In principle selling all your unwanted junk for money is an awesome idea. In practice, it’s sometimes more effort than it’s worth. Here’s how to figure out if it’s worth your time.
So you’ve decided to purge some of your old, used crap. What a great way to start the spring cleaning season. However, what do you do with those old books, CDs, appliances (which still work), clothes, and that tennis racket you never used? Let’s weigh the pros and cons of selling your used junk versus donating it (or tossing it straight into the trash).
It comes down to maximizing your returns. You want money for your stuff—that’s a given. But is the time involved worth it? And will someone actually pay to have your old crap?
Here’s a quick guide to determining what you should try to sell, donate, or throw away. Keep in mind that your old junk might be someone else’s treasure. But for all the treasure-junk in the world, there’s a whole lot more junk-junk, destined for the recycle bin or landfill.
Start by Considering Your Time (and What It’s Worth)
Selling stuff takes time. You have to clean things up, take decent pictures, creating a listing, write up a catchy description, and then respond to potential buyer’s questions. (And let us tell you, some of the questions and requests you’ll get from buyers will make you want to tear your hair out.) Then you have to package the items, take them to the post office, or arrange a time for the buyer to come to pick them up (or meet in a public location).
We suggest writing up an estimate of how long it’ll take to sell your stuff. Keep in mind that it often ends up being more work than you imagined. Then, think about what you’ll realistically make from selling those items (keep this figure low since people like to haggle down the price).
Add up your estimated sales, divide by your approximate time for the job, and look at the overall hourly rate. If it’s more than you make at your day job, great! If it’s around the same, or a little less, it’s probably still worth doing, especially if you have spare time and you could use the extra money. However, if it ends up that all the time and effort required pushes the return value down to well below what you make at your day job you’ll have to stop and seriously consider if it’s worth it.
For some people, every penny they can make off an old set of golf clubs or a stack of old Wii games is rewarding. For most people, free time is scarce, and it’s tough to rationalize selling your old junk at sub-minimum wage rates.
Research Places to Sell
Spend some time scouting out the best places to sell your particular items. We’ve broken down some options for you to consider.
Where ever you end up selling your stuff, take a moment to check out similar items listed on the service, making a note of the “sold” amounts when possible. If a CD boxset is listed for $50, but similar ones are being sold for $10, this gives you an idea of what your CD boxset might be worth. This will help you decide whether to go ahead and list it or donate if the price doesn’t seem worth it.
Remember to clean and fix up your items first. We suggest bundling items together to make selling easier, especially online. For example, consider selling all your action DVDs as a set, or group baby clothes into specific categories, such as all 6-month-old summer clothes. Believe us; this will save on time. Most people are happy paying $20 for a season’s worth of baby clothes instead of $1 per each outfit or onesie.
Here are some popular places for you to consider when you’re pricing out your stuff:
- Garage sales: These aren’t as popular as they used to be, but you can still make a bit of cash if you live in a popular neighborhood or you do a lot of advertising. You can sell all your household items, such as old toasters, books, clothes, you name it. Just know you won’t get top dollar for rare or highly sought after things like you would on eBay. (On the upside, though, you’ll get the cash in your hand immediately with no shipping hassles.)
- Craigslist: List all your big items here, especially things you can’t mail across the country, like your old couch. Sometimes local people will search for specific items, so you may have some luck with rare items as well. Although everyone is looking for a bargain, so don’t expect to earn a high profit here.
- eBay: This is the best place for rare and unusual items. Some people are looking for the missing or broken plate from their great-grandmother’s rare China set, and they may be willing to pay a high price to get it. People have profited from selling old comic book collections, discontinued toys and board games, specific brands of sewing machines, and more. Your “crap” may be worth a lot to someone else.
- Amazon: You don’t have to be an official store or seller to list your stuff on Amazon. This is a great platform to sell your used books, CDs, DVDs, and video games. They even pay for college textbooks!
- Decluttr: You can download their app, scan the barcode of your unwanted item, and see what they offer you. If you accept the price, they’ll send you a prepaid postage label to send in your stuff. They take CDs, video games, DVDs, Bluerays, and more.
- Used clothing sites and consignment stores: There are many options for selling used clothing online, such as Poshmark and ThredUP. You can also take your gently used clothing into a local consignment store.
- Facebook groups: There are many local Facebook groups where you can sell your stuff, such as Marketplace or virtual yard sale groups. If you’re looking to sell used baby gear and clothes, consider joining a local parent Buy/Sell/Swap group.
When Donating is Better
If you’ve decided that it’s going to take too long to take pictures and post each item, then donating is the way to go.
If you donate to a charity, such as the Salvation Army, you can ask for a receipt afterward. You can claim the fair market value on the donated items at tax time (this only applies if you itemize your deductions). Make a note of what items you donated and then look up the fair market value on them (check out Goodwill’s Donation Value Guide).
In the end, it may take a couple of hours to gather your items, drag them down to the thrift store, and add up the total fair market value. But if you itemize your deductions, this could equal a chunk of money back on your tax return. Plus you’ll get those warm, fuzzy feelings from helping out a charity, and letting someone else get some use out of your old stuff.
The bottom line is that it’s time-consuming to sell your unwanted junk, especially if you’re listing individual clothing items or lots of trinkets. If you want to sell your stuff, make sure you’ll come close to breaking even after considering all the time involved. And always look for the best platform to sell each item.
And, if nothing else, the whole thing is an exercise is heading off the accumulation of stuff in the first place. Nothing stings quite like donating a big pile of things you bought with the best of intentions but hardly (or never) used.