Cathy, my wife has been trying to declutter our home for years. I've been the stubborn one and resisted the effort. She finally wore me down. And boy, am I glad she did. Her efforts got us quite a little bounty for stuff that's been sitting around the house gathering dust.
I invited Cathy to share the steps she took to turn our stuff into some nice cash. When the initial declutter was complete, she made over $3,000. She’s the brains and the organizer for these types of projects. For the most part, I’m the labor (and I’m free)!
If you want to learn how to sell things quickly, efficiently, and get the most money for your items, this post is for you.
I'd also recommend you check out one of my blogger friends, Melissa Blevins's post Decluttering – Maria Kondo: Using the Kon Mari Method of Tidying Up.
With that, take it away, Cathy!
How to Declutter Your Home
Since Fred began this blog, I started reading articles from some of the bloggers he's met. Many of them write on how to save, and make extra money,
I remembered all the items in the house we had accumulated over the last 20 years, thinking we would use them again. Or, maybe I would sell them. I finally decided to take the plunge and began selling the household goods we hadn't touched in years.
I started with placing items on Craigslist. After a relatively short time, I stopped. I found there are many scammers on the site and only a few serious buyers
One scam is the PayPal scam. In it, potential buyers would send me an email asking to place money in my PayPal account. They said they would send someone to pick up the item the next day. They usually had an excuse of being out of town or something.
After being hit several times by the scammers, I received this notice from Craigslist saying:
“Please be wary of distant ‘buyers' responding to your ad! Many sellers receive replies from scammers hoping to defraud them through schemes involving counterfeit cashier's checks and/or wire transfers. These checks will clear the bank, but the person cashing the check will be held responsible when the fraud is discovered. More info on scams can be found at this web address”.
One scammer was very pushy. I finally had to threaten to track them down and turn them in if they didn’t stop emailing me.
I decided to try selling the items on the Facebook Yard Sales in different cities around Fairfax County. I started by placing things on the Facebook yard sale site for Reston and Vienna, a town close to Reston. Facebook Market Place covers a broader surrounding area.
I began with small items like the usual decorations, kitchen items, linens, purses, etc. The bags went quick. You have to let kitchen items sit until the right buyer comes along. Sales started becoming very easy to make. Putting stuff on Facebook yard sale from my computer was perfect for me.
The Facebook yard sale is much better than preparing for an actual yard sale. In a yard sale, you drag everything out of the house and wait for people to get there. Whatever doesn't sell (usually a lot of things) you have to haul back into the house or take to Goodwill.
What a pain! Selling online is way better than an actual yard sale.
You might also like:
10 Decluttering Tips to Simplify Your Life and Reclaim Your Home
Tip #1: Take good photos
A good photo of the item is a must, not only one angle but a couple.
Edit your photo for clarity. Make sure the brand name is visible. The lighting should not be blaring on your item. You may need to try a couple of different locations in the house to make it look its best.
Another way for a good photo is to Google your item. Find the exact item. Be sure you’re looking at a replica. From there, copy the image of the picture to place in the add. Most of the time, a replica picture online has lighting that's much better and shows the item more clearly.
Here's a side table bookshelf I sold for $53 (originally purchased for $100). We used it for the last ten years. Someone bought it as soon as I placed the picture showing how to use the shelf.
The first picture is from a copied image online. The second is the actual shelf in front of my fireplace.
Here’s another example:
When Fred's mom passed away. I inherited her collection of teacups. They sat on our shelves for years. We never once used them. Fred is a sentimental person. It's hard for him to let go of things like this. He finally agreed it was time to sell his mom's small collection. So I went to work.
The footed Demitasse Cup & Saucer set Lavender Rose by Royal is a Vintage item from the 1960s. The pictures are image copies. The lighting is perfect, and if you blow them up, you can see the clarity in the photos.
I took the second picture. It’s an Antique Mitterteich Demitasse Footed Cup & Saucer Blue/Gold with small pearls, made in Germany in perfect condition.
You can see the difference! Remember I’ve only been using my iPhone 8 to take the pictures.
Finding the exact item online can be a bit challenging at times. If you copy the image make sure it matches and shows what you're selling.
Declutter Tip #2: Make a detailed description
It's important to write a detailed description of whatever you're selling. I've found the more detail, the better.
One way to find the wording is to Google whatever you're selling. Remember to make sure it’s the replica of the item. If so, there is usually a good description.
