Lately, I’ve received several emails from readers who are anxious to declutter their stuff. The problem: they don’t know whether to cart it to the charity shop, or painstakingly sell it piece by piece.
Oh, I’ve been there.
I know just how you feel: gazing at your mountain of discards, and seeing all the dollars that should be in your bank account. Hoping you can recoup even a fraction of the cost, to make up for your mistakes. Dreading the weeks (or months) of photographing your items, writing descriptions of them on eBay, answering emails about them, and hunting down boxes to ship them out.
And conversely…feeling the temptation to just pile it all in the car, unload it at Goodwill, and return home to a freshly decluttered space.
So what did I do? Well, a lot of both, actually.
In my early minimalist days, I was a fervent eBay seller. In fact, purging my stuff became a second job—I’d come home from work, power up my laptop, and patiently chip away at my pile of castoffs. It took a little over a year (yes, a year), but I sold three-quarters of my clothes, shoes, books, collectibles, and household décor.
My stuff didn’t disappear overnight—but I became a better minimalist because of it.
Why? Because in the following years, the threat of “having to sell something on eBay” loomed over me whenever I set foot in a store. My auction extravaganza had left me burnt out, with little desire to ever list another item. I was reluctant to buy anything I wasn’t sure I’d keep forever—because when I did slip up, I made myself pay for it. Ebay became my penance for ill-considered purchases.
For me, the mere thought of eventually selling a purchase on eBay was a powerful deterrent to shopping. Crazy, perhaps—but it kept my wallet full and my closets empty. :)
Fast forward to our overseas move: my husband and I had four weeks to whittle down a 3-bedroom household to two duffel bags. While we owned much less than most, we still had way more than we could carry to the airport.
We started off selling things on Craigslist, determined to extract some cash from the furniture, tools, electronics, garden equipment, and housewares we’d accumulated over the years. However, as our departure date neared, our generosity surged. We threw open our doors, invited all takers, and gave away our possessions with abandon—to friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, charities, and strangers on the street.
It didn’t make us any richer; but boy, was it exhilarating!
So, to sell or not to sell – that is your question, and here’s my advice:
If you have the time and inclination, give eBay a whirl. A little hassle is not necessarily a bad thing, and can actually be conducive to your long-term minimalism. But to save your sanity, I recommend the following:
- Set a minimum threshold. In other words, sell only stuff that’ll net over a certain dollar amount (whether that’s $10, $20, or $50 is up to you). Make sure the reward is worth the effort.
- Don’t expect to make a fortune. Start the bidding at the minimum you’ll accept, and regard anything higher as a bonus.
- Limit the time. If an item doesn’t sell within 7 days, for example, send it to the donation pile. (Give only particularly valuable items a second chance).
- Use Craigslist for large, heavy, and fragile items. Don’t waste your time and money on elaborate packaging or expensive shipping services.
Alternatively – if you don’t have the time, don’t need the money, and don’t feel compelled to suffer for your sins:
- Be generous. Donate the things you don’t want; your discards may bring a great deal of joy to someone else! Consider it a wonderful chance to “do good” with your decluttering.
In summary: don’t let financial guilt bring your decluttering to a halt. Either grit your teeth and get thee on eBay—or support a good cause and move on with your life.
When your resolve wavers, ask yourself this: what’s more valuable, your stuff or your space?
Have you struggled with this dilemma? Let us know in the Comments.