Professional declutterer Sarah Macnaught wanders around my home appraising my belongings. She is on a mission to wade through my unwanted clothes, books and toys to find things to sell.
She settles on a vintage-looking wooden desk. ‘This would sell very well,’ she says. ‘Modern but retro and easy to transport.’
Sadly, it was bought recently from John Lewis. And I need my desk. But her point is reassuring: you do not need a home full of antiques and designer clothing to make money. If you are having a clear-out, fast fashion and functional furniture sells well, too.
Clear-out: Reporter Louise Eccles with some of the unwanted books and clothes she put up for sale
‘Older, more expensive furniture is actually harder to sell,’ the ‘belongings coach’ says. ‘Great big mahogany wardrobes are seen as passé. One day they will come back in again but, for now, people want utilitarian, simple furniture they can stick in their car and take back home.’
So why is Sarah, of Rightsize, looking at my desk? I have joined millions of Brits in the decluttering phenomenon.
The trend is led by Japanese tidying guru Marie Kondo, whose KonMari method involves keeping only belongings which ‘spark joy’. Her focus is on beautifully folding and stacking what you want to keep. Charity shops are benefiting from generous donations because of her.
But what about those who want to sell their goods instead? How can they put a price tag on their junk — and will they be able to find a seller?
Here’s how to cash in on clutter…
BALANCING THE BOOKS
You must be realistic about what unwanted items are worth: price them too high and they won’t sell.
‘It is a mistake to assume that just because something is old, or was expensive when you bought it, that it will sell for a lot,’ says Sarah.
‘The post-war generation in particular can struggle with this, as they are likely to perceive everything to be valuable in some way.
‘Then there is the younger consumerist generation who are down at Ikea every week buying more things, and so we have reached ‘peak stuff’. This glut of belongings has devalued our valuables.’
I have accumulated more than 300 novels, autobiographies, cookbooks, textbooks and travel books over the years. But I need to clear some shelves for my children’s books.
‘Books are often only worth a fraction of the price you paid because we have so many of them and we all tend to have the same ones,’ warns Sarah.
She recommends using websites such as Ziffit (ziffit.com) and WeBuyBooks (webuybooks.co.uk) to offload ones you no longer want.
Type the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) on the back of the book into the website and it will tell you how much you will get for it. You then package the books up and post them for free.
‘Books are often only worth a fraction of the price you paid because we have so many of them and we all tend to have the same ones,’ warns Sarah
It sounds great. But while the website does not claim to match what you would get if you sold the book privately, I am shocked when WeBuyBooks offers me just 10p for my pristine copy of Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook.
Jamie Oliver’s Jamie at Home fares even worse, at 5p. I then try rival site Ziffit’s mobile app — I can scan the barcodes, rather than inputting the ISBN. This time, I get a valuation of 75p for my Mary Berry. But Ziffit will not buy my Jamie Oliver cookbook at all.
Sarah suggests trying more unusual books — perhaps random textbooks, non-fiction or work books.
I have much more success here. I get an offer of £15.24 for 13 random non-fiction books. I am baffled by what gets a decent price — £3.46 for a paperback titled, rather unappealingly, Business Journalism.
I decide to sell my books en masse via Ziffit. I stick them all in an old printer box and stick on a free postage label the site has emailed me.
I then take it to the nearest drop-off named on the app — a newsagent less than half a mile away. Days later I receive my money via PayPal, although it can be sent direct to your bank account.
FASHION SELLS — BUT BE REALISTIC
The key to selling clothes is to make sure you do so within two years of purchase, Sarah says. After that, fashion will move on and it will be 30 years before you can call it retro or vintage.
Even then, only quality designer clothing and rare collections sell well. Most of my clothes are from popular High Street retailers such as Zara, H&M and Whistles. But as long as you sell within two years, you can still make money.
Taking decent photos is vital when selling online. ‘Invest a bit of time in taking quality photographs in good light,’ Sarah says.
‘Make sure the item isn’t creased and put it on a nice coathanger. Then hang it on a picture hook on your wall or against a blank background. Do not put it down on a floor or a bed. It must look loved.
‘You must also be detailed and accurate with the description and point out imperfections.’
Ebay.co.uk is a good place to sell clothes because of the large audience. It also offers protection for buyers and sellers.
To gauge the value of your clothes, search eBay for how much similar items have sold for first. To do this, click on the ‘advanced search’ button and then ‘sold listings’.
‘It tells you what things are really selling for, rather than what sellers are trying to get’, Sarah says.
‘Someone can advertise a top for £60 but the reality might be that it eventually sold for £6.’
Sarah says most people want half the price they bought something for when they resell, but goods are rarely worth more than a quarter of the purchase price. For clothes, be prepared to sell for as little as 10 per cent of what you paid for them.
We have regular clothing clear-outs in our house and usually send unwanted items to charity, but there are still a few bits clogging up our cupboards I can sell.
Among them is a Ralph Lauren denim jacket that I have been waiting to come back into fashion for 18 years, an H&M dress that was always too tight, a Ted Baker coat that was always a bit too pink and a children’s Christmas jumper that was worn only a couple of times.
I list the jacket, bought for £100, with a starting bid of more than £5.70 — what similar jackets sold for. Within a day I have a bidder.
