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Where to Sell Old Stuff to Get the Most for Your Money

Reader's Digest 8/30/2022 Rachel LeWinter

For some, shopping is a form of entertainment, a pastime that brings joy—one of life's simple pleasures. Unfortunately, your spending habits can cause major damage to the planet. According to reports from the United Nations, the clothing industry contributes up to 10% of the pollution that is causing climate change. In fact, the global fashion industry, with its emphasis on fast fashion, produces around 2.1 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, which is more than the emissions of all international flights and maritime shipping combined. While some businesses are trying to offset this environmental damage by focusing on sustainability and relying less on fossil fuels, you can also do your part by learning how to recycle (trust us, you can recycle anything!), upcycle clothes and sell your unwanted stuff. Yep, that’s right—there are plenty of people who will think your trash is actually a treasure!

Not only will selling your old items ensure your space is decluttered and organized, but participating in this sort of circular business model is the best way to practice sustainable living and reduce your carbon footprint … while also generating extra income. Luckily, this is easier than ever, thanks to the growing popularity of online marketplaces. According to ThredUP's latest report, by 2026, the global secondhand market is expected to grow by 127%, and the U.S. market alone could reach $82 billion.

On board? Great. Now you just need to know where to sell your unwanted stuff. Learn how to make the most money with the best places to sell clothes online, and read on for more resources on where to unload everything from books to electronics to furniture.

Why shouldn't you throw away your stuff?

You may not think twice about tossing last season's garb in the garbage, but the harm it causes adds up quicker than you realize. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans send more than 11 million tons of textile waste to landfills each year. And the Council for Textile Recycling reports that the average person throws away 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles annually. "Anything we can do, no matter how small the impact we think it is, can help the earth," says Deanna Thompson, creator of Closet Full of Cash. Reducing waste and consumption should always be a priority.

Curious just how much damage you might be causing to the environment? The EPA has a handy Household Carbon Footprint Calculator to estimate your annual greenhouse gas emissions. Spoiler alert: The number will likely be eye-opening, but something as simple as donating or selling your unwanted stuff can make a real difference.

Here's one big reason for that: Selling and buying used goods reduces the demand for new items, and that should decrease the creation of new products and lessen the use of the harmful resources involved in production. "You can buy so many items secondhand, such as books, clothing, electronics, toys and furniture," says Stephanie Moram, CEO and founder of Good Girl Gone Green. "The possibilities are endless, but the impact and ripple effect created is enormous." The trick is learning where to sell unwanted stuff to get the biggest bang for your buck.

Why should you use a marketplace?

We've all heard the saying "one man's trash is another man's treasure," and that's never been more true than for the secondhand market. There's a buyer for just about anything you can imagine, and established marketplaces are accessible and easy to use, as well as have built-in audiences of loyal shoppers.

While that's true for both online and brick-and-mortar marketplaces, online options definitely have one big advantage: scale. "You can reach so many more buyers than, say, with a yard sale or garage sale," notes Leah Ingram, who runs the Real Sophisticated Consumer blog and has written 15 books on smart shopping. "So if you want to sell your items more quickly, and possibly for more money, I would definitely recommend using an online marketplace."

What are the advantages to selling your unwanted stuff online?

© Iuliia Bondar/Getty Images

In addition to having your items seen by a wider audience, there's also the safety factor. If you're dealing with an online marketplace, you don't have to worry about meeting anyone in person, and the marketplace will handle all the monetary transactions. "Using a marketplace comes with advantages like seller protections, credit card processing, tax and customer service," says Jade Myers, owner of Fashion Without Trashin, who runs an online shop as well as a brick-and-mortar store.

What do you need to know before selling items online?

There are a plethora of options to choose from, and not all of them are on the up-and-up. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers the following tips for navigating the online resale space.

  1. Find out if the destination is reputable. The FTC suggests searching online for the site's name, along with the word "complaint" or "review," to see what other people say about their experiences.
  2. Research the online marketplace's user guidelines. This includes policies on refunds, returns, deliveries, fees and the level of assistance they offer. Some sites are very hands-on with help, while others leave it completely up to the sellers and buyers to work out disputes.
  3. Make sure the payment system is safe. Generally speaking, this means the site will offer a variety of payment options, as opposed to requesting only cash payments. On that note, never sell to or buy from someone who wants to pay outside the marketplace's payment system. It's often a scam, and if you fall for it, you'll lose any protection the site offers.

How can you determine the value of the item you're selling?

"Probably the biggest thing to remember when selling used items is you can't expect to get 100% of what you paid for something," says Ingram. Even if it's new clothing with the tags still attached, she reveals she's never been able to get back the original value. And if you price things too high, they won't sell.

To figure out pricing, do your homework. Visit various online resale marketplaces to determine how popular a product is and its going rate, as well as figure out what kind of return a designer or style generally garners. But remember: Just because you find a lot of similar listings for sale, it doesn't mean you'll make bank. To see if it's something people are actually buying, do a search for the exact item you want to sell, then filter your results by "sold." You'll be able to see if it's in demand, plus the going prices.

