Sent to you by Chris Hunter via Google Reader:
We've shown you how to kick your clutter habit, but why trash all of those things you don't need when you could make some money off of them? In this guide, we'll walk you through how you can appraise your items, where to sell them to make the most cash, and how to avoid geting screwed in the process.
One of the reasons it's so hard to declutter is because we look at an item that we don't need and remember how much time or energy or cash it cost from us to obtain. Selling that stuff may not bring back the time or energy, but it can bring back some of the money—money you can put towards the things you really want, (or save for your future).
Of course, you could definitely donate your unwanted items to worthy charities that will accept them, and even get valuable tax deductions in the process while helping a good cause. But if you're looking to make a little more money back, that's what we're going to focus on here.
Table of Contents
- Choose What to Sell and Determine Its Value
- Electronics, Books, Video Games, and Computer Equipment
- Clothing and Apparel
- Toys and Children's Items
- Household Items and Small Appliances
- Furniture and Large Appliances
- Art, Collectibles, and Other Personal Items
- Go Forth and Sell, But Don't Get Screwed
Choose What to Sell and Determine Its Value
In 2005, Kyle MacDonald, a canadian blogger, rose to internet stardom thanks to some savvy appraisal skills and amazing bartering techniques. He started with one red paperclip, and managed to barter item for item until he ended up with a two-story farmhouse. His story is an amazing read, but all Kyle was really able to do is identify people who valued his stuff more than he did, and who had something valuable to him. Photo by Katherine Johnson.
This is the nature of appraisal and bartering. We're not going to suggest you barter all of the junk you want to get rid of, but we are going to talk about how you can look at the junk you think has no value at all and figure out how much it might be worth to someone who wants it. Here's how:
- Look up the item's retail value, brand new. The first thing to do is find out how much it would cost you to replace an item you want to get rid of. While you're searching, pay attention to how easy it is to obtain the item again. If you can't find the same item, look for reasonable, similar replacements and note how much they cost.
- Look up the item's sale value, used. Now look around at sale sites like Amazon, Craigslist, and eBay to see how much people are selling the same item for. Make a note of how much they're asking for, and what prices auctions close around. Also keep an eye on how many people are selling the item and what condition they're selling the item in.
- Then, determine your selling price. If you see the item widely available new but not available used, you may be able to sell your item easily as long as you price it well. In contrast, if you see the item is difficult to find new but widely available used, you may have a hard time selling unless you're willing to undercut everyone or the condition of your item is better than most. The same is true if an item is easy to find both new and used. However, if your item is difficult to find both new and used but sale prices are high, you may have something unusually rare and can price accordingly. Assess the condition of the thing you want to sell, compared to the sale listings you've seen, and set your price. Don't shoot for new retail unless you know your item is rare—your best bet is to use other used or sale prices are a barometer. Photo by Steve Snodgrass.
You can follow these steps for just about anything you want to sell, assuming you want to get the most possible money back for it. Remember, there are other factors to consider: if you're selling to someone online, you have to account for shipping and insurance. If you're selling locally, people may expect values because they're picking something up or taking it right off your hands.
Similarly, if you plan to sell at a garage, yard, or community sale, the culture may play a role in how much you can get—not just the value of the item. We've discussed some of these specifics before, and we'll offer item-specific tips later, but keep it in mind when you're appraising the things you want to clear out of your home.
Finally, remember: if you can find someone to whom the item you want to get rid of is extremely valuable, moreso than it is to you, make sure to get how much they think it's worth. That's what made Kyle's experiment a success.
Electronics, Books, Video Games, and Computer Equipment
We're no strangers to selling electronics, gadgets, and even video games for the most possible cash. Check out those guides for more detailed suggestions, but here's a crash course in your best options for consumer electronics:
- Amazon Marketplace has, far and away, the best overall selling experience. If you have an Amazon account, you can sell your unwanted electronics and consumer goods, and the site even helps you set pricing for your items and lets you note the condition of your item in your listing. The biggest benefit of using Amazon Marketplace though is that you get to attach your item directly to the Amazon listing for the product, so anyone shopping for it will see your used item listing along with new ones. If it's not available new, they'll still see it under "new and used." Just watch out for the cut that Amazon will take, which can be pretty steep. Photo by digitpedia.
- eBay, despite all of its changes over the years that have made the site far more hostile to sellers, is still a popular destination if you're looking to offload a ton of stuff. Price yourself close to or better than the competition and your item will be sure to sell. The only thing you have to watch out for is the fees that eBay takes from the sale of the item, and then you'll likely have to deal with PayPal to process payment for the item. You'll also need to carefully craft your listing to make sure it's easily found, eye-catching, and better than the competition. It's not difficult to do: all you need is a good photo, a well-written description, and some savvy timing. If your item is valuable, eBay is probably worth it. If you're selling small, cheap stuff, skip it or sell it on eBay as parts, targeted at DIYers and hackers who'll buy it and fix it up. You never know who'll be interested in your old gadgets.
