Selling Your Stuff Part I -> 4 Basic Selling Tips
Whoever thought I’d be writing so much about stuff???
It’s been just 2 weeks since we started our storage downsizing project and I’m super excited to say we’re seeing the light (whoo whee!). As of today we are mere days away from completion which means moving out of our 10 ft x 15 ft and into a new 5 ft x 5 ft (that I managed to nab at a special 50% discount deal). It’s been a tough slog and my blogging/photography has definitely been taking a back-burner, but that’s (hopefully) all about to change.
In the meantime I’ve still got “stuff” on the mind and being the kind of blogger I am I have to write it as I feel it. Much of our past 2 weeks have been spent selling all the bigger pieces out of our storage unit, so having already covered the emotional & storage side, today I felt it was time to touch on that.
Now, I should say up-front that we are by no means experts on this subject. We’ve downsized and moved many times in our lives, but we usually end up giving away more stuff to friends, family & charity than we do actually selling. Many of our moves have been on short notice and we simply haven’t have the time or inclination to sell everything. So our personal approach is to be very selective. We typically chose to sell larger & more valuable items, while giving away most of the smaller stuff. I am sure there are folks out there who do much better than we do ($$ wise), but we get the job done and we’ve always been A-OK with the results.
Also this is such a huge topic that in order to keep you from passing out (through sheer boredom of reading), I’m going to have to break it up into 2 parts -> today’s post will cover some basic selling tips, while my next post will go through the various avenues of selling (Craigslist, eBay etc.) including pros, cons and tips for each. Phew!!!
So with that disclaimer, I’ll summarize our top selling tips from our point of view.
Your Stuff Is Likely Worth Way Less Than You Think (But That’s OK)
Remember those TV shows where people find stuff hidden in their attic which they thought was worthless and they end up making thousands in it? Or all those websites that tell you how much money you can make selling all the junk from your house? When you first start downsizing, this might seem like your perfect future. I’m going to sell everything and I’m going to make a ton of cash!
Well, I’m sorry to say it probably won’t go down like that. First of all not that many people have hidden valuables in their attics that they don’t know about and secondly, just like winning the lottery there’s a very, very low chance you’ll strike it rich even if you do. In practice most of your precious stuff is probably pretty mundane and it’ll likely end up being worth waaaay less than you think it is. Sorry 🙁
The main reason for this comes down to basic supply and demand -> You’re selling second hand stuff and there’s lot of it out there. The folks who buy second hand stuff have tons of choice & tend to be bargain hunters, so they’re not going to buy anything unless it’s a really, really good deal. That lovely armoire that you bought for over $500? Unless it’s some kind of design collectible or special antique it’ll probably sell for around 1/5-1/10 of that price, if you want it to move. This can be hard to stomach especially if you’re selling stuff that is worth something to you (emotionally), but honestly the faster you accept this, the easier your selling process will become.
The way I look at it is this. Whatever $$ we spent on the stuff originally is not all that important. We used it & enjoyed it for many years (lots of depreciation in that time) and now we’re passing it onto others who will use & enjoy it further. Also, although the physical stuff is a reminder of the many places we’ve lived, our value is mostly in the emotional attachment we have to the experiences we’ve had in those places, not necessarily the stuff itself. Once we fully accepted this, our actual selling price became less painful.
Selling Takes More Time Than You Might Think (So, Be Selective)
In the vast majority of cases selling stuff takes time and energy, and dedication that you might think.
If you’re selling stuff on Craigslist you’ve got to take pictures, post your stuff, wait for hits, manage replies, meet people (who don’t always show up) and finalize the sale. That can easily end up taking 1-3 days for every single piece you sell! If you’re doing a garage sale you’ve got to plan, advertise ahead of time, prepare your stuff, price it and then spend the day on your feet getting rid of it. That’s (usually) several weeks of work. Even Estate Sales (where an agent takes care of everything for you) takes time and planning to execute. Everything is do-able, of course but be prepared to dedicate more time than you might originally think.
