1.20.2013

How to Declutter & Make Money!

One of my good friends was visiting our house and made the following comment: "You always seem to have new stuff in your house, but it doesn't feel crowded or cluttered," she said. "What do you do with the old stuff?"

The answer is simple. We are constantly getting rid of things. When we buy something new, it's time to get rid of the old. Our new TV is a good example. I was having a crafternoon with my BFF while the husband went grocery shopping at Costco. I was sitting at my dining table when I got the text no frugal wife wants to receive:


Well, he either wants to buy a new TV or a new car, I thought to myself. Turns out Costco was having an "amazing" deal on a 60" LG plasma TV, and the husband was smitten with it.

I should mention that my father is to blame for this whole situation because he made sure to tell Scott that we needed a new TV when he was here visiting for Thanksgiving. Thanks Dad. He didn't know he needed a new TV until you said so! It was only a matter of time after that...

After much discussion, we decided that he could buy himself a new TV as long as he sold our old TV (which was about 5 years old) for a decent amount of money. We've sold a lot of things on Craigslist, so we figured we could sell it on there.

Once we decided to purge the old TV, we looked around to see what else we could get rid of. A week later, we were $900+ richer just by selling our old stuff! The extra money is nice, but so is the extra space. When you have a small house like ours, you can't buy new stuff without getting rid of the existing items. You'll be overrun with clutter in no time!

There are three main ways to declutter your house:

• Sell it.
• Donate it.
• Throw it in the trash.
 
I believe that if you're willing to put in some effort, you can sell just about anything. For example...


--- It's been two years since we replaced all of the doorknobs in our house, and we've had a box of heavy brass doorknobs sitting in our garage ever since. Over Christmas break, the husband took the box to a metal recycling business, and they gave us $36 for the metal. It doesn't sound like much, but it's $36 more than we had! Plus we don't have that box taking up valuable space in our garage anymore.

--- We also cleaned out our closets. When we're cleaning out clothes, we make three piles for the categories listed above. One pile is for clothes we think we can sell to Plato's Closet, one pile is for donations, and one is for clothes so bad that no one would want them. That last pile gets tossed out with the garbage.

Have you ever been to Plato's Closet? It's the same concept as Buffalo Exchange, but I like Plato's Closet better because they give you cash. (Buffalo Exchange does store credit.) You simply bring in your gently used clothes and shoes, and they decide what they want to buy and how much they want to pay you. The key with Plato's Closet is to bring brand-name clothes, because that's what they want to buy. Their store caters to teenagers, so if you have brand name clothes that would appeal to teens, you've got a good shot of coming home with some extra cash. Here are some of the brands they've bought from us: Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle, Guess, BCBG, Jessica Simpson, J Crew, Banana Republic, Polo Ralph Lauren, Nike, Perry Ellis.

When we brought our clothes right after December, they took what they wanted and gave us a check for $76. We were pumped! It was much easier than having a garage sale and we probably made more money this way, too. Whatever clothes they didn't buy were donated to the Clothes Closet ministry at our church, which provides clothes to needy families.

craigslist.org
--- We're also big Craigslist fans. Obviously you have to be cautious when buying or selling on Craigslist because you can't trust everyone you meet online. (Thanks for the lesson, Manti Te'o!) Here are some of our tips for selling on Craiglist:

Be honest. If the piece of furniture you're selling has some scratches on it, disclose the flaws up front. Take pictures of the scratch and post them in the listing. It's much better than meeting someone to show them the furniture and having them get offended that you didn't tell them about the flaws. If you are selling a rug, make sure to say whether you have pets or allow smoking in your home. Buyers need to know this kind of stuff before they make the effort to meet you. We sold our living room rug for $140, but we made sure to tell the buyer that we have indoor dogs. She was fine with that and still wanted the rug.

We sold two broken iPhones on Craigslist for $140/each. Yes, the buyers already knew they were broken! We explained the problems in detail, and they thought they could fix the phones. They were willing to take the risk and appreciated our honesty about the phones. Now that's a successful Craigslist transaction.

Provide detailed descriptions. Taking the time to provide details in your craigslist ad saves you the hassle of answering a million questions from potential buyers. Provide colors, dimensions, model numbers, etc. If you have the info, put it in the listing. Dovetailed drawers? Include that in your description, along with a photo of the drawers.

Include disclaimers. We always include "Cash only" and "Will not deliver." Yours might say something different. A lot of people like to include the following to help them avoid unnecessary emails: "If this listing is still active, the item is still available." It could help cut down on the "Is this item still available?" inquiries that everyone loves so much.

Take good photos. Your stuff is more desirable when the photos are taken in decent light. This goes without saying, but include photos.  I always shake my head when I see a Craigslist post with no photos. I'm pretty sure that lowers your odds of selling stuff by 90% at least!

• Be polite. I know that I'm more likely to buy from someone who is kind and answers my questions in a courteous manner. We had someone offer below what we were asking for a Roku we were selling. We told him we had gotten a lot of inquiries about it and were going to stick to our asking price. He said, "Well, obviously you can't sell it for that price or you would have sold it already." We never responded to that rude guy again, and we did end up getting our full asking price later that day. Being rude never gets you anywhere!

Be cautious. We don't like people to come to our house to see the stuff, so we choose to meet them at a highly populated location, like the parking lot of our local grocery store. We joke that our local Kroger probably thinks the husband is a drug dealer because he showed up so many times and exchanged cash with so many people during the great Craigslist blitz of December!

We have a rule that I don't handle any Craigslist transactions. The fact is that I'm more naive, trusting and physically vulnerable than my husband, and we don't want to take the risk. The husband wears the Craigslisting pants in this house, and I'm totally fine with that. 

 In the interest of full disclosure, here's what we sold to make $900+ during the last week of December:

• clothes (to Plato's Closet) = $76
• old brass doorknobs (to metal recycling company) = $36
• 6x9 Target rug (Craigslist) = $140
• (two) broken iPhone 4 (Craigslist) = $140/each for a total of $280
• Roku (Craiglist) = $50
• two outdoor ottomans (Craigslist) = $25
• wooden dresser (Craigslist) = $40
• 2008 Samsung 42" TV (Craigslist) = $240
• Upholstered bench with torn corner (Craigslist) = $25

You never know what people will want to buy. Sometimes the things I believe will sell right away don't sell at all, and then the things I don't think anyone will want get snatched up right away! My motto is that it never hurts to try, and the worst that could happen is that no one would respond to your listing.

---

So, that's the story of how a TV purchase turned into a great big decluttering/selling extravaganza that netted us more than $900! That's also the story of how I can continue to shop and buy things without filling up our small house with way too much stuff!

So tell me, do you sell your stuff on Craigslist? How do you declutter your house as time goes on and you acquire more things? If you have more tips and/or ideas for making money off your old stuff, do tell us in the comments. I always want to learn new tips and strategies!

* Downton Abbey time! *


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