It’s a new year, so that means it’s time for new beginnings. Time to finally tackle those things you’ve been putting off, like home improvements and getting your duff to the gym. But were you also putting off doing a REAL thorough decluttering of your home? Better yet, how about tackling some of your new year’s financial resolutions by getting money for some of the stuff you want to get rid of?
You could be sitting on thousands of dollars and not even know it. I’ve been selling on eBay since 2005 and it’s my preferred platform for selling things I’m not using, but it’s not the only method out there. We have tons of new apps and websites out there now and the old-fashioned garage sale or community tag sale are still options in many communities.
Whether your style is loading up a table or taking pictures for your app of choice, here’s what you need to know about taking actionable steps to get cash for your clutter!
First, determine what’s actually going to be worth selling.
This part can be a little difficult when you don’t have obviously high-value items for sale like new-ish electronics or fine jewelry. Is that dress you dropped over $100 for at a high-end department store a sought-after treasure that will get bid up like crazy on eBay, or SO last year and it would sell for $5 at Goodwill?
Run a cursory search of completed listings on eBay, then check if similar products are being sold on Amazon. How long do they sit on the market for?
Even then, it can be a bit of a wild card. I listed a pair of Vans skate shoes on eBay that I saw get bid up pretty high before then they got barely $10 when all was said and done. Then I’ve had some garments shockingly go for large amounts of money when they so would’ve sold for less at a thrift store or on consignment.
As a rule of thumb, the harder time you’re going to have getting rid of something if it’s super heavy and hard to ship, or it’s not the right time of year relative to demand (like selling Halloween costumes in February), the less money you’re going to get overall.
It’s up to you and your personal constraints as to the minimum you’ll accept for your time, labor, and if applicable, gas costs in getting things sold and shipped. (Or in the case of tag sales, lugging it with you to set up at the table.) Whatever you can’t sell, and that isn’t going to be given to someone IMMEDIATELY? Donate it. Drop it in that charity bin or arrange for a pickup, and don’t think about it again.
Because when you’re too focused on re-homing things that still have utility, that’s how clutter accumulates.
It’s okay to prioritize your time, capabilities, and other constraints if you’re not zeroed in on making a profit.
Some items you want to get rid of will also only be worth a few bucks at the most and potentially not worth the time it’s going to take make an online listing unless you have an infrastructure in place for this (e.g. listing templates, a job where you’re unsupervised for a few hours a day) and it doesn’t take much time.
Selling an item directly on an app like eBay, Mercari, Poshmark, or Wallapop may save you fees and/or get you a little more than say, going to an eBay Store or in the case of selling clothes, going to a place like Buffalo Exchange or sending a bag to ThredUp.
If you’re a bit of a clotheshorse and know how much these items are worth on various marketplaces, you might want to hold onto things and hold out on just getting rid of them. For instance, I’m an expert in various alternative clothing brands and know that some pieces will get a SHITLOAD of money if they’re in good condition. Some of the pre-owned pieces ironically get even more than ones that still have the tags. But then I have things that are typical mall brands which aren’t likely to sell as well, and when I’ve got a busy month of writing and game-making up ahead– I’m only going to make listings for those rare and expensive items. I won’t hesitate to get pennies on the dollar making a cleanout bag for ThredUp, I’m lucky to get enough for a cup of coffee after filling a boulder-sized bag but I do it for the de-cluttering more than the payoff.
But if you’re in a tight spot financially, you’re just going to have to do a little more legwork to prepare those listings.
How to Make Top-Notch Product Listings Selling Crap Around Your House
Whether you use eBay, Poshmark, Wallapop, or other platforms, here are some tips to keep in mind.
- Take clear photos, a few of them from different angles. It doesn’t need to be catalog quality and most phone pics will be just fine. If you have black garments or items and the lighting isn’t the best, turn the flash off on your phone if auto-flash is making the pictures come out bad.
- Don’t use a stock photo as your featured thumbnail in your eBay or Mercari listing. “Real” photos prove you own the item and aren’t randomly drop-shipping it, or trying to scam the buyer out of their money.
- Provide dimensions/measurements. This is going to save you a TON of back and forth oversizing and trying to contextualize how this item would fit in with their needs.
- If you’re selling a well-known product or something that has a pre-filled product description, such as a DVD set or a specific model of phone or computer, try to include or link to that information.
- Be prepared to ship that item (if you’re not doing a local pickup or sale). Save boxes from online orders or get free ones from the post office. Those Priority Mail waterproof mailers are great for things like sweaters and jeans, and their medium and large flat rate boxes are perfect for selling shoes, jackets, and other heavy items. If you have lots of lighter items, consider buying some bubble mailers or polyurethane ones in bulk because it’s going to save a lot of money compared to getting them at Staples or purchasing individually from UPS or the post office.
Save heavy items for tag sales or apps that offer local pick-up, but tread with caution.
Some items just aren’t suited to eBay: it’s one thing to expose an easily-portable collectible or garment to millions of buyers around the world then put it in a small box, it’s a different story if it’s a large item like an appliance, medical device, or even something like shoes where it’s going to cost at least $20 to ship and the buyer isn’t going to want to cover it.
If a garage or tag sales aren’t really a thing where you live, you can still make a “local pick-up” only listing on eBay. However, if you don’t want to pay the fees involved just to have to do a ton of work to get it moving anyway? There are other options like a Craigslist ad or using location-based apps like Wallapop.
