Decluttering goes hand-in-hand with spring cleaning. As piles of unneeded items accumulate, take a good look before donating or dumping them -- they could make a tidy profit. The internet makes it easier than ever to connect with buyers and sell used items without resorting to a time-consuming garage sale. Consider these 20 tips for a greater shot at clutter-selling success online.
TRY FACEBOOK FIRST
Online classifieds giant Craigslist is still a great place to sell just about anything, but if you prefer the additional security of knowing a buyer's identity from the get-go, try Facebook. The Marketplace feature connects sellers with local buyers. Join local yard sale groups to find a more specific audience, such as those interested only in furniture, baby gear, or other niche items.
DON'T FORGET EBAY
EBay might be the best bet for niche, high-value items. Examples of ideal candidates are collectibles and designer clothing. Since eBay has a national audience, listing on the site offers a greater chance of connecting with the right buyer. Just don't forget to account for listing and shipping fees. Alternatively, look for sites or outlets that specialize in the item you're selling.
TIME IS MONEY
Selling takes time, so use it wisely. Focus first on selling high-value items such as furniture, electronics that are in good shape, large baby gear, or collectibles. If posting multiple items, consider creating a time-saving template that can be copied and pasted. Also note that many so-called collectibles just aren’t that valuable.
GIVE ITEMS SOME TLC
Most items should get a thorough scrubbing or a trip through the wash before any attempt to sell them. Be careful about cleaning antiques or collectibles, though. According to "Antiques Roadshow" appraiser Karen Keane, cleaning them may actually lower their value, so consult an expert first. Also, if batteries are required, make sure to include fresh ones.
SET A REALISTIC PRICE
Few people will pay $250 for a secondhand iPad -- even if it's barely been used -- if they can pay just a little more for a new one. Scope out what others are asking (and getting) for similar items before setting a price. Always take into account the item's condition, too. Cat claw marks in that otherwise adorable upholstered chair demand a big price cut.
PICTURES ARE EVERYTHING
Stuff that's poorly photographed (or worse, with no picture at all on the listing) will not look appealing to buyers. Focus on good lighting. Natural light is best, and don't use the flash, which can create harsh shadows. A clean, uncluttered background is also a must, as are multiple pictures from several different angles.
DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS
When selling online, describe the item as thoroughly as possible. Be sure to include how long it's been owned, whether there are any flaws, what kind of use it has seen, and whether it comes from a home where there are pets or smokers. Dimensions are essential for large items like furniture. Answering these questions from the get-go can limit back-and-forth with buyers.
USE IMPORTANT KEYWORDS
Use the most common words associated with the item in the listing headline -- but think about other search terms, too. Some buyers might search for a "side table" or a "nightstand" instead of an "end table," so add alternatives in the body of the listing. Descriptors such as "new," "rustic," "modern," or "designer" can help too.
BUNDLE RELATED ITEMS
This is an especially good strategy for small items such as DVDs or toys. While selling baby toys individually at $2 apiece would be too time-consuming for the amount you'd make, grouping a bunch together and selling them for $10 might be worth it.
BE A GOOD COMMUNICATOR
An enthusiastic buyer will have questions, so answer promptly -- or risk losing a sale. Do you want buyers reach you a certain way, such as by phone, text, or email? Be sure to say so in the initial listing.
Wait to offer items for sale until you can keep a reasonably flexible schedule for a few days, so it's easy to arrange a time to make the transaction. Tell prospective buyers about a preferred meeting spot immediately, so they can decide whether it's too far to travel to get a bargain.
When selling used goods, expect buyers to offer less than the asking price. If haggling isn't okay, specify up front that the price is firm -- although this may turn off some buyers, especially if the price is too high. Use the terms "OBO" (or best offer) or "negotiable" to encourage more interest.
HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY
That old laptop works just fine -- except when it randomly shuts down a few times a week. It's important to disclose all flaws when selling an item, especially those that aren't immediately visible. Angry buyers will slam sellers they feel can't be trusted, especially on social media.
FOLLOW THE RULES
While most anything goes on Craigslist, some Facebook resale groups have very specific rules. Sellers may be allowed to offer only a certain type of item, and potential buyers may be required to take a specific amount of time before moving to the next person. EBay has a laundry list of rules that should be reviewed. If they're violated, the listing may be pulled.
DON'T DELETE THE LISTING TOO FAST
Once plans have been made to sell to a buyer, it may be tempting to remove a listing so no one else requests the item. Instead, edit the listing to say a sale is pending, or "PPU" (pending pickup). That way, it's easy to put the item back up for sale if the buyer flakes out at the last minute. Once cash is in hand, delete away.
CASH IS KING
When selling locally, require buyers to bring cash to a meetup. While checks are certainly more convenient for a buyer than hitting an ATM, they present problems. Checks can bounce, or might be fakes. Also, require exact payment -- otherwise, some buyers will show up with $20 for a $10 item and expect change to be made.
GUARD PERSONAL INFO
Never give more information than necessary. Facebook buyers will have your name, but make sure there is nothing sensitive attached to your public profile. If and when you give your phone number, use a cell number that can't be traced to a physical address. Don't give out your address unless it's necessary for the buyer. Even then, just refer to a general neighborhood until plans are concrete.
MEET IN PUBLIC
For safety's sake, always meet buyers in a public spot, such as a busy coffee shop. Some cities have introduced SafeTrade Stations at police departments to promote safe buying and selling. If the item is too big to make a public meeting practical, be sure the buyer drops by only when more than one person is at home.
While scams are more common for high-dollar transactions like used cars, be sure to maintain a healthy skepticism when selling online. Craigslist warns of common red flags, such as buyers who refuse to meet in person, offer only a cashier's check or money order, or try to route payment through a third party.
Donating doesn't require nearly as much time as selling individual items, and it can provide a tax write-off for those willing to itemize deductions. Donate to a legitimate 501(c)3 nonprofit, keep the receipt, and don't inflate items' value to stay on the right side of the IRS. A valuation guide, like this one from the Salvation Army, can help.