How I made $2,145 Last Month by decluttering

I honestly got rid of all the stuff solely for the benefit of having a clearer mind and fewer distractions. But, the wonderful side benefit of all this is that I made $2,145 in 30 days selling stuff that I didn't even want any more! In this post I give you the specific details of where and HOW I sold the items so you can do it for yourself!...A few months ago I began a journey towards minimalism. And not the weird kind where you sleep on the floor and only have one plate and one fork, but a kind where I question all my possessions and get rid of the stuff I don't need. I had read a few books that were getting me inspired and then I had the great pleasure of spending some time with Joshua Becker who is one of the premier minimalism authors out there. Spending time together was refreshing on a whole lot of levels, but as far as this article is concerned he helped spur me on to take major action in this direction....A few months ago I began a journey towards minimalism.  And not the weird kind where you sleep on the floor and only have one plate and one fork, but a kind where I question all my possessions and get rid of the stuff I don’t need.

I had read a few books that were getting me inspired and then I had the great pleasure of spending some time with Joshua Becker who is one of the premier minimalism authors out there.  Spending time together was refreshing on a whole lot of levels, but as far as this article is concerned he helped spur me on to take major action in this direction.

I honestly got rid of all the stuff solely for the benefit of having a clearer mind and fewer distractions. Do I really need 18 button-up shirts or 23 pairs of shoes?  I decided that I didn’t and since getting rid of 60% of my clothes, I now am left with only the stuff I really like and everyday I enjoy what I wear and don’t feel guilty about that shirt that I bought but never wear because it is a little too big.

Anyway, I don’t want to turn this into a minimalism post, go read Joshua’s blog for that.  But, the wonderful side benefit of all this is that I made $2,145 in 30 days selling stuff that I didn’t even want any more!

How I did it

Since we decluttered every room in the house, I chose to focus on items that I expected to make at least $25 from.  If I didn’t think I could sell it for that, then it went to Goodwill for a tax write off.

I sold all of the items using 3 different websites: Ebay.com, Craigslist.org, and Bookscouter.com.  I will go into details of each below.

Bookscouter.com

This site allows you to type in an ISBN number of a book and it tells you how much each of the 44 top book-buying websites will pay you for your book.  As you can see in the image below, this is what some of the sites are offering for the Total Money Makeover.

Selling books at bookscouter

I had built up a pretty large library of books and decided that I only wanted to keep the most essential books.  Last month I got rid of probably 600+ books.  Since time is valuable, I purchased a $17 Bar Code scanner to input the books a whole lot quicker.  You don’t need to purchase this, I just didn’t want to type in 600+ ISBN numbers, and I consider it $17 well spent.

I found that as I scanned the books a few of the book buyback companies seemed to continually be popping up.  So, for simplicity sake I ended up just sending all the books (that were worth anything) to 3 different companies. So I wasn’t always getting the highest payout on a particular book, but I wanted to minimize the number of shipments that I sent out.

For each of the book buyback companies that I used, all I had to do was print a simple shipping label from my computer, throw all the books into a single box and then drop it off at the UPS store.  Shipping was free and I paid via paypal within 2 weeks.

I was trying to figure out which books had value and why and I never could really nail it down.   Some of my highest value books were new, some were old, some were rare, and some were popular.  But I can say with confidence that most books you scan will be worth $0.  Of the 600+ books I purged, probably 500 were worth $0 and went to Goodwill.

If you want to give it a shot, you can try them out here.

Bookselling Total = $179 

Craigslist.org

Selling on Craigslist is so easy it is unbelievable.  All I did was take pictures of the items I wanted to sell with my phone.  I then emailed them to myself and created the listings.

listing on craigslist

As you can see in the image above, you just hit the “post to classifieds” link and then just follow the simple instructions.  Less than 5 minutes later you should have your listing up and running.

With pricing, I like to search craigslist to see what others are selling similar items for and use that as a gauge of how to price the item.  If you really want to sell it quickly just price it lower than everyone else.  It is that simple.

A lot of people I talk to about it are concerned about getting scammed and really as a seller it is pretty simple to avoid by doing one simple thing – only take cash.  If anyone wants to pay with check, money order, IOUs from Nigerian princes, or anything else, just tell them no.  And honestly, almost everyone who uses Craigslist understands this and does the same thing.  I have sold about 20 items on Craigslist and every single one of them brought cash.

