Home Hacks

5 Yes-You-Can Steps to Selling Your Old Stuff Online

Give unwanted goods a brand-new home.

September  1, 2019
Photo by Julia Gartland

Whether you're swept up in Marie Kondo mania, have decided it's time to finally live out your tiny house dream, or just need some extra shelf space, if you plan on clearing out clutter, it's likely that you're going to be stuck with a heck ton of stuff you don't need anymore. And sure, you can add it to an already overflowing trash dump or donate it—but wait, you could also sell it. Well, most of it.

That old pair of low-rise jeans you thought you'd revive but didn't, the overpriced juicer you thought you'd use all the time (but never did), those shoes that looked avant-garde when you bought them but now just make you wonder what you were thinking...they can all be sold online. And if you're already cringing thinking of all the work involved—having to sift through it all, make sort piles, organize items and price them, not to mention actually list them—we're here to tell you it doesn't need to be that hard. To help you along, we have five (somewhat) easy-to-follow steps, that will help you trade in the goods hiding in your closet for some cold, hard cash. So roll up your sleeves, and start selling!

1. Do a closet (or entire home) cleanse

The only way to arrive at a place where you know what you want to sell, is to actually locate it, and there's no better way than to actually clean out your home. My advice would be to tackle a room at a time (maybe one per weekend, to keep things realistic and achievable). Within a room, progress systematically: closet by closet or shelf by shelf. Make two piles: one for stuff you love and can't do without, the second for what you can afford to get rid of. Next, take the second pile and divide it further into two piles: what you need to throw away (or donate) and what you think could fetch you a price. As a bonus, this systematic way of tackling your home will leave you with a far more organized (and clean home)—I like to deep clean each room as I go along, because...two birds with one stone.

2. Organize what you're keeping.

Before you think about hawking your wares, do your future self a favor and take a little bit of time to thoughtfully organize the stuff you're going to keep back. It doesn't matter if I'm tidying up a closet, the space under my bed, or a newly emptied pantry, there are always a few general tips I like to keep in mind: actually clean the space before you put stuff back (give it a good wipe down, a vacuuming, shelf-lining, whatever you like to do); organize things by category and/or what you use most often; and store what you can in clear containers and boxes for easy access. This extra step not only allows you to remind yourself of all the great stuff you do have, but ensures you're able to find it, too.

3. Know the market for what you're selling.

Before you start listing your items, do some research to make sure you're competitive. Asking for $200 for a designer dress may sound great, until you realize the same brand sells for much less elsewhere. (I like to keep a notebook or use a note-taking app to keep track of what dollar amount I'm pricing items at as I go along.)

But just because you're not pricing your stuff high (or selling fancy designer items), doesn't mean you can't make money. After some internet detective work, I came across a very handy tip from a 28-year-old who made more than $2,000 in a month selling her stuff online. Her best advice: Small items (like everyday clothes or kitchen gadgets) can be your biggest—and most reliable—money-makers. Even if you sell one $10-item a day (and net $6 in profit after paying off seller's fees and shipping) for 10 days, you'll have made an easy $60.

4. Find the right selling platform for you.

There are tons of online marketplaces and mobile apps on which you can sell your stuff, but finding the right one takes some work. It really all depends on what item you're selling. Here's a quick primer:

  • For clothes, a few of my friends have made bank selling their unwanted goods on Poshmark, Tradesy, and TheRealReal or Vestiaire Collective (for designer goods). Also, good ol' eBay is still a reliable bet.
  • For anything from old sweaters to a couch to headphones, I've had great results with Letgo (it has a super-easy app) and Nextdoor (which is like a social network for your neighborhood). A lot of my friends have also been using the Facebook Seller Marketplace for used items across many categories.
  • For an electronics-focused platform, try Decluttr or Swappa.
  • And while you do have to exercise sound judgement when using it (please don't invite any old stranger into your home, especially when you're alone!), I've successfully sold quite a few items, from a musical instrument to video games and clothing, on Craigslist.

5. Donate the Rest.

For items that don't have the legs to be sold (but are still in decent nick), consider donating them to a local shelter, community center, or non-profit organization that will provide these items to people in need or sell them to raise money for a cause. For example, I just Marie Kondo-ed my entire dining room sideboard and packed up a few boxes-worth of plates, cutlery and random bowls in various shapes and sizes that I'll be donating to Housing Works here in New York City, which sells secondhand clothes, home goods, and furniture to raise money to fight AIDS and homelessness. For e-waste there are other localized options, so you can choose an e-waste recycler that's right for you. In New York, there are convenient drop-off sites from where you can schedule a curbside pick-up. This way, you make sure you are reducing sending waste to overcrowded landfills and safely disposing of your electronics.

This post has been updated by Food52 editors in September 2019 to include even more ways to make a buck off of decluttering your closets.

Have a tip for how to sell successfully online? Tell us in the comments below!
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Erin Alexander

Written by: Erin Alexander

Erin Alexander is the Managing Editor of Food52.


tia September 3, 2019
I've never had any problem with strangers from Craigslist (except having them flake on me), for what it's worth. I think people are way more paranoid about that than they need to be. In the last two weeks, I've actually left two items on the front porch and asked people to leave money under the mat when we couldn't find a time that worked for both of us. I got my cash, and they got the items with no trouble. People are generally not horrible, it turns out. If it truly freaks you out to have strangers in your home, then make other arrangements, but if it doesn't, know that you're not crazy and don't have to be afraid.
A.S. October 29, 2019
This can be true, but it really depends where you are!
Ray February 5, 2019
Kinda surprised that eBay wasn't mentioned as a selling platform. The auction format and the astonishing number of users both contribute to a quick sale. And PayPal is a great way to get paid.