From clutter to cash: Four ways to sell your unwanted stuff

Gardeners everywhere can probably tell a great number of stories about their attempts to get rid of weeds. It’s not always a fun task (though some of us may find it calming) and it’s one of those things that we often put off doing. In that way, it’s a bit like uncluttering. It’s something we may need to do, but it may feel like a big undertaking. Did you also know that a weed can actually be any plant that is unwanted, even if it looks pretty and has beautiful blooms? Likewise, anything in your home that is unwanted, even if it’s in great shape (i.e., not broken or tattered), can be like weeds. We just classify those things as clutter.

The difference between the two, of course, is that you can’t do much with the weeds once you’ve pulled them, but you do have several options when it’s time to unclutter and let go of unwanted items that are still in good condition. You can donate those things to a group or organization, pass them on to a specific person, or you can sell them. Though, you will likely not get the original value of the item, you will clear your space and get cash or a gift card in return.

Recommerce is not a new idea, but it is one that has become more popular in recent times. This can perhaps be attributed to a tough economy, though some people sell to get an updated version of the item they’re letting go of. Whatever your reasons are, consider the four selling options below as you weed and sift through your belongings. You might end up choosing to only sell some things, but this list will at least get you started.

Seller Websites

Many of us are familiar with sites like Craigslist, eBay, and Etsy (e.g. vintage clothing) for selling (and buying) things. Those websites are still viable options, but there are many others that can help you transition your items to a new owner.

  • Electronics. Gazelle.com will take your gadgets (mobile phones, tablets, desktop machines) — even broken ones — and send you a check, an Amazon gift card, or transfer funds to your PayPal account. NextWorth.com has a similar service and payment options, except that you can opt to receive a Target gift card. That site also has a referral program. If you decide to sell your electronics on eBay, be sure to check out their Technology & Electronics Selling Guide.
  • Books. If you used Gazelle or TheNextWorth to get a new tablet or Kindle, you may be thinking about purging a few books. You can sell them on Amazon, SellBackYourBooks.com, or Cash4Books.net, to name a few. You will need the ISBN number (typically found on the back of the book or inside the book on the copyright page). Payments are made via check, PayPal, or an account of your choosing.
  • Anything. Yardsellr.com uses the power of your social networks to help you sell your stuff. Log in using your Facebook account and let your friends see what you’re selling in your online yard sale. You will be paid via check or funds transfer to your PayPal account. There are no seller fees, however, Yardseller does markup your asking price. Check out their FAQs for more information.

Pawn Shops

Pawn shops can be a good option for specific things you may want to sell (like guitars) so do a bit of research to find out what is successful through these stores in your area. Selling to a pawn shop may work well since they can often take a wide variety of things, though, because they resell your item, you might not get top dollar. But, they will take the item off your hands immediately and you will get paid at the time of drop off.

Consignment Shops

If you have high-end clothing, shoes, jewelry, or antique pieces, a consignment shop in your neighborhood will consider selling your items and giving you a percentage of the sale. These stores tend to be pretty picky about the items they will accept and prefer to purchase things that are in excellent condition and seasonally appropriate. Some shops will require that you call to make an appointment, so be sure to check their guidelines before going.

A new type of consignment shop has arisen in the last few years that does things slightly differently. ClothesMentor.com will buy your gently used and laundered women’s clothes, accessories, perfume, etc. The transaction takes place at one of their stores (use the store locator to see if they have a shop near you) and you will be paid immediately for the items they purchase. Plato’s Closet works in a similar way for “teen and twenty something guys and girls,” and you can either accept cash on the spot or trade your clothes for a new outfit. They also don’t require that you make an appointment.

Bartering

So, bartering is technically not selling, but it is a way to let go of things in return for a service that you may need. I read an article recently about someone who bartered a scooter to have her shed painted and dry walled. You may want to have a written agreement about the details of your exchange, and keep in mind that there are tax implications with bartering (read How the IRS Taxes Bartering for more information).

