Buy-n-sell,  Life abroad,  Our Adventures,  Selling our UK home

How to… find unexpected treasure around the house

My first week as a “lady of leisure” has been a busy one as Phil and I work in earnest to clear out our home in preparation for getting it onto the market for sale at the end of December, right after Christmas. The photographer was in on Friday and we’d done a pretty good clear out job because it only took him two hours.

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God’s timing is perfect with the house sale because we still have a lot of stuff to clear out of the house, and putting it on the market right after Christmas means that we can put up and enjoy our Christmas decorations in this house one more year without having to worry about scheduling house viewings.  We actually weren’t going to bother with decorations when we thought it would go on the market pre-Christmas.  So, prepping the house for Christmas will keep us busy in the coming week.

And, while we’re up in the loft getting all the Christmas decorations down, we’ll also work on clearing out the rest of the loft in preparation for moving.  We know that we have at least one item up there that should have a good resale value… Phil’s old Chopper bicycle from back in the 80’s.  It will be a perfect restoration project for someone and we know there are a lot of people who like the nostalgia of those old bikes.

And, speaking of resale value, right now, in November and December, it’s the perfect time of year for selling on eBay because people are looking for Christmas presents.  We’re trying hard to maximise that opportunity, and we want to encourage you to think about doing it, too.

Last week, as we were clearing our spare room, we came across an old Children’s book that Phil had bought me for Christmas, over a decade ago.  When he purchased it, it was already valuable, but for me, the value was far more because it had been my favourite book as a child, rather than because of its monetary value.  But, because we’re trying to clear EVERYTHING that we can, yesterday, Phil got it put back up on eBay to resell, and I’m so glad he did.  I couldn’t believe by how much the book has appreciated in value since he purchased it for me. 

The Big Tidy-Up, by Norah Smaridge, is an old, out of print book.  It was old and out of print even when he bought it for me over a decade ago and I found out that he paid about $85 for it.  It was such a thoughtful gift because I mentioned in passing that I remembered it fondly and would love to read it again, but then the conversation moved on and I’d forgotten about it.  So when I received it as a Christmas present months later, I was thrilled. At the time we were back in the States for Christmas and I remember my mom also really enjoying my receiving of the book because she remembered it fondly from my childhood too.

When we came across the book in the spare room, it was fun to page through it again, but I’m ready to pass it on to someone else.  Last night, while Phil was putting it up on eBay, we were really surprised at how many fewer copies of the book are around now, and by how much they’re selling for!  We hope that we can at least make our money back; that would certainly be a blessing.

Of course, most of the items won’t sell for more than we paid for them.  My Radley designer handbags and a couple of plush Harrod’s Christmas Teddy Bears have been a real bargain for their new owners.  But, given that the alternative is a thrift shop or the local tip, even a small resale value is better than nothing.  And it’s really exciting to think about what other items in our house might also have resale value.

Here is our process for sorting through and clearing our stuff:

1. Are you happy to part with the item?

This is the most important first step.  If you still have a close attachment to the item, if it’s still giving you joy, (as Marie Kondo would say) don’t feel you HAVE to get rid of it.  I have a sweatshirt from college that my parents purchased for me, full price, on the day that I went to register for classes during my senior year of high school.  It has stains on the front, and has faded over the years, so I haven’t worn it for years, but I just can’t part with it.  I know it’s silly that I get emotional even thinking of parting with it.  So I won’t.  Not yet.  And that’s okay, especially since it’s not something that has a great resale value anyway.  And that leads to step 2…

2. What’s prompting the clear out?

Your motivation for clearing out your stuff will effectively determine how you handle the rest of the steps in the process.  If you need to clear it out because you’re being evicted, that’s a bit more immediate than if you just don’t want the items anymore.  And, the prospect of having to move the item to another country is quite a bit different than moving to a larger or smaller house in a nearby town where the relative cost of a shipping container vs. one or more trips with a moving van is likely to dictate an item’s relative value to you.

Initially, we were contemplating that we’d simply hire a shipping container and movers to get our home contents back to the States.  But, when we started pricing these out vs. the value of the contents themselves, we quickly decided that there are very few items that we actually need to keep.  So, now everything is up for grabs, for the right price.  What we don’t get rid of, we’ll plan to store in Phil’s parents’ loft and take back in our luggage over time.

3. How long have you got to sell it?

Not everything with value will immediately sell. It can take a while for the right buyer to come across your advert.  If you want to see a good resale value on the items you’re happy to part with, it’s important that you start the process of saying good-bye to your items in plenty of time before you get desperate to be rid of it. 

We started our eBay clearing of our house back in August and September, shortly after we committed to our decision to move back to the States.   At that time, we had put in our mental timeline that we’d try to get the house put onto the market by the end of November.  If you don’t have such a deadline for clearing out your items, then you can put them onto eBay or your marketplace of choice and wait a bit until the right buyer comes along.  But, if you’re in a hurry, it can be a problem to put too high a value on your stuff, so you might have to consider just taking what you can get, just to get it cleared.

