Turn my trash into gold, or, how to sell my estate when I'm still alive
September 22, 2018 11:46 AM   Subscribe

This is a strategy question. I'm giving myself a window of 3-6 months to get rid of my unnecessary possessions. I'd like to sell as much of it as I can (and then donate or recycle/curb alert/junk the rest). What is the best way to plan and organize this so that I'm efficient, don't lose my mind, and make as much money back as possible?

I'm really trying to wrap my ahead around "strategy." How to do this without getting overwhelmed. How to do this efficiently so that I don't feel like I'm breaking my back, but also so that I don't feel like I'm cheating myself out the legitimate sale value of an item.

- Is there software/an iOS app for this?
- An Excel spreadsheet template?
- Tools of the trade to make it easier to quickly pull metadata on an item (books, especially- I know I could scan ISBNs with my phone, but is there a scanner app that actually pulls it and puts it into a file/spreadsheet that can be uploaded or easily translated into Ebay, for example?
- Is there a reliable resource online that I could be referencing for more help on this? Who's the "go to" online sales expert that isn't just some cornball trying to sell me an oceanfront timeshare in Lichtenstein?
- A good way to track my time versus money investment, my expenses (such as for envelopes and packaging material when shipping; or seller fees on Ebay) and profit?
- Tips on how to not go insane/stress myself out are appreciated (should mention, as I often do, I have ADHD, so that can be a factor)
- If you have any good personal stories or links to stories about folks who did this kind of mass sale of personal possessions, I'd enjoy hearing it
- If there are companies where I can just "send" all of my stuff (for example, all of my clothes i want to sell; or all of my books) which ones are the best bang for my buck? I'd prefer not to do this because I'll get less money, but there may be times when I want to compromise because it's easier.

I almost feel like my question is better summarized as " what are estate sale best practices" except the estate sale is being done entirely online via various platforms over the course of many months.

Other details that may be relevant/needed for context:
- I'm getting rid of this stuff because *reasons* - doesn't really have any bearing on the strategy except that I would like to see it gone ideally in 3 months but am okay with it taking 6 months
- I'm an excellent negotiator (not kidding, I do it for a living)
- I wouldn't mind having a yard sale, but it requires a good bit of planning and we're closing in on the cooler months so I'd have to act really fast on that
- I need the money as much as I do the lightened load/extra space, so being able to 'liquidate' and turn this crap back into whatever reasonable amount of money I can get is ideal
- I have good experience with Ebay, Etsy, Craigslist, most of those mobile apps where you can post stuff for sale; to some extent Amazon Marketplace
- I do know how to photograph to sell
- I don't use Facebook (non-negotiable) so Facebook Marketplace isn't an option
- I'd prefer not to use Nextdoor. I don't know why. But if this IS a good idea, please convince me!
- The less in-person interaction I have to have with other people, the better (so being able to throw it in a box and ship it is great) but if it's more likely to get a sale/more money, I'll do it
- YES I STAN MARIE KONDO- I've done her method twice before and she helped me pare down SO MUCH stuff I didn't need. But now the stuff that once "sparked joy" doesn't spark joy any longer. And I don't feel like having a "3 day Kondo binge", as per her recommendation/rules, when I have the luxury of time to get rid of these things slowly and carefully and recover a little cash.

Examples of crap I'm trying to pare down:
- A *lot* of arts and crafts materials - name it and I probably have it
- Women's clothing (vintage stuff, timeless/classic stuff, things that are still in style)
- Household decorative nonsense. Do I really need to own five pairs of deer antlers?
- Books. I have a lot of academic press/literary hardbacks and paperbacks in good condition. The books I need an easy way to sell- is there some kind of scanner I can buy for the ISBN code that will pull all the data I need and put it straight into Ebay or Amazon?
- Records. I realize I have a lot that I'd gladly give to my local record store- I'm friends with the guy and he pays 50-50 on consignment. This would get all of the stuff out of the house fast, since I can just give it to him, but the chances of getting money anytime soon (like, within the next six months) are slim just because I know he already has a loading dock of vinyl he's still processing ahead of mine. And even once it's processed, it has to be sold before I get commission. Some of these records are worth a good bit. I'm thinking I should put the valuable ones on Ebay and hand the rest over to him for consignment?
- Storage stuff that may have less use once I've gotten rid of these things (plastic bins/drawers, cardboard boxes)
- Odds and ends retro stuff... like letterpress trays
- Some odds and ends hand tools/electronics crap/audio equipment
- Dishware, possibly some kitchen appliances

Thank you in advance!
posted by nightrecordings to Work & Money (12 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Powell's in Portland will buy your books and even pay for shipping. You give them a list of ISBNs and they offer you a price for the ones they want. You accept, print the label and ship.
To get the list, the Goodreads app will scan ISBNs to a shelf and then you can export your whole list to Excel. Start a new account for this project if you have an existing account since it can really screw up your shelving.
posted by soelo at 12:29 PM on September 22, 2018

Three things are at play: 1) a desire to exchange these items for money 2) a desire to do that within a 3-6 month timeframe, and 3) the desire to extract as much money out of these items as possible without an undue amount of effort.

This is a variant of "Fast, cheap, good -- pick any two".

As a guy who sells stuff on eBay from time to time, this would be my strategy:

1) Take your phone/laptop with you, and evaluate each item. What I mean by that is, figure out if anyone else has actually bought this item before online. If yes, make sure it closed for more than USD $3. Anything below that isn't worth your time to pack/list/ship it.

2) Anything that's broken.... lose it.

3) Anything that has an ISBN, or bar code, is easier to look up.

