Tag Archives: downsizing

Downsize Yourself! Ebay Tips

On Wednesday, I shared an overview of how I made $1,800 selling stuff I no longer wanted or needed. Friday, I went into detail about what I learned from my garage sale. Today, I’m sharing my top tips for Ebay, where I made $945 over the past year. Ebay can be a lot of work, from taking photos to creating listings to shipping your items. Yet there’s not other marketplace like it and you’re guaranteed to reach more customers than in any other venue. Let’s get selling!

Ebay Tips

1. Take Good Photos
Taking great photographs is the number one thing you can do to increase your sales in any online market place. Use a solid black or white backdrop if possible, and try to shoot in natural light. Show items from all relevant angles, and if you are selling a used item with some sort of defect or imperfection, make sure to include a photo of that as well. Ebay includes one photo free, and the rest are 15 cents each.

Ebay Tips

2. Write Good Descriptions
After photographs, descriptions are the most important factor in getting your item sold. Add as many details as possible especially including the condition. I find that if I don’t include measurements of clothing and other items, people write in and ask for them anyway, so I advise including them from the start.

I also try to add a little personality to my listings to instill a little confidence for first time buyers. It can be intimidating to buy used items online, a little warmth goes a long way!

Ebay Tips

3. Resist Add-Ons
Ebay offers tons of options to make your listing stand out, from subtitles to listing “designers.” I say skip them all. At over $1.50 for a subtitle alone, you could easily increase your fees to the point that you barely make a profit! Be confident that those who are looking for your item will find it, bold title or not, and focus on great photographs and descriptions instead.The only exception to this is buy it now, which can be attractive to buyers who want to, you know, buy it now! However, it means more trips to the post office compared to a group of auctions ending on the same day so be sure it is worth the hassle.

Ebay Tips

4. Start Your Auction Right
Seven day auctions are the best as they give you the longest viewable time without charging an extra fee. It also means that the time you list your item will be the time your item ends. I have had mixed results but the expert opinion is that weekend auction endings are the best. One thing I can solidly agree with is the best time to end your auctions is in the evening when people are home from work.

Ebay Tips

5. Rank High in Searches
To increase your ranking in ebay search results, make your handling time one business day. I usually aim to ship out items within a day or two of cleared payment, but occasionally have run beyond that and I still get frequent feedback on my fast shipping! So don’t be afraid that the ebay police will come after you if you mark one business day and really end up taking two. Its worth the search results returns.The other search engine tip I give it to keep your shipping costs reasonable. In the past sellers listed very high shipping fees in order to sneak by ebay’s percentage based final value fees, but they now charge a percentage of shipping fees as well so it benefits you to be realistic about your shipping costs.

Ebay Tips

I learned what worked best for me and Ebay through many fruitless Google searches and a lot of trial and error. If you are getting serious about selling your excess belongings, I recommend you invest in Man Vs. Debt’s 171 page ebook guide to selling on Ebay. If I had found it earlier in my journey I’m sure I would have made an even greater profit!

So, have I inspired anyone to start selling? Happy downsizing!


Downsize Yourself! Garage Sale Tips

As I mentioned in Wednesday’s post, downsizing has been an important goal for me this year as I prepare to travel around the world. I wanted to make packing easier, to make storing what stayed behind easier, to have less physical things to clutter my space and mind, and to have some extra cash for my traveling. While I outlined all my major methods for downsizing in that post, here I want to focus on one of the big ones you can do yourself: a garage sale. I decided to hold one about six months ago and last weekend Mark, my parents and I banded together to have the ultimate yard sale. While I walked away with $425, the total for all four of us involved in the sale was $1,120! We did a lot of things right and a few things wrong, and here’s what we learned:

Garage Sale Tips

1. Advertise!
Especially if you live in a less than prime location like myself, advertising is key. We spent $30 to advertise in the local paper in print and online, and I think it was a worth investment. I also listed the sale for free on Craigslist and got quite a few emails asking for details on the major items I was selling. I also listed for free on the site Yardies but I can’t say how much traffic we got from that. We also made five large clear signs and taped balloons to them to catch drive by traffic on the nearby major road.

