How to make money off decluttering your house: a video question from Dootsiebug

Updated Oct 12 2015
Offbeat Home & Life runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter.

THANK YOU GUYS for your help on my question about rooting out plastics in my home. I'm going to sit down this weekend and use your advice to come up with some strategies to reduce the plastics I buy in food packaging.

Today Dootsie has a question. If you follow along with comments on Offbeat Home's posts, you've probably run into her. AND NOW WE GET TO SEE YOUR FACE, DOOTSIE! Is it weird that I am very, very excited about this?

Hey Homies, it's Dootsie. I have a question for you guys and I'm hoping you'll be able to help.

I have a lot of STUFF. I'm hoping to be able to get it out of my house, and maybe make some money off of it! What avenues do you guys have for selling things? Any advice you have for getting rid of things and all encouraging stories you have would be WONDERFUL.

Any help you can give me would be great. Thank you!

Good God, I need advice on this, too. I fail at Craigslist. Looking forward to what y'all have got!

AND HEY! If you'd like to submit a video question, pop me an email: cat@offbeatempire.com.

  1. I am eager to see what people say here! I'm in the same process right now – I'm planning to go to law school this fall which will involve both moving and /seriously/ downsizing, so I'm really working on getting rid of all the extra stuff around the house. I've had luck selling appliance-y and furniture type stuff on Craigslist (finally got rid of that bike and breadmaker that weren't getting used!) but less luck at selling things like clothes, accessories or fabric-y things (including some Vera Bradley purses, which rather surprised me!). I've thought about venturing into eBay but the thought of figuring out the cost of packaging and shipping for tons of items sounds terrifying! I've got an aversion to garage and yard sales tracking from when my mother would always complain about the lady down the street who had a garage sale a few times a year when I was growing up.
    I have heard great things about swap meets, which I'd normally be interested in, but since I'm trying to set aside money in savings for when I'm living on school loans, I'm really looking for opportunities for selling. Can't wait to see what other people have done.

    • I have bought and sold off of Craig's list a lot and I NEVER buy anything made of fabric or plush because I worry about bed bugs. It just grosses me out.

    • I send my clothes, bags, shoes, etc to consignment. The consignment store I go to is really great, they don't expect you to do anything with the clothes. Just bring them in. They sort, wash & sell. Whatever doesn't sell in 30 days gets donated to charities like Dress for Success and local woman's shelters.

    • Ebay (here in Australia, at least) offers deals with our post provider for flat postage. eg 3 kg in a special ebay envelope is a flat, reduced rate.

      We also have a post calculator on our post provider's website where you can enter one towns post code / zip code, the weight and dimensions of the package and it will say how much it costs for post.

  2. For modern electronics and Media I use gazelle.com

    As a crazy up-cycler I use a lot of my would-be throw aways to make and sell things (etsy, craft fairs, etc)

    Amazon market place can be good, and ebay too depending on the item. My one tip fo ebay, if it's not going to be a regular thing for you, is sign up as a seller and then wait for the notice of their free-listings day. There is usually at least one per month and you can list items outside the normal "free listing" definition, sometimes as many as 100, but you have to do them all the same day.

    For bigger ticket, nicer things, be sure to check out your local consignment shops (this involves a huge amount of patience though – at least for me).

    Also, if part of your reason for wanting to sell things is so you can buy new/different things, consider hosting a swap party. Theme it: clothing, housewares, craft supplies, etc and then get friends together to trade items. When you're done you will have, hopefully, less of your OLD STUFF in your home, cool NEW STUFF, and the option to donate or continue to try to sell any leftover stuff.

    • I just discovered gazelle.com and sold some dvds on there. I should be getting my first check next week. You won't make a ton, but if they're just sitting in your house (or in a box under the bed for 6 months like mine were), that's a bit of extra money in your pocket.

  3. Take good, clear pictures if posting online. It helps if your post is organized, like when selling an electronic item – list the specs, details of the condition it is in (definitely list any scratches, dings or cracks), only accept cash if selling on craigslist, and be realistic about the price you are setting. Gazelle is great if you don't have a lot of time, but they give you *maybe* 50% of what you could get if you sold your item online. If you live in a larger area, craigslist can be useful, but just watch out for people trying to scam you.

