How to Declutter – Should I Sell This on Ebay?

Honestly, I have many fond feelings toward eBay.  There was a double-house-payment period in our lives when we had NO extra money.  I managed to make 40$ per week during that year, and we used the money to go out to eat on the weekends.  In a difficult time . . . that 40$ was huge.

Buuuttttt, eBay also got me in trouble clutter-wise.  I loved grabbing things at garage sales that I thought might sell.  Enough sold to make it financially worth it, but enough didn’t sell that my home became a junk-storage building.

Eventually, I started this blog.

Y’know . . . and called it A Slob Comes Clean.

Those are my qualifications for writing this post.  My goal isn’t to teach you how to sell on eBay, it is to help you decide if it’s worth it.

Because it’s work.  Lots of work.  And you can end up losing money if you don’t know what you’re doing.

I’ll start with a cautionary tale.  When I first caught the eBay bug, I shared with a woman at my moms’ group that I was so excited about what I was doing.  I went on and on about how fun it was and how I was making money.  At the next meeting two weeks later, she informed me that she had (inspired by me) put a dog crate on eBay.  She weighed the crate to calculate shipping, but didn’t consider the weight of the box or packing materials, or that the size of the package would add considerable cost.  She followed the advice she had been given (NOT by me) to start the auction at ninety-nine cents . . . and it sold for ninety-nine cents.  She charged around ten dollars for shipping, but her actual cost for shipping the item was almost thirty dollars.  She lost money.  Quite a bit of money.

I felt terrible.

I do say that to scare you, but my real goal in this post is to encourage you to go ahead and list that item that you’ve always wanted to put on ebay.  That you’re sure is worth a lot of money.

Then pitch the rest. Use this information to decide if the money you could realistically make is worth the actual amount of time and hassle you have to dedicate to getting it out of your house.

Because it’s all about getting clutter out of your house.

Right?

Selling on eBay requires research.  (And research requires time.)

  • You can put something in a garage sale that may be a genuine antique or may be a reproduction.  It’s the buyer’s job to figure out the difference.  On eBay, you have to know exactly what you’re selling.
  • You may skip to your car after spending two dollars for a Kate Spade purse, but you need to study to be sure it isn’t a fake before you list it on eBay.

eBay descriptions have to be detailed.

  • At a garage sale, the buyer checks the item for stains or flaws.  If you list something on eBay, the buyer expects you to do that and to be thorough and honest in your description.
  • Flaws that are barely noticable still have to be included in the description.
  • Full disclosure is expected. If someone in your home smokes or if you have a cat . . . you need to say that in your listing.  You may not notice the smoky smell, but your buyer will.  And they probably won’t like it.

Shipping is a huge factor.

  • Like the (horror) story above, you need to fully consider the size, ease of shipping, and weight of the entire package when calculating how much you will charge for shipping.
  • If an item is fragile, do you have the resources to package it?  Do you trust yourself to pack it well?  You can have it professionally packaged, but the cost to do that needs to be determined ahead of time and included in your shipping cost.  But . . . a high shipping cost will discourage people from bidding on your item.

You need to know what you’re doing.

  • There is a good time and a bad time to list an item.
  • There are specific selling-seasons for certain items.  Don’t sell Halloween costumes in March, and don’t sell your child’s newly outgrown winter coat in April.
  • You need to know about keywords.  Poorly worded titles don’t get as many bids.
  • . . . and much much more.

Soooo, is it ever worth it to put something on eBay?

Yes!  You just need to be realistic about how much you can expect to get for the item, and then decide if that amount of money is worth your time.

But how do you know how much it’s worth? I’m going to tell you.

As you declutter and feel the temptation to set aside that surely-it’s-worth-something-on-ebay item . . . just go ahead and take it to your computer.  Turn it over, find the name on the bottom, and type that name into the search bar at eBay.com.

Wait.  Don’t get excited yet. If you see that someone somewhere has listed that item with a starting price of 75.00 . . . remind yourself that it doesn’t matter what a seller wants for that item, it matters what buyers pay for that item.

Now . . . scroll down, looking at the left-hand column.  Under “Show Only” you’ll see a box next to the words “Completed Listings”.

Check that box.

Now you will see similar listings with prices in red or green.  Red means they didn’t sellGreen means they did sell.

Look at the pictures to see how similar the items with green prices are to your item.  Maybe they sold for 40$.  Yay!  Is the one that sold in the same condition as yours?  If the successful 40$ one was new but yours is scuffed and old, keep looking until you find some listings for items more like yours.

This is the page where you do the research that matters most.  If every completed listing for items like yours (even the ones for 4.99 or less) is red . . . it’s probably not worth your time to try to sell it.

Only you can decide what your time is worth.  Only you know if it is wise for you to spend hours researching, photographing, describing, answering questions about, packaging, and shipping  this item.  Or should you spend those hours continuing your decluttering efforts?

The cookbook that sold for more than eighty dollars after I removed it from my “All Books – 25 Cents” garage sale box?  It was worth it.

Here’s a post from Single Mom on a Budget where she explains how she listed an item on ebay.  Notice that she started it at 14.99 and it sold for 14.99.  She also did a screencast where she shows how to list an item.  (See, I’m not discouraging you from selling on eBay, I just don’t want you to be delusional and keep clutter because of the dream that it might be worth something!  If it is . . . sell it!)