Also, everyone on Craigslist wants to get a deal.  So add some wiggle room into your price and when they ask you if you are willing to negotiate, just knock of 10% or so and most times everyone is happy.

TIP: you will almost always get a higher price for an item if you sell it on Ebay rather than Craigslist because you are advertising your items to the whole world rather than just your neighborhood.  That said, heavy and large items often make more sense with Craigslist because you can avoid shipping charges. 

Breakdown

These are the items I sold on Craigslist last month and what I got for them.

Studio Lighting Kit $90
Graco Contempo highchair $80
Black entertainment center / TV stand $50
Crate 4×12 Guitar Speaker Cabinet $60
Sony Stereo $100
Vintage Desk $100
Chiminea (Fire Pit) $30
Werner 8 foot fiberglass ladder $70
Black & Decker Mini-Fridge $90
Mountain Bike 26 X 19-Inch – $90
Craigslist Total $760

 

Ebay.com

I have done a lot of Ebay selling over the years and it also has become VERY easy to list items.  It used to be a lot more time-consuming and cumbersome, but it is almost as simple as listing on Craigslist.  I wrote a post about how to sell on ebay and even how to start an Ebay business that you can check out if you need more info.

Check out those links for more details, but I will say that it is probably worth your time to search for the item you are wanting to sell to see if people are buying it.  You can used the advanced search area to select completed listings and this will show you if your item is actually selling and what people are paying for it.

selling on Ebay

Ebay now allows you to pay for and print shipping labels directly from your computer. Then all you have to do is drop them off at UPS, Fedex, or USPS.

Breakdown

These are the items I sold on Ebay last month and what I got for them.

Old Cell phone $102
Guitar Effects Pedal $137
DVD Set $15
Fitbit One $80
Carvin Electric Guitar $317
Leather Briefcase $277
Sony Bookshelf Speakers $55
Yamaha Subwoofer $50
Lace Sensor Guitar Pickup $60
Fralin Guitar Pickups $212
Leather moccasins $35
Subtotal $1,340
Fees $134
Ebay Total $1,206

 

Wrapping it all up

I didn’t track how much time I spent on all this, but if I had to guess I would probably bet 7-8 hours spent taking pictures, creating listings, packing boxes, driving to post office, meeting with craigslisters, etc.  Even if I am off on my calculations and it took me 10 hours, that nets out to over $200/hour ($2145/10 hours) and that ain’t too shabby!

I honestly was pretty blown away at 1) how easy it all was and 2) how much money I made from it.  So hopefully it inspires you to dig in and see what you can sell.  If it does, let me know how it goes for you!

 

FREE 3-Day email course to help you get control of your money, right in your inbox

Free getting started courseJoin over 145,000 others and take our FREE email course that will help you save more, get out of debt, organize your finances, and begin to plan for the future.

Click here to get the 1st lesson now!


 

Ready to Quit Living Paycheck-to-Paycheck?

Just click to join 163,000+ others and take our FREE email course to better manage your money, pay off debt, and save! And get FREE access to our money-saving workshop ($29 value)!
41 Comments
  1. Carly

    I had never before considered selling any of our musical instruments…I think it’s time to bring it up with my husband. Sounds like we could really make a few bucks selling even just the accessories – unused pedals, cords, amps, etc. Everyone has their favorites in a collection, anyways.

    • Bob

      uh oh! Tell him I am sorry! 😉

    • Jacky

      Best time to sell musical instruments I find is August to October when school is just beginning for the year

    • Bob

      Good tip Jacky!

  2. angela

    I put three things on craiglist and have not sold anyone.
    People call and then we talk and no one buys

    • Bob

      yea, I find that probably less than half of the people who call me about something I am selling on craigslist never follow through – it is just part of the game unfortunately

  3. Mickey

    Ebay is definitely a good way to go. I made $1249.00 selling things I didn’t need last week. Android has a smart phone app that works very well with ebay. Very simple to upload pics and information. Looking around the house for more stuff to list!

