Modern Alchemy How to Turn Your Unwanted Items Into Quick Cash

Modern Alchemy: How to Turn Your Unwanted Items Into Quick Cash

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Anything you own but don’t enjoy is really a burden, not an asset. That treadmill you thought was going to turn you into Usain Bolt? It may as well be a clothes drying rack if that’s all you use it for. The painting you thought you liked but just doesn’t look good in your living room? You’re better off without it. Books you’ve already read and never will again? Time to make some space on the shelf. The crafting supplies you thought you’d use to create some cheap Christmas gifts, four Christmases ago? Someone else needs that dusty old box more than you do. The old microwave still sitting next to the new one? They won’t get lonely if you separate them; one of them has to go.

How and where do you sell unwanted items for cash, though? Presumably, you’ve paid good money for them in the past and would like to get some of that back. If you run into financial trouble and need money in a hurry, selling off stuff you don’t need may be enough to tide you over, especially if you can get top dollar for it. 

So, with that in mind, let us show you the best ways and places to sell your unwanted goods, as well as a couple of strategies that will allow you to get what they’re worth as quickly as possible.

Deciding on the Best Way to Sell Stuff

Before getting into the nuts and bolts of actually trading your unwanted items for cash, it will be useful to know exactly what you want to sell. Let’s start by making a list or even a pile on the floor. Raid your closet for clothes you haven’t worn in more than a year, see what appliances are gathering dust, comb through the recesses of the garage for stuff you’ve forgotten you had. If you encounter a cardboard box and can’t remember what’s in it, there’s a good chance you can get rid of the contents without a second thought.

Don’t just focus on big-ticket items, either. Selling ten items for $10 nets you just as much money as making one $100 sale, and is much more efficient at de-cluttering your home. Cooking utensils, clothes, and toys all tend to sell quickly, anyway, which is great when you have to decide between getting rid of a bunch of junk or taking out a personal loan.

Now that you know what you have to work with, you can begin to think about which vending option offers you the best balance between convenience and profitability.

Visit a Pawn Shop

In a pawnshop, the owner will typically assign a value to your items with no more than a glance. They will always give preference to inventory that will sell quickly at a high profit, including jewelry, musical instruments, electronics, and anything with an “antique” vibe to it. 

pawn shops are convenient
Photo by Cindy Funk

This also means that they’re likely to be stingy with their offers on items that aren’t to the taste of their typical customers. The main advantage of using a pawn shop is that you can bring in a whole batch of assorted items and walk out with some cash half an hour later. Alternatively, you can see whether a consignment shop will accept your wares, sell them on your behalf, and sending you 50% (give or take) of the value once they’re sold.

  • Quick and convenient, especially if you’re selling a large assortment of oddball items.
  • You will not be offered the best prices.

Hold a Garage Sale

Inviting strangers to come and paw through your possessions may seem a little creepy, but it does allow you to cut out the pawnshop middleman and potentially earn more for your unwanted items. Say goodbye to your Saturday, though: along with the work of organizing, cleaning, and pricing items, you’ll have to promote your garage sale at least a week in advance and be on hand the whole day to assist browsing customers.

In order to offer visitors a wider selection, it’s a good idea to ask your friends and co-workers to join you, either giving you some items to sell on their behalf or by going all in and shouldering some of the workload. Renting a stall at a flea market works much the same, except that you can expect both higher foot traffic and more competition for shoppers’ attention.

  • A good way of getting rid of a wide variety of household items.
  • Requires a lot of work and attention.
garage sale of unwanted items
Photo by Giuliana Miranda

Sell Through Classified Ads

Whether we’re talking about eBay, Craigslist, or your old-fashioned local newspaper, posting classifieds remains one of the best ways to get a good price for a fairly expensive item or attract buyers for something that’s a little peculiar. Instead of being casual browsers or impulse shoppers, customers you find in this way will tend to be both motivated and knowledgeable about what they’re looking for.

You will still have to meet buyers in person; depending on your schedule, this may be more trouble than it’s worth. It’s also important to use your common sense, as there are plenty of scammers who will jump at the chance to make your life miserable.

  • Can reach a wider range of buyers who are looking for exactly what you have to sell.
  • Involves a fair amount of effort, with no guarantee that you’ll get the price you’re hoping for.

Post Your Wares on Specialized Websites

There’s usually a pretty direct trade-off between how much you can get for an item and how quickly you want to sell it. This is obviously true for commodities that are, as economists say, “fungible” (interchangeable): houses, horses, and hammers being some examples. What about a haunted mansion, a thoroughbred racehorse or Thor’s Mjölnir, though? If something is really distinguished, perhaps by its history or a characteristic that isn’t obvious to the casual observer, you may want to spend a little extra time on finding the right place to sell it. Even apparently useless junk can sometimes be worth thousands if you do a little bit of research and perhaps get it appraised.