In my experience, the biggest problem with these two modes of sale is that there’s more back and forth involved than an eBay listing. At least when a buyer asks about the item on eBay, you can post your answer to the question so every potential buyer can see it. You can find yourself having to answer the same question repeatedly when multiple people contact you on Craigslist or through Wallapop, just to find yourself arguing over price THEN trying to figure out when and where to meet up– if at all.
You need to be careful with people knowing where you live, and try to meet in a public place where it’s well-lit and you can do the exchange quickly and simply. It goes without saying that women sellers have to worry about this far more, and it’s even worse when it’s something you can’t easily move from your home at all.
While I didn’t face many safety risks trying to sell a few items on Craigslist, I did get this annoying Iliad-sized email thread about a pair of BCBG heels from my old corporate wardrobe over the course of a week. I answered every single question then when I followed up, I suddenly got “Oh, sorry, I’m having major car repairs done and don’t have money for shoes.”
Threw them on eBay and got $20 before fees, and no further questions or drama.
Had similar interactions with Wallapop. Because you’re only exposed to buyers where you live–supposedly–if your neighbors don’t have the same taste or needs as you, it’s just not going to move at all. Then what DOES move is going to be like putting jeans on a seal. I’d just rather get my $10 for those London Underground tights I never wore and pop them in a mailbox then go back to my life, than sitting with a latte growing colder and colder at the Starbucks near the train station waiting for the buyer to show up.
So I’d save this hassle only for heavy items you cannot sell otherwise. Flakes are going to waste more time than creating listings and UX errors EVER will.
If you’re getting rid of busted electronics, specialty resellers will make this easier on you than manually trying this on eBay, Craigslist, and sundry.
E-waste is a serious problem. 20-50 million tons of e-waste are disposed of every year because of horrendous business practices like planned obsolescence and just plain making a shitty product people are stuck using to function day-to-day.
Lucky for you, there are ways to mitigate it with select recyclers and refurbishers who will buy your old phones, tablets, and laptops and scrap them for useful parts so you don’t have to attempt this yourself or just throw the whole thing in a landfill.
Here’s a list of places I’ve used, in no particular order:
- Laptop Nuts
There’s so many more out there, but these are the top three places I used at various points in time to get rid of laptops that bricked and obsolete electronics I didn’t want to just sell for parts on eBay.
The reason you should go with these places instead of trying to manually sell it yourself is because when you have a SUPER hot item, like the very latest iPhone, you’re going to inevitably get someone who doesn’t read the listing and wants to file a claim against you “because the product doesn’t work”. More tech-savvy buyers who know what they’re doing with broken electronics will suddenly say “I only got one useful part!” then try to get a partial refund out of you, which happened when I sent some shitty old Android phone overseas. THAT was annoying to deal with.
These services that specialize in reducing e-waste from bricked electronics will name their price upfront after you input your make, model, and condition. You don’t like it, you can try another place. Sometimes, you’ll have to. SellBroke had been my go-to throughout grad school for the various bottom-of-the-line laptops my broke ass could afford back then, but I discovered Laptop Nuts when SB wouldn’t take a netbook that bricked.
They name the price then you’ll get a shipping label and receive your money once they have the item. You don’t have to do all that legwork in trying to make the sale or haggling over it. You decluttered and got cash, which is what we want.
Sell your unwanted gift cards with a specialty dealer like Raise.com.
Gift cards that fit in your wallet, or your inbox, might not be causing as much clutter as the other things that are forming this morass around your living space. But if you’re not using it and want the cash because it’s just not sparking joy and you know you’ll never spend it, you’ll want to go to a specialized market for gift cards.
Why is this? Because yours truly used to sell unwanted or unused gift cards on eBay, and 95% of the buyers were good about paying for it and using it as intended. That 5% of bad actors on eBay completely fucking ruined this by doing things like insist on the gift card numbers after payment to use it online, spending it, then reporting to eBay that the gift card has a $0 balance and PayPal taking their side…so you’re out both the gift card and money you could’ve gotten.
I’ve had issues with gift cards I bought from Raise because retailers wouldn’t take e-gift cards I printed. The worst was finding that the balance had been invalidated because the seller used a stolen credit card to pay for a bunch of random gift cards and it wasn’t discovered until the sale of those cards was made. Because this happened so rampantly, Raise instituted stronger security standards and a 1-year guarantee on gift cards purchased through the platform.
Because of this verification process, you don’t get cash as quickly through Raise as you used to for both egifts and physical cards. But you still get some cash for something you weren’t using, and without the stress that comes with trying to sell it on another platform for less than the face value. They frequently offer coupon codes to buyers, so you just might be able to sell for the face value and get it!
You got options for getting rid of shit you’re not using and getting paid for it. And remember: don’t go out of your way to rehome it because this is how the clutter keeps coming back. Yes, this applies to that ugly-ass statue your mom gave you that you didn’t want. Buy her a nice lunch and let her down gently. If “but someone could use this” is holding you back, remember that the curb has more shoppers than Amazon!
Rachel Presser is a crazy toad lady from the Bronx who was exiled to New Jersey, spending a significant chunk of her youth where all the hideous 1970s couch covers and avocado shag carpeting went to die. Upon escaping the sea of brown and founding Sonic Toad Media, she decided to devote her time to writing from the fantastically-preserved Googie artifacts in LA and former speakeasies in Chicago, to forging new game worlds in the tea lounges of Taipei and Tokyo. She can be found at game jams, hardcore shows, vaporwave dance parties, and petting amphibians on a sensible corner loveseat.