How to sell your unwanted stuff

Weekend project: Declutter your house and pay off those holiday debts with these online tools.
Want to declutter and pay off some bills? Online marketplaces exist to help you sell what you don't need. dorian2013 / Getty Images/iStockphoto
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By Nicole Spector

The holidays may be over, but the financial damage may be just be coming into view. American consumers were forecast to crack $1.1 trillion in holiday spending, or upwards of $1,000 on average.

As I review my credit card statements, I’m taken aback by the amount I spent on gifts; but the real shock and awe comes when estimating the amount of dollars that were spent on me. I got a lot of gifts, folks, and while I’m grateful for all of them, I’m overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff that is now in my possession. Some of it can be returned for a refund, but most can only be exchanged, and the idea of trading it in for more stuff makes me rather claustrophobic.

What will I do? I’ll head to online marketplaces and attempt to sell what I don’t need. I’ll also dig up some of the items in my closet that I never wear and try to sell those, too.

“How do you even do that?” my mother, who may indeed be an online shopping addict, asked me with great suspicion. “Sounds like too much trouble!”

You have no shortage of choices in platforms

It’s actually pretty simple, and a popular way to make extra cash — in some cases up to thousands of dollars; though that’s a very steep goal that requires essentially doing this as a business.

As e-commerce has grown (from 22 percent of people shopping in 2005 to 79 percent in 2016, according to Pew Research Center), troves of marketplaces for individual sellers have popped up. Depending on what you’re selling, these are the top destinations to vend your goods.

On eBay you can sell practically anything

With 15 diverse categories, eBay is a vendor’s favorite go-to site. You have the choice of opening items to auction, or setting the price with the “Buy It Now” option.

“My wife and I also run small eBay reselling business where we flip items on eBay, mainly guitars and make $2,000 to $3,000 in side income from doing so” says Daniella Flores, creator and author of “I Like To Dabble”, a blog about creative money tips and side hustles. “You can sell anything from collector's items, to electronics, to doll clothes and even mason jars and vacuum bags. There is nothing you can't resell on eBay. When you search for the item you want to resell to do pricing research, filter your search on items that already sold. Look at the prices that past items similar or exactly the same as yours sold for and use that as your base price for when you list your items.”

For an idea of what’s hot on eBay right now, check out the site and app’s trending list, which includes “Aquaman” merch, a James Charles makeup palette and sealed Disney VHS tapes, which “can go for thousands.”

Note that eBay does charge insertion fees (if you’re listing more than 50 items a month) and final value fees (percentages vary based on category and selling price). Read the fine print to ensure selling there is worth it.

For designer fashion, check out Poshmark

Poshmark is the best for reselling unwanted clothes, accessories, purses, etc.,” says Flores. “Shoes and sneakers do exceptionally well on this app, [as do] brands like Victoria’s Secret PINK, Kate Spade, Coach [and] Puma.”

“There are three simple steps to start selling on Poshmark: take a picture of the clothing item, insert relevant details and price, and share with the community — the more you share, the more you sell,” says Kate Franco, senior director of brand marketing at Poshmark who recommends new users check out the app’s getting started guide and an overview of its community guidelines here.

“Poshmark is a peer-to-peer marketplace, so everything purchased on the app comes directly from one of Poshmark’s 40 million community members,” Franco adds. “Once an item sells, Poshmark sends the seller a pre-paid priority shipping label through PoshPost. When a sale is made, Poshmark deducts a fee from the listing price. For sales under $15, the fee is a single flat rate of $2.95 and sellers keep the rest. For sales of $15 or more, the fee is 20 percent of the listing price and sellers keep 80 percent.”

Franco cites the following brands as the most in demand on the platform right now:

  • Fjallraven bags
  • Show Me Your Mumu dresses
  • Diff eyewear
  • Rothy’s shoes
  • Superga shoes
  • Reformation jeans
  • Celine accessories
  • All Saints jackets and coats

Hand over secondhand apparel to ThredUP

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If you’re selling apparel but don’t want to be involved in the process consider ThredUP, which "is designed for the busiest consumers who want a one-stop-shop. Sell any brand — from GAP to Gucci — without leaving the house, taking photos or managing the transaction, ” says Karen Clark, VP of communications & partnerships at ThredUP.

