To Sell or Not to Sell

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom

Back on November 13, 2010, Eve commented on Colleen’s post about selling your decluttered goods. She said:

I do have an opinion on this, which is — just give it away. I picked up this attitude when I used to read the American decluttering/cleaning website called Flylady. She advised we just give our stuff to the Goodwill or other charity instead of burdening ourselves with starting a new project/hobby/part-time career of trying to earn back some money on the items we no longer want. . . It’s hard to face the fact that I may have wasted money on these items, but wasting my time in a pursuit that I hate won’t put that right. And I’ll think long and hard before buying stuff in the future that may just add to the clutter cycle. So I say — lesson learned, money has been lost, move on and try to do better in future.

I’ve trimmed Eve’s comments a bit; she definitely isn’t telling others not to sell, just saying it’s not for her.  I’ve thought a lot about her comment since then. Is selling on Ebay or Craigslist just cluttering my life with another hobby? Sometimes it feels that way.

Selling on Craigslist has a much higher hassle-factor than selling on Ebay.

Ebay involves taking photos, writing a listing, figuring out what you’ll ship in and how much shipping will cost, waiting for payment, and then shipping. Sometimes people don’t pay, and that can be a real inconvenience.  (Also, make sure you thoroughly investigate shipping charges. The quickest way to lose your earnings is to underestimate shipping.)

At first glance, selling on Craigslist seems easier, but successful selling actually takes more time.  You have to take photos and write a listing. Easier, so far. Unfortuntely, Craigslist is the land of ridiculous scams, people whose entire correspondence with you will be “Do you still have it?” and people who think they want it, tell you they want it, but really don’t. (On Ebay, these people would be “watchers” and never buyers, but there’s no such mechanism on Craigslist.) Craigslist items frequently need to be re-listed, because your listing can get buried so quickly. Austin, Texas where I live has 300 – 500 new furniture items listed daily, for example.  When someone does want to purchase, there can also be bargaining, which a lot of people despise, and of course, the inconvenience of arranging to meet someone at your home or another location. I get around this potential annoyance by rarely agreeing to meet elsewhere. My home is easy to find, I’m not concerned about being robbed, and I figure the item is a bargain enough without me investing extra to go to them. Also, if my item is $10 or less, I’ll just leave it on the porch and instruct the buyer to leave the money under the mat. This method has never gone wrong, and everyone appreciates the increased convenience.

Nonetheless,  both avenues have a place. Bulky or heavy items, for example, are better candidates for Craigslist, as are items with enough value to make them worth selling, but not for enough value that people would be willing to buy them and ship them for a price that makes your efforts worthwhile.

Then there’s selling books and CDs on Without a doubt, this is the easiest listing service available. You can only sell what they’re already selling, and you can’t make sets of things (i.e. 20 CDs from the 1980s), so those are disadvantages, but you don’t take photos, writing the description is easy, and Amazon determines the shipping for you. The big disadvantage is the bite that Amazon takes out of your profits – about $3 per item.

So, circling back to Eve’s comment: Is selling a hobby for me? I guess it is. Am I OK with that? Yes, I am. In my eight months of decluttering (also a hobby), I have shed over 1600 items and I have made $1361.70, which is an average of 80 cents made on every item out. The vast majority of those items have been donated – a blessing to others, as the FlyLady calls it – but those that I have sold have been a blessing to others and to me.

Today’s Declutter Item

These were a great pair of shoes and they got a lot of wear in three years. After walking to work in the rain one day I soon worked out why me sock was getting wet. I checked if they were repairable but it would have cost three times their worth. So unfortunately this pair had to go in the bin.

Shoes 23FEB2011IMG_2776

I am grateful from anything that brings me joy. Below are five things that gave me joy today.

  • I got plenty of exercise walking to pick up my car from the mechanic, walking to the store to buy an avocado and then going on my evening walk with Steve.
  • Finally doing a few jobs I had been avoiding. It feels good to get them out of the way.
  • Receiving a letter from an old friend from America. It was wonderful to hear from her.
  • The little things you notice when you walk instead of taking the car.
  • I love it when I write a blog and in the process inspire myself.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow.

