I am a BIG FAN of earning extra cash via side hustles. I am also obsessed with banishing clutter from every inch of my home (seriously, sometimes it borders on a sickness). So the perfect way to combine both of my passions is to periodically purge my home of old stuff I am no longer using and then sell it online. I realize some may already know how to do this, but for those who don't – I put together this guide on how to sell things you don't need.
Is the “juice” worth the squeeze? Meaning, if you do the work, will you see a good return on your time investment? Yes and no, and I'll cover how to tell the difference. Still, I can offer my $1,000 in 45 days challenge as proof of how quickly you can cobble together a real slush fund using this strategy.
How to Sell Things You Don't Need
You're gonna have fun with this! So let's get started!
Find What You No Longer Use
Pro Tip for Purging Stuff: Rather than constantly hunting for items to sell, it's best to purge or declutter your home once or twice a year (think spring cleaning) or biannually at most. This saves time but also ensures that when you sell, you're making those sexy hundred-dollar amounts as opposed to $15 here or $35 there. Do what you want, I'm just telling you what's worked best for me.
- The best place to look for things you no longer use is in your storage areas. Do you have a storage room or a rented storage space where you're keeping items? Check there first for items you haven't used in years.
- Once you've gone through your main storage space, check smaller spaces. Go through your linen closet, drawers, shelves, under your bed and anywhere else you store things.
- The next place I always tackle is my bedroom closet for unused, gently worn clothing items.
- Finally, if I'm feeling feisty, I'll check my kitchen for any unused appliances.
How to determine what you should get rid of: Questions to Ask
- Have you used it in the last two years? If not, chances are good that you don't need to keep it.
- Does it bring you joy or capture a memory you want to hold onto? If they're not sentimental items, you don't have a reason to keep them.
Go through your home, garage, and storage unit (if you have one) and separate your things into items you need to keep and items that are only taking up space.
Get in the spirit of purging stuff instead of trying to hang onto everything – you'll find it's very freeing. Per The Minimalists, if it is less than $20 and can be easily replaced, it's costing you more to hang onto it.
How to Determine If Something Is Worth Selling or If You Should Donate It
Once you have a few (or many) boxes of things you want to get rid of, it's time to strategize how you'll sell. Selling what you no longer need is how you make money purging your home.
Repeat after me: Not everything worth purging is worth selling.
Sure, we are talking about how to sell things you don't need and you can sell just about anything. But not all of your items will be worth the effort.
Here's my quick-and-dirty list of how to tell:
- First, ask yourself “would I buy this used?” In order to sell (or donate) any item, it must be CLEAN, in good working condition and be in a complete set (if applicable).
- Items such as decorative bedroom linens, unused beauty products, hair tools, vintage Tupperware, lawn décor and china can go for a good amount of change.
- You can also use eBay's appraisal tool to get an idea of how much you'll get for something. Even if you don't end up selling on eBay, this can give you a good idea of what you can get for the item.
- Items that sell for less than $5 are not worth taking the effort to take pictures of and list. It takes time and energy to list your items, and if you can't get more than minimum wage doing so, it's not worth the effort.
- Clothes especially are tricky: Brand-name and current items can usually net money online. Designer items should definitely be resold online. Anything else, such as pajamas, yoga pants and T-shirts, should just be donated because they won't sell for much. Here's my clothing-specific guide for how to sell used clothes online.
- To maximize time versus earnings, I do everything in steps, at once. First, I'll gather the items, then I'll sort them, then I'll take photos, then I'll list them on various websites. I don't do this all at one time or even all in one day, but each step I do together, so I can batch my activity and make sure it all gets done in a timely fashion. Plus, it's just easier to write 20 Craigslist descriptions in one afternoon instead of a few here and a few there.
Where to Sell Your Items for Extra Cash
Now that you know what you want to sell, the next step is knowing where can you make a quick buck off of your things. You have several options.
Poshmark is a fashion community where anyone can sell clothes, accessories, shoes and more. All you have to do is take a photo and describe your item. It'll then get uploaded to your closet, where your network and other people in the community can look at it.
Shipping is prepaid, so you can get cash for your items without having to pay for shipping and handling. Poshmark also takes a cut, but it's a pretty popular place to sell clothes.
ThredUp is an online thrift store that specializes in clothes and accessories. They also offer a clean-out bag, so you can clean out everything at once and not have to go through inspections and photographing things yourself.
They do require that your clothes be in good condition, with no signs of wear, no damage and no alterations. The average payout for one of these bags is $40, but the amount varies depending on how many items are accepted. ThredUp is one of my favorites because I have a lot of brand-name clothing (such as J.Crew, Madewell, etc.). If I don't feel like listing it all separately on Ebay, I'll send it to ThredUp and make money on each bag.