2. Have Big Draw Items
We listed big ticket items like a guitar and sea kayak separately on Craigslist and told interested buyers to stop by the day of the sales. This was more convenient that trying to meet up with individual buyers at specific time and also brought people to the sale who might end up buying smaller items as well.

Garage Sale Tips

3. Start Early
Though we started making “sell piles” months before, we didn’t give ourselves enough time to do final sweeps of the house and found ourselves running around during the sale throwing things out onto the tables. Had we been more prepared I’m confident we could have sold much more junk! Give yourself a solid week of evenings to sort out what you want to sell and then price and organize it.

4. Have a Friday-Saturday Sale
This is one of my tips that we didn’t follow ourselves. I had read that Friday-Saturday was better than Saturday-Sunday, but I couldn’t imagine a weekday would be better than a weekend. Yet during the sale we heard over and over again that the most hardcore garage salers are out on Fridays- either retirees or workers who get their paychecks that day. And our Sunday was much less profitable than Saturday.

5. Play music
How many stores have you been into that are dead silent? Its odd enough walking onto a strangers lawn and sorting through their things, doing it while listening to crickets chirp is worse. I made a general public friendly playlist and hooked up some speakers, but Mark took it one step further and made a “$1 Per Song” sign in front of the guitar he was selling. He has three takers and even more laughs before selling the guitar itself.

Garage Sale Tips

6. Be friendly
Maybe it’s the three years I spent working in upscale retail, but I cringe when I enter a store and the salesperson barely looks up. Don’t let anyone enter your garage sale without a greeting! You might be bored and tired, but by sitting in a lawn chair and giving your customers a death stare you are only making them feel like they somehow walked past the garage sale and are now accidentally robbing the neighbors.

While we didn’t use it, I read a great tip: to hand out coffee or water. It’s much harder to walk away from a sale empty handed when someone has generously handed you free beverages!

Garage Sale Tips

7. Have a post sale plan
The sad truth about garage sales is no matter how successful you are, you will never sell everything. Some people holding garage sales make a strict “nothing back in the house” rule. We weren’t those people. Starting with clothes and shoes, I made one pile to go to the charity my mother works at and the other to try selling at Plato’s Closet, a local resale shop. It was definitely worth the trip because I got another $58 for what they took!

Knowing that my sister will be graduating in two years and may want to hold her own sale, we took two plastic bins and filled them with all the little things on tables and put those in the garage for next time. Everything else went to charity.

8. Have fun!
Whether it was having selling contests, making the dog into our garage sale mascot or putting an $18 price tag on a wooden frog and watching people puzzle over it, we made sure the weekend was full of laughs.

Garage Sale Tips

For more garage sale tips checks out the Yard Sale Queen. Have you held any great garage sales or had any crazy yard sale finds? Share in the comments below! Coming up next: Downsizing with ebay!

The Departure Lounge: Downsizing

Welcome to my newest ongoing series, The Departure Lounge! Here I’m going to delve into the preparations for long-term travel. Previously, I wrote about what gear I’m packing, and how I’m going to stay healthy.

“How much does your life weigh? Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life. You start with the little things. The shelves, the drawers, the knickknacks, then you start adding larger stuff. Clothes, tabletop appliances, lamps, your TV. The backpack should be getting pretty heavy now. You go bigger. Your couch, your car, your home. I want you to stuff it all into that backpack.”

This speech from 2009’s hit movie Up In The Air stuck with me long after the film credits stopped rolling. About this time last year, I was packing up my apartment in order to sublet for the summer while I moved to Grand Cayman, and I was hit with the most overwhelming feeling of dread. I was being crushed, mentally and physically, by my own belongings. I vowed things had to change.

I have a hundreds, if not thousands (!) of things, a material possession collection I have built up over my mini lifetime. Throughout high school and my first two years of college I was a rampant spender, rarely denying myself anything I wanted and could afford. It was my first trip to Asia that slowed my consumerism, but I was still left with six years of buildup to deal with. With a move around the world looming after graduation, I knew I only had one choice: downsize.

