Financial Planner 43551

The Power in Selling Your Old Stuff

In Retirement Thinking, The Insider by Adam Cufr

When I bought the camera, I was filled with hope and excitement. Like you, I have a camera on my phone, and while it’s pretty amazing, I had this desire to be that guy who pulls out a ‘real camera’ from his backpack to get photos that are next level. Having an eye for photography and quality gear to match meant that I was going to be on another plane when taking photos.

A year after buying my fancy camera, it rarely left that backpack where it was stored. If I’m really honest with myself, it spent 99.7% of its life in that bag not taking pictures of anything at all. And do you know what that did to me? It made me hate that I bought it in the first place. I don’t like waste and that beautiful camera began to quietly haunt me. So, I decided to sell it. And while the decision to sell it took months to arrive at, do you know how long it took me to sell it once I posted it for sale on eBay? An hour. In fact, I sold it for roughly what I’d paid for it a year earlier. And how do I feel now? Relieved. Sure, I’ll miss that guy with the cool camera being pulled from that backpack that I thought I would be, but I’m happy to feel a little lighter on my feet without having to find ways to justify the purchase of the camera.

Why am I telling you this? It turns out that the camera was just the first thing to go. Since selling it, I’ve been on a selling rampage. If it isn’t bolted down, I’m listing it for sale on eBay or Craigslist and absolutely loving the rush that I feel when I’m notified that my item has sold and that I’ve been paid by PayPal.

What surprises me is just how similar the feeling is when I sell an item to that which I feel when I buy an item. I’ve discussed it here before; that dopamine rush in the brain that feels so good when we commit to buying an item that we’ve decided will make life better. For me at least, I feel that way when I sell too. And the added benefits of selling stuff are: less clutter, both physically and mentally, more cash in the fun account with which to use for something else down the road, and while I’m busy selling I don’t have time to be buying!

If you’ve ever considered embarking on your great decluttering adventure, can I offer some quick thoughts on the process?

eBay is surprisingly easy to use if you have an item to sell that’s valuable enough to be shipped. I found the easiest way to sell on eBay is to search for an item like yours and find the area below the item’s picture that says, ‘$ Have one to sell? Sell Now’ and click that. In most cases, others have already created a description with the parts number details so all you have to do is add your own photos and make some minor adjustments to the listing. Sure, there are shipping details to select and pricing considerations to make but it can be quite doable to list your item quickly and get it sold. The best way to try your hand at this is to start with a fairly inexpensive item so if you mess something up (which you probably won’t), it won’t be catastrophic financially. I’ve literally bought and sold cars on eBay and it worked great, but only after I had some experience using the site. A nice side benefit of all this selling and shipping is you now have a profitable use for all of those cardboard Amazon boxes by your front door.

Craigslist is a unique selling experience. Unlike eBay, Craigslist is local and it’s free to list and sell items. I regularly sell items on Craigslist (including a hamster cage on Monday) but there are some things to beware of. First of all, there are almost always scammers that contact you when you list an item. They’ll try to phish for information or even outright steal your item; I simply delete the email or text, shake my head, and move on with my day. While that sounds terrifying, it doesn’t have to be. You can communicate through Craigslist without using your actual contact information so that nobody knows anything about you until you choose to reveal information. And when it’s time to exchange the items for the cash, I’ll offer to meet people at the Costco parking lot just to be sure there’s no opportunity for funny business at my home. Everybody seems to be okay with that arrangement. Again, Craigslist can be a lot of fun and also quite profitable if you have items you’re no longer using, but some common sense goes a long way here.

Let’s say you don’t want to learn to use eBay or Craigslist but you still want to clear some space in your life by unloading your unused stuff. Consider donating items to a worthwhile charity. I know this all sounds like work – and it will be – but the benefits of lightening your load and creating some white space in your life can be tremendous. And if you’re wired like I am, the rush you get from selling or donating unused items can be quite invigorating. While this certainly isn’t a complete how-to guide for eBay or Craigslist, I wanted to share with you that once I learned how to use the sites, I feel more able to control the clutter around me. And I think that’s worth just as much as the money I received from the almost-new hamster cage I sold on Monday. Merry Christmas, little girl! I hope you love your new hamster.

Do you have anything you should consider selling?

All the best,

Adam Cufr, RICP®