Have you had success selling on eBay?  Are you holding on to something that might be worthless?

See my webisode on this subject above.  (If you’re reading through email, you’ll have to click through to see!)

 

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Comments

  1. If you have an antique – the best thing to do is to ring up an antique dealer, and find out how much they are willing to pay for it.

    They’ll tell you whether it’s a reproduction or not – and if it’s worth selling, they’ll offer you a price. It’s a dealer price, so yeah they’re going to be making money on what they give you – but you will get a reasonable price for it AND they’ll take it away free of cost.

    Which for antiques is way better than trying to work out the cost of wrapping, etc, etc.

  2. My husband and I have sold items at garage sales, which are good money makers, but a huge amount of work to sort/price/tag/sit and haggle with buyers. And we sell on eBay. And you’re right, the research is the most time consuming. . .and the photo taking if you are married to my husband who is never satisfied with the photos you give him.
    We have some wonderful antiques we’re selling/sold; dealers consistently offered us less than half of their actual worth. On eBay we are getting at least what we paid for them, and that’s good enough for us. But Kiri (above) and you are correct that you do have to be careful to consider shipping costs. We’re pretty anal and haven’t been burned yet.
    Love your posts.

  3. Shannon L says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I’ve often entertained the idea of selling on ebay. I love searching through boxes and bins looking for that one perfect item. A few things have held me back over the years such as linking my personal info to PayPal. Yes I know I can get a seperate account but its still my info. Another thing is shifty buyers. I’ve seen too many tv court shows where the buyer tried to get one over on the seller. And finally, the time investment. As you mentioned above,it can be time-consuming. Thank you for the honest details.

  4. I tried e-bay, and for items like video games and movies I didn’t want any more, and for that new Mary Kay set someone gave me that I didn’t want, it did great. Everything else…nope. I didn’t loose tons, just tons of time. Clothes were the big one I tried and failed on. But I discovered something better for clothes. If it’s in like new condition I can sell it at my local consignment shop. I take it all in one trip, they happily donate what they can’t take so I don’t have to take another trip to goodwill, and I make as much from it as I would on Ebay, without having to take pictures or write descriptions or take multiple trips to the post office.. I do have to wait til the clothes are in season to bring them in, and make sure they aren’t all wrinkled and such, but the one bin that I keep in my garage and the small area of my closet where I hang the “to consign” clothes are worth what I get back from it.

  5. Great info! I doubt I’ll ever sell on E-bay–I’m way too impatient, but you never know. This is a great resource, thank you.

  6. My son thinks that you are a long lost relative. Wait until I tell him that you have a pair of Lederhosen just like me! And I am waiting to sell them on ebay! :) Yea, I’ve been waiting for a few years!
    Amanda

  7. I got burned on my first attempt, then went back for more. I got burned again lol…it was due to having to purchase the oversized padded envelope and the cost being higher to ship than I calculated. On top of that, I didn’t list in a free listing period like I thought I did. The item I sold for $5 ended up costing ME almost $15 by the all was said and done :(

  8. I didn’t know about showing the “completed” listings, that is great!

    Do you have any opinion on listing as “buy it now” vs bidding?

  9. You are so “right on” with this blog about hanging onto something to sell! I am in my 50’s and am still working on discovering the systems that work best for me and I can stick with. I have done garage sales and ebay, my ebay selling reached its pinnacle when I sold a ‘lot’ of bag phones (the really old style we used in the car) for over $200. This “bug” lasted for a couple of years, and now, like you, I have sold so much more at garage sales and given stuff away, simply to get it out of my house! The freedom for my mind is far more important than the little bit of money I might make off of an item. Thanks for your blog, I am sure you are leading the way for many, many others to sort through their STUFF.

  10. So….Just catching up several years later….I’ve done the garage sale/ebay thing. My best suggestion is to create an area or two of expertise for yourself….mine was Tupperware (believe it or not, those vintage pieces can go for big bucks), board games and original Nintendo systems. If you know what the potential price point is, you know what to pay. Yes – I had some awesome sales on random things, but I’ve also had some junk to deal wit!

  11. I am in total agreement with this post. I have sold a few things on eBay over the years, but right now, my time is WAY more valuable to me than what I would make reselling the things I’d sell on there (mostly new and gently used Gymboree clothing and DVDs). So I just sell them to the consignment stores instead.

    Sure, I make a lot less money that way, but it’s easy-peasy, and the stuff is out of my house! Which is my main goal anyway.

  12. I’ve had some moderate success on eBay – even had some people get into a bidding war over one of my items, which was exciting. I haven’t done it for awhile now – takes a LOT of time, like you said. One thing I did before I start was take a class on selling on eBay through the local community college. It was well-worth it. I did things the right way, right from the start. I highly recommend this. You’ll make less mistakes. In fact. Nony’s example of the 99 cent dog crate is similar to what the instructor told us!

  13. Jennifer says:

    there is a shop local to me that makes it their business to sell things on ebay or amazon. you can take all your crap to them, they will determine whether its worth it to list, do all the legwork and give you a small cut. if you know you have stuff that’s worth something, but not the time to put into it, it’s probably worthwhile to look for a similar business near you.

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