    With that said, when my husband and I move across the country, we sold ALL of our furniture. He listed everything on craigslist and managed to sell 90% of the things he listed. He priced them at about 60% – 80% of their new value, I believe, depending on how new and how expensive the items were. Most of our stuff came from IKEA and was in great condition, so that probably helped.

  4. Maybe because I'm more of a pat rack by nature I usually find it too intimidating to go through everything and pick stuff to get rid of. Instead I have a box that sits in the corner and whenever I come across something I'm never going to use but don't want to throw out/recycle it goes in there. Then when the box gets full I sort it into 'ebay' 'charity shop' 'freecycle' and so on and dispose of it appropriately.

    When it comes to selling stuff I really only use ebay so I'll be interested to find other routes. I find it easier to give myself time to list everything I want to sell rather than doing odd things now and again because creating listings can take time but once you get into the swing of things it's much faster (and if you've got many similar items you can re-use the same listing).

    I also like to put things up on a Wednesday afternoon on a 10 day listing because it gives people longer to see it and it'll end on a Saturday afternoon, which increases the chances that people will be at home ready for last-minute ninja bidding. (Which pushes the price up, especially since people might go over their intended limit on impulse, whereas if they stick to a pre-set limit it's more likely to be a sensible, lower amount.)

  5. Depending on where you are, yard sales! We love them here in the south, and it's the best way to clear out clutter fast! Advertise in the local papers (usually free or very cheap), post up a couple of signs with scraps of cardboard, and put a single ad on craigslist with quick descriptions of what you're selling, including pictures of any "big ticket" items like furniture. At the end of the day, you can either tackle a much smaller pile of stuff to sell, or donate it. We usually get at least 3 calls any time we post about a yard sale, and different organizations will come pick up whatever you have left over for free.

    Generally, what we have left over after a yard sale isn't worth our time to try and sell, but if you have enough or bigger stuff then I recommend craigslist. It can be shady at times, but I've had infinitely better luck with it than eBay (which I don't recommend based on my own poor experiences, but I know people who love it and might have some tips.)

    Also, I hate citing tv shows…but Clean House is a really great show to watch for yard sale tips. They've done yard sales for every size house, neighborhood, and yard, and even have a few examples of renting indoor spaces to sell things (though those are usually for the more extreme hoarding situations).

    Good luck!

    • I live in an apartment building in a mid-sized city (large for Kentucky.) They don't let us HAVE yard sales anywhere around me, and I don't have friends with yards. How do people in cities manage to yardsale stuff? I KNOW it can be done!

      • You could check local churches and/ or community centres to see if they have rummage or mom-to-mom type sales. They will rent out tables (in my region for like 10$ for a big folding table, and you can usually bring a hanging rack for clothes), and you can bring your stuff and sell it there. There are some added hassles, but they can be as successful as garage sales.

      • Some organizations will have group yard sales were you rent a spot. They'll do the advertising and you just bring the stuff. The downside is that these usually happen in the spring and summer, but keep and eye out.

      • If you can't have a yard sale try the flea market. It's usually pretty inexpensive to rent a space and a great alternative to yard sales

  6. For downsizing, I follow Alton Brown's kitchen guideline– use it in a six-month period or LOSE IT. Really look at seasonal items to determine whether they are worth keeping year-round for a small window of use.

    Choose good multi-taskers instead of many uni-taskers (one good knife vs lots of crappy knives, one smartphone vs a phone, camera AND ipod, etc).

  7. Oh God, my face, it is right there. AND MY DRAWL.
    I'm already loving these comments.
    Does anyone have any specific tips for Craigslist? I get the general how-to of it, but any "protips" you guys can share would be awesommmmme.

    • Libsta4 said it SO much better.

      But!

      I also recommend church yard sales. That might be tricky depending on your beliefs or preferences, but it's a great option for people without a yard of their own.

    • You could also try your work/social network (not Facebook, people you interact with regularly). A lot of times, people will want something, but not buy it because of various reasons. If they hear "Dootsie is selling some great purple throw pillows!" they might just jump at the chance because, hey, they know you and your prices are fair.

    • Consider the rental cycle of the city you live in. Where I live, in an area with lots of students, most apartments turn over in the summer months, primarily September 1. This means that there is tons of stuff listed the last week of every month in the summer. But more people looking to buy stuff in the first week of the month. I've never had much luck with furniture I list in February. But I've sold everything I've put on craigslist the first week in September.