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Continue reading with these posts:

  • Disposing of this weeks mission yields In a post a couple of weeks ago that asked a range of question about your clutter issues and my blog. One of the readers asked for more information on how to get rid of the clutter that […]
  • Life moves on I received the following comment from Kimberley to one of last week's posts ~ Who Are You Now. Kinberley wrote: "Your post should be titled, “Isn’t this how clutter begins?”  We […]
  • Positive attitude to decluttering Here is a great comment from Kimberley that I didn't want anyone to miss... "Selling vs. Donating….. When we acquire an item, there was an obvious need for us to do so, real or […]


  1. Great post! I learned the hard way of using a site like Craiglist. Such a great way of re-homing some not-so-great purchases! On the other hand, you have to meet buyers, some of whom don’t show up, read multiple emails, etc. Then, you still hang on to these items. They don’t leave. So, I’ve started consigning my items at a thrift store. Its just plain easier to bring what you want to donate, consign what you want to get some money back on. Its out of your house immediately (or when their next opening date is) All I lose is a 20% cut when I receive my check. But, that goes back into my community through philanthropic donations. Everyone wins! Ifsome items don’t sell by the deadline, and if you don’t really care about getting money back on that item, the thrift store absorbs that item and its just like you donated it. I like this for the sheer fact if I want something gone, I don’t want to hold onto it for who knows how long for. Its gone! And the de-cluttering continues! TFS this great site!!

    • Hi Jayme,
      thank you for leaving a comment and I would like to say welcome to 365lessthings. I don’t believe you have stopped by to leave words of wisdom before but I would like to let you know that we all appreciate you adding your voice to the our community and look forward to hearing more from you in the future.
      I agree whole heartedly with what you have to say here. Selling items can be a bit of a road block when it comes to getting stuff out of our homes quickly and effortlessly. It is good for you that there is a thrift store near to you where can sell on consignment. That does seem a faster more efficient method. Even though I find selling a bit of a pain sometimes there are just some items that I am not prepared to give away. Sometimes I end up giving them away in the long run but at least I am satisfied that I tried. I just sold a set of four collector Kiss dolls for my son and earned him $55 which does please me as he can do with the cash. Luckily there is plenty of room in my garage to house the potential seller items.

    • That sounds ideal. I’ve consigned furniture but don’t know of any other options in my community.

  2. I have to say that I am with Eve. I just hate all that time taken up with selling. I have tried Craigslist and have had poor experiences except for one time. In fact, out of the 6 times I have listed something only that one time did anything sell. The rest of the times it just seemed to sit out there among all the other items listed. I think it would help if Craigslist would break down the categories a bit more. That said, I have friends who have great experiences with both Craigslist and eBay so I think it is a great avenue for ridding your self of things you no longer want and making back some of the money you spent on them. I have a friend who seems to regularly have things listed on both and she has offered to do the work for me because it’s fun to her. I think I will take her up on the idea.

    • If your friend is offering to list items for you, that’s a generous offer. I have helped friends get started selling, but I’d have to be pressed hard to volunteer to do it after the first time or two!

      A friend on mine tried for more than a year to run an Ebay business. He had to take 30% in order to make it worthwhile, and he still shut down.

      I completely agree that Craigslist would be better for buyers and sellers if the listing categories were more specific and the searches easier.

  3. Selling on-line is not for me, but I can really see how it could be an enjoyable pastime for others, just like yard sales used to be for me. Something I found helped me donate things was to give them to people I know, even if they are just passing some or all of it to people THEY know. I have accepted the fact that I need to just get the extra stuff out of my house. The space that it frees up is worth any money I could have gotten from it.

    • I do enjoy it when I know who’s getting my stuff, espeically if it’s someone in my neighborhood. It’s fun and it makes a connection that strenghtens the community.

  4. This is an excellent post. This week I have packed up and posted 7 or so items and I feel for the money I have recouped it has not been worth my time. Sure I can see the amount and think ‘that’s nice’, but when I break it down and look at how many hours it took me to list, check emails, write the same stuff to people all the time, look for the right sized packing materials and queue in the post office, I’ve earned less than the minimum wage. I don’t see this as an ‘extra’ bonus at all, I see it as a complete waste of my time. And from now on, unless I have one high-price item I think I will take it all to the charity shop.