Suppose you have an arc welder sitting in your garage that you’ve used exactly twice since you bought it a year ago – at that rate, it’s probably more economical to sell it and rent one as needed. If someone browsing Craigslist with the same DIY aspirations you had 12 months ago is looking for such a machine, though, they may not realize that you own a SuperMaxi MegaPower 5000XL. If they even look at your ad, they’ll assume that you’re out of your mind – but a website that caters to contractors will help you get a fair price.

Similarly, The Internet Antique Store is the place to go to get rid of gray-haired ceramics, artwork, and assorted bric-a-brac. Finding out the origin of whatever you have takes some work, but you will be surprised at how much some apparently commonplace and frankly ugly objects can fetch. Some other websites that are useful to know about include:

  • Valore Books for old college textbooks
  • The Real Real for designer clothes, shoes, and jewelry (both male and female)
  • Play It Again if you have high-quality sports equipment lying around, and
  • Swappa for consumer electronics
  • Possibility of getting higher (and sometimes surprising) prices for rare or exceptional items.
  • Since you’re advertising to a smaller number of people, goods may take longer to sell.

Essential Skills for Sellers

While there are some people who make quite a bit of money buying and selling second-hand goods, trading your unwanted items for cash is probably more of a one-time thing for you. Even so, there are a couple of areas in which a little know-how will make selling much quicker and more profitable.

How to Haggle

It’s been said that a successful negotiation is one where both parties are equally unhappy at the end of the transaction, which seems kind of grim. Even if you don’t believe in a dog-eat-dog way of viewing the world, though, the fact remains that you and the buyer will have opposite interests. Reconciling these in a civilized, professional way is what haggling is all about.

negotiate when selling unwanted items

Before you even offer an item up for sale, you should have three numbers in mind: what you hope to get for it, what you’ll be satisfied with (especially if it means a quick sale), and the lowest price you will possibly accept. The more you know about what you’re selling, like a kitchen appliance’s possible uses and how other people are pricing similar products, the better your bargaining position.

Be polite, but firm. If you approach negotiation as a game where one person has to lose for the other to win, you’ll most likely scare away potential buyers. At the same time, you don’t have to be a doormat. If you have a problem with assertiveness, you may want to keep your transactions online rather than having to deal with people in the flesh.

Preparing an Online Listing

One trick I learned while shopping online for used furniture is to respond to the worst-looking ads first – these are the ones that attract fewer buyers and are therefore more amenable to a low-ball offer. There’s no reason to put yourself in this position; not when it’s so easy to create a professional, attention-grabbing ad.

The website (or newspaper agent) will prompt you for some pieces of information, such as the price and your location. Don’t stop there, though: the more detail you can give, especially when it comes to brand and condition, the better. Put yourself in the shoes of the buyer and check whether the text of the ad gives enough information for them to tell whether the item is exactly what they’re looking for.

how to advertise unwanted items

Be careful not to undersell what you have. Even if something seems like trash to you, another person may find it charming. Don’t hesitate to include phrases like “in original packaging”, “rarely used” and “mint condition” (while still being honest, of course). These words may be overused, but there’s a simple reason for that: they’re the ones that shoppers look for. That having been said, keep it short – unless it’s a very special or expensive item, a hundred words should be all you need and is all a potential buyer will read anyway.

It’s also essential to let people see what you’re selling in the best light possible. Humans are, for the most part, visual creatures and make decisions based on what they see. You can take a photo with your phone, but using a real DLSR camera will give you way better results. Pay a little attention to the lighting you use, and don’t hesitate to use a photo editing app to correct stuff like the color balance. You can generally upload multiple photos, so think about including views from multiple angles as well as close-ups. Also, for goodness’ sake, make sure there’s nothing embarrassing lurking in the background.

Finally, make sure you post your ad in the correct category and check that people have a reliable way of contacting you. If you don’t pick up the phone or respond to an email alert within half an hour or so, a potential buyer is likely to look elsewhere.

The Best Websites for Selling Unwanted Goods

Assuming you prefer the online route, it’s not totally essential to choose the very best website to advertise your goods. It does help a great deal, though: the better you align your ad with what people are looking for on a particular platform, the sooner it will sell (which is handy when you need quick cash) and the better the price you can get for it (which is rarely a bad thing). 

eBay

eBay surely needs no introduction: as long as something is legal to sell, you can get rid of it on eBay. All vendors aren’t equally successful, though. You’ll be facing serious competition whatever you’re selling, including from Chinese vendors who can often undercut you on shipping costs (the Chinese post office charges roughly the same fee for local and international deliveries).

It pays to keep track of what’s popular and check for how much similar items are going for. During the coronavirus pandemic, for instance, items like home exercise equipment, computer accessories, and crafting supplies were in high demand. Name-brand items like fashion accessories and electronics are perennial favorites, too.