    • I Craigslist a lot. My biggest tip is to set the price that you actually want for the item a little higher than you expect to receive,because people ARE going to try to haggle.

  8. I've found at least two roommates, several bikes, a bedroom set, and a dining room set on Craiglist. I am not a pro, but here are some things I would suggest.

    1. Always post a clear picture. Do not use manufacturer or website pics (IKEA people), use an actual picture of your item.

    2. Offer a visual size reference within the pic (like a pack of cards, yard stick, whatever. I am not spatially oriented so giving me dimensions does little or nothing.

    3. Use proper grammar, punctuation and capitalization. I ignore all posts that tell me how GREAT THIS BIKE IS!!!!!!!!!!

    4. State monetary amount and pick up expectations in post. If you are flexible say that too but give the buyer a ball park. Some people are intentionally vague about price and I don't bother looking at those.

    5. Schedule time to be home for people to pick up the stuff. That time should be during the light hours if possible and see if you can have a friend hang out with you. If you pick a neutral location (like a Starbucks) consider how long you can sit there b/c people are often late to pick stuff up.
    6. Don't be late! If you say you will be available for pick up, be available. Sorry for the double standard but you are the one making money in this deal.
    7. Make your home inviting, lights on, etc.

    8. Specify that you want cash and for large items, pick a $20 increment so people can go to the ATM and you don't have to make change. I have always had to rent a truck to pick up furniture, so you could offer to knock off the cost of the truck rental, nice but not essential

    9. Price things fairly, reduced from current market value b/c they are pre-owned. I can easily find out if you are charging retail price for something with our friend the internet. I don't care if it has never been used. If I wanted to pay retail I would go to the store.

    10. Sell small items (beanie babies, kitchen ware, etc.) in lots or groups of the same thing. Large items like furniture, lamps, bikes should each have a separate post.

    11. Use accurate descriptors (not GREAT!!!!!) in the title of the post so I can weed out if I don't want it right away and also find it more easily in a search.

    12. As I said in a comment above, I never buy anything made of fabric from Craiglist to avoid bed bugs. I also shy away from electronics because I have no way of verifying how well it works.

    Hope this helps!

    • This is a great guide! I do have a question on your reluctance to buy fabric items due to bedbugs. Is that because of the part of the country you live in, i.e. New York where bedbugs are a particularly widespread problem, or is this based on something else? I ask only because there's a great daybed on Craigslist I found that comes with the mattresses, and you have me worrying about bedbugs now.

      • You should visually inspect anything you buy secondhand before you take it into your home, cloth or not.
        Here's an ehow on looking for and treating bedbugs. Also know the signs of a cockroach nest or other pesties. Even a "clean" environment can produce these buggies, so keep a sharp eye out.
        Don't be embarrassed to check something thoroughly before you fork over the cash, and don't take someone's word that the item is "clean".

      • I do live in the city (Boston) but that is by no means the only place pests are spread. I was using bed bugs as an example but really lots of insects can nest in plush materials, like cock roaches.

        Also, large upholstered items and mattresses are difficult and expensive to clean. They can retain residue from sweat and *ahem* other body fluids.

        I have gotten mattresses free from people I know in the past. I also know people who have purchased mattresses from Craigslist with no complaint.

        It is also often the case that soft or fabric items are more intimate and used closer to your body. Perhaps I am too finicky but that is my stance.

    • This is great! And give dimensions for furniture too. If I'm buying, it's usually for a specific space and needs to be no larger than (some height/length/depth).

    • Agree with all of this!

      For the photos, I would reiterate clear but also add STAGED. Think of how it would look in a catalog – e.g., kitchen appliance on the counter with some fresh fruit, rather than mug-shot style in front of a white wall. Try to use natural light instead of a flash. Try taking photos outdoors, too.

      Also, if you can, host your pictures on an external site and enter the link instead of using the picture uploader. That'll make your photo much larger than the dinky little default size on CL.

      Like Libsta4 said, our friend the internet can tell me what others are selling it for. So make it easy for your buyer to find out what a great deal your price is by including the specific style name or model number.