    • I never calculated the time that I spent, Mrs. Green. I figured since I was not working, I was making zero per hour, so anything over that was an improvement. Since I wrote this, I have taken a job working about 20 hours a week. I wonder if my attitude toward selling will change?

  5. I sell stuff that is easy to sell, or if it’s hard to sell I’ll stick it up for a while and then donate it. I don’t like to give stuff to Goodwill anymore though (long story) so if I can Freecycle it, give it to a friend or family, or post it for free on CL, I do that instead.

    • I limit the time I try to sell, too, Lynn. I’ll try once on Ebay, and I’ll relist 3 or 4 times on Craigslist, then out it goes.

  6. I have had a lot of success selling some of my excess rug hooking supplies and wool stash on eBay along with some items I design or create…I consider it a hobby and limit the amount I list…unless the item sells for a decent amount it’s not worth my time…

    There are plenty of good charities in my area that have made me give up garage sales for donations…one animal charity holds a huge garage sale at the local fairgrounds every spring and I save many items for them…it’s very well organized from junk to antiques…runs for three days…

    I do Freecycle for things I want to get rid of now…this past weekend I gave away a big bag of things my cats turn their picky little noses up at…the lady who picked them up has emailed twice about how much her cats love the scratching posts and sleeping in the fluffy bed…reading these is better than the few dollars I could have made selling them…

    Every day this blog inspires me to get rid of one more thing or two!

  7. Hi there
    I’ve been really enjoying and benefitting from your blog since I found it last month via ‘a life less cluttered’. So many thanks. I’m still working my way through the archives,lol.
    So I though it was high time I jumped in with a response, and today’s subject is one I have wrestled with. We’ve been having a mega declutter these last 2 months, in connection with living in a small space,combining 2 lives of people who have had 40+ years of accumulating ‘stuff’ and a number of hobbies past and present.
    I have hung on to stuff feeling I ‘ought’ to ebay it… but I hate the hassle – it really is a strain. I was able to finally let it go by deciding to donate it to our local hospice, who have to raise their own funds and have a shop for this purpose. I now feel I have effectively made a donation, of perhaps £200 to a very worth while local cause, saving myself the strain of the ebay route and feeling good about charitable giving, when on a low income.
    The relief to have it out the house is immense.

    • Hi Katharine,
      I would like to wish you a hearty welcome to 365lessthings and am glad you have now added your voice to our community. The more points of view we have the more we learn so thank you for joining in.
      I agree with you about how good it feels to donate your stuff to a worthwhile charity. Most of my 400+ items have moved on this way and it is quicker and easier than selling. The funny part is that when I do sell something it always seems like such a hassle leading up to it but once the deed has been done I wonder why I was so reluctant in the first place. Most of the hassle seems to be in my mind I think.
      Good luck with your decluttering efforts and I hope you soon have a spacious and carefree living space.

      • Colleen, this is exactly how I feel about it. Exactly! The funny part is that when I do sell something it always seems like such a hassle leading up to it but once the deed has been done I wonder why I was so reluctant in the first place. Most of the hassle seems to be in my mind I think.

        • Hi Cindy,
          I think it may have something to do with the responsibility of listing it correctly so you don’t end up upsetting anyone, making sure your shipping calculations are correct and just the expectation of the auction performing well enough to make it all worth your while. Some things are just awkward to sell and only appeal to a small market. Liam has a
          snoopy collection he had built up from when he was about three years old. He has out grown it and doesn’t want it any more. The Snoopys my be appealing to someone but the shipping cost will be at least $30. It has been marking time in my garage for years. Maybe I should try Craig’s List I have never used that option.

          • I think, too, when you have sold as many things as you and I have, the whole process is a lot easier.

            I would think you could sell a big Snoopy collection on Ebay, but I guess you’ve investigated it already. You should surely try Craisglist if you haven’t already, just because you should try it.

  8. I am thinking about selling a lot of books on a Dutch website which also sells books. That website takes about 15% on fees. I want to sell my books. Not just because of the money (which is also very welcome, with schoolbooks about 110! EUR a piece)… Oh no, well just for the money. I admit. I don’t care if I make a lot of money, I just want to get rid of them. The reason why I want to sell the books on this website is because it is know to be fast (I verified it).

