Do you have a lot of stuff to get rid of? Several years ago, when I made a big move from Cincinnati to Chicago, I pretty much sold everything I owned online, including my car. Whether you’re de-cluttering in an effort to live more simply, preparing for a big move or even just looking to find some extra cash, here’s how I did it.
1. Decide if it’s worth selling. Growing up, we often held garage sales to pass along stuff that still had a useful life, but I lived in an apartment – no garage available. So I had to be a bit more discerning about what I would go through the effort to sell. My criteria was that I had to get at least $20 for each item. I put anything worth less in a pile in an empty corner of my apartment to eventually document and donate to charity.
2. Choose the best market. I considered three different places to sell: consignment, eBay or Craigslist. Here’s how I decided.
Consignment: This is where I took any brand name clothing and higher end furniture. It’s definitely the easiest option. You drop your stuff off and pick up a check a couple months later. The downside is that you have to pay a commission, sometimes up to 50% of the selling price, but that can still be worth it.
There are lots of apps that help with this too. Poshmark is one I’ve used for brand name clothing. It’s just not as much of a sure thing.
eBay: It’s best for collectibles, in-demand accessories and some electronics – items that people will compete to buy. To figure out pricing, search for similar items and price accordingly to sell. Keep in mind that your item must be new or like-new or it probably won’t sell on this platform.
Craigslist: It’s best for just about anything, as long as you’re willing to spend the time! Best of all, it’s free. Speaking of free, if you have stuff that’s pretty worthless or that you don’t want to haul to a donation center, the free category is a quick way to get someone else to do your hauling. Just be prepared. Your phone or email will light up as soon as you post, so only list when you’re ready for people to come and pick stuff up at that moment.
3. Use best practices for selling online. Here are the guidelines I used when creating listings:
Write a winning headline. Avoid using ALL CAPS or lots of exclamation points. Think about what words you would search for when looking for the item and put them in the headline.
Take photos that sell. Include one full-length of your item and a few close-ups. If you’re selling brand-name stuff, include a picture of the label.
Use clear descriptions that include measurements and bulleted features.
Know your price but prepare for haggling if selling on Craigslist. My very first sale, I had a guy talk me down to 50% of my asking price by the time he walked out the door with my dining room set. That’s still on my list of top 5 regrets in life. List for $5-$10 more than you really want for smaller items, more if you’re listing for several hundred dollars.
4. Take care with Craigslist. There’s a reason that most of my buyers brought their mom or significant other with them when I invited them to my apartment to pick things up, but that shouldn’t preclude you from using the website to make some money from your stuff. Here’s what I kept in mind:
Keep a spreadsheet. Mine included the item, listing price, date posted and the email address of the first three people who inquired. I learned very quickly that people say they want something then don’t show, so it was good to be able to reach out to the next person in line without digging through deleted emails. Plus it allowed me to track how much I made, which was fun.
Be clear on delivery in your item listing. I always included guidelines for pick-up so that no one even bothered to ask if I would deliver: “If interested, you are responsible for picking it up from a mutually agreed-upon location. Pick-ups available M-F 6–8 PM or weekends.”
Expect at least one scam/spam per item. For every item I listed, I received at least one person asking me to click on an attachment and complete more information (don’t click on this stuff!) or offering to wire me money if I only shared my bank account. Real people who want your stuff are going to send normal emails asking things like, “Is this still available?” To be sure, Google the person’s name.
But be flexible. I had a shower curtain that was part of a collection that had been discontinued and a guy in California emailed asking if I’d take a PayPal payment for the price plus shipping. He was willing to pay me before I shipped, so I knew it wasn’t a scam. Just don’t give anyone your bank account number.
And stay open to selling other stuff. I had a lady come to my apartment to pick up a piece of furniture (I always had someone there with me) who ended up walking out with all my bed linens, bath towels and an old vacuum. She saw my pile of donations in the corner and asked if I was selling that stuff too, so I said sure. She collected what she wanted and made me an offer. The lesson here: keep your donations visible if you’re having people come to your house since you never know when your trash could be their treasure!
5. Make the most of your donations. If you’re taking a big load to a thrift store, take the extra time to document and get the receipts. It’s the easiest way to boost your tax savings.
With a little time and organization, you may be surprised by how much your unwanted stuff can net. I was able to pay my last month’s rent with my sales! That’s not too bad for stuff I wanted to get rid of anyway.
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