Next, take into consideration the condition of the item, and always be honest and upfront about any flaws. Seasonality is also important when it comes to clothing and shoes. Think about the weather and what's going to sell during the current season. If you're trying to hawk a winter coat in the summer, you won't make much. Classic pieces that never go out of style (think: trench coats, black leggings, etc.) will always be easier to sell. Resale trends are constantly fluctuating, so many sites have sections that list their most popular brands and designers, as well as the most sought-after styles of the moment.

Also look to pop culture for clues. If there's a trend that's going viral on TikTok, a popular celebrity craze or even a fad from a Netflix show, take advantage of that momentum and list accordingly. You'll have a better chance of a quick sale.

Can I hire someone to sell my stuff?

If you're trying to find out where to sell unwanted stuff without a lot of effort, there are places that will do all the work to photograph, price and list for you. Consider thredUP for women's and kids' clothing, handbags, shoes and accessories. Request a "clean out kit" and send the bag back (for free!) filled with any gently used pieces. Similarly, The RealReal, which is best for designer garb, allows you to arrange a home pickup or drop-off, or request a free shipping label to send in your goodies; they handle everything from there. This service is also free.

Thompson's tip for items that have a high value, especially handbags: "I will send pictures to either Fashionphile or Rebag, and they will make a cash offer. They provide a label, and all I need to do is box it up and ship it to them. As soon as they confirm that they have received the bag, I get paid."

And eBay has a "Trading Assistants" directory, where you can hire local experienced members to sell your items for a fee. For a more comprehensive and personal approach, Portland-based startup Sella will sell anything that fits in the trunk of a car. You can meet up with a local rep or use their mail-in service. Experts will confirm your pieces are worth selling, recommend a pricing strategy (you get final say), respond to buyers and craft compelling listings, which are posted across five platforms including Craigslist, eBay and OfferUp. The hassle-free service charges a flat rate of $5.99 per item, plus 20 cents a day until it sells.

The best marketplaces for buying and selling stuff online

© RD.com, Getty Images, via craiglist.org, via Facebook.com, via instagram.com, via eBay.com

Craigslist

When considering where to sell unwanted stuff, Craigslist is regarded as one of the best options for reaching local people. The No. 1 ranked classified site by traffic, it generates a whopping $660 million in revenue yearly. While some listings are free, the site recently started charging nominal rates to combat scams and fake postings for cars, jobs and select services, depending on the item and your location.

According to Thompson, Craigslist is particularly great for appliances, cars and large furniture, while Ingram says she's had luck unloading old children's toys and housewares. Myers adds that she likes to buy and sell event tickets here.

eBay

A pioneer of circular commerce, eBay has steadily remained a favorite resale site for more than 25 years. With 147 million active buyers, it's easy to see why. The site makes it a cinch to connect to an international audience with eBay's Global Shipping Program. All you have to do is send your item to eBay's domestic shipping center, and they'll take care of the rest.

According to a recent commerce report from the company, Americans have an average of 36 household items that can be sold on eBay for around $3,600—all things that would otherwise be donated or thrown out. "You can find a buyer for absolutely anything you have to sell, and it is easy to list," says Thompson. "Plus, eBay keeps you safe, and they handle the transactions so you don't have to." Just make sure to avoid these common eBay scams.

A hot tip from Myers: eBay is great for selling collectible and vintage items and high-end designer fashion. The brand is now also focusing on its positive economic impact and enhancing sustainability practices. Last year, eBay avoided 1.5 million metric tons of carbon emissions and kept 47,000 metric tons of waste out of landfills.

Facebook Marketplace

If you already spend a ton of time on this social media site, you might as well make some money while doing so: More than 1 billion users buy and sell goods on Facebook Marketplace each month. Simply create a public listing, then share it to groups or your own network. If you aren't comfortable meeting up locally to exchange goods, you can use a shipping option or a pickup or drop-off service. No seller fees or taxes sweeten the deal.

Moram even declares it her overall favorite resale destination. "As both a buyer and seller, it is one of the easiest ways to sell and buy your stuff," she says. "You can find anything from clothing to appliances, and toys to kitchen items." Myers also notes that the site has improved exponentially over the last few years. "I like that you can see reviews for both buyers and sellers now," she says. But it's still important to be wary of Facebook Marketplace scams and follow safety strategies to keep transactions secure.

Instagram

To get your products in front of as many eyeballs as possible, turn to Instagram: People can buy your goods directly from your photos and videos. There are more than a billion monthly active users, and a recent survey found that 80% of respondents use the social media mammoth to decide whether or not to make a purchase. Nearly half the people surveyed use the app to shop weekly. You can set up a store directly through Instagram's Commerce Manager, or choose from more than a dozen supported platforms.

"Instagram is great for selling from a connected website—from Shopify, you can upload your entire catalog of goods and it automatically updates when items sell or get added," explains Myers.

What are the best marketplaces for buying and selling in person?

