Shedding Stuff: My tips for selling your things and how I’ve lived off the profits for over a year (and counting).

Shedding Stuff: My tips for selling your things and how I’ve lived off the profits for over a year (and counting).

Ha, no, I am not like that self made millionaire man who made his fortune through garage sales (holy genius though), but a secondary benefit of choosing to minimal-ize my belongings has been that it’s been my main (not only) cash flow too. Minimal cash flow, but I’ve scrapped by (no really, I dig under my car seats for pennies on a regular basis) enough to be able to stay home with Rowe full time for now- the ultimate reward. So, I’ll keep milking this cheap cash cow ‘til it’s all dried up. AKA- until I run out of belongings to sell.

Selling your thangs and bringing in some mula is an added bonus of choosing to embrace simplicity, or at least de-clutter your life. For many of you though, the hassle just may not be worth the rewards- this DOES take a *tiny* bit of time. It’s often most easy to drop your things off at a local Goodwill on a regular basis, which I do as well quite often. Some things just aren’t worth selling.

For those of you troopers like myself, here is everything I have to offer from what I’ve learned in the second-hand-selling trenches:

RESEARCH:  Know your product. Even if it’s some old brand name sweater you want to get a few bucks for on eBay, do some window shopping yourself first to see what similar items are going for. If anything, it is just simply a waste of time to list items that are above what you will ever get for them. Remember, you are only making a profit if you can get someone to actually BUY it.

So scroll different sites to see what you have could be worth. I know you think it was hardly used so you deserve just a few bucks under what it goes for new, but people buy used for a bargain, not to just save what they would pay in tax. Price it smart, even just a few cents below the next guy can get you the buyer instead of him.

THE STORK ISN’T DELIVERING figure out shipping ahead of time. In respect for my retired mailman uncle, I always ship through the post office. Buyers do look at shipping costs too, so don’t try and rake in extra dollars there, it can be a turn off. I try to reuse shipping materials as often as possible, and occasionally I end up in the negative when it comes shipment time, and others times it costs less than expected. Ah, balance. Offering free shipping catches the eye of many, too, as long as it doesn’t hurt your profit it can be a smart tactic.

SPIFF IT UP: Clean, polish, spit shine, make it look perty.  This may seem obvious, but pictures often are deceiving in both directions. It always seems like the tiniest scratch shows up perfectly clear, but that intricate stitching you WANT your buyer to see is in the shadows. BOO. So do your best to make your used item like new-ish again to do your best to show it off.

When selling clothes, I always iron them first. Pictures frames and anything glass make sure to give a good wipe down. I’ve sold a few leather purses, so I take some saddle soap and clean them up, then a little bit of leather oil, too (I have these items on hand since I’m a horsey rider- use what you’ve got).

Spiffyness applies to advertising too. Center your wording, use bold, italics and colors. And for the love of sweet baby jesus, SPELL CHECK. In some sub-conscious way, misspelled and jumbled ads don’t make the seller appear to be a trusty one.

Tweak, baby, TWEAK: tweak those pictures. Adjust lighting. Give it a good background.

Some plaid maternity shorts I was selling: a bad example. The carpet makes the whole image like a little dirty (despite the carpet in reality is quite clean). Lighting/Background FAIL

When I first started selling clothes on eBay, I would snap photos of them hanging from a rod in the basement with our unfinished, insulation exposed walls in the backdrop. I just didn’t think about it, it was the best place to hang them up!

Find a bare space to model your stuff. Try to avoid anything creamy or beige color (such as carpeting), it tends to make the background look more dingy- therefore giving off a indirect “dirty” impression.

  • If you have to lay items on the ground, consider putting a nice sheet behind it. Put heavy items on the corners to keep the sheet taught so your “bedding background” is not so obvious.
  • Take down a photo off the wall and hang clothing items from the nail, so you have a clean, flat back drop.
  • Lighting is key. Turns on every light in the room AND open the blinds. Play photographer and shoot from different angles
  • Want to get serious? Consider investing in a used mannequin if you are selling a lot of clothes. I’ve been on the hunt for one for a while, it makes all the difference for people to visualize what a shirt would look like with a body in it.

An Anthropologie picture frame I sold on eBay. A better example. You can see the details, and the background is clean, not distracting. ( further edited this photo before listing it, so the darkness in the bottom was cut out)

PLAY NICE:  honesty is always the best policy. Always be upfront about every little ding and scratch. If you are selling through a virtual storefront, such as Ebay, not doing so can land you with some not-so-nice reviews and send your ratings plummeting like NASQD.

My mother is an ex-offender of this rule. When listing things from around the house on Craigslist, she would put “GREAT CONDITION” when an item, which otherwise was in great shape, had a barely visible drink ring on the surface. Don’t waste other people’s time, or your own.

You’re also doing yourself a favor when being as detailed as possible in your listings because it weeds out many inquiries that you could have avoided having to answer.

