8 Key Steps to Bust the Tyranny of “Stuff and Things” — and Turn Them into Cash

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George Ure and Gaye Levy, Contributors
Activist Post

George’s son (G3 we call him around here) came down to the ranch in East Texas recently and showed his dad “the ropes” for going through a year’s long collection of “stuff and things” and turning them in to cash.

Although most of us tend to have more “things” than we need, there is often a temptation to hang onto things well beyond their naturally depleted usefulness.  A quick survey of what goes into people’s rental storage units is a fine example.  Often, the goods stored in these rental units – or perhaps the deep bowels of your basement – will never be used again and will eventually be auctioned off when the person who owns them gets sick and tired, or simply unable to pay the $100 or $200 a month it costs to hang on to to useless crap.

In George’s case it was not exactly useless crap, but he had (and still does have) more radio equipment than most anyone (short of an infantry group) would need for emergency communications.  So what the younger George did is outline, then implement, an amazingly simple system for getting rid of the excess stuff, using as much automation as possible to accomplish the various steps.

Using eBay as the sales outlet of choice, today we outline those steps so that you, too, can clear the clutter and raise some cash.

Full disclaimer: Gaye has done a lot of eBaying (both buying and selling) through the years and is pretty darn good at it, but George hasn’t been too thrilled about getting involved, since he didn’t have his arms fully around the process involved.

So with that in mind, let’s get started.

Step One: Collection

This part is easy.  Gather all of the goods to be sold and bring them in to one central location.  The reason we do this is to make dealing with a large number of items convenient and fast.  The hardest part is making the decision to get rid of all that stuff, but when you see what a big pile of things it is, it is easy to get excited about the prospect of selling it for a lot of cash.

As part of the collection process, make any necessary repairs and blow off that coat of dust.

Remember, the cleaner it looks, the better it will sell.

Step Two: Box Collecting

The second step involves measuring the various items you wish to sell so that you can gather up suitable packaging.  You will need to find boxes, along with plenty of packing material and lots of packing tape.  Hint: you are likely to use a lot more than you plan to.

As G3 demonstrated to his dad, he took a simple clipboard which became his first “data entry” device during this busting the tyranny adventure.

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In the photo above, you can see that he figured out in advance how big the boxes would have to be.  His preference for shipping is the US Postal Service, which has an amazingly good integration with eBay on its seller side.  Plus, USPS priority mail boxes are 100% free and can be ordered online and delivered right to your doorstep.  Another advantage is that they have a variety of boxes that are considered “flat rate” which means you pay one price to mail it, regardless of the weight of the items inside.

So to make things easy, G3 picked standard flat-rate boxes for everything he could.  For everything else he picked up a few necessarily larger boxes at Office Depot.  Now here is the deal.  Boxes are expensive if you have to buy them.  Instead, you should keep a nice variety on hand.  You know the kind:  the one’s that hold all of your Amazon goodies.  The same thing applies to packing materials.  Repurpose packing materials that come with your own inbound orders so that you have them ready to use when you plan to do some eBaying.

All of that said, if you do need to purchase some supplies, be sure to include some packing costs in your listing (we’ll get there in a sec) otherwise the shipping costs will eat you alive.

Step Three: Write Clever Descriptions

This one is obvious:  people buy with their eyes, but you want to hook them and get the rest of the sales loop closed with an entertaining description.

Being a quirky journalist, George was able to come up with some descriptions that really “told a story” and resulted in his equipment going for, in his not so humble estimation, some very good prices.

Here’s how one started – which we’ll share because it told a story and got people watching his listings:

Hi – thanks for dropping by.  Pretend it’s late at night and we’re talking on the low end of ’75 and you ask ‘Wow – good signal, you say that’s a Heathkit HW-101?  Where did you come up with one of those?’  I tell you I picked it up from a buddy of mine in Palestine, TX who said ‘George, you can have it for $100 bucks…’ Since I hadn’t been to the liquor store yet, I bought it and immediately took it home. Surprise! No RIT for nets and although I knew that was the case, I’d always wanted to dink around with a Hot Water 101. Honestly, compared to some rigs it really is a nice rig. BUT: No DSP, no offset tuning, no memories, no A=B VFO button…you know, just solid EMP resistant ham gear. …

That radio, BTW, sold for $162 which is not a bad turn on a $100 bill.  George mentioned later that he put an hour of labor and about $10 in parts into it.

So the moral of the story is this:  Write a clever description for each item you plan to list.  It’s easy to do it this way since it separates the “creative” part from the “process” part.