    Mickey

  4. Bethany Gresoski

    Great post Bob. I love reading how you and Linda do things. I have a lot to learn from you guys. I haven’t gotten in to ebay sales yet but I am a huge fan of craigslist. My husband and I are also working on minimizing. Sales have been a little slower recently but I sold a good 2 grand worth of stuff last summer/fall. I love what you said about Goodwill too. It is vital to know what is worth your time and energy and as believers we know it is always better to give then receive so we can feel great about giving too. 🙂

    • Bob

      yep that is a good point that I failed to mention. When we see an opportunity to give something to someone who we know would be blessed by it, that is really the best course of action!

  5. Sherwyn

    I just checked a few books on line as well as DVDs –> http://www.selldvdsonline.com/ most of them were $0 but they kids got excited doing it and now we are going to get a barcode scanner and scan all of them. 🙂

    • Bob

      yea the barcode scanner is pretty fun – I mean as fun as a barcode scanner can be 😉

  6. Ryan Guina

    Awesome job, Bob. We had a yard sale earlier this year and we were stoked that we made about $200. Our primary goal was to clear out stuff, and most of it would have been donated if we didn’t sell it. So we looked at it as bonus money.

    We have a lot of other items we need to place on Craigslist or Ebay. I’ve got a lot of guitar and music gear, for example. We also have some baby items we should clear out. Higher dollar items can be hit or miss at garage sales, and most people only want to pay pennies on the dollar (often so they can resell it at a profit). In most cases, I’d rather just post the item on Craigslist or Ebay and make more money.

    • Bob

      yea I personally hate doing garage sales because in my experience I’ve made pennies on the dollar – like you mentioned. But for someone who loves to chat with everyone like yourself you probably have yourself a grand old time! 😉

  7. Whitney

    Another good option is the iPhone app “Offer Up.” It works much like craigslist but every notification of interest comes straight to your phone like a text.

  8. Lyndsay

    Look into Facebook rummage sites. One big community rummage that is gray for selling your items. I have sold LOTS of baby /kid/ home items 😃

  9. Linda

    I tried the link to the scanner but Ebay says it is no longer available. Can you tell me which one to buy?
    Thanks!

  10. Janeen Maxwell

    This is inspiring! When I made a list of priorities for the year, selling extra stuff (to help pay down the mortgage) was a high priority. After the first month my momentum slowed substantially, but hopefully this read will get me going again. Thanks.

  11. James Salmons

    What? 23 pairs of shoes? Was that real or hyperbole? Reminds me of Mrs. Marcos (only old timers like me would know what that means).

    I am impressed with your sales on eBay and Craig’s list. I am going to take a look at your post you referenced. I keep thinking of doing those things but then there are so many other things I want to do I just let stuff pile up (I just can’t bring myself to throwing anything away).

    Even though it might be passing up a few dollars, I have been just giving some things away. I gave away some mowing equipment to a man who picks up old equipment and repairs or sells them for parts, even some equipment that wasn’t broken. I figure that sometimes it is better to get things out of the way and helping out someone willing to work that hard is a good deed in itself.

    Clutter gets in the way of productive or pleasant activity and is one way to waste you life.

  12. Sue

    Are there places that you can put in CD titles and they will buy them back?

  13. Artem

    Selling your MTB was a mistake 🙂 Why? Ask Mr Money Mustache.

  14. Michele

    I have also been on the journey to create a more simple life. I spent the summer selling on Craigslist and Amazon and generated an extra 3,000+. It feels so good to get rid of excess “stuff” that we never even use. I even sold some very high maintenance trees from my front yard on Craigslist! They paid me to come and dig them out and take them away. The simple life is a good life. I am SO grateful to have learned this and teach our daughter at an early age.

  15. Esther Matteson

    Check out the classified ads policy at your local newspaper. In ours–The South Bend Tribune (Indiana)–you can list items for NO cost as long as the price you are asking is under $100. That’s a great deal.

  16. Mara Sisk

    I sell the clothes my kids havebout grown but still have lots of life in them on a community yard sale Facebook page. I group like items into lots and sell them for $1.50 -$2.00 an item. I have made about $800 in the last year (we have 5 kids). I also sell lots of other unnecessary items that way and as I have been decluttering our house and actively trying to get ride of things I average about S200 week.