This is one of the reasons we like to be selective in what we sell. For us it’s a case of balancing the time we’re willing to put into sales versus the amount of time & freedom that our downsized life is going to be worth to us. I could list and sell everything we own, but I’d probably die from stress (or old age) in the process. Sometimes freedom from stuff is worth the loss of a few $$ of sales IMHO.
Research Price (But Don’t Waste Too Much Time Chasing Max $$)
One of the key things everybody recommends when you start selling is to research price and this makes absolute sense. Take some time to look through local listing for similar items, watch eBay sales prices and get a feel for price ranges. Doing this is good practice whether you’re selling stuff yourself or you’re getting an agent in to do it for you. Once you’re ready to sell you can make sure you’re getting reasonable value for your items and your stuff is priced in-line with what’s out there.
What you don’t want to do, however, is fall into the $$ trap of not being happy unless you get the absolute max money for everything you have. First of all there isn’t necessarily a “top” price (price is a fluid thing that varies with market, time & place) and secondly you may not have enough years in your lifetime to wait for the mythical buyer who’ll buy your stuff at that mythical “top” price.
If you have time to spare you can obviously list stuff at higher prices and see if anyone “bites”, but if no-one responds in a timely manner (set a deadline for yourself) you’ve got to be ready to move that price right ASAP. Plus if you’re trying to move lots of stuff in a short(ish) time-frame you may need to price even more aggressively than you’d like.
Having been in semiconductor sales for many years before we went on the road, I’m pretty ruthless in this area. I’ll sometimes list stuff for higher than I think it might be worth (just to test the market), but if I don’t get any interest within a few days I will take it off and re-list it at a lower price. For me, moving stuff is key and I don’t take it personally if it sells for less than I originally hoped. As long as I’m making some $$ I’m a happy camper.
There is No ONE Right Avenue For Selling
There are soooo many ways to sell stuff, and there is really no one right way. A lot depends on your local market (where you live), what kind of stuff you’re selling and how much time/effort you’re willing to put into the whole process.
For example here in San Diego Craigslst is really, really active. It’s free to list, super easy to manage and generally gets you a ton of fast hits, if you price stuff right. It’s also hyper-localized so it’s great for bigger house items that need to be physically picked-up to move. Over the last 2 weeks we’ve sold ALL of our remaining furniture Craigslist within 1-2 days (each item). When we originally downsized (6 years ago) we sold most of our stuff the same way.
On the other hand, outside of big cities Craigslist tends to be pretty crappy. There are simply not enough people using the system to make it efficient. So, in more rural areas garage sales or estate sales may make much more sense. Also certain items (say, antiques or collectibles) need a specialized audience to get a good sale, and in my experience this kind of audience doesn’t really hang out much on Craigslist. In these cases eBay, Consignment Agents or Auction Houses will probably give you much, much better results.
Lastly if you’ve got a year to sell stuff (versus a month, say) you’ll be more apt to take your time and perhaps try a few different avenues then just listing everything in one place. Time plays a factor here too.
So, which avenue you chose just depends. Before you start selling, check local listings and see what is most active in your area. Also, sort your stuff into things you want to sell locally (at a bargain) and things you might want to consign/auction or sell through eBay at a more “collectors” price. If you have time to do so “test” the market with a few select items, but if not just get selling!!
That wraps up my basic tips section. Coming next I’ll review some specific selling avenues and give a few key tips on each one. Stay tuned…..SPONSORED LINK:
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
Marilyn, Dania Beach, FL says
You are spot on the head when it comes to selling. It is a JOB, and for most of us not a lot of fun after the initial selling excitement wanes. Soon, you hope to never see the items again.
I just read the popular book on tidying up and it says exactly what you say as far as getting rid of items, only it is for those who are in a brick and mortar place. Living in an RV fits exactly what she says about keeping items.