Of course, you don’t have to sell your things at all. You can simply donate them or give them away to a specific person. You wouldn’t have to take your clothing to a re-seller shop, create online seller accounts, upload photos/descriptions of your items, or manage buyer inquiries. You can arrange for donations to be picked up free of cost or meet up with the person receiving your donation. Whether you decide to sell or donate, you’ll unclutter, free up some much needed space, and do something good for yourself.

23 Comments for “From clutter to cash: Four ways to sell your unwanted stuff”

  1. posted by Jess on

    If you work in a fairly decent sized office and your company is ok with it, a carefully written and timed all-staff email also works very well. I was going to list my SLR online for £240 but first offered it round the company for £200 (I figured the time saved was worth £40 to me). I got three offers in 10 minutes!

  2. posted by WilliamB on

    Thank you for these ideas. Mostly I donate items but I have some big things that would be worth my time to sell.

    Has anyone used the seller websites listed and can report back?

  3. posted by WilliamB on

    Avoid eBay for fancy electronics.

    For years it’s been impossible to buy or sell these on eBay without being scammed:
    http://www.schneier.com/blog/a....._ebay.html
    http://consumerist.com/2008/05.....-ebay.html

  4. posted by Ann on

    A thief stole two of my Makita power saws, worth over $300 retail and probably at least $80 on craigslist or similar. The police found them at a pawn shop, as they’d apprehended the thief and found the receipt on him. He’d gotten $15 for both of them. I recommend avoiding pawnshops!

    Also, we’ve all see on TV how the police will crack down on them for “accepting stolen goods.” Not so. Not at all. There’s some sort of “you help us, we won’t prosecute you” deal going on. I even had to PAY THE $15 to get my own stolen saws back!

    What I’m saying is, you can expect the pawnshop owners to be at least somewhat shady. I wouldn’t do business with them even if they DID pay well.

  5. posted by Amy on

    You forgot two of my favorites: Garage/yard sale for regular items and if you have antiques, check with your local antique shops or antique malls(many have scheduled days when the dealers are there to buy stuff.)

  6. posted by Saderchick on

    Start or join a local Facebook group. A mom in my town started a ‘Small-Town’ Yard Sale page where local moms (and Dads) can post items they’re looking to get rid of. (Or seeking to buy.) Message privately, arrange pickup/payment — no seller fees! It’s kept small enough that people are trusted to leave $ if they pick something up off your back porch — everybody’s a friend or friend of a friend — dishonesty would be nipped in the bud right away.

  7. posted by Peachfront on

    I always love a new idea for clearing clutter. Very eager to test those electronics suggestions, if that works, that could be a little gold mine.

    In thanks for this tip, I’ll offer my own thoughts and hope they help somebody. What Ann said about pawnshops. You will not get a fair price because pawnshop owners are used to dealing with desperate people who will take any nonsense price. Consignment shops are no better. I never had a consignment deal where the owner didn’t steal at least some of the items and money. They claim the item didn’t sell, but someone must have shoplifted it. Or, if they’re a friend, they’re more honest about the fact that there’s no way to pay the bills on what you make running a consignment shop, so they were forced to “borrow” your money.

    Any barter that involves paperwork does not reduce clutter. It adds clutter. My choice is to only barter like to like, to avoid creating a tax obligation. That is, I can swap clothes for clothes, or books for books, or stones for stones. But if I swap clothes for stones, then I would have a paperwork hassle that is contrary to the idea of getting de-cluttered. I mostly swap stones, and if no one has any they want to trade for mine, then I sell them instead. If it’s going to be paperwork, it needs to be for cash.

    Craigslist works for many items, especially large ones. Adorama for cameras. Many electronics are just a recycling fee waiting to happen, but you could try the Maker community. My husband sold some old tubes to an inventor in Finland…ya never know! Books, well, Amazon, of course, and they pay fast, but too many sellers are running some mysterious swindle where they sell books for a penny, so most books can’t be re-sold for a price worth your time, and they should be swapped/donated/made into papier mache — all three techniques I’ve done with happy results, depending on the book.

