4 ways to make money with your old junk

Sharon M. shared some of her personal finance journey with us this week. Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income.

About a year ago, I had to downsize from a 5200-square-foot house to an apartment. After my husband was laid off, we decided to sell our home rather than go through the heartache and credit problems that happen when people can no longer afford to pay their mortgages. As a result, we had to find a way to get rid of many of the items we had accumulated over the years.

Some things I tried didn't work well, i.e., trying to sell items with classified ads. Here are some of the strategies that did work. Most of them helped us make extra money, which in turn helped to alleviate the financial stress we were going through at the time.

Have a garage sale.

When we first decided to move, I did what most people do: I sold items I knew I couldn't or didn't want to take with me. I invited my neighbors to join in and sell their extra stuff, and because we had a multi-family garage sale, we attracted plenty of customers. Everyone made money, largely because we decided to advertise for free on Craigslist.

Sell your extra “stuff” online.

I love books, and I had a lot of them. Many of the books I had, I had read just once and then put away in my home's library. As I have room for only a couple of bookshelves in our apartment, I had to get rid of the majority of my collection. You can use Amazon, eBay, and similar sites to sell books, along with Powell's, which is a huge secondhand bookstore that does the majority of its business online. I sold my rare books on eBay and used Powell's to sell most of the rest.

I also used eBay to sell some antiques, high-end cookware, and collectibles that I didn't have room for. This was a little challenging as I did not have an established seller reputation; however, it was fairly convenient and I managed to recoup quite a bit of cash.

Sell jewelry you don't wear.

With the financial problems that we faced a short time ago, we decided it would be best to liquidate many of our more expensive items, most of which we weren't wearing anyway. I tried to sell a few items on eBay, but since I had a new account, and our watches and jewelry were relatively expensive, I didn't attract a single buyer. I ended up selling a few of the bigger ticket items on a site a friend told me about, where sellers are allowed to decline bids if they don't meet expectations. A diamond ring I had from my previous marriage, my husband's Rolex, and several pieces of estate jewelry I had collected over the years wound up being “worthy” of Worthy. They took a small commission after selling my items for me, and they were very easy to use.

Use Freecycle and other giveaway venues.

When all else fails or if recouping an investment isn't important to you, give your stuff away! It's better than paying to store all that stuff, and it definitely beats throwing perfectly good items into the dumpster. Freecycle is an online network made up of people who either want to give things away or who need certain items. It's free to use and is available in many communities. We used it to get rid of heavy furniture we had no room for, saved the alternative cost of paying to store it, and earned the good deed for free.

We are slowly getting back on track, thanks to our decision to downsize rather than attempting to save our house. We now live a fairly frugal lifestyle, eating dinner out only on special occasions and using other strategies like making coffee at home, packing our lunches, and having “staycations.” It's taken some mental adjustment but, in the end, we've learned valuable lessons we will continue to use as we focus on improving our financial outlook.

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nicoleandmaggie
nicoleandmaggie

Glad the reader stories are back!

And good job downsizing! I can’t imagine keeping such a large house clean and maintained.

Don’t forget Goodwill and similar charitable organizations– if you itemize your taxes, you can get a tax deduction that you can’t get from Freecycle.

Tina in NJ
Tina in NJ

Thank you for sharing what you learned, Sharon. My MIL died earlier this year and we’re going to have to start clearing out the house soon. There are some local charities that we know of through our church that might benefit from our need to get rid of…er, donate certain pieces of furniture.

Seth at Ectopistes
Seth at Ectopistes

I’ve had great success selling things on Craigslist. This last year I sold a rowing machine, table, desk, rug and more in preparation for a nursery. In each case it sold within two days and the person came to pick it up so there was no issue with shipping or packaging.

Thomas @ Best Credit Cards Canada
Thomas @ Best Credit Cards Canada

We’d like to downsize eventually. We have a three bedroom home that’s not very well designed so the house is big but a lot of wasted space. We hope to downsize into a smaller but more efficient house. To prepare we’ve been getting rid of extra stuff on Craigslist. We’ve found that it works really well so far. We’ve made over $1,400 from extra stuff!

mike
mike

less is more, buy only what you need, house, cars, stuff and you don’t have to go through any of the above.