Keep these interesting topics coming. You do a magnificent job with such valuable information, even for us who are not on the road.
Traveling vicariously through your blog,
Thank you for the lovely comment and yeah it’s definitely a job! It all seems very exciting when you start and you imagine all the $$ you’re going to make…but reality hits you pretty fast LOL. In the end you definitely need to find a balance between time spent selling and time spent moving on.
The best thing I learned from our down size selling was how to buy stuff. That 1/5 to 1/10 or even less. Even nearly perfect items sell at deep discount. This all demonstrates just how expensive retail is. The only items that sold for close to the purchase price were high quality furniture items purchased used. After the sell off, my bike rack, kayake, mountain bike, etc all were used from Craig’s list. Saved a lot of money.
Totally correct. I’ve found deep discounts are you the norm. One of the things I’ve learned from this whole process is that our next house (wherever and whenever that happens) is going to have a lot more 2nd hand furniture. What a deal!
Debbie L says
Another great post. We’ve been there, too, and have done that!
Somehow, we finally gave it all up since we decided we’re committed to a 10 year run in our new motor home (well, it’s a hardly used 2010). We managed to squeeze a few priceless to us large pictures we paid a lot to have custom mounted and framed. They fit snugly behind our couch.
We dreamed of being minimalists for a decade-but it took full time RVing to make it happen!
Very impressive…also that you bought your precious pictures with you! Good job on achieving your goals. I wish you the very best in all your travels!
Yep, it has to be priced right. In spite of the fact we live very remotely in Montana, Mike and I have sold and bought a ton of stuff on Craigslist over the years. We are usually successful in getting our price because we price it right to start with. Our friend is trying to sell a used 5th wheel, a very used 5th wheel and can’t understand why he gets no calls–it just might be that you have it priced at double what the thing is worth to anyone!! We have purchased all the furniture for this AZ house on Craigslist and are very pleased with our purchases and the prices. It does take time and effort, plus your photos have to be good–we don’t even look at ads which contain no photos. Great post Nina–will look forward to the next one!
Totally right on all points Janna! It’s great to hear Craigslist is active up there in the Big Sky MT boonies. That’s honestly something I didn’t expect. And like you said it’s a bargain hunters paradise. You’ve got to price it right or you just don’t get any movement at all.
As former eBay powersellers of assorted estate stuff the most time consuming aspects are composing the listing (writing, pictures, etc.) and packing for shipment. Craig’s list is way faster and great for big and heavy items, but if you are willing to do the work ebay might net you more for smaller popular items. We were surprised on several occasions by items we had listed that sold for way more than we thought because they had some collector value we had no idea existed. It went the other way too more often than not. The difference is with eBay your market is worldwide.
One idea for a local storage unit sale on Craig’s list is to list your items in “lots”, having 1 or 2 desirable items to drive the interest, but making it an all or nothing deal. For example I have a nice pro grade chop saw that I am going to stick in a lot with a bunch of lesser tools. Potentially clears stuff out more quickly.
Sonia & David says
David and I are putting our house up for sale this spring so your blog on the subject of selling your stuff is perfect. What a stressful time, getting your house ready for sale and selling almost everything in a big house. It’s overwhelming at times. The good thing is we don’t have a lot of emotional attachment to most of the things we have. In fact, it is quite liberating to get rid of them. As you say, it’s the emotional experiences we value most. My husband and I already have our home on wheels and as soon as we sell, we and our dogs will be moving into it. New adventures await us.
I have a question, Nina, should we wait until we have a buyer to get rid of our stuff or should I start getting rid of it now? David says we should wait, I want to start now. I tend to get overwhelmed when there’s too much pending.
I would start now. I’m getting ready to sell my house as a teardown. I’ve been selling the rest of my possessions over the past year, getting ready to hit the road in April. It’s less stress and you make more money the sooner your start. There are a lot of things you don’t use and can sell before your house hits the market.