Depending on what it is you're selling, you may be able to find specialty sites that are willing to make the process easier. We've mentioned a few for video games, and a few more for cell phones, but your best chance to make the most money is still with the big guys. You could also turn to Craigslist here since you can set your own price and no one takes a cut, but whether you'll waste months waiting for decent offers is impossible to guess. Craigslist is great for some things (as we'll see shortly,) but it's a crapshoot with small electronics.
Books are a bit of a special case. We still think Amazon and eBay are great avenues to get the most money back, but if you're selling textbooks, don't forget sites like Chegg and Half.com. Check out our guide to selling textbooks for more tips there. If you're looking for more places to sell your books, the five best places to buy cheap textbooks are a good starting point for sellers too.
Clothing and Apparel
Clothing can be a difficult sell. You have to hope that someone needs the size you have available and that someone is willing to pay what you're willing to sell. That doesn't mean you can't get some decent cash for them, you just have to set up shop in the right conditions. Here are a few suggestions:
- Etsy is well known and highly regarded as a great place to sell crafts and things you make yourself, but it's also a great place to sell clothing you already have. The community there is already looking for items like apparel and unique clothes, so it's a great place to put your own up for sale to see if you can get some good money for it. Photo by Maureen Didde.
- Threadflip is a relatively new site that shows a lot of promise. The community is bustling, and while the site does have some restrictions on the kinds of clothes you can sell, it's a great marketplace for your brand name and good-condition clothing.
- Craigslist lets you sell to your community directly instead of the internet at large. In some cases, that can work to your advantage, since more people in your community may be surfing Craigslist for bargains on things like children's clothes, but at the same time your audience will shrink. Again, your best bet here is to lot your items and sell them together.
- Organize a community sale, yard sale, or sell at a local market. Sometimes the best way to get the most money back is to avoid selling your item online entirely. With apparel, sometimes people just need to see it in order to buy it, and an item sold is better than an item cluttering up your home because the listing has been up on Craigslist for three months. Get together with your neighbors and organize a community sale for your block or apartment building. If you have a local message board or neighborhood community page, sell your items there—odds are people will be more likely to buy clothing directly from a neighbor, childrens and baby clothes especially.
- eBay is kind of a last resort here. If you can pimp your sale on your own, it might be worth it to draw attention to your clothing items. The trouble with eBay is that you depend on someone searching for your exact item or type of item to find yours and bid on it. Your best bet if you're going to use eBay is to bundle your clothing into lots and sell them all together. This works really well with children's and baby clothes.
There are tons of speciality and custom sites for selling clothes on the web, and they're worth exploring (you can grab some suggestions from this Quora thread.) You can also consider listing your clothing items on speciality clothing forums, subreddits (like /r/malefashionadvice), or message boards, if the listing fits.
Keep in mind that most of them have small communities, are targeted at specific markets (women's clothing, baby clothing, designer clothing, vintage clothing, etc), and thus have relatively small communities. Still, if you have a closet full of what those communities want, by all means sign up and sell.
Toys and Children's Items
We mentioned children's clothing, but toys and games also tend to sell fairly well, assuming we're not getting into collectibles and rare toys. Remember, do your research—especially with toys—before just throwing them up online somewhere, or else you may be selling a rare collectible for five bucks in a lot of "old toys" on Craigslist. As long as the items you have to sell are in good condition and not collectibles, here are some places to get decent cash for them:
- Amazon Marketplace is a great resource for selling toys and games, you might be surprised to know. Since they're items with clear names and descriptions, you can sell them easily as long as they're in decent condition and able to be boxed up and sent out. Action figures out of their packaging or a full playset that's been put together already might be a tougher sell, but if you have some games still in their boxes, puzzles, or small toys easily packaged, it's a great way to go. Again, just mind the selling fees. Photo by John Morgan.
- eBay has a wide audience of people looking specifically for individual toys and games at decent prices. If you do your research, it's also a great place to offload items that have become collectibles that you want to get rid of. Again, mind the fees from eBay and Paypal when you do this, and set your prices accordingly so you get the most bang for your buck.
- Host a community yard or garage sale, or look for local consignment shops. Selling toys online can be particularly rough—almost as much as selling clothing. There aren't too many sites dedicated just to buying and selling toys, but you may be able to organize a Family-to-Family sale in your community where parents can get together to swap and sell items they no longer need for their children (including clothing) for items they do need. Alternatively, local consignment shops that may be picky about clothing may be less so about toys and games. Hit up Yelp to find some near you that accept secondhand items and give them a call.
Expensive or rare collectibles are a bit out of scope for us here, but if you have something that's especially valuable, you'll hopefully find out when you do the research we suggested you do earlier. If that's the case, you can always eBay or Craigslist it for its appropriate value, but your better bet may be to find a real appraiser who specializes in that type of item and seek their advice on keeping it in good condition or selling it appropriately.
