One of the most powerful initial steps I took during the first days of our financial turnaround was simply cleaning out my closet and selling off a whole lot of stuff. I used a variety of methods for doing so — stores that bought used media, online sales, flyers and taking items to a friend’s yard sale — and the proceeds from selling off all of that stuff ended up making a very rapid and very significant dent in our pile of debt, which made paying it all off go much faster and much more smoothly than it otherwise would have. On top of that, it felt good to simply have all of that unused stuff gone from my life.
Since then, I’ve frequently gone through periods of selling off items, downsizing several collections and selling off lots of accumulated items from closets and garage rafters over the years. These “purges” have netted me quite a bit of money and freed up space in our home as we get rid of unwanted gift items and other items we thought we would use and then didn’t.
I’ve used a lot of strategies for selling items over the years. Here are 11 that have successfully worked for me, along with details on what items tend to work best for that particular method of selling.
Hold your own garage/yard sale.
Hosting a yard sale might seem like a lot of work, but it’s really pretty simple. Schedule it on a spring weekend when there are other yard sales in the area, particularly if there’s a community-wide yard sale, and advertise it a little. Figure out what you’re going to sell and price things in a way that’s easy for you and for customers to understand. Get some tables and a bunch of spare cash — one-dollar bills and change. On the day of the sale, set up the tables, put out your goods and sell!
The advantage of a yard sale is that it’s a great way to sell off a lot of items quickly, particularly when you don’t expect to get more than a dollar or two per item. You might put a lot of hours into a yard sale, but if you sell 150 items for 15 hours of effort, you’re selling off an item every 6 minutes, which is a pretty good rate.
If I had a lot of items that were individually low in value to sell (like lower-end clothing items, toys, and items I might otherwise donate), I would choose to have my own yard sale. While you’re probably getting a pretty low return per item when running a yard sale, you’re going to at least get a little return for a lot of items with little time spent per item sold.
Take items to a garage/yard sale hosted by a neighbor or friend.
If you’re thinking about a yard sale but aren’t quite sure if you have enough items to sell, consider joining in with a friend that’s hosting a yard sale. You can fill up a table or two with your own items and then spend the weekend hanging out with your friend, enabling you both to have some breaks from the selling too.
In this scenario, you can help with some of the setup efforts by hanging up some of the flyers and making sure the yard sale is listed in lots of places. Simply ask your friend what you can do to help; it’s likely that your friend has the overall plan in place but can give you some specific tasks to do to help make the yard sale successful.
The key is communication. Talk to your friend early and often. Don’t just show up on the day of the sale with a trunk full of stuff and expect them to just handle everything.
I’d choose the “shared yard sale” option if I had a good number of low-cost items but not enough to really pull off my own yard sale and I had a friend running one.
List items on your social media feed.
While it’s not a great idea to completely load down your social media feed with things you’re selling off, it can be quite lucrative to occasionally have a post filled with a handful of items you’re selling. It’s very easy to sell things this way and you don’t have to worry much about shipping or delivery because, well, it’s your friends. You’ll see them anyway. There are a few things to consider, though.
First, ask yourself if your friends would really be interested in this stuff. Are these items that your friends might actually want? Do a lot of them already have this stuff? Don’t try to “talk yourself into” the idea that your friends might want this stuff; rather, try to list stuff they’d actually want.
Second, if you use this route, compile all the pictures in one post with each picture having the price listed. This works particularly well on Facebook.
Finally, do not try to rip off your friends. Don’t “oversell” items that you’re listing in this way by trying to inflate their condition to make a couple of extra bucks. Friends will feel obligated to buy it anyway rather than walking away, but it will be paid back through a little less trust and a hint of resentment. Be very honest with what you’re selling here.
I’d choose this option if I were selling items that I knew would appeal to people in my social circle. Likely, this would be the first option and I would move onto other options if the item doesn’t sell.
Post flyers on community bulletin boards.
Sometimes, it’s just better to sell something locally rather than dealing with the effort of shipping it. No one wants to ship a couch or a bed frame. Not only will you not get a lot of return for your time and effort, but it’s also going to be a lot of work to get that thing shipped.
For example, we had a couch from our family room that we needed to replace. It was a fine couch, still in decent shape, but we needed to get a couch with a rollout bed to support additional houseguests, as we were regularly bumping up against the limits of how many houseguests we could have visit us at once.
