How to simplify, declutter and make money

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Written by green & frugal contributor Maya Bisineer of Memetales

A few weeks back, Tsh hosted Project:Simplify. It was a wonderful opportunity for all of us to get rid of some clutter, clean up, and simplify little areas of our homes.

In our household, decluttering is also a great way to discover new ways to make some money. It is a constant inspiration for me to clean up, while my husband gets in line to get rid of things “meaningfully” — he has slowly mastered the art of making money while we clean up.

The path to actually making money is not a short one, so here are a few things to get straight before you set yourself on this path.

1. Like most everything else, making money takes time, trial and error.

Decluttering to make money can be frustrating in the beginning, and very often it feels like you are spending more time on it that it is worth. While that might very well be the case, give it time and start with low expectations. You’ll be better at the experimentation with that frame of mind.

2. Wait until you get two to five items together, but do not wait too long.

You’ll learn a lot through this experience, but it’s better to compress that learning into a shorter time. Wait to get two to five items collected before you start to sell your stuff. However, don’t wait forever, like I often did when I was getting started.

Procrastination often goes against the philosophy of decluttering.

3. There is ONE master of selling in the household.

Selling is hard; something not everyone is good at. Decide who’s “the master of selling” in your home, and make it that person’s job. Leave the selling to that person.

4. You WILL find a system that works for you, with time.

To put it simply, you will learn and figure out what works for you within a few months to a year.

money
Photo by epsos

Here are some simple ways to make some money while you declutter and simplify your home:

1. Sell on Craigslist

Craigslist is the simplest way ever to sell just about anything. List it, upload some pictures and wait for the emails to pour in.

Craigslist is the best place to sell gadgets that aren’t too expensive, children’s clothes, things for newborns and all kinds of furniture.

You never have to give your real email address or worry about responding to anyone that sounds less than appropriate on the phone.

What to look out for while you use Craigslist:

People will come to your home to pay and pick things up. Be sure not to be home alone. Put things out in the driveway or garage, and be sure to call people home early in the day.

2. Sell on eBay

eBay is a slightly more complicated way to sell, but it is a great way to sell valuable items, antiques, electronics and unopened items. Since eBay is a bidding system, it can be a very good way to sell items in high demand.

What to look out for while you sell on eBay:

Be sure to estimate shipping well. If you do promise free shipping or shipping at a standard price, be sure your estimation is right. Consider packaging charges as well. We once sold posters for a dollar and spent over five dollars packaging them to ship it.

3. Freecycle.org

Freecycle is not technically selling, but it is a great way to give away what you do not need quickly and to someone who will use it. Freecycle is an area-based mailing list that you can join to give away or find free stuff.

What to look out for while you use Freecycle:

Once again, a stranger will some over to pick up an item. Be sure to keep things out in the driveway or garage before the person comes over to pick up an item.

4. Donate to Charities

Donating to charities is a always a option. There are so many choices too! While you do not make money right away, they money comes back in terms of deductions on the taxes.

The Kidney Foundation will come pick up items every few weeks if you are on their list. They will call, let you know when they will be in your area. All you need to do is put the donation bags out and they pick up the bags and leave donation receipts for you.

What to look out for while you donate to charities:

Donations to charities and registered non-profits should be tax deductible. Be sure to get a receipt, and always keep track (a written list) of the items donated. We always keep an itemized list and take pictures of items we donate. Do a little homework to see what kind of items charities do not accept to prevent work for them later.

5. Sell at secondhand stores

Secondhand stores are all over. They stock specific items for sports, kids, furniture, and so on. These stores will always take gently-used items that would cost people a lot more to buy first hand.These stores are great if you want to get rid of a bunch of similar items, such as baby items when your baby turns two and you no longer need all that baby clutter around the house (such as big toys and furniture).

What to look out for when you sell items at secondhand stores:

The main issue with these stores is that they don’t take everything. They also might not give you the best price for an item. If they don’t pay you upfront, then they will give you 20 to 30 percent of the price when it finally sells.

6. Have a garage sale

A garage sale is a lot of work, but it can be fun if you do it with a neighbor or if you have a dedicated weekend for a neighborhood garage sale. Because they’re a lot of work to get ready for, so be sure to make it a day of fun for the whole family.

What to look out for when you have a garage sale:

Don’t obsess about the price of items. The idea is to get rid of a maximum number of items with the minimum amount of effort and still make some money, so stay focused on that.

7. Gift them!

I invited a number of friends over, and had my kids’ teachers look at all my books before I sold them all at Half-Price Books. It was a great way to gift people the books they loved.

When friends, cousins and my sisters come over to visit, I often gift them the clothes, accessories and sweaters they like in my closet. Considering my biggest ticket items are often gifts, I end up saving a lot of money and frustration when I give close friends and family things they love and I already have.

What to look out for when you gift items you own:

Don’t hoard items just so you can gift them in a few years to Aunt Hilda when she finally visits (and in the end, you can’t even be sure if she will love what you saved for her). Be sensitive, and never gift your things to people unless you know them really well… lest they think you are trying to be too cheap.

