Are you tired of the mountains of clutter around your home? Are you overwhelmed by your own “stuff?” Do you have so many belongings that you have to rent a storage unit to house them all?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey by the National Association for Professional Organizers, or NAPO (yes, there is such a group), 54% of Americans are overwhelmed by the amount of clutter they have. What's more, 78% complained they had no idea what to do with all of it, which is probably why the clutter built up in the first place.
You can find evidence of this phenomenon in both affluent and low-income neighborhoods all over the U.S. – garages filled from floor to ceiling, attics overflowing, and in some cases, households with entire rooms – or even floors – dedicated to storing unused and often forgotten items.
The problem has become so big that 9% of American households rented a storage unit in 2013. That’s 10.85 million households, and a whole lot of money flushed down the drain as well.
If you're curious how much the average family spends on storage, consider this - a fact sheet from the Self Storage Association of the United States reports that the average 10-foot-by-10-foot non-climate controlled unit cost families an average of of $118 per month last year. That’s more than $1,400 annually!
Unfortunately, these costs fall disproportionately on middle- and lower-income households. According to recent stats from the Self Storage Association, 47% of all self storage renters reported a household income below $50,000 per year, while 63% reported an annual income below $75,000.
In other words, those who are paying to house their clutter are often the ones who can least afford to do so. But, what can we do?
Online Resale Apps to the Rescue
In many cases, paying $1,400 (or more) to rent a storage unit is a poor investment. Unless it's a temporary measure while you're moving, or you're storing items that are incredibly valuable or impossible to replace, the cost of renting a storage unit can quickly overshadow any savings you earn by storing those items in the first place.
Fortunately, there are a ton of new websites and apps that can help anyone unload their unused items – and make some money. Gone are the days of spending your entire Saturday in the hot, summer sun during a yard sale. These days, more and more people are turning to technology for faster, more efficient ways to reach new audiences and sell their stuff for top dollar.
That’s the whole goal of online resale sites like Shopstick.com, notes the site’s founder, Brett Keintz.
"There are a ton of different ways to sell your unwanted stuff; you really just have to figure out what your primary goals are and then find the right ones," Keintz explains.
According to Keintz, different online sites and mobile apps are geared toward different audiences. However, if your ultimate goal is profit, you should start out with sites that don’t charge a fee first. Think Craigslist, your local neighborhood's Facebook group, and Reddit subreddits.
“I really think anyone can and should be getting rid of things that they don't need from their homes and their offices,” explained Keintz. “It's just a question of how much work you're willing to do to get rid of it and how much you're hoping to earn from it.”
Six Sites to Help You Clear the Clutter
If you’re stressed out or overwhelmed by clutter or stuck with a storage unit of stuff you don’t really want, now is the time to turn it all into cash or something else you can use. Here are six sites that can help the garage sale-averse:
Based in San Francisco and Chicago, Shopstick.com harnesses the power of technology to help people get rid of their stuff. With Shopstick.com, customers snap a photo of their item with a cell phone and text it in with the hope of receiving an instant offer and quick pick-up.
While still in beta, Shopstick hopes to expand its reach in the future. The site also focuses on helping customers find special or unique items before they hit Craigslist.
According to Shopstick founder Brett Keintz, the goal of the app isn’t just to make money, but to help people have simpler, less stressful lives.
"The best part about getting stuff out of your house is the peace of mind it generates," says Keintz. "It’s a bonus if I can get a little extra cash out of it, too. And so, with a few friends, I’ve been trying to help our friends, family, and other people who hear about us through word of mouth achieve the same goals for their unneeded electronics, jewelry, clothing and accessories, and even furniture."
Gazelle started in 2007 with the goal of extending the life of unwanted and unloved electronics. The site launched a simple device trade-in service in 2008, but has since launched a store to sell certified pre-owned devices such as smartphones and tablets.
As of 2015, Gazelle.com is the leading online electronics resale store and consumer electronics trade-in site. According to Gazelle, they have handled more than 2 million consumer devices and paid out more than $200 million for unwanted electronics to date.
For sellers, Gazelle.com offers cash trade-ins, free shipping, and quick payment through Amazon.com, gift cards, or Paypal.com. While Gazelle focuses mostly on newer electronics, you might be surprised to find that there is a market for nearly any device. And as ABC News recently noted, “consumers are blown away by how much they can get... usually more than they expect.”
Yerdle, a clutter-clearing app available for iPhone and Android devices, is more about creating community than cash, trumpeting the idea of "unshopping."