    I love reading stories like this, and I hope to read more!

  8. posted by Thrift Store Mama on

    I do a fair amount of buying and selling on Craigslist. I require that people reply with a phone number so I can speak with them on the phone and we always meet in a public place.

    Also, if you are selling children’s clothes, toys, or books, look in your area for a children’s consignment sale (not a store). Some are for-profit and owned by an individual (Jack and Jill, Just Between Friends, Wee-Sale). In those cases, the owner of the sale takes 50% and sellers jack up their prices higher to compensate (in my opinion). But consignment sales run by churches, pre-schools or neighborhood groups don’t take as high of a cut, and as a result the seller’s prices are lower.

  9. posted by efish on

    The book sellers on Amazon selling things for a penny are making money on the shipping reimbursement. If you only have light paperbacks to sell, you can make a profit, but don’t try selling hardbacks or big college textbooks that way, you will lose your shirt, as Amazon’s reimbursement often doesn’t completely cover the seller’s shipping costs for heavier items. It helps if you aren’t attached to the books, have a lot of them to get rid of, and access to low cost/free shipping supplies, because you are probably only making 25-50 cents per book. Not a mystery, not a swindle, just a different selling strategy.

    Regarding Etsy, I’ve read that crafts supplies sellers are usually the biggest moneymakers on that site. I am considering opening a shop there to get rid of some fabrics and craft supplies I’m no longer very interested in. I’d rather that stuff go to someone who would appreciate them, and there aren’t that many good places to donate around my area.

    Thanks for the info on gazelle.com and nextworth.com. I will look into those. Electronics always seem like such a waste to throw out. :)

  10. posted by SAHMama on

    I’m decluttering before my 3rd child arrives in December. I’ve been freecycling unwanted craft supplies and other items, as well as filling bags to take to Goodwill. Today I’m freecycling canning supplies that I haven’t used in 4 years. With the price of produce in my area, plus the cost of canning (lids, electricity, water, sugar and my time) and the mess it makes, it is less expensive and a whole lot easier for me to just by a jar of jelly or applesauce when we need it. Sure canning can be enjoyable, but not when you’re heavily pregnant and have a toddler and kindergartener to distract you!

  11. posted by SAHMama on

    For paperbacks and hardcovers, I take them to Half Price Books. You only get 10-20% of cover price, but it’s instantaneous. Plus my kids like the free balloons :)

  12. posted by SAHMama on

    Oops, one more comment. Sorry to clutter up your comments section!

    For maternity and children’s items, I donate to a local maternity resource center that provides items to women and families in need (they don’t require documentation of need but it is run by a church) of baby clothing and maternity items.

    Also the midwifery office has a swap room where you can take the stuff you’re done with and swap it for stuff you need.

    Finally, check out Peace.Love.Swap.com. It’s local for different areas and each area has a coordinator, usually 2 or 3 swaps per calendar year. Volunteers don’t pay an admission fee and everyone else pays like $5-7 and brings stuff to swap.

  13. posted by Cindy on

    Libraries appreciate donated books. Most will add them to the collection if they can, and if they can’t, they’ll go to the “friends of the library” group to sell (and the money goes to the library). It’s also tax-deductible.

  14. posted by lucy1965 on

    . . . but before you clean out Great-Aunt Martine’s back room and haul armfuls of paperbacks to your local branch, check with your library, as they have to pay disposal fees for anything they can’t use or resell. The local system here won’t accept business books more than 5 years old or computer books more than 3; they also don’t take any magazines at all.

  15. posted by Nana on

    Magazines can go to any hospital waiting room. Or to a shelter.

    Freecycle is a good, local way to get rid of a wide variety of items.

