Our generation is now deeply immersed in discussions of the benefits of clearing out old belongings to make way for a clearer, freer, and perhaps more simplified life, and to relieve the stress associated with having too much clutter around. Everyone knows that one easy solution, outside of the dumpster of course, is to donate clothes and other belongings to your local mission or thrift store. This is great if you have things with usefulness but low monetary value, but what about things that might actually be worth some decent cash? Why not motivate yourself to clean out your stuff with the prospect of selling some of it and bringing in a little mad money? If you like to hold garage sales, then go for it. For me, personally, I find garage sales a huge hassle, and if you have something of value, you’re not likely to sell it for much of anything during your one-shot sale to the limited market that will tromp through your property over the weekend. Most garage sale shoppers come to find bargains for literally pennies on the dollar.
My preference is eBay, that huge shopping and swapping website that’s been around for over twenty years, providing access to limitless buyers of stuff in the online universe. If you’ve never offered something for sale on eBay, you will need a little savvy and know-how, though. It’s not quite as simple as ‘post and forget.’ And you’ll need to decide what is and what is not likely to find a buyer. Marsha Collier, the author of eBay For Seniors For Dummies says you can be surprised at what you can sell on eBay. Some things you don’t think are particularly valuable may be thought of as collectibles by others. Conversely, some things that have been in your family for generations that you thought were worth a lot of money may not have selling appeal. EBay isn’t just for small items, either; you can sell just about anything, including cars and large furniture. For big items, if you wish, you can specify that the buyer must pick up the item, relieving you of the expense and trouble of shipping.
Good-bye, beautiful car…
I dipped my toe into eBay in a big way four years ago when I was floundering around about the issue of selling my car, a fine old Mercedes that had seen better days. Way better days. Way long ago. I’d done the Voorhees thing – the way of my family of origin – and driven it into the ground, extracting pretty much every last drop of juice the old thing could give. It really wasn’t car dealership material; I knew I had to sell it individual-to-individual if I was going to get more than a few hundred dollars, and I was, frankly, scared. We’ve all heard the horror story of the craigslist car-sale murder, right? (Probably there have been more since the one that’s seared into my memory.) My husband argued for just taking it to a dealer and getting the few hundred bucks and calling it good, or giving it to a charity for the tax write-off, but my mercenary heart wouldn’t let me. You sell your used cars. To individuals. You’re honest but you get the value that it’s worth. Simple as that.
My husband washed his hands of the affair. “Suit yourself,” he said. How was I going to do this on my own?
My walking buddy Becky suggested putting it on eBay. What? How? I’d never even used eBay except floating through here and there as a buyer. She walked me through it, counseled me on how to set a low asking price but also set a behind-the-scenes reserve price so I wouldn’t be obligated to take an absurdly low offer – and wouldn’tcha know it, in three weeks I had the thing sold. The final transaction turned into a giant fiasco – having nothing to do with eBay or with the buyer, it was all me and that’s another story which I’ll share in a later post – but bottom line, I sold the car for close to what Kelley Blue Book said it was worth to a happy buyer and it was SOOOOO easy compared to so many alternatives.
On to eBay “Normal”
After that sale, I considered myself very lucky and I abandoned the eBay idea for a couple years, but last year eBay came back to me as an inspiration – OK, a money-grubbing incentive – to finally dig in and start clearing out my stuff. If I have to endure the heartbreak that attends parting with my things (yes, I teeter very unsteadily on the hoarder border), then the pain is balanced by my child-style joy when someone gives me money to do so. And also (and some will say this is stupid, but it hugs the sad hoarder in me), it makes me feel better knowing that I’m handing over something I value directly to someone else who says yes, this is of value to me too, and I will use it.
So now I have about thirty things up on eBay pretty much all of the time, and I enjoy the little lottery-playing-pleasure of visiting my site and seeing if anyone’s following my goods. When my smart phone makes the iconic “ka-ching” sound, I know I’ve made a sale and regardless of whether it’s five dollars or a hundred and fifty, I do a little happy dance in my head. And I pack up the item, all clean and nice and, if it’s clothing, wrapped in some tissue paper like a gift, and I truck it off to the post office with my preprinted discount shipping label courtesy of eBay. And I say good-bye to my precious belonging. And I feel good.
One day, that Paypal fund I’m building with my sales will be able to stop paying for my monthly storage unit fee. Double ka-ching.
Yep. I said storage unit. I’m that bad.