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Step 4: Photos, Listing, and Boxing

There are now six steps that each item being sold is put through:

1.  You go out to your “selling pile” and select one item.
2.  Clean it up with some Windex or your favorite homemade household cleaner.
3.  Take several good pictures of it. Gaye and G3’s advice here is important: “People buy first with their eyes.” Then they read the description for details and entertainment – all with the intent of hoping to justify the buying decision.
4.  Place the item in its box and unless you are using flat-rate boxes, weigh it.  You can purchase inexpensive but effective shipping scales for very little money.  Gaye uses this one and it works perfectly:  Weighmax 75LB shipping scale.
5.  Put the pictures on eBay along with the description and  the shipping costs.  It is important that you do not under estimate shipping (thus the scale).  One concern to keep in mind is that if the shipping is too high, the price of the item will be cost prohibitive.  That is why flat-rate boxes are so nice – plus with flat-rate boxes you can skip the weighing step.
6.  As each item is listed, put a Post-It note on the box so you know what it is and how much it weighs.

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In the example above, the package weight and the name of the item is recorded for future reference.

Step 5: Wait for Winning Bids to Come In

With any luck, you’ll have a pile of boxes in the garage or spare workspace which will look something like this:

6778920979 87a77f789f Using eBay to Bust the Tyranny of Things
Occasionally, someone will ask a question about the items you’re selling.  Be sure to answer promptly, but if you don’t know the answer, apologize and advise them that the item is already boxed and ready for shipping.

Step 6: Apply Shipping Labels

Your eBay seller page will advise you of the winning bids.  One thing to be careful of here: sometimes you will see the $$ sign – indicating that something has been paid, but double check your PayPal account for funds, since sometimes the money will not be in your account right away.  An example of delayed payments is when the buyer pays with an e-check.  That method of payment can take three days and occasionally longer to clear; you don’t want to ship until the money is in your hot little mitts.

Once you confirm that the money is in your account, you can print your shipping label directly from eBay.  The label and postage on the label will be dated so make sure you take the items to the post office on the same day you put on the printed labels.  This is important, because eBay will send a confirmation to the buyer telling him or her when their item will ship.

Step 7: Relax and Track

Once you have the packages delivered to the local post office, life gets easy. All you’ll have left over should be a pile of tracking receipts – which have tracking numbers already done – since the Post Office/eBay integration is extremely smooth.

6778921091 cece2c00ff Using eBay to Bust the Tyranny of Things
It helps to put the name of the item on each of the tracking receipts so that you can quickly put your hands on any required information if issues arise during shipping.  We like to opt for “signature required” on items selling for over $150 and insurance added depending on value and how fragile an item is.

Step 8: Pay eBay

The one thing you don’t want to be caught unaware of is that eBay will invoice you for their fees. They will bill you for whatever those are (about $350 on $2,980 worth of goods in George’s case) but in the event of a non-paying buyer, you can contest the fee.  Ebay has a pretty straightforward process for handling these types of problems so do not hesitate to use them.

For example, George has one item, that as of press time, has not been paid for.  It was a big-ticket item ($750) so he will appeal the fee when the invoice comes (provided, of course, that the  seller has not paid by that time).

To Wrap it All Up

All in all, selling your no longer used treasures on eBay, or even locally on Craigslist, is a great way to turn them into cash.  You would be amazed at the stuff people buy!  And given the opportunity to make a few bucks and to de-clutter, we cannot think of a good reason why people should have storage unit full of excess stuff generating charges month after month.

For us, storing stuff is out.  On the other hand, storing money for a rainy day is much more our akin to what we do, and is part of the Strategic Living lifestyle: Minimize Cash Outgo and Maximize Cash Inflow.

A couple of additional points:  Once you understand the process, it is easy to monitor and assign the task of selling your stuff to a teenager or other family member.  In this case, George was able to pay his son a 20% commission on the gross proceeds.  Also, if you are unemployed and looking for a way to make some money, being an “eBay consultant” might be a way to pick up some spare change, so long as you don’t mind waiting a week to 10-days for the underlying transactions to settle.  Just a thought.

Hang on and enjoy the ride…

Introducing Strategic-Living: a practical and useful online magazine providing inspiration and guidance as we make our way through the maze of changes that are coming our way. In collaboration with my friend and colleague, George Ure, Strategic-Living will offer a synthesis of Urban Survival and Backdoor Survival with much more detailed tips, tools and strategies for creating a vibrant and sustainable lifestyle wherever your path may take you. Think of Urban Survival and Backdoor Survival as your roadmap and Strategic-Living as your detailed guidebook. Here you will find articles and photos, diagrams and how-to’s, and a healthy dose get-out-there and do it with kick-in-the-ass inspiration.

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