Broken phones, old CDs and Lego
Brick-a- brack: Lego is in demand among collectors
Sarah unearths a pile of unwanted electricals in our aptly named ‘all-sorts box’ — something Marie Kondo would never have. It includes an iPhone 6S which I bought last year and then, three months later, dropped in water.
It won’t turn on but I can still sell it on websites such as musicmagpie.co.uk, which buys old phones, CDs, DVDs and even Lego.
I’m asked if the phone is faulty or in good or poor condition, and given a free postage label to send it off. For a faulty handset I receive a quote for £31.50. If it had been in good condition I’d have got £105.
However, if you plan to buy a new iPhone from Apple, you may get a large discount for trading in an old handset. For example, trade a broken iPhone 6 for an iPhone XR and you will pay £599 instead of £749.
We move on to stacks of CD and DVD holders containing hundreds of discs. Now that we typically stream music and films using the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime, we haven’t touched them in years.
But Sarah is unmoved by our collection of box sets for the TV series 24 and our collection of Oasis albums, because none have cases.
We binned them when we downsized, which means they are almost worthless. It seems a terrible waste to send them to landfill, so Sarah recommends sticking the box sets and the best albums on Gumtree, where people buy and sell unwanted items. Someone may buy the lot for £5 or £10, she says.
The one DVD in our house with a case was the children’s film The Highway Rat, which I bought in a sale last year for £4.99. tMoneymagpie.com is willing to pay me 52p. But on online marketplace eBay, similar recent items have sold for up to £5.50 plus £1.40 postage.
Even after eBay takes its 10 per cent slice, I would still make a profit on my purchase.
Next I try to list the Christmas jumper, but have apparently reached my limit as a new user.
After a long ‘live chat’ online with eBay, they give me a limit of ten items. During the 30-minute conversation, it becomes apparent I have also been charged 50p for listing the jacket with a ‘buy it now’ option which lets buyers purchase immediately for a fixed price.
A little jaded, I bundle together the rest of my clothes and try a different way.
H&M gives customers a £5 voucher for every bag of old clothes handed into the store, which they can use when they next make a £25 purchase. The clothes collected are either reused, reworn or recycled, the retailer says.
Another option is to join a Facebook group for selling clothing. For example, a local mums group would be the best place for bundles of baby clothes, and you can avoid fees by accepting cash upon collection.
Or try listing items on Facebook’s specific online marketplace.
There are also niche second-hand clothing sites such as Vinted for vintage clothes. It charges the buyer a fee rather than the seller. Some companies will sell items on eBay on your behalf, including stuffusell.co.uk, sellforyou.co.uk or auctionfairies.co.uk — but charge 30 per cent commission.
FIND THE RIGHT MARKETPLACE
Next, Sarah raids our shed. We decide to list an old bike on Gumtree, which is best for collection-only goods.
We take Sarah’s advice and wait for a sunny day to take attractive photographs of the bike next to tubs of purple flowers.
The bike was worth £1,200, but we are realistic and price it at £300.
Where to flog it
- Phones and tech
Musicmagpie.co.uk will buy your old phones even if broken. Get an instant offer online, then post them off for free. Goods must be in their cases. It also buys your CDs, DVDs, games and Lego by weight.
VintageCashCow.co.uk will buy your jewellery and gold, as well as old sunglasses, medals and collectible toys. Send them off for free, and they will post them back for free if you don’t like the price they offer.
Advertise up to 20 items a month for free on eBay.co.uk, rising to 1,000 items a month from March 3. Then pay a 10 per cent fee on anything you sell. Clear photos are vital, as are details about sizing and condition.
Sell your books en masse to ziffit.com. Enter the ISBN number and get an instant offer. Once you have an offer over £5, you can send them off for free and receive your payment upon receipt.
- Antiques and valuables
Wheretosell.co.uk connects sellers with local buyers of antiques. This website provides you with a free list of who is currently interested in the antique you’re looking to offload, including local sale rooms, national auctioneers and independent buyers.
It sells for £200 a week later to a family living in the same town, without any doorstep haggling.
Sarah also identifies some old children’s toys — a slide and playhouse and a baby-walker — which she thinks will sell well on a local parenting Facebook group.
When it comes to valuables you must be careful. I tell Sarah about a friend who tried to sell her late grandmother’s jewellery at a car boot sale and had to fend off people fighting for fistfuls of tarnished, gold necklaces.
Sarah says: ‘Car boot sales are a great way to sell lots of things which you don’t mind selling cheaply, but I wouldn’t recommend it for valuables or sentimental items as you’re unlikely to get a good price.’
Vintage Cash Cow is a website which allows you to send off your jewellery and gold en masse to be valued by experts. If you don’t like the price, they will send it back to you free of charge.
By the time Sarah leaves, she has helped me make more than £300. But while it feels good to have cleared some space, it has been rather time-consuming.
Kate Ibbotson, who set up her own decluttering company, A Tidy Mind, and is a member of the Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers, says: ‘Selling goods takes time and effort as well as ensuring you use the right platforms for the type of possession.
But I’ve seen people sell more than £2,000 worth of items, and in rare cases, where collectibles are involved and an auction house such as Christie’s, the sale value can reach tens of thousands of pounds.’
The key is not to let the clutter build again. So, as I await the money from my Mary Berry cookbook, I resist buying the latest from Deliciously Ella — and borrow it from the library instead.