Time for Spring Cleaning

Clean up, clean out and cash in.

by Dennis L. Prince
- Apr 01, 2009

It's that time of year again: Love is in the air (as is pollen) and folks are confronted with another year's worth of accumulations that must be dealt with. So arrives the cultural ritual known as "spring cleaning"—that time during which all manner of odds and ends are wrested from their respective nooks and crannies.

While garage sales and flea markets routinely feature these excesses of our lives, so too does the online marketplace. For ardent collectors and purveyors of other peoples' curiosities, this is their time to swoop in and scoop up your castoffs. If you're ready to get serious about spring cleaning—and want to get some bankable benefit for your efforts—here are some points to ensure your cleanup efforts pay off in the most profitable ways.

One-off offerings

If you're a regular seller of goods, online or elsewhere, you may wonder how spring cleaning fits into your overall merchandising plan. Frankly, it doesn't, especially if you deal in a particular commodity that your customers have come to expect. To some, the thought of infusing personal items and other unrelated knickknacks into their regular inventory seems completely wrong—and they're right.

Therefore, it makes sense to separate the sort of items under discussion here. Some have found that a sideline "garage sale" like this opens their eyes to items they hadn't considered before. When customers show particular interest in a type of item pulled from your "personal inventory," it could signal a trend or opportunity worth pursuing. Consider this a test marketing of different items; you never know what you'll learn from customers when they take interest in your otherwise discarded goods.

You'd be surprised what people are willing to bid to take that clutter off your hands

Justify your stuff

Now, if you're simply sick of looking at all the junk that has found its way into the corners and crevices of your living space, drag it out into the open—but not to the curb just yet. If you've been working the online marketplaces (especially the auctions), you know folks will bid on just about anything. Log onto the auction sites first and search for similar items (checking current as well as recently closed auction values). You'll quickly discover how much demand is out there and what folks are willing to pay for that unassuming item you would just as soon throw away. Although you can't be assured of making a fast fortune on your soon-to-be discarded items, you'd be surprised what people are willing to bid to take that clutter off your hands.

Research the promising pieces

It does still happen—we occasionally come across an item or two that could easily command a significant chunk of change. If you think you've uncovered a potential "holy grail" item, do your homework before you offer it up. Besides checking in the virtual bid parlors, conduct a Web-wide search to learn more about the piece. Verify its origin, originality and potential obscurity. Whenever possible, identify other unique items that might be of the same or similar lineage—this will help you associate your item to other related treasures, especially if your find is something of a "missing link."

Your research will not only better educate you about the item and its value, it will also allow you to create a highly informative and well presented listing that shows potential buyers that you know what you have.

Some trash is trash

Always keep your feet on the ground: Many of your knickknacks, doodads and gewgaws truly are junk. Many busted, broken or simply bizarre items are nothing more than trash and, if you cannot bear to look at them anymore, just dispose of them. Of course, even though these odds and ends may not seem to command much attention at your online store or within the online auction spaces, you can still make one last effort to pawn them off for a buck or two (or less) at a garage sale or flea market.

Key point here: It might not be worth the time and expense to list and ship an item that only pulls down two bits. And, if you still can't find someone to offer you 25 cents for that funky little item, you could still consider donating it to a local charity or thrift store. Log it as an appropriately valued deduction on your income tax return.

Remember that any profit you can glean is better than nothing

Priced to sell

While it's always exciting to dream of turning your pile of trash into a mountain of cash, remember the overall goal of spring cleaning: to get rid of this stuff. Therefore, price your items to sell.

If auctioning, offer low starting bids with no reserve. If there's a market for the item and the potential for decent bids, let the bidders do the work. Price your stuff too high and bidders will look elsewhere. If selling for fixed prices, price the item to sell (you don't want it languishing and cluttering up your virtual shelves any longer; that's the whole point of spring cleaning). Either way, it's not necessary to give away your stuff, especially if it's something truly collectible or otherwise desirable. But remember that any profit you can glean is better than nothing.

Whistle while you work

If you're content to just get rid of the junk that clutters your life, enjoy the process of selling it off for whatever you can get. Many sellers marvel at the eagerness of bidders and buyers who clamber after your throwaways. It's fun and often amusing to watch others scuffle for the stuff you couldn't care less about.

You might not necessarily make a mint, but the money you earn could pay for a night on the town or nicely increase the amount of "mad money" in your coffee can. In these cases, be happy with what you get, and enjoy the fact that others are paying you to take out your trash.

About the Author

Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay…and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues.

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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