You’re decluttering. You’re sorting your stuff into piles. Stuff you’re keeping. Recycling. Rubbish (for landfill). Car boot sale/eBay.

Hmm…can we take a look at that last pile again?

When I help clients declutter, my watchword is not, as you might expect, ‘ruthless’. It’s ‘realistic’. Being ruthless isn’t a great idea. It tends to lead to you getting rid of stuff you later regret.

Being realistic is the key. Are you realistically likely to lose enough weight to feel good in that dress again? How realistic is it to expect that you’ll ever get around to reupholstering that chair? Is it realistic to keep all your old vinyl records on the basis that you’ll convert them to mp3 “one day”.

And is it realistic to say that you’ll make good money out of the stuff you no longer want?

Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t sell your unwanted stuff. I’ve done a few car boots sales myself and sold items on eBay. Car boot/garage/yard sales can be fun, especially on a sunny day. I love chatting with my customers and seeing my unwanted stuff become someone else’s bargain find. And the thrill of watching the bids come in on an eBay auction is great.

It can also be hard work though, so it’s only worth doing if you realistically think you can make good money.

For a car boot/yard/garage sale, you have to:

  • Get together the stuff you’ll need:
    • A collapsible table (e.g. a pasting table).
    • If you’re selling clothes, a hanging rail and clothes hangers.
    • Carrier bags for your customers to take stuff away in.
    • A float of small change (so you can give change to your first purchasers and pay for your stall if you haven’t taken enough money by the time the manager comes round).
    • Appropriate clothing – you’ll be sitting around all morning so, unless you can count on good weather, make sure you’ll be warm and dry.
    • Food and drink. Take a thermos and some food or you’ll end up spending money for a cup of tea and lunch.
    • Oh and a car of course. In my case, that means borrowing one.
  • Pack everything (wrapping fragile objects carefully).
  • Get it all into the boot of your car.
  • Get up hideously early.
  • Spend a long morning selling.
  • Pack up everything that didn’t sell.
  • Unpack what didn’t sell back at home and decide what to do with it.

For online selling, you need to:

  • Take good photos. This makes a huge difference to whether things sell, and isn’t easy. Many successful eBay vendors dedicate an area of their home to taking photos and keep it set up.
  • Write a good listing.
  • Calculate how much it’ll cost you to post the item (including overseas) and include that information in your listing.
  • Answer questions from potential buyers.
  • Pack the item up (especially carefully if the item is fragile) and post it to the successful bidder in a timely fashion (even if it didn’t sell for much).
  • Leave feedback for your buyer.

Oof! If you’re going to do all that, you want to be sure you’ll get a good return.

So here’s a few things to consider:

  1. 1.   What’s it worth?

If you’re considering selling online, do your research. Before listing your object, search for it as if you were a buyer. See what similar items are selling for.

  1. 2.   What are you worth?

What’s your hourly rate? Seriously!

Think about how much time it’s going to take you to sell your stuff, including all the tasks I’ve listed above, multiply that by your minimum acceptable hourly rate and you’ve got a target for the amount of money you want to make. Now take a look at your goods and estimate whether you’re realistically going to make that much profit. (Don’t forget, a car boot/yard/garage sale, will charge a fee for your stall and, for online selling, you’ll pay fees to the listing site – even if your item doesn’t sell – and to PayPal).

  1. 3.   Don’t flog a dead horse

You know that unsold stuff that you brought back from your last car boot/yard/garage sale? Don’t hang onto it for your next car boot sale. If it didn’t sell the first time, the chances are it won’t sell the next time. So, not only will it be cluttering up your home in the meantime, the law of diminishing returns means you’re reducing the amount of money you’re likely to make.

Which leads me onto…

  1. 4.   Decide in advance what you’ll do with the leftovers

I’ve often heard people say, “I’ll call by a charity shop/thrift store on the way back and give them anything that hasn’t sold”. Is that fair? If you couldn’t sell the stuff, how likely are they to be able to? Charity shops/thrift stores have to be discriminating about what they keep. Storing stuff that’s unlikely to sell means they can’t take stuff that’s more likely to bring in money, so they throw a lot away, which can cost them money in waste disposal fees.

They can use any textiles though as they can sell them on for recycling, so don’t be afraid to donate unsold clothes and linen.

  1.  5.   Watch the weather

Don’t do a car boot/yard/garage sale on a day of dodgy weather. On wet days, you’ll get fewer customers and your stuff might get spoiled. Unless you’re confident it’s going to be a fine day, be prepared to reschedule. (Which means being ready to change your plans at short notice and put up with the stuff cluttering up your home for longer).

  1. 6.   Have you got enough stuff?

It’s rarely worth doing a car boot/yard/garage sale to get rid of one boxful of stuff. If most of your stuff is low value, you need your car to be packed. (Though make sure you can see out of the back window when you’re driving!)

Sharing a stall with a friend can make it more worthwhile. You halve the stallholder’s fee and you’ve got company for the day (including someone to watch the stall while you nip to the loo!)

  1. 7.   Have you got enough high value stuff?

As a rule of thumb, I wouldn’t do a car boot/yard/garage sale unless I had a few items that I expect to get double figures for. You have to sell a lot of items at a quid/dollar here and there to make it worth your time.

  1. 8.   Don’t spend your profit

Once you’ve sold a few items, your takings may start burning a hole in your pockets. If car boot/garage/yard sales are your weakness, don’t be tempted to go shopping. Remember, you’re there to convert unwanted stuff into cash, not the other way around.


So take another look at that pile of stuff you’re thinking of selling. Is it realistically worth it? Especially if you’ve got a big clutter-clearing task on your hands, might it be quicker, simpler and easier to give your unwanted goods away, whether that’s to a charity shop/thrift store, via Freegle or simply by putting it outside (on a fine day) for others to take?

You never know, a BinOracle might be passing…

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