Turn Your Spring Cleaning into Cash


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My sister is back sharing her favorite ways to turn a spring decluttering spree into cash.  There’s a thrill in getting rid of your old, unwanted items and using that money toward something you’ll love.  Or putting it towards a goal such as a vacation, special activity, or a hot new pair of jeans. Or the bills.  Whatever your needs, here’s how you can sell your old stuff to earn money for goals of your own!

how to make money from your clutter

{original image via freedigitalphotos.net}

I don’t really do a spring cleaning, but I do get an urge to purge each spring and fall. So, although I’m not scrubbing from ceiling to floor, I am scouring for clutter and sweeping it into a box. Having moved 7 times in a decade, paring down our stuff translates into savings when it comes time to move. But over the years, I have found ways to earn a few bucks while unstuffing my home. Here are some of my favorites:

Yard Sale: A yard sale is the most obvious answer for stuff you don’t want, and you can sell virtually anything at a yard sale. At my last yard sale, I sold kitchen items, an air conditioner, baby gear, and even items that I picked up while strategically saving with coupons because the store basically paid me to buy them. A yard sale is one of the easiest ways to get rid of stuff that is cluttering your house. Just the act of setting up your yard sale gets unwanted stuff physically out of your house. If you don’t sell the item it’s much closer to the car that will drive it to the donation dropoff. There are also organizations that will pick up your items for you — set up a pickup for noon, and your yard sale will be cleaned up by naptime!  The downside to a yard sale is that you won’t get top dollar for your stuff. But if you keep your de-cluttering goal in mind, you come out ahead no matter how much you earn that day.

If you don’t have enough for a full yard sale, pair up with friends or have a neighborhood yard sale. That’s what I did last year and the cluster of yard sales increased foot traffic and the amount we sold.

Online Yard Sale: Generally, you will be able to get a better price for your item online than you will at a sale in your actual yard, but it will be more work and it will take longer for the item to leave the building. You should provide a high quality photo and a thorough description of the item, and you should answer emails from potential buyers promptly. How do you decide whether to list your item on Craigslist or eBay? It depends on the item and your goals. There are pros and cons to each:

  • Craigslist has free postings, you can accept cash in person, and is good for bulky items that are expensive to ship.  But the cons are you’ll need to make time to meet with potential buyers, and some might stand you up.  It can take time to weed through emails and requests, too.
  • eBay has a national audience and payments are done online.  The cons are that eBay charges for posting over 3 items each month; PayPal charges a percentage of the sales price; if you auction the item, you will have to wait until the auction is over; and you should be prepared to mail the item promptly (plus, all the hassle involved with packing and shipping items can be a headache).

In addition to these two heavy hitters, the newest way to get rid of items online is to post them to a Facebook page dedicated to local yard sales. When you advertise your sale or post individual items on the Facebook page, it will go into the newsfeed for everyone who has “liked” the page. Find one near you by searching Facebook with “Yard sale _____” provide your neighborhood, town, city, region, or state.

Books, DVDs, Videogames: Local used book stores and even stores like Best Buy and GameStop offer buyback programs for books, DVDs and videogames. But if you want to be sure to get the best price for your used book, I highly recommend using the app Bookscouter. You scan the book’s ISBN and Bookscouter will list the amount the popular book buyback sites will pay you for the book. It took me about 30 seconds per book to determine whether the book could be sold online or whether I should toss it in the donation box. There were three companies who consistently gave me the biggest quotes, so I made one pile for each of them. I sold books to Powels (www.powells.com), Sell Back Your Book (www.sellbackyourbook.com), and CKY Books (www.ckybooks.com). Each bookbuyer provided a pre-paid shipping label, so shipping was free. Although I did have to follow up with one buyer who mysteriously lost my package until I spoke with a supervisor, the process was worth the cash in the end. I also sold a video game to Amazon, and the process was similarly easy and worthwhile.

how to sell used books online
I originally bought this book from a used book sale for $3, but Bookscouter tells me it’s worth $8.50!

