How One Woman Sold Everything She Owned in a Month and Made $7,000
Last year, I fell out of love with New York City. After thirteen years of living in the concrete jungle and working in various aspects of nightlife and entertainment, I decided to leave. I wanted to travel to warmer climates, reconnect with nature and bask in sunshine. You don’t see the sun much when you’re working all night long.
This seemed like the perfect opportunity to downsize, and I planned to take only one suitcase with me. This goal was pretty challenging and optimistic for someone who couldn’t even pack light for a long weekend getaway!
Many years of living in the same city allowed me to amass way too much stuff, forcing me to get serious with the decluttering process. I only had one month to sell everything I owned, and I wanted to make as much money as possible.
Whether you’re on an anti-consumerism rampage or simply moving to another city, state or country, you might be wondering how to sell all your stuff. It was daunting, but I did it -- and made $7,000 in the process.
Clear Your Schedule
Since I was leaving New York City in a few weeks, and I wasn’t making much money working at a club’s coat check room in the middle of a very hot summer, I decided that it was in my best interest to quit my job and devote all my time to the task at hand.
You may not be in a position to do the same, but you’ll want to set aside as much time as possible. Selling all of your worldly possessions is a major time commitment. If you’ve racked up a bunch of vacation days at work, use a few of them to help you achieve this goal.
Sell Different Types of Items in Different Ways
I’ve thrown a few conventional yard sales before, and decided that I didn’t have enough time to wait for people to swing by and root through my things. Instead, I used two main platforms to sell items online: Craigslist and my personal network.
In most cases, there is no need to share everything you’re selling with both of these communities. When trying to decide what to post and where, you will save yourself a lot of time and energy by considering where an item is most likely to sell, and how you’ll get it to its new owner. After years of using Craigslist, I’ve come to realize that general items in these categories tend to sell well: furniture, kitchen items, music equipment, instruments, art, tools, and electronic devices. Other items, like clothing or jewelry, are likely better suited to sharing with your network in other ways.
Keep in mind that your personal network likely reaches across the country, or even the world. You don’t want to sell your dresser to your friend in LA if you live in NYC! However, small items are easy (and cheap!) enough to mail with minimal hassle.
How to Sell Your Stuff on Craigslist
Craigslist works best if you live in a big city. If you’re in a smaller town or community, I wouldn’t bother using it. Instead, I would organize a neighborhood garage sale or group sale at a local church or community center, or try using local Facebook garage sale groups. Involving more people could help you boost visitor numbers and increases your sales.
To prepare my listings, I took photos of everything and wrote out detailed descriptions of each item. These strategies help capture the interest of more potential buyers, leading to more replies to your posting -- and you want a lot of replies because people often flake out. If I wasn’t sure how much to charge for an item, I looked it up on Craigslist and eBay to get an idea of what others were charging.
Get creative with your listings to boost your chances of making each sale. Rather than posting all of my artwork separately, I made one post that included photos and descriptions of all my art. I titled it something fun like “Beautiful Art for Your White Walls.” It caught people’s attention, and helped me sell all the pieces. I did the same thing for my massive CD collection, and sold it for $500!
Be clear that you’re selling on a first-come, first-served basis. I wouldn’t promise anyone that I would hold on to an item for a few days, because I could lose another potential buyer. But if an item didn’t sell right away, I wasn’t shy about following up with people who had expressed interest to let them know it was still available. This strategy worked, and many people bought items once I followed up by email or text. Make sure to keep contact information for anyone who expresses interest in your items so you can follow up for the sale.
Remember to re-list your items after a few days to maximize the number of people who see it, and get back to the top of your area’s listings. Every time I re-listed my items, I tweaked the price points to see whether a lower -- or even higher -- price made a difference. Sometimes, a higher asking price helped an item to sell!
Sell Your Stuff to Your Network
It can often be easier to sell to people you know. They trust you, and know that you wouldn’t sell them something low quality. Trust is big, and it can be hard for strangers to trust you enough to buy certain items. Plus, you know what your network likes and wants! My friends are really into music equipment, instruments, sparkly sequined clothing and funky jewelry, so I was selective and pitched these items to my network via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and email.
People will want to see clothing and jewelry on you, rather than on a hanger, so I took selfies standing near a window in natural sunlight. I added an informative and witty description of each item and posted each photo to Instagram, automatically sharing it with Twitter and Facebook.
In the description, I included my asking price plus postage, and asked people to leave an email address so that I could send an invoice via PayPal or Google Wallet. When a buyer chose PayPal, I added a few extra dollars to cover their fee. I also included some descriptive hashtags to help the post catch on with people outside my network. The whole process took only a few minutes for each item.
By selling my clothes and jewelry to friends directly rather than through a consignment store or website, I kept 100% of my selling price. To save time, I waited until I’d sold several items before making a trip to the post office.
What to Do With What’s Leftover
Once you’ve shared items with your network and Craigslist, you’ll still probably have a few things leftover.
I packed up a suitcase full of everything that was left and took it to the vintage and consignment shops in my neighborhood, who gave me cash on the spot in exchange for quite a few items. Anything that was left, I donated to my favorite charity, Green Tree Textiles, in exchange for a tax deduction.
Remember the Little Things
Don’t assume that small items are worthless -- people want the strangest things! On Craigslist, I sold my bathroom garbage can for $10 and a box of empty wine bottles for $12. I made $30 selling old concert ticket stubs on Instagram.
In the end, I only had a few leftover items that I happily gifted to friends and neighbors in the few days before I moved. Now, I’m living light.
Your Turn: Have you ever sold most of your possessions like this? Share your best strategies for selling your items for the best prices!
C. Blythe Pack is a professional writer with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the College of William & Mary, and a Master of Social Work from Fordham University.