  16. Avatar of

    posted by Another Deb on

    I had been selling on Amazon for a few years and making a couple of bucks from paperbacks or books useful to teachers that sell through professional organizations. Recently I found that the fees and fee scales seem to have changed and a small sale will end up costing me money! Also, I can’t imagine that shipping fees are being scammed to make money by low-pricing sellers since you have to have a book to sell, plus the packaging, plus the postage. I don’t think that the extra 1.50 or so they might be getting on postage is getting a lot of people rich.

  17. posted by Laura on

    I put a few things on eBay but I also give stuff away via my local freecycle organization. These exist in many areas, and it’s as easy as posting to an email list. The worst thing that happens is that someone doesn’t show up. Generally, you put things on the porch and arrange for someone to get it. It’s nice when you know it’s going to someone who wants it. I’ve seen people post everything from TVs and furniture to crayons and extra diapers.

  18. posted by Kathe on

    I produce upper end Estate Sales in the greater Kansas City area. I, and some other(but not all) sale producers, often incorporate good QUALITY furniture and accessories, art, collectibles and housewares on a inventory tracked consignment basis into other peoples estate sales when space allows. Our rates are better than any consignment shop I have found, there is no need to interact with prospective buyers, and one does not need to do shipping or know how to handle electronic sale postings. Additional draw card items fill a sale to increase the sale draw. It is a win/win.

  19. posted by Sarah on

    I have used freecycle.org to find new homes for items I never thought anyone could possibly want, as well as items with some value. I have also found all transactions to be safe, although they do warn you to be cautious.

  20. posted by ChrisD on

    I’ve been decluttering a bit this year (and trying last year) and I think trying to SELL things as opposed to donating things is a big time clutterer.
    Ebay and gumtree say the average person has 1000s of pounds worth of things in their cupboards that you can sell on their websites. Either they mean that was the original retail value (NOT the resale value) or other people are a LOT more wasteful in their spending than I am. I’ve held on to things for ages because I thought I should make money on them but giving them away took 5 minutes and was SO MUCH SIMPLER.
    So given that I don’t buy lots of designer clothes that I never wear (also no designer clothes that I do wear) the only things that have gone for anything were: a 70s desktop calculator for £20 (after e-mailing people running websites about their collections); one slightly used embroidery kit, £14 the same that I paid; 10 zipdisks, £10. In two years I got a total of SEVEN items where the sale was worth the time of packaging. (Though some things I sold on ebay as an alternative to landfill rather than for the money).
    Also there are all kinds of studies that show that we overvalue what we own and are not willing to let it go at a ‘reasonable’ price.
    For anybody who is not broke I HIGHLY recommend donating on freecycle or to charity.

  21. posted by Jeff Waters on

    I love this site… so I nominated you for a Liebster Award:
    http://lifeupfront.com/2012/07.....log-award/

  22. posted by Christine M on

    I found consignment to be great for children’s items. There is a local shop that does a great job with this. They charge a yearly small fee for account maintenance (you don’t have to pay up front – they will deduct it from your sales). They split sales with you 50-50. They will limit acceptance of out-of-season items, but otherwise they will take things in reasonable condition. I fit doesn’t sell, they will let you know or donate it for you and give you the receipt. To me, it’s worth it because I get back a little money and all I had to do was drop it off. It’s closer than the place where I take my donations to so it save me time/gas. And I won’t do the yard sale as I do not find the profits to be worth it. They cut me a check or give me store credit, which I wasn’t even sure I would use, but I stopped in there and found a pair of snow boots for $8, which were great because I could not find a pair at the time for less than $39.95, which I refused to pay for something that my daughter was going to outgrow by next season AND would only get a short wear time.

    I have heard great things about some of the big quarterly consignment sales in our area, but those tend to be a lot of work with set up, and for me personally, I just wanted to be done with it!

  23. posted by Accountant on

    One problem with this – people love to horde! If only I could bring myself to get rid of some of the pointless piles of ‘junk’ I have stashed in every corner of my house, I’d be a millionaire! (“But what about all those memories?!”)

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