It is a job. We spent 4 months going thru things and gave most away. Mike was volunteering at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and gave TVs and other appliances to many of the young college students working there and tools to the zoo. We were able to sort thru pictures and give to the kids, enjoying the memories along the way. Then we got to hear them laugh looking at them and hear their stories. Glad we didn’t wait until we were gone and let someone else go thru them.
I do find it satisfying to meet the folks that get our stuff. One of my biggest buyers this past 2 weeks was a lovely young lady who had just moved to the area with her husband and 3 kids. They had to leave almost everything behind so she wanted lots of stuff! I gave her a screaming deal, and in return I got to learn about her family and story. I know it might sound silly, but I felt so happy my stuff had found a good home.
Another avenue for sales for us has been Facebook. Many local areas have a yard or garage sale page where you can list an item for sale. Where I’m located outside Metro Philly, I’m on board with at least 6 different FB pages. While not as many eyes are available and doing multiple posts can be cumbersome, it has worked well for getting rid of many smaller items.
Great to know Facebook has worked so well for you. I’ll be mentioning it in my next post.
Pamela johnson says
Beautiful and detailed article. I will share this one. Thanks so much.
Pam Wright says
Glad you were able to move your items so quickly. You are so right about price. Back in the day when I had garage sales I was out to move the items so everything was dirt cheap. I would stop at other garage sales and find really high prices. Yes, some items are worth more, but people doing the garage sale thing aren’t paying these high prices. Craigslist is great. Our daughter sold several furniture items there and we sold our motorcycle and trailer when we were in Bakersfield in less than 15 hours! Congratulations!
Thank you SO much for this post, Nina. And thanks also for the informative comments. As someone born to depression era parents who kept everything and having to deal with two housefuls of their stuff, plus what my wife and I accumulated over 25 years, the task of downsizing can be overwhelming. You have given me hope and I am very grateful. I will print this post so I can have it to keep focused.
I’m so very happy I can give you hope. It can be really hard to let go of stuff, especially if I you come from a family history where stuff was a luxury and you worked hard to keep everything you had. Lots of deep-seated feelings there that makes it even harder to let go.
I find it helps me to know that most of my stuff us going to folks who deeply appreciate it. I’ve met and talked to most of my buyers individually, and it honestly always makes me feel happy to have made that connection, no matter what their circumstance. Some have limited income, some are just starting out in their lives, others are just great bargain hunters. No matter what their history, I feel like my stuff is moving somewhere I know, and as silly as that statement is it really does help me let go.
Connie Houk says
One additional selling avenue we used when we sold our home last summer was a Facebook group called Buy, Sell, Trade. It is localized, like Craigslist. I was able to unload a lot of furniture that wouldn’t sell at our garage sales. Just type in your nearest town, “Canfield Area BST” then follow the directions to join the group. Love your posts. We are preceding you up the 101. Beautiful drive, but a bit rainy in January.
I’ll be writing a bit about Facebook in my next post. I’m actually encouraged to see folks that have had good use from that avenue. I joined 2 groups here in San Diego but they didn’t really pan out. Just goes to show every market/place is different.
Steve & Gari says
Congratulations on getting it done Paul & Nina! We predict that you will continue to experience more joy in the unburdened life
We made 4 piles: Give Away to family and friends, Keep with us in the trailer, Sell/Auction, and Trash. The trash went into an 8 yd dumpster we rented for a couple months.
Lastly to make your point on values; we had commissioned the build of an oak armoire that was a massive 7 ft 6 in tall. We thought it would cost 1 or 2 thousand dollars, it ended up costing over $6,000! It sold at auction for $150. We are glad that we aren’t storing that or carrying it around. ..and somebody got a great deal… good luck moving that beast!
Yeah those are the kinds of prices we’ve seen in the 2nd hand market. Good job on getting rid of everything!
