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Jul 5, 2019

Hate Spring Cleaning? Try Summer Cleaning Instead!

By Sara Benincasa

Here are 10 great ways to declutter and sell your stuff.

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You’re too late to tackle spring cleaning, but who cares? That’s so 2018. The (literally) hot new trend for 2019 is summer cleaning, because I just decided that’s true.

Summer is a fabulous time to get rid of some excess stuff in your abode. Whether you’ve got a tiny studio apartment or a gigantic mansion, you almost certainly have more possessions than you actually need. And you probably also have more items in your home than you actually want. Like a lot of folks, I find that my brain works better and my heart feels more peaceful when I’m not surrounded by a bunch of clutter.

And I’ve also learned that summer cleaning can be a time when I make a little extra money, too!

I’ve done Marie Kondo’s Konmari method and Margareta Magnusson’s Swedish death cleaning plan. Both are useful, and I revisit them when it’s time to do my quarterly cleaning. In many cases, I simply give away excess items. Sometimes I get a donation tax receipt from the local nonprofit thrift store. It certainly helps with that year’s taxes.

But recently I decided that I might try killing two birds with one stone. Bird number one is the need to declutter. Bird number two is the need to pay off debt.

Now, I can’t take care of all my remaining student loans simply by selling off some old electronics and dresses – but I can surely make a small dent! So I did some research. Check out these options for making money off the things you no longer want or need.

The old fashioned way

Consignment shops
Consignment shops sell your secondhand items and keep 20 to 75 percent of the profit.  It’s fairly easy to find a consignment shop via Yelp or the ancient and ever-shrinking Yellow Pages of your local phone book. Give the shop a call or send an email in advance to find out what they’re looking for these days. The owner may tell you, “We do clothing only. I’m full up on gowns and fancy shoes now that prom season is over. But I need some gently used bathing suits.” Keep contacting shops until you find one that wants what you’ve got. Then make sure your items are as clean and presentable as possible before bringing them in.

Some owners will haggle with you over a price or over your percentage of the deal. Others won’t. Sometimes a consignment shop will offer you the option of cash or store credit. A little advance research should give you a clue as to which consignment shops are the most reliably fair to customers and to sellers.

Pawnshops have a bit of a sleazy rep, but it isn’t necessarily deserved. They’ll “lend” you part of the value of something you leave with them as collateral—say, $500 cash for Grandma’s antique engagement ring (which, it should be said, is probably worth a lot more). You have a set period of time to pay them back, with interest. If you default on the loan and can’t pay them back (plus interest!) on time, they get to keep your property and sell it for whatever they want, keeping the profit. It won’t earn you a ding on your credit report, which is good. But the interest on that loan may be very high, which is not good. Plus, Grandma’s antique ring, dang! You’re gonna miss that, probably!

Garage sale
It’s a delightful old-fashioned method of meeting your neighbors as well as diving into the very weird subculture of hardcore garage sale enthusiasts. Advertise in the ancient, time-honored method of putting up hand-lettered signs around your town a few days in advance. But make sure you’ve got folks on security duty so nobody goes traipsing through your house.

Garage sales used to be a cash-only enterprise, but you can always use an app. Customers can pay you via Venmo—it’ll be free for them if they use their Venmo balance, a checking account or a debit card number. Venmo will charge them 3% if they use a credit card number for the transaction. However, Venmo is designed just for money between folks who know and/or trust one another, so proceed with caution – and read this primer from the company so that you know the risks.

Personally, I’d accept cash only from strangers and allow my friends and neighbors to pay me via Venmo. I’d have a similar policy with PayPal, unless I had a merchant account— learn more here. At present, the PayPal Here program offers credit card readers for mobile point of sale: 2.7% per US card swipe and 3.5% plus $0.15 to key in cards.

If you intend to accept cash only, be very clear about that on your signage. Know the location of local ATMs so that you can refer eager customers. You may lose some of them in the process, but hey – at least you won’t have to worry about the ins and outs of an app.

Flea market
Another old-fashioned fave, a flea market can be a great alternative to a garage sale because folks won’t bother you at home. Rent space through your local flea market, bring a table and perhaps a few portable shelves to display your wares beautifully, and make some money. Every flea market sets its own prices for space rental. Some flea markets may allow you to rent a table from them for one full day for as little as $10—or it may cost as much as $1000! Some flea markets provide tables; most ask you to bring your own. Some flea markets charge based on the square footage of the space you wish to occupy, while some offer a one-size-fits-all plan. Some flea markets only allow you to rent a spot if you commit to being there every weekend for a full season.