  9. I am a huge fan of selling on consignment. That's what I do with a lot of my clothes and baby stuff. Check your yellow pages for consignment listings and second-hand stores and see what sort of inventory they will take. For consignment you get paid when the item sells, and at the second hand places, you'll get cash in hand before you walk out the door.

  10. Oh man, we're in this same boat as we're moving cross-country next month. I sold our inversion table on Craigslist and in my case, I was just eager to get rid of the damn thing so I reduced the price far below normal. I ended up donating it to someone who needed one but couldn't afford to buy one.

    In terms of our furniture, I've given up hope of selling it since we live in Maine and it's impossible to have a Yard Sale in February. I contacted our local domestic violence shelter and they were more than happy to take our old furniture and clothes, so that women who are trying to get away from an abusive relationship can start up an apartment quickly. Certainly better than taking it to the dump!

  11. Great tips so far everyone!
    I'm in a similar situation. My fiance and I are moving 500 miles and trying to get rid of things we don't want/need for the space+some extra money. I have about 5 things listed on our local craigslist and have sold 1 other thing so far.
    My biggest issue is with selling big ticket items. We have 2 or 3 items that are worth between $300-400 and that's at a greatly reduced price! I haven't gotten any offers/even spam emails about those yet and I'm getting disheartened. There really things we don't need and I really want to sell them so any additional tips or ways to sell big ticket items? Thanks!

  12. When I moved I needed to cull my 500+ book collection, I used bookscouter.com (they do have an Iphone/Ipad app if you are handy in that way). It looks over 40 books selling websites from amazon to textbooks.com and tells you what each vendor would give you and how they pay (most times it's paypal, or you can have check mailed). The vendors will provide a shipping label that you print out, slap on a box and BAM. books out, cash in. As long as your books have an ISBN, you can search for it. It's pretty snazzy.

  13. Ok first of all, I hope you don't mind me saying this – but you are adorable!!! I had mega motivation a bout 2 years ago when I moved from a 1,300 sq. ft. town house into a 300 sq. ft. bachelor suite. I got rid of most of my furniture and at least half of my clothes. For the clothing I just went through and anything that either no longer fit or I hadn't worn on a regular basis and just donated everything, but if you are trying to make a little cash the suggestion that has already been made of consignment shop is a great one if the clothes are in good shape. I listed my furniture and other house hold items on kijiji which is just like craigslist but people here seem to use it more, whatever people didn't take from there I just took to resources for community living and they distributed to people in need. People I work with have had a lot of luck with ebay, I am not too keen on it myself – but if you already knew someone with a high rating on there that could list items for you that could be a plus! Things seem to move fairly quickly on there. Another thing other friends of mine have done is just held yard sales, I realize it's winter now and depending what the weather is like where you are (it had been pretty brown here for the last little bit and just last night we got a big dump of snow!) that might not be an option – but if it's nice there now maybe it could be? Or maybe come spring you could do one? Or even go together with a few people and do a group one 🙂 good luck!

    • "Ok first of all, I hope you don't mind me saying this – but you are adorable!!!"
      I do not mind.
      In fact,
      I'd be much pleased if you'd show up at my door each morning as I'm headed to work and repeat that statement for me. 😀

      But thanks for the advice, also. 😉

  14. I have gotten rid of more stuff to friends, just by posting it on facebook. If you need a quick removal of items, second hand stores that re-sell big items is where I would start. Consignment shops. And the ebay, oddle.com and an old fashion yard sale! Good luck!

  15. When I had garage sales in the past I wanted to get rid of everything. That's why I put it out there. I priced stuff low to get rid of it. I can't believe how many times I have gone to garage sales and found stuff priced so high that nobody bought the stuff. Friends who did this complained that their stuff was good and yet nobody wanted their stuff. At the end of the day they still had a lot of stuff…then donated the rest. They complained they didn't make any money. I on the other hand had made a lot of money and didn't have a lot to donate or trash.

    Yes I'd do realize you don't have garage sales options available. However, make sure you make a real decision: do you want to clear out stuff, or make a lot of money. Price your stuff appropriately. And be cautious about letting strangers into your home or meeting them at theirs with that whole free cycle, craigslist deal. Meet people in a public place whenever possible. Large pieces would be an issue for that, but not smaller ones.

    I don't know how long ago you wrote this and would love a follow up. Or point me in the direction of a conclusion if there ever was one for you.

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