Simplify Your Life – Part 3 – Sell

by Sara on October 20, 2012

Simplify Your LifeYou have worked diligently to simply your life – decluttering, taking things to garbage and making donations. Now you’re left with a pile of things you hope are worth a little money. Or maybe you’re still working on sorting out your finances and know that selling a few things will give your savings or debt-elimination efforts a boost (medical bills are painful).

Feel overwhelmed yet?

It’s alright, just take it one step at a time.

There are two things I recommend doing before jumping head-first into selling your stuff:

  1. start keeping any boxes and packing materials you receive the moment you know you may use them to ship things you sell
  2. search completed sales on ebay to see final selling prices and to make sure items like yours have actually sold

My husband and I tend to build what we call “box mountain” a few times a year when we know we are going to start paring down our stuff again. The cats LOVE this. Later on, when we do sell items on ebay we save a lot of money on shipping materials.

Researching past ebay auctions tells us whether or not something is worth trying to sell, and how much money to expect for it. We were very surprised by some auctions – old Apple hardware and software sold quite well, but some collectibles never got a single bid.

If you are selling something that is so collectible there is an entire community of collectors, there may be forums or auction sites specific to it. It’s worth a quick Google search to look for this and you may make more money this way.

After you have completed this research, here are some things you will want on hand (borrow when you can):

  • white sheets or several pieces of foam core
  • good camera
  • computer with internet connectivity (I bet you have this!)
  • heavy duty shipping tape
  • small scale (food scales are fine)
  • tape measure

My suggestion when selling items is to group them into batches of similar things (this allows interested buyers to find multiple items of interest). Attack one topic at a time. Use a draped white sheet or several pieces of white foam core as a background and take good, clear photographs of each item, preferably when there is some nice natural light. Make sure to show off the items, but don’t forget to detail any imperfections. If you are familiar with photo editing software feel free to crop the images to only show off the item (and not the rest of your house).



For eBay or other online auction sites, find boxes that each item will fit in for shipping and weigh them. If you do not have an eBay or Paypal account, you should create them so that you can sell the items and receive payment. Next, write a disclaimer for your auctions. For example:

Payment must be received within 48 hours. All items will be shipped with insurance and tracking information, to be included in shipping costs. All items are sold as-is and are nonrefundable.

Whatever your rules may be, put them in this disclaimer at the bottom of your auctions. You may not want to sell internationally or you may allow a window for items to be returned. Then begin the listings. One at a time

  • create an auction
  • upload your photographs (you can use any online photo storage service or use eBay)
  • write an enticing description
  • specify a shipping cost you are comfortable with (you can calculate this at – remember to add costs for insurance and boxes – there are some services that will do this for you)
  •  choose the bare minimum you would take for the item as your starting price

Take your time. You will learn how to make this process easier as you go along so start small but try to not lose your momentum. During our first round of eBay auctions, we listed about 30 things and drastically undercharged for shipping. We still made money, but we probably made about $120 less than we should have. There is an old saying – “measure twice, cut once” – this can apply here as well. Review every auction carefully before posting it. After you have created a few auctions, you will feel more comfortable with the process.

You may find it helpful to keep a spreadsheet or make notes of each auction. I recommend keeping this information for 60 days after the auction ends because this is the point at which a buyer can no longer file a dispute.

  • auction number
  • item name
  • buyer name
  • buyer address
  • date item was shipped
  • tracking number
  • date item appears to have been received

If you pay for shipping through and print it at home, tracking is included with most, if not all, methods. This method is the least expensive way to ship.

Some auctions may need to be re-listed once or twice to sell. Some may never sell. Be warned up front that eBay charges fees for everything and Paypal will take a percentage of your payment. This will take a portion of your profit, so you should be prepared for that. When items do not sell, consider re-listing them at another time of year, selling them on craigslist, or donating them.



When selling on Craigslist you should be careful to avoid putting up much personal information. Don’t use your home phone number. Google Voice is a free service that can give you an alternate phone number and forward calls to you. If you do not have a mobile phone, this may be your best option. For anonymity you may choose to use Google Voice even with a mobile phone. Don’t list your home address. Always meet individuals in a public place (preferably not alone). Only accept cash and expect to negotiate every price.

Create a craigslist account and list each item just as you would an ebay auction. There will be no fees, but you should expect buyers to ask you to come down a little on price if they are interested. Don’t be insulted by this – it’s business!

When you successfully sell something on craigslist, immediately take down the listing so that you do not have to deal with future attempts to buy it.


When we sell a batch of items we usually wait until we think all of the buyers are satisfied to consider the money as fully ours and deposit it into our account. This way we have one very rewarding lump sum rather than multiple small deposits. In the end, we were disappointed with some low sales, some no-sales, and some wasted trips to meet people locally who ended up not purchasing our craigslist items. But overall we made a lot of money and got rid of a LOT of things. We felt very rewarded by our efforts and with every sale our house became more functional. After every batch of auctions is complete, we take anything that did not sell and donate it all at once. When we do our taxes each year the donations really add up.

This is the third in a series of articles about a simpler life. In previous weeks we covered how to simplify finances and how to declutter your house. Next week we will cover the benefits of simplicity.



How would you sell your items differently? 

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Pat Wayne Blackwood October 20, 2012 at 1:24 PM

This is such a good article – very clearly written and easy to follow. I think even I could do it, and I am not very good at these things.


Will October 20, 2012 at 8:54 PM

Well you know Aunt Pat, I would be very glad to help walk you through our process since we are about to start again very soon.


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