How to Sell Stuff You No Longer Need

From Craigslist to eBay and beyond, here’s how to turn your castoffs into cash.

Americans have a lot of stuff—in our closets, basements, attics, garages, and in some 2 billion square feet of rental self-storage space. And a lot of that stuff, whether it’s been inherited, acquired over a lifetime, or delivered to our door during the pandemic, is overflow we want to get rid of. But beyond honoring the time-tested tradition of the neighborhood yard sale or hauling it all to the local consignment shop or simply donating it, what are the best ways these days to shed objects and maybe get some return on your investment?

There’s eBay, of course, the peer-to-peer online seller pioneered in 1995 that’s still a behemoth. It has 133 million active users, and in 2022 nearly $74 billion worth of goods were traded there. But its huge reach doesn’t automatically qualify it as the best place to sell, say, a player piano you inherited or a pair of Gucci loafers. There’s a galaxy of online resellers in what’s called the “recommerce market” that specialize in particular types of secondhand goods, whether it’s furniture, apparel, sporting goods, or more. Altogether, the market is enormous, projected to reach $289 billion in sales by 2027, according to a report from the mobile selling platform OfferUp. It also found that 25 percent of Americans used reselling as a secondary source of income in 2022.

To be clear, decluttering with the aim to turn trash into treasure can be a lot of work. Before you start, reflect on whether you have the bandwidth and time for it or whether you’re better off having the stuff hauled away for you, says Jevata Crawford, a professional organizer whose company, Project Move in Allentown, Pa., helps people downsize and clear out homes of deceased relatives. Pro organizers charge about $75 to $100 an hour.

Or you can call local charities that run resale shops or find new purposes for used goods to see whether they’ll take the stuff off your hands.

If you decide to do it yourself, before you start, search to make sure nothing you’re selling has been recalled, which is illegal as well as unsafe.

Here are some other tips to make the job worth it.

Finding the Right Buyers

“There’s somebody looking for every type of thing you can imagine,” says Crawford, who sometimes sells clients’ castoffs on eBay. The trick, she says, is to figure out the best platform for each item, noting the different levels of effort required in terms of marketing and getting it to its new owner, and the different costs and commissions. How money changes hands also varies, with many sites handling the financial end and others leaving it to you. So you need to consider not only what you’re selling but also how much help you want and how much of the proceeds you want to keep.

For Tiffany Gamblin of Greenbrier, Tenn., the platform of choice is Poshmark. If eBay is the general store of the internet, Poshmark is the corner boutique, with 80 million registered users buying and selling primarily new and secondhand clothes and accessories. Before committing to the platform, Gamblin researched it to see what other people were selling and how they marketed their wares. After six weeks of reconnaissance, she posted a listing. “The first thing I sold was a T-shirt. Just a basic T-shirt. I was on cloud nine,” she says.

Gamblin’s Poshmark store, “Spiffed With Tiff,” now has over 41,000 followers and 700 listings of her surplus items, plus things she’s sourced specifically for resale. She manages her store—creating the listings with photos and managing fulfillment—while working full time as a clinical trial director at a medical office. (The platform handles buyers’ payments and sends sellers prepaid shipping labels to use.) Gamblin says that after paying Poshmark the small commission it takes on each transaction, about 20 percent of the sale price, she’s earned $3,400 in just under a year, a decent haul considering she lists most items for under $30.

AptDeco deals in home decor and furniture, including high-end pieces like an Eero Saarinen for Knoll oval dining table ($11,540 retail, listed at $7,000) and an entire $500-and-under section filled with everyday furniture. Sellers fill out an online questionnaire with details about the item they’re offering before uploading photos. The site can enhance the images, for example, by silhouetting the item, and it suggests pricing. It also manages the money end so that you don’t have to. There’s an option for sellers and buyers to exchange messages, but it’s all done through the website. When your item sells, the buyer can pick it up or AptDeco can arrange for it to be delivered for a fee. The company keeps up to 48 percent of the sale.

On the other end of the spectrum is Craigslist, which is free to use except in certain places and for items in a few categories, including motor vehicles. But you’re on your own for listing items, communicating with potential buyers, and arranging pickup or drop-off and payment.

Listing an Item for Sale

Once you’ve settled on a platform, the next step is to create your listing. While particulars vary depending on the site you’re selling on, there are some general guidelines.

