. That’s why I was so keen on sharing prices, both written in the ads as well as in the photos I posted.

  6. Thank you! This is just what I needed to read! I live in an apartment, but I also have a separate garage.

    I have been considering selling a selection of items in a local consignment shop or thru/to a local estate dealer for an online auction. I would hold a mini-estate-sale like yours in my garage if it is allowed by the property management. I will save this blog post if I get the approval. Great timing!

  7. I appreciate your advice & articles! I find them all so informative & relatable. I took notes & plan on having a mini-estate sale down here in CT in a few weeks.

  8. I’m glad your sale was a success; wish I could have been there; I saw several things that I would have loved. I am busy washing, cleaning, ironing stuff I thrifted when we went to NH for my 50th UNH reunion this last week. Got numerous dollhouse treasures, several pieces of milk glass, and books for me!

    1. Thanks Kathy! Sounds like you had FUN attending your reunion–glad you found some great “stuff” 🙂

  9. As always your articles are superb and so helpful as I just closed down my vintage booth and have a lot to sell at home. Many thanks!!!!

  10. Hello Diana,
    Your article was very informative! I have been considering having a living estate sale. Can you give me more info on the forms of payment you accepted? I am only set up for cash and PayPal. Thank you for any information!

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