Household Items and Small Appliances
Small appliances like blenders, microwave ovens, kitchen gear, and even household small electronics like humidifiers, space heaters, vacuum cleaners, and other items are all great things to sell online. Selling them in person works too, but they often have specific model numbers that can be easily researched. You're better off putting them in the hands of someone who really wants exactly what you have. Also, selling them online offers you the broadest audience possible. Try these sites:
- Amazon Marketplace is perfect here because you can tie your item directly to an Amazon product listing, and we can't stress how beneficial that really is. When someone is researching specific models of appliance, they'll usually wind up at Amazon, and they'll see your listing. That's a huge benefit. Again, Amazon takes a huge cut for this because they know they're popular, so be warned. Photo by Chris Hunkeler.
Of course, yard sales, and community sales are an option here, but these types of items are more likely to hold their value than some others that people want to touch and feel before purchasing. You can definitely sell household items and electronics at a yard sale, but odds are you'll get the same or better money for them online.
Furniture and Large Appliances
Large appliances and furniture items break off from smaller household goods largely because they're next to impossible to ship—and even if you did ship them, it's unlikely the money you'd make from the sale would make them worth the shipping cost. In this case, offline methods rule. Here are a few to consider:
- Craigslist has all but replaced the newspaper classifieds (which isn't as lucrative, but worth checking) so it's a natural place to list large furniture items. Couches, entertainment centers, beds, dressers, even large TVs that you want to get a good price on but don't want to ship anywhere are perfect. Since you're selling to your neighbors and your local community, you can specify that you want the buyer to pick up the item. Everyone wins. Photo by The Living Room.
- Bring them to a community sale or flea market, or hold an open-house or moving sale. Flea markets, open-air markets, and neighborhood yard sales or community sales are a great way to offload furniture like old dressers, bed frames, and even large electronics you want to get a good price for. Culture may play a role in how much you make this way, and be prepared to haggle and negotiate. You'll also have to deal with the hassle of getting the item to the sale in order to sell it, but it might be worth it to deal with a large number of buyers and set your own price. Check Yelp for open-air markets in your area and see if they're willing to rent you a table for a weekend, or organize a collaborative sale with your neighbors for your block, community, or building. Together you'll be able to turn a tidy profit on some old large items. Alternatively, you can do it yourself and have an open-house moving sale, and let people come in and make offers on the things you want to get rid of. Just make sure to keep an eye on a bunch of strangers in your home, okay?
- Sell them at auction. Long before there were sites like Craigslist and eBay, most people who had a lot of large items to get rid of but didn't want to sell them in their yard would put them up at local auctions. The auction scene is still bustling, and there are plenty of sites that can help you find one near you. Auction Zip and the National Auction List can all help you find an auction by location or category. Once you've found one, you can reach out and find out how to list your items. Of course, the trouble with auctions is that they're auctions: you have no control over your final sale price, and it's a roll of the dice that the item will sell at all, much less for what you wanted to get. Still, it's a great option for large items, especially if they're in good condition.
Obviously, Craigslist gives you the most control here and we'd suggest going that route first. I can't count how many people have quickly sold large items on Craigslist and all they had to do was wait for the buyer to show up, take it away, and collect the money. Be careful though, it's not all roses.
Art, Collectibles, and Other Personal Items
Art and collectibles are tricky things to sell because you really want to make sure you get your item in front of someone who explicitly wants it. It's not impossible, but in this case it's absolutely critical that you do your homework before selling to properly judge its value. If you don't think you can do it alone, or if you're looking at something you know is antique but have no idea how much it's really worth, stop now and get it properly appraised by a professional. Photo by _e.t.
That professional can then give you some advice on where to sell your item to get the best result, or even work with you (for a cut of the sales price, of course) to get it in front of the people who are most likely to buy it, whether it's at auction or a private sale. If you have a lot of antiques, collectibles, or other items in your home you need to get rid of, consider holding an estate sale to get rid of it all quickly.
Go Forth and Sell, But Don't Get Screwed
If you've been following along, you should have options to sell all of your excess junk for the most possible money. Remember, the best way to sell furniture isn't necessarily the best way to sell electronics, and that's not the best way to sell books or clothing. Regardless of what you sell and where you sell, check out our tips to avoid getting scammed to make sure your transaction goes as smoothly as possible. Photo by Quazie.
Similarly, we have some useful tips to help you craft the perfect listing, get all the details right, and avoid coming off like a scammer yourself so your listings get the most attention and sell quickly. Selling on Craigslist deserves its own guide since it's so easy to get screwed selling there. If you're buying on Craigslist, we have some tips there too. Do your homework, appraise properly, and pick the right venue for the right gear, and you'll make some good money from the things that either have no value to you, or you know you could just do without. In the end, you'll have a cleaner, clutter-free home and money you can use to buy the things you really want, spend on the important things in life, or spend on experiences instead of things.
Title photo by Dustin and Janae DeKoekkoek.