And ultimately, you may decide that having it cleared out is of more value than trying to sell it.  For us, the day before our professional photography session, we had three big bin bags full of clothes and bric-a-brac that were dropped off at the local charity shop for them to resell and get the value because we needed it gone much more quickly than the time and effort of us trying to sell it.

4. What might your items be worth?

A quick internet search will usually give you a good idea of what the item might be worth.   eBay is a good place to start, and Facebook Marketplace or Vinted, too.  If the item is unlikely to sell but you’re keen to find it a new home, it may be best to use Freecycle.  Sometimes, just finding it a new home that is not the landfill is best.

That’s what we’re finding we have to do with our furniture which doesn’t seem to have much of a resale value.  We’re trying on Facebook Marketplace and eBay but moving to Freecycle for the items that are too slow to sell.

5. How will it get to its new owner?

Shipping can be a dark art.  Will it go by courier or regular mail?  Or is it a bulky item that will have to be picked up in person?

Stuff that can’t reasonably be shipped will have to be pretty valuable for the buyer to entertain collecting it directly or arranging the shipping themselves.  Last year when my Dad was downsizing, we sold a commercial-grade meat saw on eBay that was a beast!  It weighed over 800 pounds and we said in the description that it was for collection only.  The guy who purchased it lived in Washington state, 3000 miles away and arranged for a shipping company to come and pick it up. 

THAT was a palaver and the guy paid us an extra $100 to prep the saw for the courier.  It took 6 of us in one form or another to manoeuvre it out of the garage, onto a pallet and get it all wrapped up so they’d take it.  It was worth it to him and to us though.  He got it for a really good price compared to others on the market, and we got it out of the garage where it had sat for 20 years gathering dust.

Here at home, Phil has gotten pretty good at weighing and measuring the items we’re reselling to determine the most cost-effective shipping method and we use all three:  post office, courier and collection.

6. Finally, set up your “sales engine.”

The actual steps of selling your stuff is a process that you can make pretty efficient, depending on how many items you’re planning to clear:

Create a marketing and staging area

You need an area where you can photograph and then store the stuff that you’ve decided to sell.  Having gone through your home and decided you are ready to sell the lava lamp that’s sat on the bedside table in the spare room for the last two years, get it unplugged, clean it up and move it to the area in your home where you will photograph your items.  Ideally, this will be a spot where you can also store the item while you’re waiting for it to sell.  If you just leave it where it is, you may lose the motivation to get it cleared out, so explicitly moving it to a new place in your home is important.

At the moment, in our house, the items we’re putting on eBay are going down to the lounge.  Phil is photographing them on the dining table or carpet and then they’re being stored in the TV case and the corner unit (which we’re also trying to get rid of).  The beauty of this is that we know exactly where the items are that have been put to auction so that we can find them when they sell and it’s time to get them shipped. 

This also avoids us accidentally taking something we’re actively selling to the charity shops pre-maturely.  For the stuff that doesn’t fit easily in the lounge, we have set aside specific shelves in the spare room where we know the items are currently on eBay so that we don’t just clear them without taking down the auctions first.

Set up your “sales suite”

Having photographed your items, you then need a place where you can sit down with your smartphone and/or laptop or computer to create your auction or sale listings.

For us right now, this is the same dining table in our lounge where Phil photographs the items.  He’s got a laptop and the charging cable for his smartphone; it’s become his office space.

And a shipping department

Phil is keen to make sure that items are packed safely for shipping and has a hoard of packing peanuts, bubble wrap, boxes, shipping tape, scissors and paper for packaging the items once they have sold. 

Don’t pack an item before it is sold because some boxes are very similar and you don’t want to risk sending the wrong item to the wrong person or having to spend time and resources opening a package to make sure it’s right before shipping it off.

And, a hint we’ve learned along the way: consider what time of day the auction will end. Phil likes his auctions to end around 9p.m. and tries to keep multiple items finishing on the same day of the week.  Then everything that has sold that week is pulled out of the staging area and the shipping supplies come in from out in the shed to be used for wrapping the items up just once per week.

Phil prints off the shipping labels after he’s verified the box measurements which then get taped onto the boxes as a second step.

And assign an area to be your “mail room”

The glorified name for the counter in our kitchen near the door where we pick up the items that have to be taken to the post office, and that we can easily access when the courier arrives to pick up the items going that route.  We have to be a bit careful to make sure that we don’t mix up the parcels for these two shipping methods.

And that’s it.  That’s our process for finding the resale value in our things.

What about you?

Looking around your house, are there items that you’re ready to part with?  What’s your method for having a good clear out?  Any items whose value surprised you?  We’d love to hear your stories.  Please share them with us below.

And, if you’re interested in The Big Tidy-Up book, you can check it, and all our eBay listings at