To sell that couch, we posted a few flyers around town along with using other options on this list, and it was the flyer that led to the sale.
Why did the flyer win out? Flyers reach people who don’t spend a whole lot of time online. Posting them in popular community spots, such as local businesses that have community bulletin boards, the post office, and other places enable your item to catch the attention of a lot of locals who might not see it online.
I would use this option if you’re selling a very small number of items that might be very difficult to ship or transport, like a furniture item or a bed frame, and the item has wide appeal. It’s perfect for selling a piece of furniture or some other large item with broad appeal locally, which means you avoid the hassle of shipping or transporting it. If you’re expecting others to transport the item, keep that in mind as you’re pricing the item, and make sure that you note that need and include an “or best offer” option on the flyer.
List items in local community buy/sell/trade groups.
Many towns and cities have informal buy/sell/trade groups on social media, particularly Facebook, that enable interested parties to both sell off items that they don’t want as well as buy items they’re interested in. The forum usually just provides a way for the buyer and seller to find each other, then they work out the deal directly.
In my experience, the items that sell well on local groups are either physically large items that would be difficult to ship, like furniture items, or small batches of items that aren’t worth a lot of individual effort to sell, like a set of video games from a previous generation’s console. If you price them aggressively, they will usually sell quite quickly.
The advantage of using a highly local group like this is that the actual process of selling each item is pretty easy, compared to other options. You don’t have to deal with shipping and you’ll usually meet the seller face to face, which gives them an opportunity to inspect the item carefully before buying. Plus, many transactions are done in cash. This means that problems after the sale are almost nonexistent and the overall hassle is pretty low.
I would use this option if you’re selling a very small number of items that might be very difficult to ship or transport, like a furniture item or a bed frame, or a small number of items, all with wide appeal. For more niche items, I would use other options.
List items for local sale on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.
This is kind of the next step up from a local buy/sell/trade group for a couple of reasons.
For one, these services tend to attract people from a wider geographic range, meaning you’re likely to get interest from people in different towns nearby or, occasionally, from people quite a distance away.
For another, the people going after these listings are a little less filtered; people in local buy/sell/trade groups are often filtered for connection to the community and are banned if they conduct any activity that’s not friendly and honest, whereas these services have no such filtering. You need to be much more wary of scams with these broader options.
Still, these services are a great follow-up option if you can’t sell an item with a flyer or a listing in a local buy/sell/trade group. I’ve had good experiences with both Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace with a variety of items.
I would use one or both of these services if I were selling an item of moderate value and reasonable widespread appeal but didn’t want to deal with shipping it. Basically, I would turn to this if a flyer or a community buy/sell/trade listing didn’t work out, because these options tend to involve a little more effort and a somewhat higher chance of a scam, particularly if the item is higher in value.
List items for sale by mail on eBay.
I tend to use eBay to sell individual items that are individually valuable but only to a certain niche audience, like collectibles. Items that I’ve sold very successfully on eBay include individual sports cards, individual Magic: The Gathering cards, sealed Magic: The Gathering product, DVD box sets, board games and action figures still in their original packaging.
If you’re selling on eBay, here are a few pieces of advice.
One, document everything you do. Get tracking information and insurance on everything you ship and record all numbers and the date and time you sent them. Take plenty of photos of the item, as well as photos of how you packaged it in the box.
Two, expect that some small portion of people you sell to will try to scam you. I’ve sold a few hundred items on eBay and about 2% of the people I’ve sold to have made false claims about the item they received in order to get their money back. The documentation was absurdly helpful in all of these cases.
Finally, it will take more time and hassle than almost any other method of sales, but for specific items, it’s hard to get much higher return. The issue to consider is whether or not the additional return on the item is worth the hassle. I would not sell items on eBay if I could get most of the same return on the item locally.
I would use eBay primarily for niche items that have enough value to make them worth the trouble; collectibles are perfect here. Figure out what it is you are selling, be fully honest in your listing, and document everything well and things will go beautifully.
Take quality items to a consignment shop or other local secondhand stores.