    Donation is a bit of a last resort to me. The charity shop is about 20 km away and the trash bin is something what I would like to avoid. I also separate plastic (and recycle it!), paper (and also recycle it!) and other kind of “trash” (empty pens, for instance).

    Oh, and clothes goes immediately to the Salvation Army, they have here some kind of drop box so I can drive past and throw my (unwanted) clothes in.

    • It’s unfortunate the the thrift store is so far away. Good for you for sticking with it. What country do you live in?

      • The Netherlands, but well, I have a car so I can drive to it. The only point is that I don’t have a lot of time, so I’m saving a lot to give it all once.

  9. I’ve given most of my 2500+ items of decluttered stuff away (op shops, friends and leaving it on the nature strip), but there have been a few pieces of furniture which have been worth my while selling on eBay (a 6 ft teak and glass bookshelf which I sold for $450 – paid $650!), a bulky filing cabinet, and a couple of smaller pine bookshelves. Actually, I didn’t even do the selling, my husband (who buys and sells golf clubs via ebay) did it all for me. Win-win 🙂

    • Hi Loretta,
      my husband does a bit of ebaying of the unwanteds too. I never see the money but most of it is his stuff anyway.

      • Loretta, I’ve read you calling them “op shops” before, but I don’t know this term. Does it stand for opportunity or ??? I’ve been curious.

        • Australians (and British people too I think) use op shops for thrift stores – and I think it does stand for opportunity! It’s funny how aussies leanr to speak ‘american’ and ‘english’ as well as our own hybrids!

          • Hi Snosie,
            I tried to teach the word chook to a lady I worked with in America it was hilarious because they pronounce the OO differently she just couldn’t say it like an aussie. The way she said it rhymed with fluke and it just wasn’t right. Mind you I faired no better when one of the young girls I worked with over there tried to get me to talk like an American. When I first moved over there I thought that I would be able to notice my own accent more because I was among people who sounded different but alas that wasn’t the case. Mind you complete strangers came up to me all the time saying “I love your accent”. But then just as many could understand a word I was saying. I missed the fun of all that when I returned to Australia it was no fun just being like everyone else.

        • Hi Cindy,
          you are correct op shop is short for opportunity shop. We love to play with the English language here especially if we can shorten words.

  10. We do a little of both. If an item is small enought to ship and will fetch more than $20 we’ll sell on ebay. If an item is large, in demand, and will fetch more than $30 or $40 we sell on Craigslist. Everything else gets donated. Donating is certainly easier, but I like the extra cash from selling it.

    • I agree the extra funds are nice. In months when I’ve made $200 or $300 dollars, well it’s hard to argue with that!

  11. And what is a chook that does not rhyme with fluke?

  12. Thanks for the welcome Colleen.
    Op shop isn’t a British expression: we call them charity shops (if you mean a shop you donate good to that they sell on).
    Re the ebay thing – you are so right too, because when I have made the effort to sell stuff, it has been a great feeling getting the money in. Last year I sold enough to pay over half the fee of a professional declutterer to help me tackle my attic of doom. (And well worth the money it was too).
    I think the strain comes from the risks in describing it right etc, especially small stuff.

    • Because I buy on Ebay and, and I work in an office that does not provide recycling so I bring all the packaging home, I always have plenty of packing materials. I know that can be an obstacle for some people.

      I never sell clothes on Ebay with the rare expection of something like a worn-once Easter dress. (Even then, once Easter has passed, I let my girls wear those dresses as much as they want to.) I find the process of describing clothing and the risk that there’s a stain, pilling, etc. is much too great.

      I love that you used your money that you earned decluttering to get some help decluttering more!

      I also say welcome to 365lessthings!

  13. Colleen, Bummer about your shoes. They still look so great on the uppers. Too bad your feet get wet and dirty when you wear them!

    • Hi Cindy,
      yes that is what I thought too. They were practical and comfortable and even thought they were leather they were to expensive which is rare in Australia. I did continue to wear them for a while and avoided the rainy days. Now that I am not going to work I don’t really need them so I felt it was time to let them go.