Unlike with classified ad websites, it takes some time to build a reputation as an honest seller on eBay. This puts beginners at a disadvantage but also makes it possible to make good money by looking for bargains and “flipping” them on to other shoppers. This is far from the worst side hustle as long as you’re good at that sort of thing.

Craiglist

Another pioneer among websites that allow you to convert unwanted items into cash, Craigslist has a much more local focus than eBay. Also, this platform doesn’t have the same safeguards against frauds as its aforementioned rival, meaning that you’ll most commonly deal in physical cash when advertising on Craigslist.

You can either create a user account or choose to post an ad anonymously; just remember to check your inbox for a confirmation message if using a throwaway email address. Posting an ad is pretty much all this website allows you to do, though: if you want to hold an auction for an item instead of listing a fixed price, you’ll have to set it up yourself, the official app was only released in 2019 (and could arguably be improved), and shipping an item requires a lot of trust between buyer and seller. On the upside, posting (most) type of ad is totally free, and you probably don’t want to mail a $300 couch to the other side of the country anyway. Power tools, bicycles, and kitchen appliances often sell quickly on Craigslist.

OfferUp

OfferUp combines some of the best features of eBay and Craigslist: easy to use, locally focused, and with some powerful capabilities if you want to spend a little time learning the ropes. Like eBay, each seller has a profile and rating based on previous transactions, making this a good option if you have plenty of stuff to sell and would prefer to use your mobile device exclusively.

The app is definitely one of OfferUp’s best points, as it encourages people to scroll along and look at stuff besides what they searched for initially. In comparison with Craigslist, OfferUp is better suited to selling items that don’t require a long text description. Neither service charges for posting an ad.

Facebook Marketplace

Facebook Marketplace is another good place to sell unwanted items, especially if you have a long-standing profile that’s not too weird (this will be the first thing potential buyers check when determining whether you’re on the up-and-up). You can choose to offer a shipping option, but it seems like most people still prefer to use this platform to market second-hand goods in their own area. Facebook does not, however, take any part in the payment process or offer guarantees in case of fraud.

Listing an item is free, and Facebook certainly has a lot more regular users than almost any website you can name. On the other hand, people browsing this platform are often not looking for anything very specific, so you will probably want to post your ad elsewhere unless you’re selling something the average household would want.

Tips on Selling Different Kinds of Items

Some people are impulse buyers and will mostly choose whatever item is cheapest. If you want to sell unwanted items for good cash, though, you need to appeal to more discerning shoppers. This means doing a little bit of extra work, but you will generally find that your efforts are repaid handsomely.

selling different kinds of unwanted items

Some types of electronics, like computers and phones, lose their value rapidly. Unless they’re less than three months old, the amount you paid for them is basically irrelevant when determining an asking price; check what similar devices are selling for instead. Others, like stereo equipment, can be sold for a high price whatever their age as long as they are in good condition. 

In either case, it’s essential to understand each device’s specs and be able to talk knowledgeably about whatever you’re selling if you want to attract serious buyers (you may want to call on the nerd in your family). Most buyers don’t care, but having a copy of the original receipt proves that the device you’re selling isn’t stolen or from the gray market. Finally and most importantly, make sure to wipe all personal information off the computers and phones you’re selling – identity theft is a real problem, and there’s no reason to share pictures of your children with strangers.

As for antiques and artwork, you should seriously think about having these appraised, or at least do a little research online. It’s pretty unlikely that you have a Picasso the world’s forgotten about stashed in your attic. Even so, a painting you would have been happy to let go for twenty bucks may turn out to be worth two grand – people have different tastes, after all. Whatever you do, don’t break up a set. If you have a teapot with matching cups, don’t sell just one and keep the other.

It’s surprising to see how little effort people go when selling used furniture. Nobody expects it to look perfect – in fact, many people prefer worn-in furniture because it has a bit of character and doesn’t make your house look like a showroom. Nobody wants to see kids’ drawings, water rings or wobbly legs, though: a little bit of sprucing up will increase the price you can ask dramatically. A couple of simple repairs you can do in five minutes may be all that’s needed, though you can also practice your carpentry skills on things like worn-out hinges and, if all else fails, at least apply a new coat of varnish or paint. 

When selling used appliances, it’s probably too late to follow the best advice: buy the best you can afford. Machines from premium brands are known for their durability and fetch much higher prices than those from unknown manufacturers. Even if something isn’t currently running, you can often get a balky toaster or washing machine in working order by watching a few Youtube videos and buying a part that costs less than $10. Of course, everything has to be clean, including lint traps, filters, and accessories.