As with garage sales, people will want to bargain with you. Be open to it—set your prices at your ideal high (but not a delusional super-high level, as that may turn some people off).

Buy my stuff party
This is like a private, invitation-only garage sale. Call it a shopping party; call it a Garage Sale But Actually In My Apartment, call it whatever. Invite some friends over and let them know that for a series of hours on a specific day, they are welcome to come to your house, drink and eat (for free, of course) and “shop” the tagged items in your living room. Have as much fun with it as you like: set it up like a store; make little descriptive labels (“This charming IKEA coffee table dates back to 2016 and only has one major ding, which you can’t even see if you stack coasters or magazines on top!”)

I did this when I knew I was moving from Queens to Los Angeles. I priced everything super-low and basically broke even since I put out money for drinks and food, but that was the plan—I really just wanted to get folks I knew to schlep this stuff out of my house ASAP. I didn’t want to deal with an intermediary, and I made it a rule that they had to take the stuff that very day. Making it a “party” ended up attracting people who might not ordinarily show up to look at random stuff midday on a Saturday. I didn’t make a profit, but I considered it a mental health win. (I suggest you be a bit more strategic and actually set some decent prices.)

Apps and the web

Since 1995, eBay has been helping people sell their stuff online. It’s done auction-style, so you’ll list an item through their website, choosing the minimum offer you’ll accept and a length of time to accept bids. Folks will have that much time to outbid each other in a competition to get what you’ve got. When you set your minimum price, remember to factor in shipping costs. Learn more about eBay shipping here.

eBay will charge you an “insertion fee” for listing your item and a “final value fee” when your item sells. According to the site, “Every month, you get up to 50 zero insertion fee listings, or more if you have an eBay Store.” Check out the chart on this page to figure out what your final value fee may be.

Fun fact: you can’t sell alcohol, tobacco, military hardware or a whole host of other prohibited items on eBay.

Poshmark focuses on fashion, darling. Use the app or website to empty that closet of excess designer duds! Or, you know, the stuff you thrifted awhile ago that feels boring now. For all sales under $15, Poshmark takes a flat fee of $2.95. For sales of $15 or more, Poshmark takes 20% of the sale. It seems like every Instagram influencer on the planet is repping Poshmark, and it definitely feels like something that’s built for what marketers call “digital natives” (in other words, a younger crowd.) It’s very easy to list things via your iPhone or Android. There’s a simple guide to the process, including shipping.

Amazon Seller Marketplace
You can register as an Individual or as a Professional and sell your stuff on Amazon. In theory, you’ll have access to hundreds of millions of Amazon customers – though whether or not many of them will actually see your wares is anyone’s guess. (Chances are you’re not going to share front-page real estate with Amazon/BBC original programming like Good Omens or, say, Whole Foods, which Amazon now owns.) Their FAQ list has further info on entering the giant world of Amazon commerce. Plans start at $39.99 plus additional selling fees, depending on what you’re selling – and how much of it you intend to sell.

Personally, I am very excited about DeCluttr because I live in what I call “a tyranny of wires.” That means I’ve got more cords, and things attached to cords, than I can handle. As a podcaster, I’m particularly looking to rid myself of microphones I no longer need. And DeCluttr specifically exists to help folks sell tech! First, using the app or the website, you’ll select the make, model and condition of your gently used phone/tech device. (It must be in good condition – their quality assurance team will evaluate it when you send it in to make sure the item is actually up to their standards.) DeCluttr will quote you a price. If you agree to the price, pack the item(s) safely in your own box. DeCluttr will send you a shipping label and welcome pack. Then you can drop the finished package off at any UPS Store or give it to a UPS driver. Once DeCluttr receives your item and ensures it is in good condition, they’ll remove any personalized info from your device. And you’ll receive payment via Direct Deposit, PayPal or check within twenty-four hours.

It ain’t just for crafters or “makers,” although that’s where Etsy got its start. Etsy is a great place to set up your own cute little online boutique and sell your used or vintage wares. This is a good idea if you intend to set up a small business; it’s not a good idea if you’ve just got a few boxes of stuff to offload. You don’t want to go to all the time and effort of branding your store and setting up e-commerce if you have no intention of creating a long-term business strategy.

Remember, no matter the method you use to sell your stuff, you may have to deal with paying taxes on the income. Be sure to check into this, as they may vary based on the amount you make, the area in which you live, and other factors.

Happy decluttering!

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Written by

Sara Benincasa

Sara Benincasa is a screenwriter, recovering stand-up comedian and the author of "Real Artists Have Day Jobs"


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