Have you ever needed a change in your life… but you just have too much stuff? Want to move to another country… but what are you going to do about, you know, everything you own?
Don’t let stuff hold you back from making big moves in your life. Sell all of your stuff online instead. This guide will show you how.
Before moving from Amsterdam, I had to sell pretty much all of my stuff. Bulky stuff that wouldn’t fit into my checked luggage. Electronic stuff that wouldn’t work in the U.S. because of built-in Euro plugs. Living stuff, like plants, that would get me in trouble at customs if I attempted to take them with me.
It all had to go, so I used these steps to make some money, give items a second-hand life, and free me to travel the world.
Step 1: Choose Your Marketplace Site
There are several sites that let you sell things locally. Some of those options include Craigslist and its clones (for instance, in the Netherlands there is a site called Marktplaats), eBay, and Facebook Marketplace. If cross-posting across multiple sites sounds painful to manage (I agree!) then just choose one or two to focus your energy. Keep it simple!
Personally I did all of my sales on Facebook Marketplace. While the user interface can sometimes be tricky to navigate, I like that all of the chats are all in one place. It’s a good place for buying, too; a lot of the items I was selling, I bought from Facebook Marketplace to start with. I even I found my apartment for rent there when I first moved to Amsterdam!
Step 2: Be Aware of Common Scams
All of the marketplaces have bots and scammers to watch out for, however these are easier to filter out when you know the common scams.
The most frequent one I came across was a “potential buyer” requesting that I send the item via FedEx, UPS, or some other courier service because they are too busy at work to come pick it up.
This broke my main rule to avoid scams: keep it simple. If it starts to feel complicated— above and beyond the person shows up and they give me cash or Venmo— I say no. Apparently if you continue to engage with this particular scam you are asked to send money to cover the insurance of sending the item over, which is then pocketed, and the courier never shows up.
Ask for cash when at all possible. If you receive an email from payment apps like Zelle, PayPal, and Paytm, ensure that it is a legitimate email from the company. If someone overpays and asks you to refund them the difference, it’s likely that they “overpaid” fraudulently and that money is about to disappear.
For the safest transactions, only sell in-person, and request cash or a trusted money transfer system (in the Netherlands we used Tikkie, the Dutch version of Venmo). Read up on common scams, and listen to your gut if something doesn’t feel right (or ask online, luckily folks are quick to tell you when you’re being scammed.)
Step 3: Make your listing pop
Choose a descriptive word in the title
I noticed that when buying and selling, descriptive words about an item helped it to sell. Something like “Gorgeous Monstera plant” got much more traction than “Monstera plant”. Feel free to toss in an adjective. A blanket becomes a “Cozy blanket”, a coffee-grinder “high-quality”, a plant “happy” or “thriving”. Of course, be honest about the state of the item, and choose a word that fits.
Find the original listing for the item online
This is the secret sauce to a good listing. Companies spend loads of money on marketers and copy-writers, so you don’t have to! Pull the description of the item and any key details and add it to your listing online.
Here’s an example when I sold a milk frother.
My description (first):
Like-New Philips Senseo Milk Frother / Melkopschuimer
New it is €53, only used for a few months, but I’m moving and can’t take electronics with me! It works like a charm, easy to use for perfect cups of coffee.
Website description (second):
Using the original advertisement saves me time and provides a lot more detail. As you may guess, this is far more enthusiasm than I personally could ever drum up to describe a milk frother.
Take your own photos and add professional ones
Great news, those manufacturers hire professional photographers too. In addition to the photos you take of your item, throw in a couple from the website. Your photos show the listing is accurate but the pro photos make it shine.
This is the spread of images I used for the milk frother:
Here’s another example of photos used for selling my desk. I included a photo with dimensions, as it was a commonly requested detail. In some listings, I displayed the original price of the item, to show the difference of buying new vs. used. I also included the Dutch item description, since I was selling in Amsterdam.
Incorporate as much detail as possible to head off potential questions. Provide measurements for furniture, sizing information for clothing, and be sure to mention and include photos of any imperfections or damage to an item.
Step 4: Know the etiquette of selling online
I’ll set your expectations now: people will bail. A lot. When I was selling last month, several people even said they were on their way for various items and never showed up. Somehow, two people both had pet emergencies at the last minute and had to take their respective animals to the vet!
Whether the stories are believable or not isn’t the point. The point is: Avoid putting items ‘on hold’. Personally, I run a first-come-first-served model, and let people know that’s my policy. Don’t bother juggling other peoples’ various schedules. The only time I held an item was when someone paid me in advance to do so. For the same reason, I don’t deliver items to buyers.
Also, be ready for people to try to negotiate down the price. If you are amenable to this, pick a price with that eventuality in mind.
Whatever your personal policies are, make them clear in the listing. Add notes like “buyer pick-up”, “no holds”, “no negotiating/final price”, etc.
Step 5: Donation is a nice back-up plan
For some things, I decided to donate rather than bother selling. Books went to local ‘little libraries’, worn-out clothes went to textile recycling, and I gave away a few items to different friends.
If you have a lot of time, it can be worth it to wait, but if not: have a back-up plan. Things like consumables (sealed) that I needed to get rid of, I posted for free in various groups online. Then folks came to pick it up, saving me the hassle of figuring out what to do with it, and making sure it was appreciated instead of trashed.
Selling all your stuff can free you up to move internationally, live minimally, or just feel a little lighter. After taking these steps, I recouped almost all of the money I spent on things throughout the year.
You don’t have to sell all of your stuff if you don’t want to. Start by selling some stuff, and see how it goes. Eventually it gets easier, and you can earn some cash, get decluttering, and avoid adding to local landfills. Good luck!