* * *

As a rule, everything in your home, except family members, has to be either useful or beautiful, preferably both. Holding on to stuff that has no practical value isn’t doing you any favors. It’s far better to either give it away or, if you’re able, convert it into cash you’re guaranteed to find a use for. 

Don’t, as the saying goes, leave money on the table. Selling your unwanted goods in the right place and in the right way will not only make the whole process much easier and faster, it will also give a welcome boost to your bank account in a lean month.

Are you ready to go through your attic?


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    Joseph

    30 thoughts on “Modern Alchemy: How to Turn Your Unwanted Items Into Quick Cash

    1. Merylin says:

      We all have appliances and stuff that we don’t need. Maybe selling them is a smart choice. If you can earn some cash from some junk that just fill your space I am in.

    2. Brandon says:

      Although garage sales take some effort and time it is the best way to declutter your home and to earn some cash.

    3. Mandy L says:

      Flea markets are the best way to sell some things. If you do not want to spend all day on the market you can sell it to one of the guys there in bulk. This way it means less cash, but anyway if you do not have the whole day to spend there maybe it is the best option.

    4. Clelia says:

      Garage sales are something that I discovered recently. I attended some of them and I mean to organize my own. I have a lot of stuff that I don’t need and I can use the cash.

    5. Calvin says:

      I had some antique furniture in the basement and I called a guy from the antique store to see it. I was really surprised by the amount of money that he offered me. I was not aware of the fact that they are so worthy.

    6. Alexander says:

      I put some designer clothes for sale on The Real Real and I sold them very fast. I am satisfied with the website.

    7. Berlina says:

      Thank you for the great tips. We all have some items at home that we do not what to do with.

    8. Timmy says:

      I have some thing that have a sentimental value for me. I can not make myself to sell them or to donate them and I don’t have space to keep them too.

    9. Sandy says:

      We have the wrong habit of buying some things that we do not need. And then when we realize that we do not need them or use them we have to think the way how to get rid of them.

    10. Preston says:

      I visited a few garage sales and to be honest I found some things that were very cheap and I can use them. The garage sales are a good option because the things that you don’t need, other people can use them

    11. Seldon says:

      If you want to advertise some things on the websites that sell used items, the essential is to make good photos of the item and to describe them well. This way the customers will have the right picture what you want to sell.

    12. Miroslav says:

      The sites like e-Bay has a lot of competition and if you do not post your items to be really visible there is no chance of selling them.

    13. Bob says:

      It is nice from time to time to check your garage and get rid of the items that you do not use. This way you will clean and make additional space. Earning some money along the way is a plus.

    14. Nermina says:

      I think these days what you can easily sell and earn some cash are electronics like smart phones, tablets and laptops. These can bring you a fast cash if you put them on sale on sales websites.

    15. Kemal says:

      Selling some toys and children items that your kids overgrow is a good way to earn some cash. Making a garage sale or posting them on the websites, whatever this way you will declutter your home.

    16. Luci says:

      I usual bring the clothes that I don’t need in the second-hand stores. Once they are sold I go and collect the money. This way I keep only the clothes that I wear.

    17. Jordan says:

      I usually buy designer brands of clothes and accessories. When I want to sell them and don’t wear them anymore I can not because the cash of money that customers offer is ridiculous. So I am full of clothes that I don’t wear and that are not trendy anymore.

    18. Gordana says:

      Usually I change the kids’ clothes with my relatives and friends. Other items I still keep at home. Maybe organizing a garage sale with all of my friends is not a bad idea. This way you can reach more customers and split the work for organizing.

    19. Shomy says:

      I sold some items on Facebook Marketplace but to be quite honest all of the customers were from my area. I don’t thing that you can sell on facebook when you have to calculate the shipping expenses.

    20. Brian says:

      Great article thank you. Useful tips

    21. Milosh says:

      I was selling some items through various websites. You have to be very patient and not to hurry if you want to sell them at the best price.

    22. Fred says:

      Selling items that you don’t need can bring some additional cash definitely. We just have to find some time and put some effort in it.

    23. Slaven says:

      I have to declutter my garage definitely. I will look through various sites that you suggested to see where I can sell the items. Thank you

    24. Jelena says:

      My opinion is that flea markets and garage sales are the best options for second-hand items. This way you can earn some cash.

    25. Daryl says:

      Pawn shops are good choice but they are more interested in jewelry and electronics. You can not expect decent offers from them.

    26. Claudio says:

      When selling second-hand items you should be aware and not to put high prices.

    27. Brad says:

      Enjoyed reading as always. You always find ways how to save some money or earn some cash.

    28. Chang says:

      I have some tools that I want to sell, I don’t use them anymore and I need some space.

    29. Nadja says:

      I will use these tips to sell some things. Thank you

    30. Boyden says:

      Keeping items that you don’t need is not a good habit. If you can not sell them than you can donate them and help those in need.

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