How to Sell Your Stuff, and Why You Should
by Matt Latham
I’m in the process of selling almost everything I own, which isn’t much. I’ve sold a lot of my possessions before, and I’ve figured out the pros and cons to the various ways of selling my stuff.
I first moved to Austin with whatever I could pack into my car, which is a regular-sized sedan. Within a few months of getting to Austin, I started reading about minimalism and decided to sell a bunch of my stuff. I got rid of all my DVDs, CDs, books, and a couple pieces of movie equipment that I wasn’t using anymore. I threw away various worthless things that I was holding onto for sentimental value, but never actually looked at or used, and donated some of my clothes.
Since then, I’ve generally kept my possessions fairly minimal. I love the minimalist lifestyle, and find that the less I have, the less I want to have. One of my favorite things about this lifestyle is the idea of only owning what you actually use. It also makes me feel light, like I don’t ever have to be tied down to the place where I have all my stuff. I feel like I might just float away if the wind picked up, onto new adventures.
I’ll now describe most of what I currently own:
NEW THINGS I BOUGHT THIS YEAR:
- iMac (after my laptop broke)
- DSLR camera
- Acoustic guitar
- Audio recorder
Those were good purchases, because these are items that I actually use. However, I shouldn’t have bought an iMac, because how am I going to float away if I’m anchored by this big desktop computer? It was a mistake, but one that I’m going to fix soon—more on that shortly.
ALL THE OTHER STUFF I OWN (the stuff in bold is what I plan to sell or otherwise get rid of):
- Electric guitar that I don’t play, because I like my acoustic so much better
- Lighting kit for photos/movies
- Broken laptop
- SLR Film Camera
- Old eMac (I held onto this because there was some data on it that I never bothered to transfer)
- Some clothes, not much
- Old video camera that I don’t use
- Some books (5 or so)
- A bunch of hard drives
- A box of random junk
- A small fold-up table
- And then all the basic stuff like shoes, plates/cups, some kitchen stuff, a mattress, etc.
I’m going to sell this new iMac and buy a used Macbook Pro, which is what I should have done in the first place. I’ll still end up with a good laptop that I can edit video on, and I’ll pay less for that than what I’m going to sell the new computer for.
Okie dokie! With that out of the way, I’ll describe some of the strategies I used and will use when selling my stuff.
When I sold my DVDs, CDs, and books, I didn’t take it to a store that would give me almost nothing for them. I sorted out some of the ones that maintained their value and sold them on Amazon.com. For example, my Criterions sold at between $18-50 per DVD. If I had taken them into a record store, I probably would have gotten around $5-10 for those. Amazon charges a small fee when you make a sale, but I still came out with much more money with that deal.
For everything else, I used various online stores that bought used DVDs, CDs, and books, like Second Spin, DVD Pawn, Media Exchange, and AbeBooks. These places gave me between $2-15 for my DVDs, compared to the $0.25-3 that I’d get at a used bookshop/record store, and they pay the shipping cost. I discovered that each website would offer different amounts for the same DVD, sometimes with a significant discrepancy, so I cross-checked each DVD with all three websites, and sold each DVD to the one with the highest offer. The same thing was true for CDs and books.
Since I was selling a good amount of stuff, I probably made an extra $70 by cross-checking, and I sold all my DVDs/CDs/books for about $400, instead of the $100 or so I would have made by dropping them all off at record stores and bookshops. It took longer, but it was worth it. If you’re thinking of selling some DVDs/CDs/books for extra cash, I highly recommend taking that route.
EBAY OR CRAIGSLIST?
Basically, eBay will get you a very wide audience for all sorts of stuff, but they charge steep fees and require you to ship what you sell. Craigslist is free, and the buyer will usually pick the item up at your house or at some agreed-upon spot, but you’re limited to your local area.
If I’m selling something that lots of people in my city might be looking for, I’ll go to Craigslist. Another factor is that I don’t want to deal with shipping for large things, so having someone pick it up is much easier. If someone is willing to spend $1,100 total on a new iMac, then all of that money can go to me instead of to shipping and fees, and people are looking to buy iMacs off of Craigslist all the time, so this is an obvious choice.
However, if you have any rare or otherwise special items, the bidding feature of eBay will work in your favor. The fact that the person who’s willing to bid more than anybody else is the one who gets it means that you’ll be getting the best price for it, which might make the fees worth it.
You’re still going to end up with items here and there that nobody is willing to pay much money for. I’ll typically donate these things, if I can. Some things are so useless that I’ll throw them away. Some things only have sentimental value, and I try to get rid of as much of that stuff as I can bear—I’ve found that I don’t end up missing these things as much as I think I’m going to.
That brings me to the final point that I want to make: beyond the strategy of which services to use to sell your stuff, how do you decide what you really need and what you can live without?
This is a very personal—and sometimes emotional—question that you have to answer for yourself. For me, it comes down to: Do I Use This Often? If I don’t use it all, then really, I want it gone. If I use it once in a while, then it depends on how much space it’s taking up and whether it’s worth any money. If it’s not important, then I’ll probably want to get rid of it. If it’s purely decorative, then I’ll probably want to get rid of it. If it’s something that I’m holding onto because I think that I might want to use it someday, then I’ll typically have to convince myself that it’s really not that important, and that I should get rid of it.
After this next round of getting rid of my stuff, then everything I own should be able to fit easily into a backpack, a satchel, and a couple of boxes. When I travel, I can just take the backpack and/or satchel.
Doing this means that I will take up so little space that I can move into the living room, sleep on the couch, and get a third housemate to live in the room. Doing that means we’re fitting three people into a two-bedroom apartment. Doing that means we’re all paying much less rent—especially me, because I’m just sleeping on a couch. Doing that means that I can afford to stop working full-time and still live without financial stress. Doing that means that I can spend my time doing what’s important to me: writing and pursuing work on film projects.
To me, selling my stuff and having few possessions is about living my life according to my own priorities. I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t write and make films because I was too busy working at a job I didn’t like in order to support a life full of stuff that wasn’t as important to me as writing and making films, and I’m certainly not interested in collecting debt in order to support a life full of stuff that I don’t really need.
These are the things that trap you. I don’t want to be trapped. I want to be free. To write. To make films. To travel. To move. To keep moving. When it comes right down to it, that is what it is all about.