While you declutter this spring, I hope you make some money as well. Making small amounts of money is a great decluttering motivator and can help you simplify your life.

How do you make money while you de-clutter?

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Comments

  1. I am working on decluttering. It is so hard!! I am working on the girls room right now. It is so bad!! I took out three bags of clothes tonight to drop off at the thrift store in the morning and it is just a drop in the bucket. I figure if I keep it around here, I will never get rid of it and everything will only get worse. For me, out of sight is truly out of mind and hopefully someone else will get much better use for it.

  2. Love this post! Thank you for sharing all these useful tips. I have never heard of freecycle before..but just looked it up and what a great concept.

    Delighted Momma

  3. I have sold curriculum on ebay and Craigslist, and I swap paperbacks through Paperback Swap! I have always dreamed about having a yard sale, but my hubby never wants to, so we end up donating most stuff!

  4. I don’t worry too much about making money. I just get rid of it through freecycle or donating to a charity. It’s nice to know that someone will be able to use what I can’t. I have recieved a few amazing things from freecycle – like a custom-made table for my kids, a desk for sewing, and today – a baseball bat for my son. Freecycle is definitely a great thing to be part of!

    I love holding garage sales, but I never have enough for a sale. As soon as I realize something no longer needs to be in my home, I get rid of it. I do have some jewelry that I want to sell, but I’m not sure which route I will use to sell it.

  5. We donate, it is just easier… I don’t have to make sure everything is perfect and I don’t have to sort our donations perfectly. There is a township down the road with many people living in poverty, they have a shelter which is so grateful for anything we give them. I know we could be making money but the effort involved with pricing, advertising, being home and so on out-ways the rewards of giving.

  6. I’m getting ready for my first-ever yard sale in a few weeks. I’ve pretty much decided to not put prices on the items, to advertise it as a “make an offer” kind of sale. Do you think that will work? I just want to get rid of the stuff and make a little money. I’m hoping it will be a good chance to get to know the neighbours (we just moved a few months ago…) Wish me luck!

  7. I love #7! I do give away a lot of clothes to my sister, but I never thought of having people come over and look at my stuff. That could be a fun party :)

    Love and Fear

  8. Another option is to consign things to an auction. In my area there are auction houses that hold sales weekly or monthly and sell household goods, furniture, books, tools, and whatever other household miscellaneous is brought in.

  9. Thanks for the encouragement! I especially like the ideas from #4.

  10. I personally hate having a yard sale. So much work for so little pay off.

    However, we have learned this about selling our goods. If you buy good quality to begin with it’s easier to sell if and when you don’t need it.

    My husband is the master of this. He’s slowly helped me move from my “cheap is better mentality” to quality. We buy less this way (less money to go around) so it keeps clutter down to begin with. But then when we do sell that item we actually get money for it. As opposed to tossing it in a landfill because it was such poor quality.

    We are lucky that the college where my husband works has an internal craigslist. A buy, sell and for free mailing list for all staff, faculty and students. We use this almost exclusively to sell our used goods and have scored many good deals this way also.

  11. Great post Maya! I keep a box for Goodwill going all the time. And I occasionally sell on Craigslist. We love freecycle, my hubby is a local moderator. Great place to get something you may need as well!
    Bernice

  12. We are big on garage sales (usually have 1 per year), but I dont get caught up in making money–I focus on getting rid of stuff! So, I usually have sell all clothing for 25 cents. It’s not much–I could make more by taking it to a consignment store–but I feel like I am helping fill the gaps for some families who are struggling to make ends meet. Nothing is less than 25 cents to make change-making easier (I only have to get quarters that way). If I feel something should be less than a quarter, I usually just pair it up with something else or throw it in for free.

  13. Great thoughts! One of my favorite things is to shop the house and find items that work better or differently in a new spot. It’s not decluttering per se, but it’s a step away from over-accumulation.

  14. I have done Craigslist, donations to charities, and Freecycle. I haven’t done a garage sale in many years because it just seems like too much work for not enough money, but I know some people love it and make good money that way.

    I have been wanting to try eBay for years and just can’t seem to get myself to do it! I gave myself a goal this month, though, that if I don’t put some shoes up on eBay by the end of the month, then I will just donate them. And I know I can get around $100 for them! That should be enough motivation!

  15. These are great suggestions! We used to have a garage sale every year. When kids are little, you go through things and finish – toys, strollers, etc. Now that my kids are older (14 & 12) we don’t really have a need for garage sales as often. I do love them, though. Our entire street does a sale on the same day and it feels like a way of coming out of hibernation from the winter!

  16. I use Craigslist first because I don’t have to pay any fees and the sale is fairly immediate. I’ve found that furniture, sporting goods and larger children’s toys usually sell well. I use eBay for high demand clothing (both children’s and adults) or home decor. For the rest of our kid’s clothing, I participate in the large children’s consignments sales that are held over the weekend. I usually make several hundred dollars once or twice a year. It’s totally worth the time.