  17. Stephanie

    Hi! I’ve never even been to the Craigslist website. When you sell an item, do you ship it to the purchaser or are these local sales? Do you meet up with the buyer? I’m unclear on how this works.
    Thanks!

    • Bob

      Stephanie, I would suggest ONLY doing local craigslist with cash. Otherwise you are opening yourself up to risky transactions IMO

  18. Jen

    We did this last year and made over $1000 during a time that was really lean financially for us. It literally helped us pay the bills for a month or two. However, it took me a lot more hours than you stated here! Probably at least an hour per item until I take a picture, write a good description, answer questions (sometimes), pack it up to ship, etc.

  19. Rose

    I’d also like the name of the scanner as the link isn’t good anymore. Thanks.

  20. Michele

    Craigslist is not my friend. I have had people swear they will show up, then don’t call, don’t email, and don’t show up. I finally started telling people if they were going to be late (I’m talking an hour or more), $10 will be added to the price. I wasted 3 evenings for no-shows.

    • Bob

      Yea Michele, I hear ya. There are a few too many people who don’t follow through. I am thinking of creating a new selling policy of “first one to my door with cash gets it”

  21. Angie

    I like this post! Don’t forget that Paypal also wants their cut at 3% of your Ebay transactions payments.

  22. Lina

    Great ideas! I’m sure we all could use a little decluttering, and a little extra cash is great! Thank you for the inspiration!

  23. susanwowe

    To declutter my house is one thing on my to do list for the new year’s resolution, Your dollar signs really got me inspired, Thanks a lot!

  24. Diane Black

    Please consider taking books to your local library who will resell them to help provide money for programs at the library. It benefits parents, children, and everyone when there is extra funding for extra programs.

    • Bob

      Good tip Diane. I just took all mine to Goodwill, but the library is a good idea as well!

    • Penny T.

      I recommend local charities over Goodwill, if possible. I have spoken to a former employee of Goodwill and heard some awful things. There are negative articles all over the internet about them, as well. The CEO makes over a million dollars and it’s a non-profit? Non-profit just means the company does not make any profit at the end of the year but still…. the CEO can pull in a million dollar salary while the CEO of Salvation Army makes around $40,000 (maybe it’s less than that?). Libraries are a great suggestion, too. I will have to definitely keep that in mind. Another good donation site for books is BetterWorldBooks. They have green bins around… they are great for technical type books because they can send them overseas where they are still useful in some countries.

  25. Jenetta Penner

    It’s because of our own journey learning to save money in hard times I started Frugal Living Mom to help people find things that they could get for free and put “frugal strategies” into their everyday lives. And I get even more inspired when I read stories such as this. Awesome!

  26. Penny T.

    After reading this post, it gave me the necessary information to sell back some of my kid’s college textbooks that they have been too lazy to do themselves. I used bookscouter.com and found it to be very useful. However, I did find that I preferred to force it to put all matches up rather than the ones they thought were the best sites. Sometimes there was over a $10 difference in sale for me. I researched the sites thoroughly and read the reviews. I also found prices changed during a 4 hour period I was doing this so do things quickly. I would recommend making the piles for the ones you want to sell to and set up the book buy backs but do not pack them up yet. Pack them up with all of the books you want to sell have been gone through. Also, I doubled back and ones that came up $0.00, I would search on a site I was already sending something to and in one case it came up with an offer. One of the sites (CKY books?) lets you add on to your buy back as long as you have not packed things up yet (just put the new packing info. inside with the other one). Also, if you have a choice, choose UPS or FEDEX as you get receipts and tracking with those options.

  27. Tim Seidler

    Oh boy. My wife has bookshelves lined with titles I’m sure she’ll never touch again. I wonder if she’d notice they’re missing.

  28. Leslie

    Bob, Thanks for this great post! A question for you, I ordered the bar code scanner and it arrived today with very little instructions. Do you need special software to bar code scan books onto a Mac laptop? Did you use a PC or Mac? I’m trying to figure out where I’m missing something. Thanks again so much for your fantastic and helpful post!

    • Bob

      Leslie, mine didn’t come with any instructions either, but I just plugged it in the USB port and then went to the bookscouter website and pulled the trigger on the scanner while pointed at a barcode and voila, it just entered the # in for me!