Best Way to Sell Household Goods?
November 10, 2009 8:26 AM   Subscribe

In six months, I am moving to Alaska. What is the best way to sell my household goods?

I won't need furniture, kitchen supplies, etc. up there. I currently have the standard accoutrements of a post-college, big-city young professional; most of my furniture is nice but of the Ikea variety, my dishware and appliances range from meh to nice, and I have tons of books. I'm going to be flying up, so I need to fit everything I take into three suitcases and a carry-on. My parents can take custody of some stuff (probably mostly books) but not furniture. I don't want to put anything into storage.

Of course I've thought of Craigslist, but is there a better way? I'd like to maximize the cash I can put away from selling my things. I'm also interested to know what the proper timeline is. Can I expect to get rid of a one-bedroom apartment's worth of stuff in a month? Two months? Two weeks? I live in a large East Coast city with a reputation for transiency. Any bonus moving to Alaska (Anchorage) tips also appreciated!

Anonymous because I haven't given notice at work, and won't for a while. Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Run an estate sale.
posted by royalsong at 8:39 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I can't think of a better place than Craigslist. Unless you want to organize a garage sale, which isn't likely to maximize your cash or to move much of your stuff, you are better off sticking with the internet. You'll get wider exposure and people will know exactly what you are selling and what you expect for it. If I'm looking for a specific item, I'm much more likely to hit Craigslist to search for it than I am to wander through yard sales trying to randomly come across that item.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:40 AM on November 10, 2009

If you're interested in maintaining your current book collection, have you thought about Media Mail? I just did a quick look-up, a 77lb box from Boston to Anchorage was $27 to send. Certainly cheaper than buying your collection back.
posted by banannafish at 8:45 AM on November 10, 2009

The only drawback of CL is arranging to meet with people. Otherwise, just do it.
posted by k8t at 8:56 AM on November 10, 2009

When I moved recently (from TX to CA) I had a bunch of my stuff that was purely functional but not worth the expense of hauling across the country. My Ikea end table cost me $20 new 10 years ago and it wouldn't last being disassembled and rebuilt (I then saw the same table is only $8 now so I bought new ones out here). My apartment explicitly forbids estate/apartment sales but I could put up a flyer for stuff. I started by selling some higher value stuff on craigslist, but ultimately ended up giving most of the stuff away to friends, neighbors, Goodwill and the Salvation Army. My goal was to leave Texas with just what fit in my car. If an item wasn't car worthy, I had to ask myself if it was worth shipping, selling or giving away.

I was able to unload some books via Amazon. But that can be time consuming in the sense that the higher value books will not be super hot sellers -- you're waiting for someone to buy it from you -- so you better start doing that as right now. I have an app on my Mac called Delicious Library that allowed me to use the webcam to scan the UPC code of my books where I could then sort them into virtual piles of stuff I wanted to keep or get rid of. The app also would go out to Amazon and see what the price it was selling for in the marketplace. A lot of the harcover books I bought last year for $30 were selling for only a buck or two. So I sorted the list by the ones that could actually be worth the effort of getting it shipped and taken to the post office.

It was a great exercise in taking a hard look at everything I've accumulated over the years and and deciding if I really needed it.
posted by birdherder at 9:03 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

No selling-your-stuff help, and I couldn't think of any super-helpful moving-to-Anchorage tips off the top of my head- but if you find you need any specific information about Anchorage/Alaska feel free to MeMail me.
posted by charmedimsure at 9:07 AM on November 10, 2009

An unusual and simple method may be to create a website listing everything with a single price tag for the entire lot -- you could then put this on ebay/CL as well.
posted by gadha at 9:35 AM on November 10, 2009

If you're interested in maintaining your current book collection, have you thought about Media Mail? I just did a quick look-up, a 77lb box from Boston to Anchorage was $27 to send. Certainly cheaper than buying your collection back.

If you do this: make sure you use super strong boxes, and then tape them up all over, with strapping tape if they'll let you (it may be outlawed by USPS).

I shipped 6 boxes of books from near Philly to Fairbanks this past summer. Only 5 boxes made it, and those that did made up had been taped up and wrapped with plastic strips and still had gaping holes in them. It was unbelievable. I've never had anything arrive in such bad shape. And at least one of the boxes had two random textbooks in them that were not mine. And the boxes were pretty small, for boxes of books: 12 x 9 x 12, about 32 lbs. I don't know what they were doing with those boxes, but it wasn't pretty. Looked like dropping them from high distances or something.
posted by leahwrenn at 9:49 AM on November 10, 2009

Considering how expensive things are up here and the lack of variety and quality, you may want to re-assess what to get rid of. Depending on how long you plan on being here, hauling your stuff to the coast, having it put in a shipping container, and barged up might not be a bad idea.

I sent my stuff through the mail and had a similar experience as others in this thread. Despite packing well, some of my things got damaged. How the hell do you break a Corningware dish? You can throw those things off of cliffs without breaking them! Anyway, media mail can be a bargain. If you mail anything, wrap them in plastic bags. In SE most damaged is done by water.

FYI: The nice furniture in my house is IKEA, barged up. The rest is cast-off crap from other people leaving town. Wouldn't I like to have back my awesome couch I left in Iowa.
posted by Foam Pants at 10:03 AM on November 10, 2009

As someone who has moved - a lot - and gotten rid of a lot of furniture in a little time I'm gonna warn you that you're probably not going to be able to sell all of your stuff. Even with an estate sale you probably won't sell much - and remember that people come to these things because they want to buy stuff super cheap (not a great way to make any sort of money). I'd list what you can on craigslist, then give what's left away.

Good luck in Alaska, I want to go there some day.
posted by patheral at 1:18 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Craigslist is pretty good. List large items on individual pages! Don't be lazy and post thing in lots unless you're selling them in lots. But small items in lots are good. Say, a lot of 10 bath towels, or several pots or small houseplants.
List everything in the General category (I think more people search there than in "books" or "housewares").
Personally, when I Clist stuff, I pick one weekday night and tell everyone to come on that night, so I don't sacrifice my entire social life to waiting for buyers to stand me up!
posted by twistofrhyme at 2:29 PM on November 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

When I moved to London a few years ago, I made a blog listing books and sundry household items I wanted to sell. I emailed the URL to friends, and without my even asking, many of them forwarded it to other folks they thought might be interested. It worked really well; I was surprised by the number of sales I made to total strangers via the blog.
posted by hot soup girl at 3:38 PM on November 10, 2009

I put an ad under "Yard Sales," that started, "Alaska-bound and selling cheap." Not only did it come first among the ads (starting with A) but it brought a lot of people by to ask, "are you really moving to Alaska !?"

At the time postal rates were cheaper, and the price differences between Alaska and the Lower 48 were larger, so a lot of items were worth shipping. The local post office agreed to let me send many boxes to myself marked "hold for pick-up." Take a careful look at what you will have to replace once you get here.

That said, my advice hasn't anything to do with warm clothes, etc. I'm sure you know all that. I will urge you instead to take your time driving up here. I sped across the country on Interstates and have always regretted how little I had time to see. When I got to Bellingham I was glad for the three-day ferry ride. It was a little more expensive to get car and self on the boat, but the break from driving was worth it, and the foggy, mountainous scenery was spectacular. Keep a journal, and take a lot of photos along the way.

Expect Alaska to be very conservative politically. I wasn't prepared. Anchorage is a little less so, but on the balance Alaska is where folks come when they find Texas a little too confining, or Arkansas a little too cosmopolitan. "And if the environment didn't want to be raped, what was it doing out at that hour?"
posted by wjm at 3:56 AM on November 11, 2009

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