As a professional organiser and declutterer I have found that one of the biggest obstacles holding people back from decluttering their lives is the overwhelming guilt of having wasted their hard earned cash on the things filling up their houses. I bought it, so I should use it, goes the thought process. That's not a bad thing to keep in mind for future purchasing - will you really use it? - but it can cause our homes to fill up with unused, unwanted junk and our minds to dwell on relentless, damaging guilt and regret.
How to escape this cycle? Well, you can start by making some money by decluttering. As well as my decluttering and organising business, I also make money as second hand seller, both on eBay and various second hand sales apps. I'm a 21st century rag and bone woman, if you will. The market for second hand goods is booming and you can get in on it with ease. Follow these tips to make your clutter less, but your bank balance more.
Skip the guilt, give yourself a little pay check and learn that less really can be more! As an added bonus, your decluttered items are heading to new homes, instead of landfill. Let's join the reuse revolution and work together to close the waste cycle!
Just remember, selling your second hand things most likely isn't a quick path to great riches. You have to accept that you will probably make a financial loss on some of your unused goods. But just keep your mind focused on the 'more' of your end goal: a life focused on more joy, more financial freedom, more satisfaction, more calm.
Follow my tips below to make your bank balance a little "more" while you declutter today!
1. Sell your books, DVDs and CDs
Used books can make you a surprising amount of money. As a second hand bookseller I have been able to make literally thousands of pounds from a relatively small investment of several hundred pounds (plus a heck load of time and effort rummaging around charity shops). Selling my own books was a gamechanger in terms of motivation to declutter. In 2018 alone I've reduced the books in my bedroom (never mind the rest of my home!) from 500+ to just over 200, with about 50% of those decluttered being sold. The rest were donated.
I mostly use apps like Music Magpie, Zapper and We Buy Books to sell both my own books once read and books I've bought second hand in charity shops. Simply download an app, scan the book's barcode for an instant quote, box up your books (I use old Amazon boxes, etc.), print out a packing label and arrange a collection from your home or office. It couldn't be more simple. If you do this as a sideline business like me, there's the added perk of making great friends with the delivery guy. Hi Alec! He loves to hate me and my heavy boxes of books.
Particularly valuable books include textbooks (We Buy Books and some other resellers actually accept books with writing in the margins or highlighting on up to 20% of pages - check the T&Cs carefully of the individual seller), travel books and rare novels. The rule seems to be that the more popular a book is, the less valuable it is. So you won't make any money selling books from recent best seller lists. These are best donated to charity shops, where coincidentally they are the most commonly bought books. Consider this your free donation to a charity of your choice. Money saving all round.
I have had very, very, very, very few books rejected. Those that are rejected are not typically sent back to you so are a write-off. However, I've found that a book has to have really significant damage to be rejected. Rejected books are sent to recycling.
Many of these apps also accept DVDs, CDs and video games in the same manner. Scan, box, sell.
Just like you can sell your used books and CDs, you can sell your old laptops, tablets, phones, cameras, etc. These can be worth a truly staggering amount of money, even if they're so kaput that they no longer turn on. A quick search on Music Magpie suggests that a pretty battered old MacBook Pro could sell for £200+, a very old and poor condition Samsung Galaxy for £10 or more and a Kindle Paperwhite for £20. Your old electronics may be worth even more.
The best bit about selling your old electronics? You can be assured that this is an environmentally friendly option as the resellers are looking to strip your electronics for the reusable and valuable materials inside. They'll use each and every valuable component and (major re-buyers at least!) will then responsibly dispose of the remains. Infinitely better than sending them to landfill. Just make sure to delete any data on them first (although this shouldn't be too much of a problem if you sell to a reputable dealer, they won't sell on any data leftover).
As an extra perk, most electronics resellers (unlike with books, DVDs, CDs and video games) will send you back electronics if they are not worth the initial quote (typically because they are more damaged than you have either let on or realised). So if you send off a laptop quoted at £100 that turns out to be worth significantly less, you can choose to get it back or sell for less.