SNAP AWAY: Put pictures in your ad. Period. I don’t even waste my time looking at ads without photos. Some people will put in their ads “photos upon request” and I get the whole “only people seriously interested will contact me” logic with that, but there are two pain-in-the-butt issues behind that 1. Now you have to actually respond to all those inquiries with photos= more work. 2. Sorry, some people, including I, who could have been seriously interested otherwise will not take the extra minute to shoot you an email. Work smarter not harder my friends.

AW, YOU SPECIAL: Have something fancy, like an antique or collectible? Hit the search engines to seek out less generalized places to sell that are specific to your niche. Consider selling on consignment for those larger items at local shops for those antiques. I’ve had some luck selling antique stained glass windows on Craigslist, but it took forever and I’m certain I did not get near what they could be worth.

FLIPPING FOR FUN: Oh, you’ve caught the bug have you? Yup, that selling-is-fun bug has plagued me for a while, so much so that I occasionally buy and sell for profit. Consider it something like real estate in the stuff world; you invest a little bit here, then sell it for a little more there. I’m always coming across items that I KNOW I could turn around and sell for more, but it depends on how much you have to “invest” upfront. I’m no hardcore flipper, so my profits are usually the equivalent to a few over-priced coffees, but it’s fun for me. I get my kicks where I can.

Above is a flip (what am I, a pro? LAUGH HERE) I did last week. I happened to be browsing at Goodwill and stumbled upon a BCBG dress for $3.99 (you’re not cool either? I just know BCBG= designer). A few days later I sold it for $24.99 on eBay. Wa-la, filled up my gas tank for a week or two.



-When selling face-to-face: I have faith in people, but sell smart. Don’t bring strangers into your home if you don’t have to, even if they have candy. When possible, move what you are selling into the garage or outdoor space before they arrive so you are visible to the outside world. Killers are shy, they’re much less likely to take a hack at you with an audience.

-If you are home alone, always let someone nearby know you have a stranger stopping by to check out your goodies (not THOSE goodies) and that you will call them once they leave.

-Set a time frame for yourself. I don’t have the patience to wait weeks and weeks for things to sell, so if I’m not getting many bites within a few days, I drop the price. Then drop it again. Still nothing? Say buh-bye, take the loss and donate. I promise the feeling of giving it away can feel just as good.

Sometimes, you just gotta give it away.

-Customer is always right. You’re a vendor now, surprise! Sometimes when selling through the internet, such as Amazon and eBay, people don’t get quite what they expected despite your best efforts. Frustrating as it may be, I’ve learned the hard way to just take it back, refund, and move on. If you have an issue with a Seller and you see it taking a downturn, work with the reps of the selling site to help you out sooner than later. Catfights through emailing never end well. (…guilty).

In the end, it’s all about what is worth it to you. For me, every penny counts, so I literally sometimes sell things that are worth in the single digits. I just figure it is a dollar more than I had before, I try to keep my glass half full J

5 Responses to Shedding Stuff: My tips for selling your things and how I’ve lived off the profits for over a year (and counting).

  1. Liz says:

    Really great post! I, literally, moments ago sold a dresser for way too cheap! We are slowly selling off everything and donated WAY too much but we needed to get the storage unit emptied. I’m figuring the undersell is good karma and its nice to be a little lighter. But great advice on knowing the product first. I wish I’d done that. This post was just what I need to seal the deal in my head for future sells– of which there will be plenty!

    So nice you can stay home with your baby! Its just such a gift!

  2. Macy says:

    Amazing post as usual. I totally have a girl crush on you, you’re awesome, chica! You’re my new hero… I just wish I had more patience…. I try to sell for a week then rather than ‘deal with’ lowering the price I just start giving things away! But it makes peoples’ days too and that’s awesome!

  3. Stephen says:

    We’ve done this ourselves,also to clear out a mini-storage rental*,and we’ll be doing it again,LOL…TOO MUCH STUFF still :p Some great tips,some I knew,some I hadn’t thought of,all great. Good to hear you’re still chuggin’ at it too 🙂

    (BTW,same Stephen,new email :p)

    *Ultimately,I wound up splitting the vast majority of the junk between a 10′ x 12′ shed we have at the old house (the one that burned) and half in the shed here that will eventually be converted to tiny house…a quitter I ain’t,but a procrastinator? Maybe :p

  4. Thanks for the tips. It’s been a while since I have sold anything on eBay. You’ve freshened me up.

    I’ve always been put off by the time it takes to list, sell, and ship stuff. Thus, I often find myself just giving it away. Where I live, if you place something of some value on the kerb–in a “hard rubbish” sort of fashion–it doesn’t take long for it to be snapped up. However, the cash sounds attractive…

  5. SUANNE says:

    Great article. I dd this a couple of years ago in cleaning out my “work clothes” after becoming disabled. I used E-bay, and made $3500 on my “used/worn” clothing. I was amazed at what I thought was “old/out of style” was someone else’s “gotta have it”. I feel I not only profited from the sales, but also realized that I really don’t NEED a new wardrobe on a regular basis, nor do I need quite so many clothes, shoes, handbags, etc. The people who purchased from me were “regular” shoppers who frequently asked when I would be selling MORE !!! Looking forward to doing this again over the winter months.

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