  17. In December, a big group of ladies from my chuch have a party and swap items, mostly clothes and toys, but anything goes. We all bring the unwanted stuff to one lady’s garage. There are no limits on how many items you have to bring or restrictions on what you can take. (we are all friends anyway). I always come back with some new-to-us clothing, books, or games. It’s great for moms of growing kids. All the leftovers go to charity, or you can take your own stuff back home.

  18. Margery, That sounds great! My problem would be bringing home stuff that we don’t actually need. LOL!

  19. To echo and summarize….the purest form of “Simplify” in these cases is to donate with no tax receipts. Period.

  20. Whenever I am doing a large donation such as clothes, I log on to ItsDeductible.com on my laptop. I count shirts or whatever the item is as it goes in the bag and enter that number into the program. It keeps track of what I’ve donated to which charity and then its all ready for tax time. I have easy taxes so I do my taxes on Turbo Tax, which will import directly from ItsDeductible. Last year we decluttered enough items to save over $400 on our tax bill. Given the simplicity of this, I don’t sell stuff any more.

    If its a particularly large item (old exercise machine, desk, old toilet) that I don’t want to take in my car, I put it on my driveway with a sign that says free. I haven’t ever had anything last over night doing it that way and I figure its going to a neighbor who needs it more than I.

  21. Elissa, Can you deduct items that you donate by putting a free sign on them in your yard? Curious about that ‘cuz we’ve done that before but didn’t deduct.

  22. Catherine – I don’t deduct those items, since they aren’t going to a charity. It’s just an easy way to get rid of things I don’t want so I don’t have to break them down and load them into a car. Hubby and I make a game of it though and place bets to see how long something will last – the shortest time was 10 minutes for a small futon and the longest was 6 hours for a broken refrigerator. I noted on the sign that it was broken and was prepared to call a junk hauler the next day – but someone took it anyways! :)

  23. Great list! I hadn’t thought of Craig’s List. I keep trying to decide if a garage sale would be worth it. I really want to declutter the easiest way and just donate it all, even though it won’t make us money. Otherwise I tend to procrastinate, and my husband is even worse. :)

  24. I love the feeling of decluttering AND making money at it. The only obstacle sometimes is finding the time to get it all ready, set it up to sell and then meeting the seller.

  25. Great tips! Craigslist is our first choice for bigger items. The rest, I just donate. I like stuff gone fast.

  26. I sell old books on Half.com (owned by eBay.com) which is super easy.

  27. This is the name of the game right now, when we’re getting ready to pack up the house for our remodel. NOTHING comes back in unless it has a use and a home. Thanks for the list of great ways to declutter the rest.

  28. Love it, love it! I am an ebay selling queen. My husband always jokes when he can’t find something that it is probably for sale on ebay. It is so fun getting rid of stuff, and making money is the icing on the cake!

  29. great tips! i, like everyone else, am trying to get rid of stuff that has just been here in closets or the garage forever and would love to make a little cash at the same time. i am feeling the motivation once again.

  30. Clothing Swap!! One of my friends invited us all over and we all brought all the clothes we wanted to clean out of the closet. We sort by type and then free for all to grab whatever you want. Make sure the husband is gone, so everyone an try things on right there. We all went home with bags of new clothes and accessories and still donated 7 huge garbage bags to charity.

  31. Very practical ways of earning extra cash for stay at home moms! A detour from the usual online work from home ideas.

  32. I love your compare-and-contrast of the different “storefronts”–it’s really helpful to have a quick summary of what types of merchandise, preparation, etc. goes along with each one.
    One quick tip about Craigslist or Freecycle: if what you’re selling/giving away is portable, people don’t have to come to your home to get it. You can just meet in a neutral location (e.g., the parking lot of the nearest mall). Go during the day, and take a friend along for safety. We’ve used this method many times for both buying and selling.

  33. Just the inspiration I need to finally do a yard sale! Have been putting it off for quite some time now (and have been giving away a lot of the things marked for selling too :-) ). But next weekend it is!

  34. Our tax preparer told me that if I hadn’t given so much of my “stuff” to charity, I would not have received my very nice tax return…I might have even owed money. Though giving should be from the heart, there is a decided tax advantage as well. Get a receipt!

  35. Very good post. It is wonderful that you’ve spent a little time explaining to your readers what different options they have if they want to sell their items. Most of the similar post on the matter don’t recommend such a large list of how, what and where to sell their belongings.

  36. Hi Maya! I love the ideas you shared above. I’ve never even thought of going to second-hand stores or taking time with Craigslist, but you make it sound so easy! So great meeting you at BlogHer. You’re an incredible lady.

    -April

  37. its very hard. i want to do evereything you post 10 yrs ago!!! just gotta do it! i even told my 2nd job i needed to put in my 2wks but was asked to try parttime. . . but i asked it so i can get my house in order and my kids in order and make money at the same time off things at home that are all over the place… thank u!

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