You may wonder about the term “perceived” financial value at this point. I’ll tell you something about my personal experience with selling things to give you a point of reference. I’m sure other people will tell you different stories, but this one is mine.
Like many others, I have seen reference to all kinds of options to make money out of my old stuff, and yes: I have given some of them a try over the years, even before decluttering became part of my daily life. In general, I found that it takes a lot of effort to sell things, either involving personal presence on flea markets or walking into specialist shops, or through electronic media like websites of professional sellers or the kind that facilitates sharing, exchanging, or giving away stuff.
Let’s start with the hands-on efforts: flea markets, garage or car-boot sales are brilliant opportunities to get in front of a lot of people (if you are lucky, that is), and shifting some of the more desirable items. I doubt that you’ll make much money from it, though: in my experience it takes a lot of time and effort to have things taken off your hand, and it can be a sad reminder that most of what we try to flog here is really what we have long suspected it to be: junk. And if we don’t need it ourselves, there are a lot of people out there who won’t want it either! Moneywise, I believe I did make some money on some items, but in general that money goes to (bad) food and (expensive) drinks at the location, and petrol doesn’t come for free either. Plus, often there is a fee involved to even set up shop in the first place. Give it a go and make your own conclusions.
When it comes to more valuable items like vintage furniture, works of art, jewellery, precious metals, and the like, the first port of call is likely a specialist buyer, an antiques dealer or an auction house. Some of the bulkier items (especially furniture) can be shifted that way, but once more, beauty is in the eye of the beholder: as much as you appreciate your grandmother’s beloved wardrobe and you want it to go to someone who really likes it just as much, it may just be impossible to sell. Maybe it’s too large, too old, too out of style, or simply not up to scratch for the potential buyers. And make no mistake, all these people are out to make a bargain themselves!
You can probably see why selling things (especially bulky heirlooms) can be tricky, even AFTER you have gotten yourself to let go of them.
There is a plethora of websites whose only purpose it is to get sellers and buyers in touch for a small (?) fee – think ebay, Amazon, shpock, etc. I have discussed my experience with those amongst friends, and the results were widely different: while some of us were getting very lucky with selling things at good prices, others were not and are still stuck with their items. Speaking from personal experience, I have sold only a very small part of what I ever put out there and have ultimately found that there are better uses of my time. Eventually, I have dropped trying to sell things altogether in this manner.
The thing to keep in mind is that these websites are extensively structured, and it will take some time to set up a profile, learn how to properly use it, create good selling strategies for diverse items, take pictures (do NOT use pictures you have found on the internet: that would be a copyright issue for these websites and usually discouraged to the point that you might be removed as a seller), upload it all and pay for the privilege more than once: uploads, additional pictures and other options may cost just a little, but those littles add up over time and with a large number of items.
Some websites like MusicMagpie, webuybooks or zapper and similar ones are specialising in all things music, film and books. They usually have simple ways to check for each of your items if those sites want them at all and what they are ready to pay for it. I had good experiences with those, as they allowed me to simply check, pack and send off. And a couple of days later the money was in my bank account. Nothing to pay for a vacation, but money nevertheless. However, even here I find the market forces at work: if an items is too common or too rare they often won’t go for it because they either have too many of those already, or they fear they won’t be able to sell it on. It’s a bit of a gamble, but it’s relatively successful, not too time-consuming and it takes care of at least some of the stuff you have. Tip: check prices on many of those websites at once! Sometimes their offers differ substantially, I had a case of a £0.05 offer on one website while the other one offered me £5!
There are websites that specialise in finding people who would like to take things off your hand for nothing or very small amounts of money. Gumtree connects people looking with those wanting to give, shpock sells for small amounts, and there are lots of others around that deal mainly in fulfilling the needs of one person with the overflow of another.
As for websites that facilitate sharing (cars, bikes, tools, spaces, etc.), the jury is out for me. I can see potential for those, and some of their offerings work nicely (cars and bikes), while others are just in their infancy and need further publicity and development (tools, sharing office space, etc.). I can see a future for many of those, and with ever smaller storage options and lower income for more people it makes perfect sense to share the expensive and rarely used items. It’s a community spirit thing as well, and that is a cause I feel strongly about.
Generally speaking, I have to admit that my personal experience with selling things has been dotted with problems, but has had occasional successes. On the whole I don’t own a lot of valuable stuff anymore, and what I do have I can easily give away if I want to because I don’t believe that my time would be well spent trying to find someone willing to pay a handful of change for it. When the time comes, I simply want to be rid of these things and there are easier ways: giving to a charity shop, driving to the tip (not necessary for me as my remaining stuff is small), or simply throwing it in the bin.
As far as decluttering is concerned, making a profit is really a side effect of the bigger picture, namely making space for yourself and your thoughts in your own surroundings! I say concentrate on decluttering, not maximising your profits. You’ll have more peace of mind if you let go completely and not shift from attachment to investment mode. Try to separate the commercial side of your items from the emotional side: if you are not happy owning something, by all means try to sell the more valuable things, but don’t spend too much time on it. YOU are the most important thing in your life, not your stuff.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.