And thus began the first year of my life in which more objects left my possession than came into it. Along the way I’ve thrown out mountains of garbage, sold thousands of dollars worth of merchandise and given away as much as possible. The results of selling your belongings feel amazing: I get my mental and physical space back, someone in the world gets something they wanted or needed at a good price, less goes into landfills, and some money goes into my travel fund.

Making a lifestyle change from consumerism to minimalism is no easy ride, and I’m far from there, even a year later. I stay inspired by bloggers like Man Vs. Debt and Exile Lifestyle who can fit everything they own into one single blog post. I’m not there yet: there are boxes and boxes of things going into storage at my parent’s place that I wasn’t yet ready to part with. But I can only imagine the nightmare I’d be having right now if I hadn’t spent the last year the way I did, cleaning out my life closet by closet, drawer by drawer. Hundreds of items and nearly two thousand dollars later, this is how I did it:

Craigslist is the go-to site for selling items locally that are too big to ship. Through Craigslist I sold a set of glass tables, a small bookshelf, an ironing system, and a bicycle. It’s free to list, so the only hassle is uploading photos, screening the crazy people, and finding a time to meet up with potential buyers. Since many of the items I sold were brought from Albany or left behind by previous roommates, I was able to make a profit over what I paid for the items in the first place, making this my most lucrative category. My best craigslist success story to date? I made $175 selling a broken laptop (though I’m not including that in my total here as the money went to my parents). I posted it without naming a price and a bidding war erupted leaving me with an envelope full of $20s in exchange for a hunk of metal. Craigslist Profit: $380

my beloved bike, bought for $10, sold for $140

Ebay and Amazon are the two major online retailers for selling your stuff. The advantage is you are reaching literally anyone on the globe with access to a computer. The downsides are high fees and the high investment of time and effort. But since I spent the last year as a student and my time = zero dollars, I found the investment to be worth it. In the end I spent the vast majority of my downsizing time focused on ebay, and it is where I unloaded the most stuff. In total over the past year I sold 73 items on ebay!

The advantage of Amazon is you only pay when and if your item sells, so you can list risk free. However, you can only list items that are already on Amazon new. This does mean that you don’t need to bother with photos, which is a major time saver. I found Amazon to be very easy to use but with the exception of text books items took a while to sell and I only sold 6 items total on Amazon over the year! Total Ebay/Amazon profit: $945 (and counting!)

Downsizing with Ebay

One of my "sell stashes"

Last weekend, after moving all my stuff from New York City up to my parents house in Albany, we held a garage sale. It was a massive amount of work, but it felt so good to get rid of all the little things that weren’t worth listing on ebay and all the big things that have been cluttering up the house for years. It was definitely a four person effort and everyone walked away with money in their pocket. The most painful part is remembering how much you paid for an item and watching someone bargain you down to a quarter for it.

After the sale we split the remaining clothing into two bags: one for charity and one for a last ditch effort to sell at a local clothing resale shop. They took $50 worth, and while I was there I got a fantastic dress for an upcoming wedding for twelve dollars! To do the same, search for a Plato’s Closet or other clothing reseller near you. Profit: $425 at garage sale + $50 at consignment shop

garage sale

I’m planning to write more detailed tips posts for what I learned from ebay-ing and garage sale-ing, but if you are eager to get started yourself I recommend investing in Man Vs. Debt’s Sell Your Crap ebook. He gives detailed instructions for how to sell on Ebay, Amazon, and Craigslist. I found his site when I was almost done with my selling journey, but I certainly would have invested had I found it earlier.

I believe downsizing is good for anyone, but for the soon-to-be long term traveler, it is one of the most important preparations you can make. I’m lucky not to have to pay for storage, but even if free, it is mentally taxing to be worrying about your mountains of possessions at home while traveling. Other benefits include making packing, the traveler’s constant burden, so much easier. Best of all? With the money earned selling things I no longer want or need, I can spend a month living on the beach in Thailand. Now that is something I both want and need.