Ebay is known for being a reseller's paradise and it's certainly a great place for purging stuff. You can list just about anything on the platform, as long as it doesn't violate their guidelines. However, not everything on eBay gets bought.
The best way to use this platform is to check to see if other people are actually selling items similar to what you want to list. You can check past sales through search filters. Remember, just because someone has listed something doesn't mean someone wants to buy it. I've had a lot of success on Ebay reselling old technology, small kitchen appliances I no longer use, and designer items.
Letgo is an app that lets you sell things secondhand. You can sell electronics, sports and leisure items, clothes, books and even cars and housing. The app works by showing you what's nearby. One of the best parts about letgo is that you don't have to worry about shipping. The buyer will either pick up the item or ask you to bring it to him or her. Simply take a picture, list an asking price and fill in the details. Interested buyers will message you and make an offer.
OfferUp works very similarly to letgo. All you have to do is take a picture with your phone and set a list price. Interested buyers will message you to figure out a time to meet and purchase your item. Your item will show to people who are in the same area, so you won't have to worry about shipping. Eligible items include household items, such as furniture, appliances and electronics, as well as baby clothes and supplies.
Facebook Marketplace (or Craigslist)
Facebook Marketplace also allows you to sell items, similar to the two apps listed above. Whoever's nearby can see your item and message you with an offer. You can also join yard sale groups in your area and list your items there to get more traction.
Even though this might be a bit more retro, I've also had great success selling old furniture on Craigslist. I always keep the items in the garage, so buyers don't have to come into the house (or on the rare occasion they do, I always make sure someone is there with me).
Often, buyers also bring someone to help them load furniture, so it's all-around a safe transaction and I've never had any problems. Plus, it's great because the transactions are all in cash, and you can physically see the empty space once the items are gone!
How to Sell Things You Don't Need: Extra Tips
I have a few more great tips for to help you purge your home for extra cash.
Tip #1 – You may need a buffer period.
As you move through the items in your home each season or year, you'll find some things are easy to trash, give away or sell. Others, you feel torn about, so I remembered a trick I often use with my seasonal clothes and something Cait recently did with her move.
- I put everything I'm “on the fence” about keeping in my closet in a bag, such as a large trash bag.
- I don't touch it for six months (or roughly two seasons).
- When I take it back out, I instantly know if it's something I have missed and want to keep or if I can toss it. 98% of the time, I toss.
Sometimes you just need a little buffer period to release and let go. This trick works every single time when it comes to purging stuff, I promise!
Tip #2 – The “I may need that one day” is a lame excuse.
I love my mom, but she's the queen of “but I may need that one day.” And 95% of the time, she's right. If she holds onto it long enough, chances are she'll need it again. It's how we've furnished so many houses and apartments over the years. (Thanks, Mom!)
I've always prided myself on being a purger. (I spent time as a professional organizer in college as proof!) I even have a “one in, one out” rule for my closet (you'd never know I once had a shopping addiction).
But just because I'm good at purging stuff doesn't mean I don't hold onto more than I should. And sometimes holding onto items can hold us back emotionally (it's one reason Marie Kondo is so popular). It's not about the stuff, it's about the meaning behind the stuff.
Tip #3 – Reframe your thinking
Look at every item you give away as one less thing you have to worry about.
I like living lean. I have no problem keeping my spaces clutter-free, and sometimes I get so overzealous, I'll have to replace something I've already given away. (Relax, it's happened, like, twice.)
I'm not frugal, and I value less clutter over saving the occasional dollar or two.
But not everyone is like that. I've seen friends and family really struggle to part with physical possessions. This is why, when they ask for my help decluttering, I ask them to think of each item as less stressful: one less thing to keep up with, maintain, and find a place to store.
I don't think it'll happen overnight, but I think it's important to realize that as a culture, we should become comfortable with using items when we need them and then letting them go when we don't.
It's one of the reasons I LOVE Kondo's advice to thank each piece you give away for how it served you in the past as you're letting it go.
The Final TL: DR
If the emotional ploy doesn't work, imagine what you could do with the money you'll earn selling your unwanted items. I used it to fund a quick $1,000 money cushion, but I've known people who used it to fund a summer vacation, make extra debt payments or create a buffer in their business.
Never forget: What you own used to be cash, and it can become cash again.
Lauren Bowling is the creator of Financial Best Life. Writing about money since 2012 (formerly as L Bee and the Money Tree), Bowling is an award-winning blogger and money and real estate expert whose advice has been featured on CNBC, Forbes, CNNMoney, Elite Daily, Business Insider, Redbook, and Woman’s Day Magazine and more. After selling the site to a division of The Motley Fool in 2019, Bowling is now back as the owner and primary voice behind FBL and is excited to continue educating elder millennials everywhere about how to afford their best life.