Friday, July 19, 2013

Cleaning house and making money

Would a business keep assets that are no longer of any use? Assets that are of value to someone, are taking up space, and are losing value while you don't use them. Would you keep these things?
Obviously not, so why are you doing this in your personal life?

Recently the wife and I discovered kijiji, something similar to online classified Craigslist. We've both been pleasantly surprised by the success we've had.

Ok, so I want to do this, but isn't it a lot of work?

The short answer is no. With about 10 mouse clicks and uploading a few pictures of the item you can have an ad.

I only give out my email on the ad not my phone number. This gives me complete control over communications and prevents me from being bothered at work or when I don't want to be.

The beauty of online classifieds is almost always it's the buyer who is responsible to pick up the item. This means the amount of travel time required for you to sell the item can be as low as zero if you have the buyer come to your home or a few minutes if you meet near your home at a mall, bank or coffee shop.

If the buyer comes to your house, and doesn't show up as scheduled then you're not out any time. In my experience most buyers are very polite and considerate of your time, but some are not, so be prepared for a few no shows. In one instance, a buyer was late and apologetically insisted on overpaying me by $10!

But no one will buy my stuff, it's not worth anything

You would definitely be surprised what sells quickly and for how much. I personally have sold the following, with time on the market and price indicated:

My highschool graphing calculator (10+ years old) for $50, sold in 2 days.

Broken, non functioning, iPod nano for $5, sold in 5 days.

Cowboy boots (yes, there were plans for a cowboy life, it never worked out) for $60 in 22 days. Bear in mind, these boots were sold in Toronto, not somewhere known for being a cowboy boot city.

Cowboy hat, for an undisclosed amount.

An old, unused cell phone with slide out keyboard for $10 in 78 days.

And finally a tea set my parents had for $25 in 141 days.

There is a booming market for things you might think of value and otherwise. Even if something is broken, ie. an Xbox, there are still people who may buy it or pieces of it (I sold an Xbox power supply for $10 in 12 days).

Isn't there a risk I'll get robbed? Or my neighbors will complain about people coming and going to the house?

Safety concerns are something to take seriously. There are many websites that list best practices on this. Whether you are comfortable selling or not is a personal choice.

Optimal Solution to Eliminating Clutter, Making Money and Saving Time

The optimal answer to safety, saving your own time and making a success of this, is if you live in an apartment or condominium with cameras and a security guard. Having the buyer come in front of your building means zero travel time, and zero risk of wasted time if there's a no show. The anonymity of an apartment building and the implied security of meeting in a lobby or common area, while under video surveillance, in front of a security guard, is hard to beat.

Alternatively, meeting at a nearby plaza / coffee shop works as well, just make sure you bring a book in case the buyer is late.

If you don't live in a multi-family dwelling, think about the advantages of selling your stuff.
If you do live in an apartment or condo building, why aren't you taking advantage of this?


  1. Alternatively you could donate stuff to charity. Takes less time; does the world good; saves you tax money.

    Also, I don't know how to use semi-colons properly.

    1. In Canadia, based on the Canada Revenue Agency, donations that do quality are money, securities, and the like (art, rare books, etc.).

      Donating small household items will likely not qualify for a tax receipt.

      One comment on "does the world good", when something is sold via Kijiji / Craig's List, it's guaranteed to have found someone who wants it since they made an effort to search for it, come get it and pay for it. When you drive up to a charity and empty your trunk, they may be unable to sell items, or unable to hold some inventory for long enough to sell them. I'd be curious to know how much of their donations wind up in the garbage.

  2. It's hard to get over the emotional hurdle of things. Remember all those good times you has with that out-of-date digital camera? What about that guitar you never learned to play, but somehow just owning makes you feel one step closer to musicianship?

    Even if you get an ad up to sell such items everyday that passes without a sale is another opportunity to pull the sale and retain that precious junk.

    Do you have a solution to the irrational reasons for holding onto abaya t goods?

    1. I completely agree. There is an emotional burden to selling items that you no longer use, even though it's silly.

      The most success I've had is by making a spreadsheet to track your sales, and then spending the money on new, fun, extravagant items.

      I've also found it helps to do a "blitz". Spend an hour or two, going through your home and posting as many things as possible. Once you get in the mode of posting, it's fairly easy to keep going and do more and more. Once someone emails you about buying your item, you'll probably accept.