Finding your piece can be tedious but taking the time is worth it. That helps you get top dollar and sell the item faster.
Here are a couple of examples:
Footed Demitasse Cup & Saucer Set; Lavender Rose by Royal. Vintage item from the 1960s; Material: Ceramic, Height: 2 3/4 in, Width: 3 1/2 in, Special Characteristics: MONTROSE Bone, and Crafted in England.
That was all I could find on the Mitterteich Demitasse. I was lucky to see that because they are not around any longer. After hours of looking, I found out they made these in Occupied Japan during World War II.
Gorgeous Antique Mitterteich Demitasse Footed Cup & Saucer Blue/Gold. Made in Germany. Perfect Condition.
The buyer who came to purchase the teacups had a collection of over 150. She said they were a perfect match for her collection. When people visit, she serves tea in them. She prides herself that those who come never use the same cup. That was a fun sale.
Declutter Tip #3: Compare your price to a comparable new item
Like new Schwinn Recumbent Stationary Bike.
Goal Track capability enables a user to set individual exercise goals
20 levels of resistance for a wide range of workout intensity options
High speed, high inertia drive system for easy start-up and smooth, quiet workouts
DualTrack™ 2 LCD screen displays offer increased visibility to programs and goal tracking
22 preset workout programs: 9 profile, eight heart rate control, two fitness test, one quick start
Seat rail slider system with easy adjust lever customizes the fit for each user
Charging USB port to keep phones, tablets or music players at full battery life:
MP3 input to listen to your favorite playlist through in-console speakers. Dimensions are 64 X 27.7 X 50 inches and 300 pounds
New on Amazon $429 or used $290, plus $84 to assemble. We had the bike assembled professionally. We bought it in 2017.
I sold the bike for $280. It was like new. Fred bought the bike for me from Amazon. I found it uncomfortable to ride. We joined a local gym and had pretty much stopped using the bike.
Declutter Tip #4: Be patient
A few years ago, Fred and I bought brand new road bikes.
Mine was a Specialized Roubaix Pro II. We had it custom fitted for me. We loved biking together. He’s 6’3″ and me 5’4″. I could never keep up with him on the rides. That was true before and after the purchase of this gorgeous bike. But we still made it work.
Here are a couple of pictures of the bike I loved. It was a 2010 Specialized Road Bike.
You will notice the description is quite detailed, and I was asking the blue book price of $600.Yes, we discovered bikes have a blue book value. Here's what I found online with help from an REI bike expert:
Specialized Roubaix Pro II, 700 x 23c w/Flak Jacket puncture protection. Components Brakeset: Shimano 105; Shift Levers: Shimano 105 Rear Cogs: Shimano 105, 10-speed: 12-27;
Saddle: Specialized Body Geometry Avatar Gel;
Handlebar: Specialized Pro Ergo, aluminum
Handlebar Stem: Specialized Comp-Set, aluminum.
Specialized's Roubaix Comp Compact is a zippy road machine that rides so smoothly and comfortably that you can easily double your mileage. Specialized's Zertz vibration-damping elastomer inserts boost the carbon fiber's inherent road-smoothing qualities, while the back-friendly riding position gives you miles of comfort and control.
Plus, the 20-speed Shimano 105 drivetrain delivers the right gearing for every ride, while the reliable Mavic Aksium wheelset rolls effortlessly and is built to last.
And, this carbon beauty comes with a full complement of Specialized's excellent aluminum components.
Size 29″ or 49cm.
Makes you want to but it right now, doesn't it?
As I mentioned, I‘m 5'4. The representative at Spokes in Vienna did a beautiful job fitting me to this bike. It's a men's bike.
They built this bike for both comfort and speed. I've never ridden a more comfortable bike.
I ended up receiving $550.00 for the bike. The cool story is the bike was fitted to me, a 5’4 frame. The bike fits me like a glove. It was a fantastic and comfortable ride for me. We would ride for hours, so it had to be comfortable.
Several people looked at the bike. Most were men, and it was to short for them. I left it on the Market, and Facebook yard sales for almost two months. I thought it would never sell.
On a Friday evening, I received a Facebook message from a gal who was interested and wanted to see it on Saturday. My first question was what is your height. She said 5’4 ½. (I think she could be the one!). The next morning around 11 am, she shows up.