4) List things on ebay with low starting bids. A few dollars. The goal is to get someone, *anyone* to put that first bid in so that this item will Definitely Be Leaving The House when the auction ends.

5) I don't know how much your time is worth to you, so I don't know how much time you have available for research, photographs, and packing. It's *very* easy to underestimate how much time this takes.

6) For books, a few years ago, there was a phone app called RedLaser that would let you look things up and see how much they were selling for. I suspect there are better apps now.

7) I'd avoid CraigsList personally, unless the item was too big to ship.
posted by Wild_Eep at 12:30 PM on September 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

A good way to track my time versus money investment
I would track as little as possible so that it does not become a distraction or point of procrastination. I know you probably want a running total, but I'd just stick with a single account and/or envelope with the proceeds in it and then start using that for supplies after it has built up a bit.
posted by soelo at 12:33 PM on September 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

A couple of notes. I did this in my apartment before moving a few years ago.

I listed on Amazon every book priced above $5. That still left a large number of books that I had to give away.

I found that my hourly net was about $10 (not just for books, but for everything). But I had nothing of great value to sell.

I've had good luck on Nextdoor for small household items and furniture.
posted by 8603 at 1:24 PM on September 22, 2018

The big thing I learned from managing an actual estate sale situation

It's not 80/20 (80% of $ from 20% of items), it is more like 80/5 - most of the money will come from a just a few valuable items. The corollary - most of the stuff you love isn't worth very much to anyone else and even less once you take into account the cost of selling.

For example, letterpress trays seem to sell for about $25 at best unless it is really antique or unusual. How much time does it take to photograph, write the listing, manage the sale and then pack and ship? Even for something cool like that, you are probably not covering your own time.

My advice: Identify the few things that are worth more than $100 each and focus on those. If you can mange things as a single lot, like all of your vinyl for consignment, that is worth a reasonable amount then include the lot in the list of things where you go to the effort to find the best way to sell. (I tend towards ebay for things that are easy to ship but I don't have a lot of experience with other options)

For everything else, I would go with a yard sale that focuses on getting a little money for a little effort. Usually the good stuff will go fast so by the end of the day, be prepared to give people great deals in exchange for getting it out of your home.
posted by metahawk at 2:31 PM on September 22, 2018 [7 favorites]

Correction to the typo in my comment above - it is like 95/5 - 95% of the money will come from 5% of the objects so concentrate on that.
posted by metahawk at 6:33 PM on September 22, 2018

I've gotten rid of lots of stuff and pretty much only get stuff through Buy Nothing or Goodwill these days. So I've seen what sells, and on the regular I see what doesn't sell and gets donated.

Scanning through your list I would say attempt to sell the records, either individually or as a price per crate. The books might be worth something but check Amazon. Niche hobby stuff you could try to sell online; otherwise, for hobby stuff and household goods you'll likely do equally as well or even better having a yard sale vs online sales.

Most people don't buy used clothing via private party cause it's a hassle to set up a meet and try things on; they're not even going to go to the trouble unless it's something special, and if it's something special they definitely want to try it on. So then you as the seller have to figure out if you want randos in your house, if you want to deal with them bargaining you down on price, etc. Buy Nothing is good for getting rid of clothes. Consignment stores usually want very upmarket labels no more than 12mos old.

I spent a lot of my time figuring out that all of my "valuable" stuff that I'd stored for years wasn't quite as valuable as I'd thought. On a price per hour basis a yard sale is your best bet.
posted by vignettist at 8:07 PM on September 22, 2018

Clothes: thredUP will take your box of used clothes and outright buy some and consign others. Their rates per item depend on brand and can be decent to bad. This is definitely the fastest/easiest way of liquidating clothing.

Another option is Poshmark or Tradesy, which are online marketplaces for used clothing. They both take some percentage of your listing fee but you have more leeway in terms of offering deals and lowering prices as you see fit than you would with thredUP.
posted by emkelley at 8:22 AM on September 23, 2018

The Luxe Strategist (personal finance/lifestyle blog) wrote a couple of well-researched posts on reselling clothes you may find useful:

The Ultimate Resale Site Showdown

posted by Goblin Barbarian at 8:33 AM on September 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Get your inventory lists/pics all in place.
Create a couple IRL events composed of: drop by and pick it up, meetup here/when with a carload of stuff (repeat as needed).

Y'all want some of my stuff? Pick it out and we'll all meetup and do the deal and have some fun.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:00 PM on September 23, 2018

I work for an estate sale company so I've seen a lot of estates.

We often throw out handfuls of books after a four day sale even when the books are 10 for $1 (last few hours of a sale). Most of your stuff is probably not worth selling on line so it makes no sense to give it to someone to sell. But you already sell on Ebay so what do you really want?

You cannot get top dollar and do this efficiently. Estate sale companies have labor forces that work on estates. Not unusual for my company to have six people working a whole week for one estate in just preparing.

Sounds like you want everything an estate sale provides, yet don't want to do it.

You could hire an honest estate sale company, who has a good idea of the worth of items and will price each item, to clear out all the things you don't want and they'll do it in a weekend and you'll get a nice check at the end for doing nothing or you can market all the items yourself and get the best price but you will be getting rid of things for a long time.

TLDR: You cannot get a good fast return on everything you want to get rid of by yourself.
posted by qsysopr at 12:36 PM on September 27, 2018

I'm sure I'm too late, and you're in another country, but I deal in rare vinyl and do 50/50 but pay upfront. Admittedly, I'm picky. But if you've still got rare stuff you're looking to get rid of, Memail me. Details about me and my reputation are on my website.
posted by dobbs at 7:25 PM on January 23, 2019

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