© Iuliia Bondar/Getty Images

According to NARTS (The Association of Resale Professionals) there are currently more than 25,000 resale, consignment and not-for-profit shops in the United States. These retail destinations eliminate some of the headaches associated with traditional resale, like meeting up with strangers from the internet and dealing with shipping. They also handle the entire process, from displaying your items to advertising to customers (many of whom are established clientele ready to spend). Plus, store owners are experienced professionals who know the real value of their merchandise, so you can rely on their pricing. For consignment, once your items sell, you are paid (and you don't have to worry about returns). Other stores like Buffalo Exchange, Plato's Closet and Once Upon a Child will offer you cash on the spot for your stuff.

"Depending on the item you are selling, it may sell faster and easier in person," says Moram. "Some people prefer to see the clothing or appliance they are purchasing versus seeing a picture." Thompson agrees: "Selling in person means you can sell something in minutes and get paid just as quickly. Most people think of marketplaces like Craigslist or Meta, but also think about your local pawn shop. Most pawn shops take almost anything of value and are highly regulated by local and federal governments. You can get cash immediately, and if you don't want to sell, you can get a loan on your items." Yet another advantage? You don't have to worry about problematic packing materials, such as Styrofoam and bubble wrap.

And don't forget about tried-and-true favorites like garage sales, local flea markets and thrift stores. Ingram says she likes community yard sales for their opportunity to make some quick cash—and that the sale is final. "You show up, set up, hopefully sell some stuff, and then you go home for the day and you're done," she explains. "With apps and online marketplaces, you need to constantly monitor listings so you can answer people's questions."

For online marketplaces that facilitate in-person selling, Thompson's favorite pick for where to sell unwanted stuff is Nextdoor. "It's local, in your neighborhood, and you can list anything from furniture to antiques to electronics," she says. "It was a huge help when I moved and wanted to thin out my home. I would just post images and people would reply. I always had everything outside so they could look, they paid in cash and I was happy every single time."

Should you meet in person?

There are some essential safety protocols to follow anytime you take a transaction offline. "Always meet in a public place during the hours of operation of a business in the area," advises Myers. "Parking lots of grocery stores and shopping malls are good, as well as places like Starbucks." If possible, have someone go with you, and record the transaction if you are at all uncomfortable, she says.

More tips: Insist on getting paid on the spot. If you use cash apps like Venmo or Zelle, make sure the transaction has gone through, and take a photo of the item being collected in case there are any issues later like a bank dispute.

Thompson adds: "Do not share any personal information with the buyer or seller outside of your name, and always communicate through the app." For extra safety, meet at your local police department, since most have areas set aside for just this purpose.

Tips for selling specific items

There's a general consensus when it comes to selling anything: Take good photos, be as descriptive as possible, be transparent about the condition and reasonably price your goods. It's also important to know which marketplaces work better for certain items.

Electronics and appliances: For these items, Moram prefers Facebook Marketplace. Myers agrees, suggesting that you take a video of the item working before trying to sell it. This will help you sell it faster, as well as eliminate disputes down the line, in case a buyer claims it doesn't work.

Furniture: To give your furniture the best shot of selling, stage it in your home with other pieces and decor, advises Myers. For lower- to mid-range furniture, try Facebook Marketplace, Mercari (which has a local pickup option) and Etsy if it is at least 20 years old. For higher-end furniture, Myers prefers Chairish.

Art: Do your research before deciding where to sell it. "Art is a tricky one," says Myers. "Some pieces can be surprisingly valuable and would be best sold through an auction house, but for less valuable art, I recommend selling on eBay."

Books: Bookworms, rejoice! Your treasured tomes may soon have a new home if you list them on specialized websites like BookScouter or Cash4Books. There are also plenty of places to donate unwanted books, if you want to go that route.

Tech: Specialized sites are also the way to go for your old tech items. Check out Decluttr, Gazelle and Swappa.

Best free and exchange marketplaces

Selling your unwanted items isn't your only environmentally friendly option, of course. Facebook Marketplace has some great groups—including "Buy Nothing"—that allow their members to exchange and trade items. You can search for these groups in your local area, and then all you have to do is post the item you no longer want or need, and someone will pick it up at your house. Thompson loves Freecycle, a nonprofit site that boats nearly 10 million members, if you're looking to give something away for free. "There are categories for literally anything you have, and trading is done quite often through that platform," she adds. Do you have garb that's too beat-up to be sold or given away? Find out how to recycle old clothes (the right way).

Do you ever need to charge sales tax?

Depending on where you live, you may need to charge sales tax, though this generally applies only to businesses or for-profit sales, explains Myers. If you are selling an item at a loss from the original purchase price, you likely won't be required to collect sales tax, but always consult with a tax professional or visit your state's tax website to be sure. Some online marketplaces handle it for you and collect sales tax on your behalf.

Conclusion

The closet cleanout trend may have been accelerated by the pandemic, but clearing out clutter should be an activity you commit to year-round. It's an easy way to earn extra cash, and by giving unwanted items a new life, you're doing your part to reduce waste and help the environment. If you want to learn about how to shop more responsibly, check out our article on the best sustainable clothing brands to buy.

Sources:

The post Where to Sell Old Stuff to Get the Most for Your Money appeared first on Reader's Digest.

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