I offered her my helmet, gloves, etc. She mentioned she had just finished an Ironman and was riding a big clunker of a bike. It had a steel frame. She said it was time for her to step it up and purchase a bike more suitable for her competitions. We turned her lose on the bike, and waited, and waited for her to return.
The joyful ride
When she returned from the ride, the look on her face was one of joy. She said she'd really “kicked it out” on the bike; that she loved it and a wanted to take it. As it turns out, she is in the military and works at the Pentagon and bikes to work every day.
It made me very happy to sell the bike to someone I knew would take care of it. I mentioned the bike was always kept inside and serviced each year. I included extra tires for a flat, a specialized tire pump, bike rack for $50, and a little bag to attach to the bike. She was happy, and I was even more pleased. We are friends on Facebook, and she sends me pictures of the bike.
I walked away with $600.00 from that sale, plus enjoyed riding the bike for eight years plus.
When something doesn't sell
Books and magazines will not sell on the Market Place or Facebook yard sales.
We found a local bookstore called 2nd and Charles in Woodbridge. We took ten boxes of books, everything from non-fiction, Christian, self-help, decorating, cookbooks, etc. The bookstore took almost five days to rummage through the boxes. They called with an offer, which we accepted. There were three boxes of the books they didn’t buy. They gave us $75 for the others.
They have a “free bin” on the front sidewalk of the store. We left the other three small boxes of items there. The last thing we wanted was to haul boxes of books back in the house. We were happy to get what we did.
Declutter Tip #5: Watch your ads
On the market, you have to renew the ad every seven days. And that's an excellent time to change the price, wording or even a picture. Sometimes providing an idea of what to do with an item if it’s not obvious already.
For instance, I had a large basket which I placed little blankets in to keep the clutter down in the family room. I mentioned this on the add when selling the basket. The eventual buyer said the idea is what made her want the basket. If small things are not selling like a basket, kitchen item, etc. I will mark it down a $1 or $2, to push it back to the top of the list.
A lot of the items I’ve sold have been the Market Place top picks for weeks. By following the tips, your piece could be a top pick in your neighborhood.
In case you can’t decide what to sell here’s a list of some of the items I’ve sold:
[table id=10 /]
It looks like I’m over $3,000 as of this writing. And I just sold the Vintage Shafford Pitcher, which was collecting dust.
The beautiful thing is the clutter in my home is becoming less. I’m selling items we have not touched in years.
Watching the excitement on the buyer’s face is fun and rewarding. It’s interesting to see how much money I can make on this stuff. It's also fun to see others get excited about the things you're discarding.
It's Fred here with some closing thoughts.
I can't tell you how little patience I have for this kind of thing. If it were up to me, things would likely never get sold and still be taking up space. I've never seen anyone as patient and detail oriented as Cathy with this kind of thing. She's persistent. And she's a tough negotiator. I've watched her over the past few months get better and better at it.
Since my office is at home, I'm the one that handles the transaction end of the deals. She's right about how joyful many of the buyers are.
Last week, a guy came to by an old TV from us for $30.00. He came to the door while his son (probably nine or ten years old) stood outside and watched. You could see how excited the son was. Though he didn't say, the dad was likely buying the TV for his son.
The woman who bought the teacups was a real jewel. She and her husband have a very successful landscaping and nursery business. I remember the conversation Cathy had with her on the phone. I heard her asking Cathy what else she had to sell. She ended up buying $160.00 worth of stuff.
She sent Cathy a text to tell how much she loved one particular item. I never dreamed we could get that kind of money out of things that sat for so long and, for which we had no use. And I'm grateful to Cathy for having what it takes to do this and sharing her strategies with all of you.
I hope you found it helpful. If you did, let Cathy know in the comments below.
Now it's your turn. Have you decluttered your house? If so, did you sell things? Give them away? A combination? Let us know in the comments below.
Fred started the blog Money with a Purpose in October 2017. The blog focused on three primary areas: Personal Finance, Overcoming Adversity, and Lifestyle. During his time at Money with a Purpose, he was quoted in Forbes, USA Today and appeared in Money Magazine, MarketWatch, The Good Men Project, Thrive Global and many other publications.
In April 2019, Fred, along with two other partners, acquired The Money Mix website. To focus his time and energy where he could be the most productive, Fred recently merged Money with a Purpose with The Money Mix. You can now find all of his great content right here on The Money Mix, along with content from some of the brightest minds in personal finance.