I am STILL going through the stuff I brought with me in my trailer. It’s amazing now little we really need. And the selling process of a house or a storage unit, that is a ton of work and I sympathize for you but I’m glad you’re doing it. That’s all I own anymore back at my house that I’m renting, a closet it’s about 4′ x 4′.
Sean Janson says
being in the process of downsizing (yes, following in your footsteps soon), I compiled a snapshot of additional cost of selling on Ebay. Not only one has to be reasonable about the price, there is also additional 20+ % cost in Ebay, PayPal and USPS/UPS fees, even using the most economical shipping with no insurance. Take a look at this table:
The rule of thumb here is small items with relatively high value / weight-volume ratio.
Excellent analysis! I’ve never done such a detailed cost review, but I’ve always used eBay for exactly the purpose you described -> smaller items of relatively higher value. iPhones/electronics, small collectibles (collectors items), smaller antiques all do great on eBay IMHO. Larger items and lower value stuff, not so much. At least that’s been my experience. It’s really nice to see the detailed numbers on it! Thanks for sharing!
Rev. Robert says
I tried the link to your Google spreadsheet and it’s no longer available. By chance do you still have it? I’m getting ready to go Tiny and sell on eBay so this would be great to have.
The Irreverent Reverend
Steve Zoller says
Did you consider donating the items and using the tax write-off as your “profit”? It’s a LOT less effort and in many cases you’ll probably “make” about the same “profit” as trying to sell it. Plus, it’s easy to feel lousy about selling something for a fraction of its original cost versus feeling great about giving it to someone in need.
We typically do a mix of both. Larger items we sell, but we also donate a ton. We typically don’t itemize on our taxes (without a mortgage and such, the standard deduction tends to be larger for us) so we usually don’t end up using the tax credit, but I’m always happy to donate stuff when we can. Our general approach is that if we don’t sell, we donate and if the charity doesn’t take it (for whatever reason) we’ll free-cycle. Last resort is always trash, which we try to use as little as possible.
Jack Ashore says
We have been doing the freecycle thing for specific and esoteric items (as opposed to say a bag of clothes or whatever. My thinking, perhaps flawed, is that if someone goes through the trouble to contact you and come pick it up, then you can rest comfortable that someone is getting good use from your donated item. Dropping it off at goodwill or wherever I often feel like half the stuff will go straight in their trash and the buld of the rest will sit on a shelf for a long while. We still do it, but my feeling is that freecycle is a more efficient system. Who knows. As for selling and downsizing, we went hardcore at it during the last year before we transitioned to full time, but had the “advantage” of having already downsized into a one bedroom beach condo, and thus we were able to start with the same size storage unit you just switched into. We are going through another round of it though, having sold off things on ebay, CL, and the like this month, clearing a couple of hundred to ease the monthly budget .
Bob Martel says
The ordeal you two have just completed is the main reason I am keeping our 3,000 SF/30 acre “storage locker.” 😉
Congratulations on your accomplishment! 🙂
I am jealous. 😉
Well, if we had a nifty 30 acre storage plot we might have done the same 🙂 One day we may be back to that. Who knows.
You took a deep long breath and got down with it. Congratulations!
We have not visited our storage since we left, and wonder if we can downsize more 🙂
Pat & Bill Richards says
Thank you Nina for the post. Things that we are already talking to ourselves about for sure. Since Oct. 2013 when we made our decision to full-time this year, we started with the duplicates from the rec room, the tool room, the basement and storage cupboards not to mention clothes!! Now that we have an offer on our house, things are coming close to the fore! It is exciting but daunting at the same time. 🙂
Well congrats on the upcoming plans! Hopefully the whole downsizing process won’t be too painful for you. Just take it one day at a time and eventually you’ll get there. Good luck w/ everything!