3. Collectibles: Toys
If you're a millennial like me, chances are your parents may be holding onto some seriously valuable toys from your childhood. That creepy Furby that you begged for then couldn't stand because the rocking and blinking gave you nightmares? It could be worth £40 or more now. Your Harry Potter Lego? Some rare kits sell for more than £500. Really. Less rare kits (even incomplete) will regularly sell for upwards of £30 on eBay and £100 is not an unusual amount. I'm the proud owner of a Playmobil doll's house worth £350 or more on eBay. Sadly for my bank balance, I hold onto the hope of passing it down to my future children one day.
Next time you visit your parents, it may be worth giving the "sold" section of eBay a quick peruse to check out just how much your second hand childhood treasures could be worth. Chances are, you may be sitting on serious bucks. This is one area in which you may actually make more money re-selling the item than it originally cost.
4. Collectibles: Vintage
Older generations tended to hold onto things much more than we do these days. This may be a major money making opportunity. When my grandfather passed his 1950s Zeiss Ikon camera on to me when I was a teen I was thrilled by the quirky hipster street cred it gave me. I spent far more time wandering around with it hanging around my neck, trying to look cool, than I am happy to admit. As it turned out, at £35 per 10 photos developed, it was a financial drain. Fast forward a decade and that camera, despite no longer working whatsoever can sell for £275 or more. Thank the lord for pretentious hipsters.
This was a hard call for me but ultimately I decided not to sell. This was the camera that my grandfather took the photos of his first date with my grandmother on, photos of his wedding, my grandmother's pregnancies, my mother, aunt and uncles as babies. Sometimes heirlooms are worth more than their monetary value (although it helps to know that if I ever really need the cash, I have a sellable item!) For now, it makes a beautiful and emotional conversational piece on my shelves.
I've saved perhaps the most obvious for last, and that was a deliberate choice. As a second hand clothes seller on eBay I can tell you first hand that this is far harder than you may expect. That dress you bought for £100? It might only sell for £0.99 and you'll need to pay eBay a fee (normally about 10% of your profit). Or it might not even sell at all. eBay is a fickle moneymaking friend. There's a skill to making serious eBay money.
I recently resold a jacket for 27 times the price I purchased it for second hand. Even as a relatively experienced reseller this sale took me by surprise. By comparison, in the same batch, a top I was confident would sell well only made £1 profit. When the time taken to buy, package and send this item was factored in, this was a big fat failure.
Unless your wardrobe is stuffed full of vintage Chanel suits and limited edition Birkin handbags, it is unlikely (although not impossible) you're going to make big bucks selling your second hand clothes. However, you will almost certainly make something, even if it is only a few pounds (or dollars!) here and there.
Remember, if you're new to selling on eBay there will be strict limits to how much you can sell in a month. Typically you will start at 10 items a month, so if you're looking to sell a lot all at once, try selling your items in bundles. E.g. group your unwanted workout clothes into one lot and unwanted tops into another. This can be a good way to make a little money with relative ease. If you are not in a rush to sell off your items, you can wait to increase your limit as you sell off goods and build up a trustworthy seller review. As somebody who was once stung really, really hard (we are talking £950 - eventually refunded) by a dodgy eBay seller before they tightened regulations, I am glad these strict seller rules now exist!
I recommend starting your bid price fairly low and taking advantage of eBay's free listings policies. This is a gamble but you are far more likely to have bids than if you overprice your items to begin with. Remember, the goal is to make a little money on things you don't want anyway. Any money earned is a win. The best selling time is between 8-10pm on Sunday nights. Aim to finish your auctions then for the best price.
Good photos are vital. Take them in good day light, rather than in dim artificial lighting at nighttime. Show items from various angles and photograph labels close up. Wearing them in photos can be an added bonus, to demonstrate how the look when worn (obviously don't do this with clothes than no longer fit you!)
Be honest about any flaws in your items. That jacket I sold for 27 times the price I paid? It was missing a button, which I advertised clearly. The buyer was delighted with it and left a glowing review. There's no better way to have your eBay selling blacklisted than lying about the quality of the items you're selling. So, if there are holes, stains or worn spots, be honest. You'll make more in the longterm if you admit to the flaws in the things you sell and you won't have any guilt about misguiding buyers.
Answer questions promptly and honestly. If somebody asks whether an item fits large on a size 10, don't say yes if you thought it was tight. Honesty really is the best policy.
Best of luck making more by having less! Let me know if you have managed to make more with less by using the hashtag #moremoneylessmess or commenting below.
As always, happy decluttering!