Turn Spring Cleaning into Cash

It’s that time of the year again. Spring is just around the corner and with the changing of seasons comes the yearly ritual of spring-cleaning. A fresh new start after a brutal winter puts many people in the mood to clear some of the clutter acquired from the previous year.

Not only is spring cleaning therapeutic, it is also a great way to turn clutter into cash. With the advent of the Internet, never again will last year’s accumulation of “stuff” be just a pile of forgotten treasures on their way to the dump. Now with a little effort and time, last year’s junk can become this year’s cash.

The Apps

Whether you prefer Wallapop, Swappa, letgo, or something else entirely, app-based marketplaces provide consumers with quick, simple, aesthetic tools to offload their “crap” for cash. Apps like Wallapop and letgo function like a modernized, “pretty-fied” Craigslist, featuring a vast array of junk items – from electronics and vehicles to furniture and clothes. Apps like Swappa have a more narrow focus, featuring “new-ish” smartphones, tablets, smart watches, and accessories for these electronics. Depending on what you’re trying to offload, there’s likely an app that caters to your specific (or general) needs. Even that gift card your grandmother got you for Olive Garden, which you never intend to use, can be swapped for cash via Gift Card Granny.

In terms of more traditional online platforms for selling used goods, the following are popular, well-tested, effective means to offload items for a profit.

eBay

When it comes to selling online, eBay is usually the first site people think of. With an uncomplicated selling platform and easy to use setup process, eBay has rightfully earned its place as the top of online selling resource – although new apps may give eBay a run for its money if eBay if doesn’t step up its app game. In addition, by using eBay as a selling platform – there is an added benefit of reaching millions of eBay users. With such a large audience, there is a much greater chance of reaching that one person who can’t live without that ‘thing’ collecting dust on the shelf.

With Ebay’s long retail history, it often helps you find listings which describe either the item you are selling or one similar. This data will help the consumer get a better idea of what prices their items have fetched prior to listing.

Amazon

You can easily sign up to sell as an individual on Amazon if you plan to sell fewer than 40 items a month. Amazon will charge you $0.99 per sale plus other selling fees, but also offers you access to the world’s largest online marketplace. If you plan to sell more than 40 items per month, you can register as a professional seller. The fees are a bit higher, but are likely offset by the increased sales volume. Once you’ve registered as a seller, Amazon’s process is pretty straightforward: 1) list item 2) sell item 3) ship item 4) get paid.

Craigslist

Another option for turning clutter to cash is Craigslist. The advantages are that consumers don’t typically have to ship items to purchasers and can instead meet in person. Like anything done online, caution is the key. When selling an item on Craigslist, practice the ‘safety first’ mentality and there will be nothing to worry about. With a cautious approach, selling on Craigslist can be a lucrative option to clear clutter and add to spring cleaning cash.

Following the following rules will help you avoid 99% of scams on Craigslist:

  • Deal locally with people you can meet in person and in a public place.
  • Never wire funds via any wire service – anyone who asks you to do so is likely a scammer.
  • Fake cashiers checks and money orders are common and a bank will hold you responsible when the fake is discovered weeks later.
  • Never give out financial or personal information such as your bank account number, social security number, eBay/PayPal info, etc.
  • Avoid deals involving shipping or escrow services and know that only a scammer will “guarantee” your transaction.

Facebook Groups

While not a new online marketplace concept, Facebook groups are a popular but lesser known platform for selling “stuff.” Maybe your town has a Facebook “swap meet” group of some kind (or maybe you can start one). Everything from local yard sale groups to special interest groups fill Facebook with a whole new crop of potential buyers. One major benefit of using a local Facebook trading / selling group is that shipping costs and online selling fees are not an issue. The seller generally has the ability to list and sell an item free of charge. This works great for larger items and items not suitable for shipping.

While the apps and platforms described above appear to be the most popular, there are many other options available to earn money while clearing clutter. Selling items online has earned relatively inexperienced sellers billions of dollars over the past few years and continues to do so every day. If turning clutter into cash is a simple matter of taking a few minutes to snap a photo and enter a description online, it is a no-brainer. Spring cleaning just became spring cash.

This article was derived from an article originally published in our Spring 2014 issue.

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Kyle Burgess is the co-founder of two social enterprises and has worked in strategy, communications, and program management for a decade. Kyle received her Master’s degree in International Relations & Economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and her Bachelor's degree in Political Science from American University.

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