ThredUP determines the value of your items and takes the photos and writes descriptions. ThredUp also sends you a “Clean Out Kit” with a pre-paid shipping label for you to send your items back to them in. Make sure your clothes are clean and in great condition. ThredUp’s style experts triple-check for quality and authenticity.

Payout for the seller depends on the pricing of the item, and NWT (that's "new with tags") items tend to go for more — though not strictly; same goes for seasonal items that are in style.

“In 2018, thredUP combed through its data and found the best window to sell your clothes: Dubbed ‘Seller’s Spree’, January 22 through the end of February marks a period when secondhand clothes sell fastest,” says Clark.

For unwanted tech, click on DeCluttr

DeCluttr is a destination to buy and sell technology, and it’s free to use.

“Decluttr has paid out over $275 million to our 5.5 million customers worldwide,” says Liam Howley, CMO, “With the average American home containing $263 of unwanted tech on average.”

DeCluttr provides you a pre-paid shipping label to send in your tech and then provides a valuation of your items, after which you can decide if you want to proceed.

“As soon as your items arrive, our expert team will check them over and you’ll get paid the day after by direct deposit, PayPal or check or if you’re feeling generous you can donate to charity,” says Howley. “At the moment, we’re paying up to $232 for the iPhone 7.”

Facebook Marketplace for local, social selling

Over at Facebook Marketplace, you can vend items based on your location. This is ideal for selling larger items like furniture, and spreading the word to your social media community.

“As a seller, Facebook Marketplace does a good job of tracking statistics for your listing. You can see how many views your listing has received and compare it against the number of inquiries you get,” says Kait Schulhof, author of “A Clean Bee” blog. “That information will help you determine when to adjust pricing, photos or keywords to better set up your listing for success.”

Like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace is free to use and users negotiate how they want to pay; unlike Craigslist, it touts the benefit of being able to sell to/buy from people in your social network. The service shows the location of users, along with their public Facebook profiles. Do some homework on the buyer to make sure they’re legit, and don’t invite them over if you’re alone.

5Miles: Nextdoor meets Craigslist

Free and with no transaction fees, 5Miles is another option for selling stuff locally.

“One common mistake is overpricing an item that you’re trying to resell,” says Lucas Lu of 5miles, an app for local selling and buying. “Do a little research online to gauge the average sale price of an item. Also, even though an item may be brand new — i.e. unopened, never used — you're still selling it secondhand, so consider discounting the price vs. retail. This will help your listing be more competitive in attracting buyer interest, and you're more likely to sell your unwanted item faster.”

Quick Tips for a Better Sale

If you’re using a platform that requires you to upload details on an item and ship yourself, remember these tips:

You need a camera (your smartphone should be fine)

A picture is worth a thousand words, or however much you’re trying to get for an item. You don’t need to be a master photographer, but you do need to put some care into producing clear photographs that accurately communicate colors, form and other key details.

“I like to use a solid background and natural light to photograph my images,” says Amy Mings, a lifestyle blogger at “Maison de Mings” who sells on Facebook Marketplace.

Take measurements

Taking measurements is imperative if you’re trying to sell something high-end like a wedding dress or designer blouse. A shopper familiar with the brand will likely know how that brand size fits them, but that’s only a small portion of your audience. You’ll want to relay the bust, length and shoulder width.

If you’re selling jewelry or other small objects, include measurements, but also place it next to a quarter or dime in at least one photo for perspective.

Describe in vivid detail

“The more info you can provide, such as year, style, material, type of material (i.e walnut vs. wood), model number [the better],” says Al Scobell, COO at Caring Transitions, a company specializing in senior relocating and estate sales. “We like to say, ‘Write descriptions as if there are no pictures and take pictures as if there are no written descriptions.”

Disclose even the smallest flaws

Be sure to inspect your item as closely as possible. If there’s any kind of flaw (this can be as seemingly insignificant as a tough zipper or a mark on the interior), disclose and photograph that detail. Note that you’ve reflected this flaw in your pricing.

Pack your item robustly and with some love

Ship your package to the buyer as if it must survive a great USPS catastrophe and make it look pretty by wrapping in tissue paper. The trick is to give people the sense of opening a gift. A little “Thank You” note is also a nice touch that could help incentivize buyers to purchase from you again.


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