With Yerdle, customers take a picture of something they don't want, and post it to the app. Someone interested in your item will then pay you in Yerdle Reuse Dollars, the site’s currency, and you’ll ship it to their home. You can then use your Yerdle currency to buy other used items you may need.
This makes Yerdle a closed economy -- you can't trade in your Yerdle dollars for cash. But the idea is that, over time, users can de-clutter their homes and save a lot of money by trading in things they don't need for things they will use.
Yerdle not only helps Americans reduce waste, says co-founder Adam Werbach, it also helps connect users with free items they actually need.
"We created Yerdle with the very specific mission of reducing waste and trash,” Werbach said in a press release. "So far, we’ve helped people save over $3 million on items that weren’t being used - and that they got for free."
When you have kids – especially babies – it’s easy to become disheartened by the amount of clothing and accessories they were only able to wear a handful of times.ThredUP.com addresses this problem by creating a marketplace for gently used, high quality children’s clothing and accessories, and they will even buy your used clothes directly – and with no haggling.
According to the site, they buy defect-free, on-trend children’s clothing from popular brands such as Gap, Old Navy, Disney, Gymboree, and Mini Boden. Items with a payout under $60 will be paid for right after processing, but clothing items worth more than $60 will go into consignment and be paid out once the item sells.
In addition to kid’s clothing, thredUP also buys and sells used women’s accessories and clothing, as well as maternity wear, handbags, and shoes. Although these new categories are still gaining traction, they add yet another way for families to unload their high-quality clothing and accessories to savvy buyers. According to the site’s annual report, Americans saved approximately $62.5 million dollars over retail by shopping at thredUp.com in 2014, while earning over $4.5 million for their unused clothes.
Much like the name suggests, Varagesale.com acts as a virtual garage sale. Just enter your zip code to find already established virtual resale communities in your area – or start your own. Varagesale’s free mobile app also helps consumers buy and sell their items faster than ever before – and all within their local communities.
Since the site works in conjunction with local Facebook resale sites, you do need a Facebook account to sign up. After you join a community or start your own, you can immediately start buying or selling any items that aren’t listed as prohibited. And the best part is, the entire service, including the mobile app, is free.
As the mother of all online resale sites, Craigslist -- essentially the searchable, free, online classifieds of the 21st century -- effortlessly connects sellers with buyers in their local communities and neighborhoods.
Using Craigslist.org or the mobile app for iPhone, you can list nearly anything for sale and find a buyer within days - or even minutes. I’ve personally used the site to sell everything from furniture to leftover construction materials, and have never been disappointed. Best of all, Craigslist is completely free to use.
Despite its enormous reach, Craigslist is still a relatively small, nonprofit organization, and the various apps that provide access to its listings are somewhat clunky and outdated; many people instead access the site online or directly through the Web browser on their phone.
Still, between the free listings, the ability to post plenty of pictures and details, and a huge, built-in base of active buyers and sellers, it's hard to beat Craigslist when it comes to buying and selling stuff online.
Unloading Your Unwanted Stuff Online
When it comes to our obsession with clutter, the Internet has been a double-edged sword. On one hand, the Internet has made it easier than ever for us to find buyers for our unused and unwanted items, but on the other, it has made it almost too easy for us to buy more stuff than ever before.
It’s up to us to use the Internet to fight the good fight. Fortunately, both buyers and sellers who use online resale sites are doing something good for their finances – and for the planet. On the buying end, consumers who use these apps are doing their part to keep usable items out of our landfills and to curb overproduction. Meanwhile, on the selling end, many are improving their finances and their lives by getting rid of clutter and earning money in the process.
But that doesn’t mean this process is always seamless or without risk. According to Keintz, anyone who wants to sell their items online should proceed with caution.
"People should always read the fine print for each resale app, as each of them has slightly different policies," notes Keintz. "You'll want to make sure you understand how much you'll be paid, how quickly you'll be paid, and what the return policy will be. Most are pretty protective of their buyers, including offering buyers a window of time to return the item regardless of cause."
As a result, explains Keintz, you should always post plenty of pictures and over-describe your item. That way, you can prevent any confusion surrounding the quality or condition of your item ahead of time. "The last thing you want is for a buyer to feel that the item they received wasn't correctly described," notes Keintz.
Still, all risk aside, it makes sense to earn some money for your unwanted stuff – especially if you’re paying for a storage unit to house it. Just imagine what you could do with an extra $100, $500, or $1,400. With the right website or mobile app, you might be able to raise more money than you realized - and in less time than you think.
What's your favorite app or website for selling stuff online?