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Is It Worth the Time to Sell Your Stuff?

by Emily Guy Birken

As the weather warms and spring flowers start blooming, all over the country people find themselves suddenly feeling the urge to purge. That’s right, along with other, more outdoorsy exercise, the return of the sun brings on a fever of spring cleaning. But once you’ve de-cluttered the guest room closet, convinced your husband to let go of some of his old comic books, and cleaned your house within an inch of its life, what do you do with all the usable stuff that you no longer want? Holding a garage sale is an age-old spring activity, but it’s time-intensive and vulnerable to changes in the weather. Some places even prohibit garage sales. Donating is a possibility, but it would be nice to put away some money for your stuff. So what’s the best option?

How to sell or donate your stuff

1. Sell your stuff online. If you have big ticket or rare items, it will be worth your time and patience to sell it on Craigslist, eBay, or even Amazon.com. You will earn a great deal more from these sites than you would by selling your items in a traditional garage sale. For example, remember when bread machines were all the rage 15 or 20 years ago? There is still a cult following of machine bread bakers, and they may want the bread machine you used twice and haven’t thought about since. A quick search on eBay shows that even parts are going for around $10-$20 plus shipping, which is far more than you would get for the machine in a garage sale. Who knows what other treasures you have in your pantry, closet or basement that a dedicated internet shopper might happily pay you for?

As a rule of thumb, eBay is the best place to sell rare or unusual items, Craigslist is good for large items that would be easier to sell to a local purchaser who can pick up, and Amazon is the right site for more generic items like CDs, DVDs and books. Here are some tips for selling your car on Craigslist.

2. Sell to secondhand stores. For clothing and books, selling to second hand stores can be a great option. National chains like Plato’s Closet, as well as locally owned clothing resale shops, will take gently used good quality clothing for either cash or store credit. For individuals who like to stay on top of clothing trends, this is a wallet friendly way to look good every season. Avid readers will also find that selling to secondhand book stores can help with their book addictions. Similar to clothing stores, bookstores will offer cash or store credit for your unwanted books.

3. Donate to a charity. Some stuff simply isn’t worth your time to sell—and charities like Goodwill, the Salvation Army or a local church group will be able to do a lot of good with your unwanted items. Remember that these charities are looking for salable items, not junk, and you should always ask for a receipt. Even donating can help your bottom line come tax time.

4. Give away for free. For the stuff that you know a charity would not be able to resell, there is always freecycle.com. If you’re like me, you hate to think about something languishing in a landfill just because it doesn’t look too pretty anymore. Freecycle.com is a great resource for such items—everything posted is completely free and you can feel good about helping another individual and the environment. The best part is that freecycle etiquette calls for the recipient to pick up the item, meaning you can just sit back and watch your home become less cluttered.

Bonus tip: Read this interview with Adam Baker, author of the popular eBook, “Sell Your Crap.” In this 4 part series, complete with over 110 screenshots, Adam breaks down the art of selling your stuff into a science. He used these methods to sell virtually everything he and his wife owned so they could travel halfway across the world. More importantly, you can use these tips to turn your clutter into cash.


Published or updated March 30, 2011.
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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Pat S.

I guess it depends on the stuff. If you are talking about old clothes, then it probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to go through the effort, but expensive items or collectibles can often yield a premium in the marketplace.

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2 K.C.

Selling has gotten to be very difficult on eBay. I think it is due to hard times. Competition is stiff which trends prices down. This is good for buyers but not so much for sellers. We have gotten some great deals on eBay as buyers in the last six months, but have not made a lot for our effort as sellers.

Garage sales are easy for us. We live just a block and a half off of a main drag in our part of town. We simply put out a sign announcing our sale the morning of the sale and we get lots of traffic right away. We don’t do any other advertising. We don’t price our items. We negotiate all prices. We sell most of the stuff we are going to sell in two to three hours. The rest goes to Goodwill.

The lesson we learn whenever we sell our junk is that we get very little for it in relation to what we paid for it. It has made us more careful shoppers.

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3 Crystal

In addition to the great tips above, all of us in the second half (50+) should consider passing along our heirlooms now, if possible. You can lighten your own load and let the beneficiary enjoy an item for more years. Just be sure that your heir actually wants the item in question, has space and can care for it.

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