Local consignment shops exist to help people sell high-quality secondhand items, like clothes, jewelry, quality furniture, and similar items. If you have a reasonably high-value item of broad appeal, consignment is a really good option for selling it, as it provides a great balance of effort for the return you get. You won’t get the best possible return, but you’ll usually get a decent return for very little effort on your part.
Do not bother bringing in low-quality items for consignment, as the consignment agent will just reject them and you will have both wasted your time. Instead, focus on items that match the quality of items sold in that store. Take some time beforehand to see what they actually sell, whether online or in person, before bringing items in there to sell.
I would use consignment stores for high-quality individual items with broad appeal, like clothing or jewelry. In terms of effort versus return, consignment stores tend to offer a pretty good balance for sellers.
For specific types of items, look for online and offline stores that cater to those items.
I noted earlier that I have sold individual collectibles on eBay with great success, but that it’s not really worth it to do so for items with relatively low value. What do you do with those items? Collectibles worth less than $5 or $10 probably aren’t worth selling on eBay because the effort involved exceeds the return you get, but you don’t want to just dump those items.
In those cases, the best strategy is to sell them to stores and niche marketplaces that deal with that specific type of item. For example, if you want to sell trading cards, you find a store that deals in those cards and will buy your collection from you. If you want to sell comics, do the same.
Before you do this, go through the collection and make sure you’ve extracted any individual items that are valuable enough that it’s worth the effort to sell on their own. For me, this threshold is usually around $10. Below that, it’s really not worth my effort to sell them individually.
Understand that if you want a shop to buy your entire collection, they are taking on significant risk. They can’t just liquidate these items into cash for what they’re “worth,” either. They have to hold onto them until they find other buyers, and that’s a risk for them. Until then, those items take up inventory space. Thus, you should expect that you will not get an enormous return for them, but you will get some return.
I would use item-specific secondhand stores for niche items for which there is a specific market, like trading cards or comics, that you may struggle to sell individually. For example, if you have a big pile of trading cards that are valued at less than $1 each, you can probably find a local shop or an online shop that will buy them from you in bulk for a few cents each. Compare that to the effort of selling each one individually just to earn an extra $0.50 per card.
Sell them for scrap or to a junkyard.
If you have a large item, particularly one with a high metal content, that will be difficult to sell secondhand or has generated little interest, consider selling it as scrap metal. Scrap metal buyers will pay you for such items by the pound depending on the metal content of the item and will typically reuse or recycle the metal (eventually) once they find a buyer for it.
This is a good way to get a few bucks out of any larger items with a lot of metal in them that won’t otherwise be sold to anyone. You won’t get much in return for them, but you can often make a few dollars, which is better than just sitting the item by the curb.
I would use this approach for large metal items that have limited appeal to others. For example, I had a large metal rack that I used for home brewing and realized that it took up too much space. I tried to sell it locally to other homebrewers, but no one wanted it. I ended up selling it for scrap metal and got $10 out of it, which was better than nothing.
Donate the items and get a tax deduction.
If you still have items left that you just can’t seem to sell, consider donating them to Goodwill or to the Salvation Army or to another charity, like a local clothing pantry. They can give you a receipt detailing the approximate value of the item donated, which you can then use as a tax deduction. If you itemize your taxes, that tax deduction will directly lower your tax bill, so consider this to be a worthwhile option if you are paying down a mortgage or have a lot of student loans.
Of course, in this scenario, you’re not getting any immediate return in your pocket. However, you’re not putting these items into a landfill and, if you do itemize your taxes, you will eventually receive some value for those items in the form of a larger tax refund.
Keep in mind that this should be used for items that are difficult to get value from elsewhere. This is a good place to get rid of yard sale leftovers or things that didn’t sell on Craigslist.
I would use this for items that I’m struggling to sell elsewhere, particularly items with broad appeal. Clothing items that didn’t sell at consignment or in a yard sale might be perfect for Goodwill, for example, as might small home furnishings such as lamps, or small kitchen appliances.
You can always turn the unused stuff in your closet into cash.
Go through your closets and other storage areas and be honest with yourself about what items you’ll ever really use again. If you won’t use an item, consider selling it in one of these places. You can get at least some value out of the item, plus you’ll free up space in your storage areas, you’ll keep it out of a landfill, and you’ll put it in the hands of someone who will actually value and use it. That’s a pretty good deal in my book.