Table of Contents
- Sell Items Online
- Tips for Selling Items on Online Marketplaces
- What is your motivation for selling?
- Write a thorough description
- Take a lot of photos
- Price your items reasonably
- Be flexible
- Safety first
- Have a Yard Sale
- How to Decide What to Sell
- Involve the Entire Family
- Turn an Empty Room into a Hobby Business
- Final Thoughts on Profitably Cleaning Up Your House
With warm weather arriving you’re probably getting that spring cleaning itch. Not only will spring cleaning remove clutter from your home, but you can actually make money by cleaning up your clutter.
Spring and summer are a great time to clean out your house and earn money for your troubles. You can end up with more money in your pocket and a cleaner, less cluttered home space. Here are some spring cleaning tips to get going.
Sell Items Online
The easiest way to make money from cleaning is to have someone buy your stuff. For some of the better items, selling online can be more profitable than selling it at a yard sale. Here are a few sites you can use to sell items online.
Almost everyone I know has purchased something from Amazon. Did you know you can sell items on Amazon as well? For the longest time, you’ve been able to go to an item’s page and select “Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon.” You then put in a description of the item and it will show up under the Used item listings on Amazon’s page. (I’ve bought and sold many textbooks in my time using this method.)
However, Amazon now offers a service similar to eBay’s Instant Sale. You can trade-in items for Amazon gift cards. Not all items are eligible, but many are (including books). A 3rd party purchases the items and turns around and sells them, but you’re getting instant cash this way as well.
There’s always Craigslist. The downside to Craigslist is you can get a lot of “tire kickers” or people that want to haggle once they’re standing in front of you. The upside to Craigslist is you’re dealing with local users and don’t have to worry about shipping. You can also sell a large number of items, not just electronics or books.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of eBay — “the world’s largest garage sale” — but there might be some aspects of selling there that you haven’t heard of. Of course, you can go on and list your item via the traditional auction method and hope the price gets bid up. If you want to get a certain amount for your item (for example, what you think you might be able to sell it for in a garage sale or what you think is close to the item’s value) you can put in a reserve. To figure out how much money you’ll get after eBay and PayPal fees, make sure to use a great online calculator.
eBay has a less stressful way you can sell items, too. It’s called eBay Instant Sale. With this section of the website you put in what item you want to sell (usually electronics) and its current condition (brand new, used with no scratches, etc.). A price quote pops up you can choose to accept or not. If you accept it you put your item in a box, print a free shipping label, and send it off to eBay. The item is inspected, and if it is as you described it originally, you get paid.
Facebook makes it easy to take photos of your items and list them right from your phone. You also have the benefit of being able to look at the potential buyer’s profile before deciding if they are someone you feel comfortable meeting with. This has saved me a lot of time and stress!
Tips for Selling Items on Online Marketplaces
If you’ve never sold items online, you should know a few things before listing everything you own. Writing a good listing is part of the battle, and so is knowing what to list.
My basic rule of thumb is that if it isn’t worth $20 or more, it probably isn’t worth my time trying to sell it. My other rule of thumb is to price things at such an attractive price that it gets people’s attention quickly (more on pricing in a moment).
What is your motivation for selling?
Is your primary motivation for selling your items on Craigslist to clear space or make money? If your primary goal is to make money, you should price your item close to the listed price of similar items in your area.
If your primary motivation is to clear space, you should be more aggressive with your pricing. When my wife and I moved to a new home, I priced everything aggressively – often at around 50-75% of the price for similar listings. The goal was to clear these items out as quickly as possible, not maximize our revenue.
Write a thorough description
I try to list as many details about the item as I can. If you are selling a batch of items, list everything and describe the quality, quantity, manufacturer, model number, or other details that could help someone make a decision.
Another tip is to link to the manufacturer’s website or an online review. These listings often have the original manufacturer’s price, which can help you 1) determine the price you should sell the item for (more on this in a moment), and 2) show people a reference point for value. Thankfully, thousands of review sites list model specifications for just about anything – even products that are a few years old.
Take a lot of photos
Pictures often tell more than words. Upload the best picture first. This will be the photo the marketplaces use for the main image. You want something that will grab a buyer’s attention and make them click for more information. You can also keep some high-resolution photos in reserve and offer to e-mail them to the potential buyer upon request.
