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Spring cleaning? Painless ways to turn junk into cash

De-clutter your home and enrich your bank account at the same time. You might be surprised what your stuff is worth.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 21, 2014 11:16AM

This post comes from Donna Freedman at partner site Money Talks News. 

Money Talks News on MSN MoneySpring is here, and thoughts turn to deep-cleaning your home. Looking to de-clutter and make a little money from stuff you no longer use?

Yard sales are the traditional route, but let's face it: Folks who shop your front lawn are looking for bargains. They're not willing to pay big bucks even if the items you're selling are worth it.

Try a different tack.

An easy option is the neighborhood consignment store. Think of these as high-end thrift shops. Buyers aren't likely to find a "10-cent Tuesday" deal, but they will pay considerably less than retail. Most tend to specialize, e.g., kids' stuff only, or designer women's fashions.

The upside: No need to pay for an eBay ad or to cover the cost of shipping. The down side: You have to split the take with the consignment store owner.

The virtual garage sale

If no such stores operate in your area, or if you'd simply rather keep more of the money, try a virtual sales outlet. An increasingly popular route is selling via social media. Try posting your items on your personal Facebook page or Twitter feed. Someone you know might make an offer.

If you're lucky, you could become part of a private Facebook garage sale/swap site. These closed groups are gold mines, especially if you have children's clothing and gear. Dallas mom blogger Courtney Solstad both buys and sells on such a site, which she says has an advantage over the traditional garage sale: You don't have to wade through piles of stuff looking for the one piece you want.

"You see a picture and you buy it," says the mother of three, who blogs at My Crazy Savings.

You have to be invited to join such groups, which she says are "very hyper-local." So let it be known you're in the market to buy and sell children's clothes, books, sports gear, women's fashions or whatever you've got.

Attic © Exactostock, SuperstockMillions to be made

You'll cast a much wider net if you sell at an online auction site or virtual consignment store. Of course, you might also have to pay for postage. But you can get a lot more money for fashion items or electronics online than on your front lawn. (Hint: No one will read your handbag or smartphone ad and respond, "Is that your best price?")

Users of the thredUP clothing resale site brought in a cool $3.2 million in 2013, according to the site's annual resale report. And that's just one venue!

Opportunities abound, some of them quite specialized. For example, while is best known for renting designer handbags, it will also consign your purses or buy them outright.

Looking to unload electronics? Sites like NextWorth,, and RadioShack are thriving marketplaces, and accept a surprising number of items. Among them: computers, tablets, games and gaming systems, GPS units, iPods, Blu-ray players, cameras and audio gear. (However, not every site accepts every item.)

Some best practices

And of course there's always eBay. No guarantees that your items will sell, of course, but you could be pleasantly surprised. A couple of years ago I earned $1,200 by auctioning off a plastic statue of a baseball player.

(You heard me right: twelve-hundred dollars. It might have gone even higher had I not made the mistake of listing a "buy it now" price.)

You can farm out just about anything on the Amazon Trade-In store. You'll pay fees the way you do on eBay, but you can sell anything from tools to toys.

A few ground rules for selling:

  • Make sure it's clean. Sounds obvious, but I've seen some pretty grotty stuff at garage sales. A bargain shopper might be willing to take it home and hope the jelly stains come out; a consignment store/website would refuse to accept this kind of thing.
  • Iron clothing. It will look better to the consignment store manager/online shopper.
  • Create a look. A little kid's party dress paired with a pretty necklace will get more attention than either one would by itself. Presentation is everything.
  • Be honest. If the books you're trying to sell have underlinings or slightly worn jackets, say so. A book site might not accept them, and you don't need the bad karma of misrepresenting the goods to a private buyer.

One more thing: Decide whether this is worth your time and effort. If you're a very busy person with a lot of responsibilities, how much time do you want to spend listing, shipping and mailing if all you’ll clear is $20?

Should profits be minimal and time investment high, just drop the stuff off at a local thrift shop -- they need it, and you can never have enough good karma.

More on Money Talks News:

Mar 21, 2014 8:03PM
I stopped reading this article at the second or third paragraph because of the misinformation,  eBay charges nothing for ads or listings.  You pay fees only when something sells, and you do not pay for shipping, unless you offer it.  The buyer pays the shipping.  High priced items do not move as fast as things under $50.  Top quality photos make a difference, and the more items you have listed, the better your chances of selling.   
Mar 24, 2014 8:49AM
MSN Money...when I *mute* a video, I expect the thing to STAY muted.
Mar 21, 2014 10:10PM

The best place to sell anything quickly is on Craig's list. There are a number of folk I know who check it everyday. I have bought and sold a number of items using Craig's list.

The key to selling anything is to have good photo's. If an item doesn't have a good photo or a number of good photo's most people will move right on. They will not waste their time. Also, you must have a good idea of what a bargain price is now days. There are times you see an over priced item and wonder what they've been smoking. Most used items will move along rather quickly if the item is close to half of the new retail price. You may get 75 percent if it's still in the box and new, but not often. Also like the last person said, high priced items will move slow.

Mar 21, 2014 7:49PM
Mar 24, 2014 2:01PM
Its amazing but people will actually buy your junk. I had a garage sell once, the stuff I was going to throw away sold better than the stuff I thought had value. True story
Mar 29, 2014 11:38AM
...but if you sell your "junk in the trunk"...isn't that illegal? ;)
Mar 21, 2014 9:54PM
Careful - Barry needs that revenue and he will send the IRS to audit your sales
Mar 24, 2014 11:45AM
Garage and Yards sales do not yield much money. People who visit these are looking for something for nothing. I've had dozens of them and everyone knows that. That's old news. eBay and Craigs List are probably the best route to take if you have very good pictures of your merchandise. I haven't tried the exchanging route. I'm not so sure of that one. Besides, with the rising cost of food and healthcare, no one has the money anymore to buy anything much.
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