Price it right. Many platforms allow you to search previous sales of similar items to determine the going rate for any given thing. Using them, you might be surprised by how much your old junk is worth. A recent eBay search of sold items uncovered an 80 percent-full 6.5-ounce Bath & Body Works lotion in the beloved but no longer available Aromatherapy Optimism Bright Blossoms scent that went for $24.99, plus shipping.

If you have something of value you can’t evaluate that way, you may want to call in a pro. Use the member directory of the Appraisers Association of America to find someone who, for a fee, can assess your item’s value. Expect to pay anywhere from $25 to over $300 an hour for an appraiser to do this, according to HomeAdvisor, which connects homeowners to service professionals. If you have an in-demand item you think will inspire lots of interest that could drive up the price, instead of setting a price you may want to try selling it by auction, an option on eBay. (You can set a reserve, or minimum, price you’re willing to accept to safeguard against the item selling too cheaply.) Auction listings on eBay are active for one to 10 days, while buy-it-now or fixed-price sales don’t expire. On eBay and many other recommerce sites, you can also allow potential buyers to make you an offer. Poshmark even lets you set up a live online auction to hawk your wares.

Headlines matter. Descriptive headlines attract buyers, so write ones that help shoppers doing keyword searches on the site find what you’re selling. Your item is likely to move faster if instead of “blue cardigan” you write “women’s medium navy blue cropped V-neck 100% cotton cardigan.” You can also include key terms like gently used, vintage, or NWT (new with tags).

Be honest in the product description. Clearly disclose the condition of the item you’re selling and the materials it’s made of. A good practice is to underpromise and overdeliver, so be sure to point out flaws if there are any, and provide accurate measurements.

Use photos. Make sure to include numerous clear and well-lit images that make your item look attractive. Photos should be taken from multiple angles—top to bottom, back and front. Iron clothing items and lay them flat, or better yet, put them on a tailor’s form. Where appropriate, style the photo, for example, by using interesting or colorful backgrounds.

Be responsive. Prompt communication and clear answers will reassure buyers that you’re engaged and motivated to sell. Opt for alerts from the platform to make sure you don’t leave potential buyers on the line for too long.

Set a time limit. Indicate how long you’ll keep the listing active until the item sells.

Where to Do Your Selling

Once you’ve figured out what you want to sell, you’ll need to decide where to sell it. Here’s a sampling of some of the biggest reselling sites in the U.S., with info on what each specializes in and how much they charge for the service.

Stay Safe When You Sell

Take these precautionary steps whenever you’re exchanging goods for money, in person or not.

When selling items online, there’s always the chance you’ll encounter a shady buyer or an outright scammer. So it’s important to take precautions, especially when using a platform like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist, where it’s common to exchange cash for goods in person.

Even when using a platform that’s more anonymous—one that handles payments so that sellers and buyers don’t have to exchange payment or banking information, and where goods are shipped or delivered rather than picked up—you still have to be careful.

Tip 1: Never take a transaction or discussion off the platform. Scammers may entice you by offering more than your asking price, for example, perhaps with the intention of ripping you off. Or they may falsely claim the goods you sold them never arrived or were damaged and demand that you make restitution. If anything about an interaction with a buyer feels amiss, contact the website’s customer service or fraud department.

Tip 2: For in-person transactions, always lay out all of the terms in advance—the price, type of payment, meeting location, and time. If possible, complete the transaction during daylight hours in a public place, like a police station. Hundreds of police stations in the U.S. participate in a program called SafeTrade, which was founded by Peter Zollman in 2015 to give online buyers and sellers a public meet-up space that’s under surveillance to finalize deals. Go to to find one near you.

Tip 3: Meet at a secure location. If you’re selling something so large that the buyer has to come to your home to see it, consider meeting at a police station in advance to photograph each other’s ID. Tell your buyer that it’s for their protection as well as your own.

Tip 4: Be cautious about what kind of payment you accept. Cash is king, but say no to personal checks, which may bounce, or money orders and cashier’s checks, which are easily counterfeited. Instead, use services such as PayPal, Venmo, and Zelle because they allow you to receive payment for the item you’re selling without having to give up your banking details. Another benefit: You can see that the money has been transferred into your account before you hand over the merchandise.

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