Price your items reasonably
A reasonable price means different things to different people, they mainly want to see that they are saving a good bit of money by buying it off of Craigslist rather than in a store. I tend to price things to sell because I want to get them out of my house with as little hassle as possible. Almost no one haggled with me on price because the prices were already such a good value.
There is no set rule of thumb for how much you should charge. For example, I sold one guitar for about 60% of what it would cost new and another for about 33% of what it would cost new. Both guitars were in excellent condition and were high quality – the difference, however, was the demand for each style and brand. We sold other items for much less than we could have gotten had we taken more time to sell them. But again, our motivation was clearing space and weight for our upcoming move.
As I mentioned, almost no one haggled on price – but I was willing to negotiate when necessary. One example was selling a batch of military gear. My wife and I both served several years in the military, and we had a few bags full of old uniforms, boots, jackets, cold weather gear, and other miscellaneous uniform items and gear. I divided everything into a few lots, priced it reasonably, and received an inquiry from someone who wanted to buy everything within a day. I added up the cost of all the lots, knocked off about 20% on the price, and met him halfway between our homes (he lived an hour and a half away).
He was planning on reselling everything on eBay and mentioned he should be able to double his money. It was a perfect deal on both ends – I got rid of a ton of stuff in one transaction with little hassle, and he will probably double his money or possibly more. I could have made more money by piecing everything out, but my motivation differed from his.
I gave out my home address to quite a few people over the last few days, which I realize isn’t something everyone would be willing to do. I normally recommend meeting someone in a public place if possible. However, sometimes that isn’t easily done, especially with large items like furniture or items that require electricity (such as the electric guitars I sold).
If you must invite someone into your home, it’s best to have someone else be there. And if you don’t feel comfortable, don’t hesitate to cancel the meeting or ask someone to leave – you are under no obligation to sell something if you don’t want to.
Have a Yard Sale
Running a yard sale can help you get rid of just about anything you want. The larger of variety of items you have, the more likely you will draw a crowd. Running a yard sale well is a bit more complicated than sticking signs in the ground in front of your neighborhood.
Here are some quick yard sale tips:
- Get your friends and neighbors involved to have a multi-family garage sale. This will draw a larger number of customers.
- Advertise well. Post on Craigslist and Facebook when the sale is. Get your friends to share it with their friends.
- Put price stickers on everything. When you’ve got 20 or more people walking in your driveway it can be difficult to remember what you said you would sell an item for. Get small-price stickers and stick them in inconspicuous places — on the bottom of items or on the tags for clothing care.
- Have cash on hand to make change, and make sure you have enough. All it takes is someone giving you a $20 to wipe out all of your spare cash, leaving you unable to make change for the next customer.
How to Decide What to Sell
Deciding what to sell can be a painful and emotional process. You might be fond of an item because your Grandmother gave it to you before she passed away or because you just spent so much of your hard-earned money on it.
To pick what goes and what stays, try to remove your emotional bias from the equation. Come up with a process and stick to it. Do all items that haven’t been used in 6 months go (aside from seasonal clothing)? Or maybe everything that hasn’t been used in 12 months? Should you sell the most valuable things because you need the cash? It can be hard to be honest with yourself, but a lot of the stuff you end up keeping with the best intentions of using will be sold in next year’s yard sale. Avoid that fate by selling it today. If you end up really needing it you can always go out and buy another one.
Involve the Entire Family
The selling and de-cluttering of your home shouldn’t be a one-person operation. Get everyone involved – from your children to your spouse. Be flexible on keeping an item if needed, but everyone can’t claim that everything that could be sold is now their favorite item. If your kids are old enough, get them involved in taking pictures of items and listing them online. Or let them make changes at the garage sale or negotiate with potential buyers. Teach them what to do with the money that is earned from the sale: does it go into savings or does part of it get applied to the next major vacation? These are good money lessons for them to learn as well.
Turn an Empty Room into a Hobby Business
You could also turn an empty room into a place where you do a hobby that turns into a business. You could sell your wares on Etsy or start freelancing online.
Final Thoughts on Profitably Cleaning Up Your House
If you are looking to simply sell your stuff for cash there is less risk with sites that give you an instant price quote for your item, but you can expect to get less money for the item. It’s a trade-off between simply getting an instant amount of money for your item versus hoping the price gets bid up higher or someone will buy it at a garage sale for more. Nonetheless, you won’t be able to sell everything online — nor at prices you want — so having a garage or yard sale is another method to help you get rid of everything from clothes to electronics to furniture.
Photo credit: KOMUnews