Joy from California
Joy from California

Congrats on the successful transition. My mother did something similar a few years back and loves having less. She likes to quote something she heard in church: “Don’t let your stuff own you”!

Thanks for the recommedation on the “Worthy” site for jewelery. I have shared that with a friend who has some nice pieces and who could use a bit of cash to deal with some health issues.

Sharon M.
Sharon M.

Hi Joy!
I’m glad I could help. This site is really a great way to sell jewelry with no effort! Worthy does the shipping and appraisals for you and you just sit back and relax and decide whether to accept the highest bid.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo

#5 reuse/ repurpose / turn it into art

j.
j.

Thanks for sharing which site you sold your rolex please let me know. Thanks

Sharon M.
Sharon M.

Hi J.!
I sold the Rolex at: https://www.worthy.com
It was fast and simple, I highly recommend it.

Bernie Horton
Bernie Horton

Great job and thank you for sharing. I teach 9 week personal finance classes twice a year now for 7 years and often share the need to dump stuff and pay off debt and have emergency reserves. Your article is great and I will share it with my fall class. I personally have over 1100 transactions on Ebay and have bought and sold several hundred items on craigslist and I too have sold things of higher value on Amazon and know they are great tools to use in downsizing as we did ourselves 3 years ago. I also donated many… Read more »

Sharon M.
Sharon M.

Hi Bernie,
Thanks for sharing my story with your class, I’m glad to hear you found it useful.
I am sure Worthy’s site will help you get the most for you valuable goods. Good luck!

BTW this is their site: https://www.worthy.com/

Brian @DebtDiscipline
Brian @DebtDiscipline

Continued success Sharon. Thanks for sharing your tips. I have never heard of freecycle. I will have to check them out.

Sharon M.
Sharon M.

Hi Brian,
Thank you very much!
Freecycle is a great site, and entirely nonprofit movement, hope you’ll find it useful.
This is their site: https://www.freecycle.org/

Winterlady
Winterlady

Peeling back to the root cause, think before you buy. I hold the item and think “How quickly will I want to garage sale this?”. If that does not work I then put the item in my cart and continue shopping and then I walk for a bit.At that point I typically become less interested in the item and put it back. Sometimes “ownership” can be brief. I have had a great deal of success with Craig’s list. Free and there are no shipping issues. More valuable items I would place on eBay.But after having cleaned out my house for… Read more »

Sharon M.
Sharon M.

Great tip!
Since downsizing we are much smarter buyers. I’ll try your way next time I’m at the mall!

Steve K
Steve K

In 2008, living in Georgia, I posted some old (but good quality) furniture on Freecycle. A young woman came by, liked the furniture, and asked why we were getting rid of it. I said we’d be moving soon and couldn’t use the furniture at our new home. She said her in-laws were looking for a place to buy, and ours might be just right. That would be surprising. We lived in the country. Lot of grass to cut, trees to prune, branches to burn/chip, etc. Certainly little chance of renting. The first day our house was on the market the… Read more »

Carol
Carol

I’m glad that turned out well. When I started reading I thought it was going to turn into a scam or robbery story.

Sharon M.
Sharon M.

Hi guys!
Thanks for the kind words. This post laid in my drawer for weeks before I decided to submit it. I hope it will help someone in the same situation. Your support means a lot!

Olga King
Olga King

Not have junk? Sometimes I wish I could use any of the tricks so I can sell, but apparently, I only buy what I will use extensively, and then use it to the bones.

Val
Val

Someone started a Facebook page for my area “_____ County Exchange” and that is how I have been selling most unwanted items instead of Craigslist. Downside is that there is no anonymity as your name is posted there. A lot of participants agree to meet in a parking lot for the transactions. A friend of mine is moving this week and they only used signs and Facebook exchange to list their rummage sale; no classified ad costs. They had a great turn-out.

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