  14. Hello, I’m so pleased that my original comment inspired a whole post! It’s great to see everyone talking it over, pro and con. I can definitely see both sides of the debate. Thanks again; I’m feeling like queen for a day.
    It’s also interesting to see that giving stuff away isn’t always easy, due to location. From my house I can walk to several Goodwill shops, so I never realized that not everyone has these shops so close at hand. Actually, in my neighborhood, decluttering is even easier than that: people often put items outside their house with a “free” sign and things are gone within minutes! I’ve gotten rid of many things this way: lamps, furniture, etc. And it’s also how I’ve obtained certain useful items myself: a bathroom cabinet, framed artwork, and a child’s toy kitchen. This is acceptable in our neighborhood because a lot of people walk by and take it away; in other neighborhoods it might just be an unsightly pile of junk!

    • Yeah! I was really hoping you would join our party. I’m a big believer in the idea that you never know how you will influence other people – positively or negatively – and today you’re an example of that. I’m sure you had no idea that I have mulling over your comments for months now.

      In my neighborhood, it’s also acceptable to leave things on the curb, and we have an active neighborhood association with a listserve where people offer up their goods – a slightly fancier version of leaving them on the curb. My girlfriend picked up a wicker bassinet for me from the curb, freshened the paint, and gave me the most beautiful baby bassinet I could have ever hoped for.

      I was also surprised by how much difficulty some people have getting to a thrift store. Within a 5 mile radius of my house, there are two Goodwills and a Savers (associated with Easter Seals and my personal favorite thrift store). I’m sure the further you live in the country, the more complex it is; although everything is further away if you live in the country.

      Hope you have a fabulous day knowing that you are The Queen.

    • Hi Eve,
      I like the sound of your neighbourhood do you live in a small town or just a convenient spot in a city. My location is also convenient for placing things on the street to give away but I don’t have any thrift stores within walking distance. Pity that would be really convenient.

      • I live right in the middle of San Francisco. There is definitely a culture of recycling, reusing, and repurposing here. Even the local garbage company has an “artist-in-residency” program — the artists get to use materials from the dump for art, and are provided with studio space. Check this out:

  15. Thanks for the post. I’ve recently started living with only what can fit in a couple small backpacks. I’ve left a load of possessions in various places though and have been wondering whether I could be bothered selling them all. I’ll probably sell the big items and give away a lot of the rest.

    • Hi James,
      welcome to 365lessthings and thank you for your comment. I took a quick look at your blog and so very much agree with the statement – Society lays down a less than ideal path for most of us. Society has a lot to answer for starting with the approach to education but lets not get me started on that. I am curious as to what you did for a living before leaving to volunteer overseas. I am also now curious thanks to you about what sort of opportunities are available I think I will have to do as you say and google it. I am at a bit of a loose end at the moment and could do with shaking up my comfort zone.
      To sell or not to sell – that is a difficult choice sometimes especially when you have better things to do with your time. Good luck with whichever choice you make and I hope you enjoy your time in Cambodia I am sure it must be very rewarding. Volunteering is not a sacrifice we make it is a rewarding gift we accept.

  16. I can see the advantages of selling & just giving it away. I don’t mind selling, although there is a little more work involved. I like being able to get back a little of what I spent on an item so I can put it in savings or put towards something else. Also giving it away, the item is out of the house & there is more space right away. I have done Ebay, Craigslist, rummage sales & consignment. I like consignment so much better as I can just drop the items off. Sometimes I’m amazed at how much money my items bring in.

    • Hi Daisy,
      I love the consignment idea too I used to do it years ago when there was a thrift store on the Air Force base near where we lived. Being able to just drop the stuff off and come back later for the cheque was so easy and if the item didn’t sell within a certain length of time it would become the property of the store and they would sell it off cheap to get quick cash.

  17. I have had to deacquistion furniture quickly from 2 apartments — my mom’s and mine after she passed. Both apartments are limited access apartments, and I didn’t want to admit people I didn’t know (I live alone).
    Following a friend’s suggestion, I offered the furniture for free on the neighborhood listserv where I used to live. A father called me immediately to say that his son was moving into his first apt and needed furniture. Good deed done, win-win.