Experts share secrets for turning clutter into cash

Spring-cleaning is just around the corner. Thanks to technology, there’s a way to clean out your closet, garage, basement and make a little extra money too.

Selling items online is by no means a new phenomenon, but it is something to keep in mind when sorting through piles of needless items. 

Seems simple, but the truth is, the majority of us have no idea where to start.

What’s holding us back?

The first step is deciding to sell. 

Suba Lyer, a California-based writer for finance blog Wealth Informatics, says most of us “are guilty of keeping those things that we think we will use If you’ve got too much stuff lying around the house that you don’t need anymore, don’t throw it out — instead try selling it online.

Photo illustration by Veronica Poczaand never do.”

She says that the lack of urgency or immediate need for money could be a factor to why sorting and selling is low priority.

Lyer’s situation was much different: an earthquake warning in her residential area was the kick in the pants she needed to get going. She sold her things to make a quick $2,000 for an emergency fund.

“Once I got started and created a system, I was able to make the money I needed,” Lyer says.

Although she is no longer scrambling for money, she still uses her easy selling system.

“Just through cleaning and sorting — and selling the things that aren’t needed, our household makes about $300 to $400 a month.” Lyer’s items ranged from extra screwdrivers to barely used kitchen appliances.

It sounds too easy, a moneymaking system that turns cleaning into cash. But Lyer says it starts with “a good organization strategy before listing to sell.”

Most don’t have the immediate need for money that Lyer experienced, but knowing a few tips from the pros can terminate procrastination and help us get started.

The sorting process

“The best advice I can give is to sell a bunch of things at once,” says Courtney Baker, wife of Adam Baker from Man Vs. Debt.

“You’d think it’d be easier to find one thing and go through the process of selling it — but it’s much more time consuming and discouraging that way,” she says.

Baker considers herself a “well-oiled machine” when it comes to “selling crap.”

Like Lyer, the Baker’s situation is among the extremes — they liquidated almost everything they owned to pay off a massive debt. However, Baker says it has allowed her to become an expert on the topic.

Can you turn your clutter into cash by selling household items online?

Photo illustration by Samara Hawkins“Whether you are looking to completely clear out your household and start from scratch like we did, or make a couple of bucks cleaning a closet, there is a definite way to go about things,” says Baker.

She highly recommends having a designated workspace in the home so the project doesn’t disrupt living space.

“For us, it was the garage. We brought things in there to sort, photograph, list and sell. It also allowed us to work without distractions,” she says.

Baker breaks down the sorting process into phases and says it becomes easier through each transition. 

Baker and her husband would commit evenings and weekends to the project.

“The first phase is surface level. Walk through the house and grab everything that’s either in the way or you know you don’t use,” she says.

The next step is more intense.

“This is when you are actually required to sort through things and decide if they are of use,” says Baker.”

Baker says this process can take a few weeks, depending on how big your house is and how much you need to get rid of.

Baker insists this step be done room by room.

  • Take items that can be sold to the workspace.
  • Sort into items into listing piles by category or website.
  • Photograph and list items online.

The selling process

Baker says a great way to gain momentum is by selling an item at the beginning of the process.

This can be accomplished in the first phase by selling the big obvious things

Easy eBay Tips

Megan Vickell, public relations manager of eBay Canada, lays out a few helpful hints to apply to any online selling experience:

  1. Take lots of photos. Most listing websites, like eBay, allow up to 12 photos — use this to your advantage. We are visual people and are more likely to be interested in an item if we are confident in what we are buying. Take good quality photos from every angle of your item.
  2. Offer free shipping. People will initially browse through items in the free shipping category and it’s better to spend the little extra to guarantee a sale then have no sale at all.
  3. Sell in season. If you’re selling anything that has a designated seasonal use — like skis or sandals — list them in their respective time of year. This will up the chances of someone buying

that are in the way — like that desk you’ve been storing and never use. Baker discourages from starting small and tedious — like attacking a bookshelf and listing each book.

“Furniture usually sells the easiest, and it’s encouraging to list something and see it sell,” she says.

Learning where to list items comes with time. But Baker says she’s found it best to sell:

• electronics on eBay
• furniture on Craigslist or Kijiji
• books on Amazon

But Baker recommends Craigslist for inexperience online sellers can bank on claiming it to be the most “casual marketplace since a yard sale.”

Baker says she likes to post items on Craigslist — even if items are listed on another site— because “online marketplaces” like this allow a local option for those who want to avoid shipping.

The most important tip — which Baker has learned the hard way — is to never agree to hold an item.

“I’ll tell someone I have other people waiting to buy, whether I do or don’t,” she says. “People will feel a sense of urgency to then agree to pick up the item as soon as possible.”

Get it started

Baker urges everyone to get started on working “de-cluttering for cash” into their lifestyles.

Although out of debt, Baker and her husband are still sifting through unneeded things every six to eight weeks as clutter continues to creep into their home.

“It’s inevitable that things will build up, and no, you are never going to fully get back what you paid for them,” she says.

“But it’s better to recoup anything you can for your things rather than throw them out or leave them around.”

vpocza@cjournal.ca