Why Selling Things is a Waste of Your Time

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I’d like to start this post with a lovely before and after.

Normally, a transformation like this would take several hours, as the client and I made hard decisions about each item. But this one took just 30 minutes. Why? Because every item on this couch was something she had been trying to sell… for months. After posting and reposting on Buy/Sell/Trade groups and arranging pickups that never happened, my client had had enough.

“I’m donating all of it,” she declared.

Good girl. I couldn’t have said it better.

Why? Because selling things is a waste of your time. Almost always, the cost of your time spent selling outweighs the cost of the item itself.

Let’s imagine you are selling a jacket for $5. You take an attractive, well-lighted picture of it, write a description, and post it online, which takes about 10 minutes. Then you respond to several folks who are interested, including those who are NIL (“next in line,” for those of you not in the Buy/Sell/Trade know). This takes another 5 minutes. You arrange pickup, trying to finagle your busy schedule with the busy schedule of your potential buyer. Another 5 minutes. Finally, the day of pickup arrives! And you wait… and wait… and finally get a text like, “OMG! Totally forgot abt pickup today!! So sorry!!! OK to swing by in 1 hour?? Pleez???” You’re annoyed, but all the excess punctuation and sad emoji faces in this message make you feel bad for this person. Maybe they are under some kind of jacketless distress that can only be relieved by this purchase? So you wait. They finally show up to try on the jacket, and decide that–while they OMG LUV IT!!!–it is simply too tight in the shoulders and they have to pass. You muster the best smile you can manage, chirp “No problem!” through cheerfully gritted teeth, and move on to the NIL… to do it all over again.

At this point you are getting paid about 3.8 cents per hour to sell your $5 jacket. Unless you are a textile worker in the Industrial Revolution, this is not worth your time.

A better option? Donate it. All of it. Why? Oh, let me explain…

Donating is good for your community. Donations benefit non-profits in your area that do things like provide housing, jobs, and education to the less-fortunate. Thus, your donations actually improve the quality of your community. Now there’s an investment we can all stand behind!

Donating is good for your spirit. There’s something about doing good for others that makes you feel good. Dropping off bags of donations should make you feel awesome. You are giving those items a chance to be useful to people who truly need them. Yay for you! Also, removing clutter from your home will make you feel calm and relaxed in su casa… ahh…

Donating is good for your taxes. One word: write-off. (Or is that two words? Are hyphenated words one or two? Ah, the conundrums of English majors!) In any case, write those donations off and see the cash money in your tax refund. Holla!

Donating is good for your home. A few trips to the Goodwill provides an instant–no cost–facelift to your home. Also, it will be easier to find the things you do use and love when the unnecessaries are out of the way.

You may have a few questions, such as:

What about garage sales? I could sell a whole bunch of stuff at once! True, you could. Or you could not. Garage sale revenue is not guaranteed, as it is dependent upon such fickle things as the weather and whether or not my grandma is in your neighborhood. But if you have a lot of items to sell, it is probably a better option than posting individual items online. I recommend doing garage sales under two conditions and two conditions only:

1) You actually like hosting garage sales. Some people do. If you’re one of them, go for it.

2) You arrange a donation pickup of all unsold items the day the garage sale ends. This is probably the most important part of holding a garage sale. Remember: the goal is to get unwanted items out of your house. If they don’t sell, don’t put them back in the garage for next year’s sale! Donate them immediately to someone who can use them.

What about expensive stuff, like cars, electronics, jewelry and antiques? These types of items are among the only exceptions to my “No Selling” rule: If the item is of significant value, by all means try to sell it. (To determine “significant value” though, do some research. For example, just because an item is old doesn’t mean it’s an antique with resale value. Check going rates on EBay or consult an antiques dealer.) If your item does have a valuable resale market, it’s probably worth the time spent posting, arranging pickups, or taking to a good consignment store.

I hope this post has made you think about the value selling items in your home. Would it be easier to just let them go to someone in need? Is the cost of selling really worth it? These are questions only you can answer and I hope I’ve provided some food for thought.

Rose Lounsbury is one of Dayton, Ohio’s top professional organizers and a sought-after public speaker. After blogging about her own journey toward a minimalist lifestyle, Rose was inspired to start Less LLC, a minimalist-minded professional organizing company. Rose is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers and has been featured on Good Day Columbus. If you’d like Rose’s help with an organizing project at your home or office, you can contact her at [email protected] or visit her online at OrganizeWithLess.com.

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