Another resource for books is Paperback Swap. You enter the ISBNs of all the books you are willing to part with, and they are posted for any member to request. Once a book is requested, Paperback Swap provides you with a mailing label and you mail the book at your expense. Once the book is received, you earn a credit that you can then use to request a book. Your address is only displayed when you print a label to send someone a book, or when someone prints a label to send you a book. Even then, it does not reveal your full name. When choosing which books to post, I recommend that you avoid posting heavy books because they will cost more to ship.

Broken Items: Broken items are extremely unlikely to make you any money anywhere, but there are manufacturers out there who stand by their product and will replace items that have broken long before their life expectancy. If you have one of those items and dread replacing it, try contacting the manufacturer to see what can be done. You never know until you try!

When my $70 humidifier broke after only one year of use, I was really bummed about shelling out the cash to replace it, and wondering how long the next humidifier would last. When I contacted the manufacturer, they asked for a copy of my receipt and the exact product numbers on the humidifier. I didn’t have a receipt, but they mailed me a replacement anyway. With this success in mind, I then contacted two more manufacturers — one product had arrived broken and one product was damaged after 5 years of normal use — and each one replaced the damaged part. A friend of mine spilled coffee on her Kindle, and Amazon gave her a discount on a new one even though the malfunction was clearly not their fault.

Appliances: Last year, our deep freezer broke. Disposing of it was not only a hassle, but was going to cost us money. Then we discovered an appliance rebate program that disposed of the freezer properly and paid us $50. It is a state-sponsored program that operates through our utility company. If you have an appliance that’s lost its utility in your home, Google “appliance rebate in _____” your state and see what pops up — you might have one too.  Getting some cash for your old, unwanted appliances takes the sting out of buying a new one.

Adult Clothing: If you are interested in consigning your clothes, check out these national chains to see if there is one near you: Clothes Mentor, Plato’s Closet, and Buffalo Exchange.  There may be local ones as well.  It takes time to get them ready for consigning, but it’s worth a shot for good clothing that no longer fits you or your style.

Baby Gear and Clothing: The traditional consignment shops still exist for these items, but the big trend now are the semi-annual consignment sales. They attract a bigger audience in a shorter amount of time, so you get immediate gratification after all of your hard work cleaning, tagging, and dropping them off. Check out Consignment Mommies to find local sales in your area. Before you decide to consign, you may want to go to the sale to see the quality of the merchandise, the pricing, and the volume of shoppers. The other information you should compare before choosing a sale is: (1) the administration fee, (2) the percentage of the sale price that is given to the consignor, (3) whether volunteering at the sale will increase your percentage, and, although not related to how much you will make, it is a benefit (4) whether consigning will get you admission to the pre-sale. If you get in to the pre-sale, you will have first dibs on the highest quality items for the best price. Here’s a post Carrie wrote last year with inside tips on how to make BIG BUCKS consigning at kids consignment sales.

How to Make Big Bucks at Consignment Sales

Household items: Carrie also recently posted about a new trend, home goods consignment sales. This is a brilliant concept to me. Google to see if there is one in your area. If there isn’t, start one yourself (and be sure to invite us all!)

Turn Spring Cleaning into Cash

Did any of these suggestions inspire you to get out that box in the basement that has been nagging at you? Do you have any favorite methods of turning clutter into cash?

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  1. I love love love Paperback Swap and have been a member there since they opened. It’s an awesome way to keep your book addiction fed. 🙂

  2. I have stuff piling up that I need to sell, consign, donate, etc. great ideas for everything

  3. I need to bookmark this list because spring cleaning/decluttering is in my {very} near future:/

  4. eBay now lets you list 50 items free per month. You only pay a final value fee if the item sells.

  5. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALL THE GREAT TIPS!!! Just a note about paying for appliances; we had a fridge that broke and they wanted it plugged in and running to see before they would pick it up. I put mine out to the curb with a sign; This appliance is broken; scrap metal only, and it was gone in less then an hour. ThIs companies was from our local utility company. You are amazing with all your great tips; thanks again.

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