How to sell your closet on eBay

| On
Tuesday, April 12, 2016

My love of (and addition to) eBay started in high school (I was an early adopter, what can I say), and to say that I'm an expert at liquidating my closet assets would be an understatement. Learning to use eBay helped me to refine my style, allowing me to make extra cash selling off things I no longer wore and providing an endless, affordable source of designer pieces. 

Because I've been buying and selling on eBay for so long, I've been able to get the steps to selling down to a science so the time required is minimal. (It helped that business process re-engineering is part of my real job description...) 

A couple weeks ago, I spent a Sunday afternoon cleaning out my closet and posting items I no longer used to eBay, and made ~$650 off the time spent to prep, photograph, package and ship - that's about $433 / hour for those who've asked whether it's really worth the time. For me, the satisfaction of sending off my unwanted items and reinvesting the earnings into a designer piece I've been wanted is motivating. It also fits my no new things challenge quite nicely!

After posting about my recent eBay sale to Instagram, I had a few requests to share my tips for selling. To make it as easy as possible, I decided to make my tips a step-by-step guide that you can print and reference:

The only thing I ask for in return is for you to share what you bought with all your earnings! 

I've also outlined a few of my best practices (er, trade secrets?) for eBay selling below. (These are not listed in the downloadable guide because they sound crazy, and because I want to reward the 40 of you who read these posts in their entirety.)

#1 Figure out a margin that's worth your time

This one took a lot of careful thought, consideration and analysis for me, but typically I like to stick to high-margin inventory. On eBay, I consider a $40 or $50 margin on an item to be high. Finding a margin that works for you helps to filter what you choose to sell, determines what shipping and handling costs you want to bake into your post, and increases your revenue per hour. If I'm doing a larger sale, I'll go with lower margin items because of the economies of scale cost advantages (time to prep, photograph, ship, etc. goes down because I'm already doing it for the high-margin items).

#2 Be strategic in your preparation and shipping steps

Over time, I learned to do all of my preparation (cleaning, photographing) and posting at the same time, and scheduled all of my posts for the same duration (7 days) with a disclaimer that all items would ship at a set time regardless of when they sold or when payment was received. This meant that all of my posts would end on the same day and time frame, and that I could do all packing and shipping at once for one swift USPS drop-off. 

There will always be buyers who pay late or returns to manage, but I simply roll these instances into the next USPS drop cycle. 

#3 Invest the time and money in an at-home mail center

My guide has a link to my postal scale, which was the best $17.99 I ever spent because it helps me to accurately determine shipping costs for items - while eBay has an easy pre-paid shipping label option, it defaults the shipping weight. Adjusting to the accurate weight helps you to better forecast the right shipping and handling. 

Also, I pick up extra shipping supplies every time I go to USPS. You can just walk off with those envelopes and boxes, and my house is filled with them. It makes me feel rather brilliant to walk into my local USPS, breeze past the line holding an armful of pre-paid packages, and drop them all into the package receiving box.

(I will say that I am fortunate to have a 24-hr USPS shipping center in my local organic grocery store that is just a few blocks from my apartment. There have been occasions where I had to stop by at 6 am before my Monday morning flight to do a package drop...)
4 comments on "How to sell your closet on eBay"
  1. Hey Colleen- just a quick hello because I really do read your posts in their entirety and hope you know how much I appreciate your style and general demeanor. Your efficiency and minimalism are a breath of fresh air in the blogs that I read, and I love your style, especially as I'm also frequently traveling and trying to pack light. Please keep up these wonderful posts!

    1. Thank you so much for this very sweet comment - I truly appreciate your thoughts, compliments and encouragement! One of the hardest parts about writing this blog is wondering if the effort is adding any value, so your affirmation is extremely motivating for me!

      Have a great rest of the week!


  2. Hi Colleen, and thank you so much for taking the time to share your tips for selling on eBay! I've been wanting to set up a seller account for years and I'm not even sure about what kept me from taking the final step, but most probably I thought that it would be too time-consuming for the amount of money I'd earn. Or, that I'd have to deal with difficult people all the time. From reading about your experiences, it would seem that I ran out of excuses and now I simply need to go ahead and do it! I am glad to know the advantage of having your own postal scale - that's such a practical and inexpensive tip. I also appreciate you mentioning the designated-day-per-week shipping rule; it makes perfect sense. And, the printable guide is AWESOME and I'm sure more than anyone expected - thank you for going above and beyond!

    Finally, I can only second the above comments. It's your thoughtful, loving, and generous nature that's coming so clearly and consistently through your writing that keeps me coming back.

    1. Ivanka, first and foremost, thank you for reading and all of your comments that you leave on these posts - your feedback is truly encouraging to me, and helps me keep writing from my Marriott hotel rooms hahaha! And having you along on the no new things challenge s keeping me accountable!

      Let me know when you get your seller's account set up - it will be a little more time consuming the first couple of times you do it, but I promise you will end up very satisfied as you watch your PayPal balance grow :)

      Have a great rest of the week!