Russell Wallace says
We did not sell anything. Most things, “stuff,” which we had kept forever was just thrown in a dumpster. Anything of value was given away. First, to the kids if they wanted it. Next to our neighbors or random people. It was so nice to help out people in need. Some things were given away on freecycle. We even gave a lot of stuff to the guy who bought our home. How nice that he wanted it and I didn’t have to get rid of it. Sure, we could have made some money off of our stuff, but giving it away gave us so much more pleasure. Helping others is priceless.
If you’re selling your home and can sell it furnished that can definitely clear a ton of stuff in one go! We were renting before we got on the road (no home to sell), but we did find a few friends who took multiple pieces of furniture at once. Lots of our old stuff has gone to friends over the years.
When we left North Carolina, we didn’t sell. We put it all on Craig’s list as “free, come get it, owner will not help you.” It cleared the unwanted furniture and an in-op hot tub right on out. We could have sold some, but we just wanted to be gone. I’m impressed with the amount of work you guys have done.
We’ve used the “free” option on Craigslist a few times too. You definitely get rid of stuff super FAST that way! We’ve also used Freecycle which is very, very active in San Diego. We’ve gotten rid of some strange stuff (old CD cases, pieces of wood, broken plastic bins, excess boxes etc.) on Freecycle that we would otherwise have to take to the dump.
Mike Wyant says
We just signed the papers and wrote the check on our new( to us) 2007 Monaco Dynasty on Sat. Now the downsizing begins in earnest. Thanks for a very timely article! Some of our furniture we are giving to our kids. Some we have given to friends. We still have tons of stuff to go through! The house goes on the market in March or April; when it sells we will move into a local rv park for a couple of months to get used to the coach and figure out our workamping and travel plans. The goal is to be on the road no later than Sept.1st (when I turn 62). So much to do, but it is all becoming very real!
Exciting stuff!! When we first started out on the road we spent a few months at the local RV park too. It was the perfect transition, both for us and the pets, and it allowed us to gently ease into the whole fulltiming thing. Sounds like you have a great plan!
Last year my husband and I downsized (and sold our house) to join the Peace Corps. It was difficult to get rid of some of our belongings that had emotional value. But once they were gone we did not miss them any more! It is so true that you never get what you think an item is worth, but getting rid of much of our ‘stuff’ was cathartic! When we return to the States we plan to live in a 5th wheel for a while so dramatically downsizing made sense.
You clearly made the perfect choice for you both! I’m sure your volunteer experience has been amazing (and humbling, and enlightening, and life-altering!) and will foster many great campfire stories for your future RV travels. I wish you all the very best with your plans.
Jim S. says
Yes, your assessment of “getting rid of your stuff” is spot on. Myself I’m a Craigslist seller….I have sold my old RV, my wife’s Corolla, bikes, toys. tools, skis, golf clubs. Have also sold or been selling on EBay (Fee Bay) since 2000. EBay is not what it used to be. They used to be the 600 pound gorilla, only game in town. And they acted that way by raising their fees to a point of chasing many sellers away. I only sell collectibles and a few select items on there now. I’ll have a garage sale once every 2-3 years to clear out the nickel and dime items. 90% of my garage sale will be my on my .25 quarter and $1 tables. You will be amazed how much money you can make selling cheap…
Had a neighbor (old couple) down sizing from a 5 bedroom home to a condo. They asked my opinion on how to set prices. I asked “do you really want this stuff ?” Their answer, O No, we need to get rid of all this stuff to sell the house. I gave them some examples such as the vase they priced at $5 I said it should be a quarter….Jogging suit priced at $20 I said a $1 will do….Well, they must have really liked their stuff, and kept the high prices. Nothing sold…they called me over after the sale asking what they could do with all the stuff. I as a joke said “I’ll give you $20 for everything” To my surprise, they were more than happy to take my offer up. I rolled everything over to my house and had a garage sale the next weekend and sold it all for $500.
Spot on indeed. Cheers so much for sharing your experiences.