Have you ever tried selling your unused clutter? I finally joined the modern age and tried to sell on Facebook.
Our house is full of clutter. There, I’ve said it. We’ve been here nearly 20 years, and I obviously have problems throwing things away. Since discovering FIRE, I have taken the first step. I stopped bringing things into the house. I’ve said no to freebies. I place items that I’ve felt obligated to accept, straight into a box to give to charity. Before buying items, I consider how useful they will be. I think carefully how often we would realistically use them. It’s not fun to take a long hard look at yourself, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Still, this doesn’t help with the matter of clutter that we’ve already accumulated. I’m not about to go all Marie Kondo or Fritz from Retirement Manifesto* on everything we own, but it’s time to grow up and tackle it. I love the look of clean, clear spaces. I feel comfortable when everything has a place. Just like investing, I need to put the emotion aside and clear that stuff!
*Fritz had 30 years of stuff to downsize in 24 hours after selling his home in 7 days. I’m seriously in awe of his energy and dedication to their goal.
Why Don’t I Want To Sell on Facebook?
I’ve been meaning to begin selling clutter for 7 months now. I don’t know why, but I really resisted doing it (passive resistance, like I know I should, but I don’t want to). I was scared, and I’m still trying to figure out what was holding me back. It’s easy for me to take a photo. I’m a blogger so writing a quality description is a matter of a few minutes. People have ads all over Facebook groups, and quite frankly a lot of them are all but useless – yet things still sell! Thanks to Google I can quickly find the new price for items, and prices for what the second-hand market is selling it for. Even then, I’m not really doing it for the money – I just want to get it out of the house.
I have a relative who has been side hustling like this for easily over a decade – before I even knew what a side hustle was. She started by selling baby stuff she owned on eBay, then would buy from all sorts of sources and sell on eBay and at local markets. These days she still buys things to sell, but it’s usually thorough Facebook groups. After talking to her, I realised that the worst that could happen is that the item doesn’t sell and I give it away! We’d already planned to give away whatever doesn’t sell, so it’s certainly no loss if someone talks me down on price or no-one buys anything.
Is it a fear of failure? I know that I don’t like sales or selling in any way, shape or form. But maybe I am doing someone else a favour by giving them something that they really want, cheaply. Is it because I will need to conduct a transaction in person, face-to-face? I’ll have to hand over the goods and accept cash from them? It is a bit of this. I was not looking forward to organising when people come and pick stuff up.
I started by taking a weekend to clean up three items, and photograph them. At the time I still had my 2G Nokia, so I took the photographs with a real camera. I can see how much faster and easier it would be to take a photo on your phone and list it directly. When I downloaded the photos, the only work they needed was cropping. I actually began to get a bit excited when I was crafting the advertisements during the week. It’s pleasing to see it all come together in a final, quality product. I gave a detailed description, including measurements. I also tried to anticipate any questions people would have, and answer them in my ad copy.
The First Sale?
First thing Saturday morning I listed a dog bed, a cat toy, and a cast iron candelabra. I sold the dog bed within 45 minutes, with interest from a second person. I was a little excited – after all, this is a sizeable item that is taking up a lot of room. The buyer asked if they could pick it up on Thursday night. She asked me to Facebook message her the night before to make sure it was all still OK. I did this and… she didn’t show. She sent me a message saying she forgot (really?) and asking whether she could pick it up the next day in the afternoon. This is despite my ad saying pickup after 6pm weeknights.
Anyway, the next day turned out to be a day off work for me, so I set the time between 5-6pm. I then got a message at 3:50 asking if it was OK for her to come and pick it up now. Sigh. Yes, sure. As soon as I answered back she said great – once my partner gets home from work, I’ll be around. What? What?! Can I come now, but not now, now. You know. Now soon-ish. This is probably why I was hesitant to start this process in the first place. People. Ugh. I wasn’t surprised, though. I had seen enough Facebook ads with “no time-wasters” or “third time listed due to no-shows”. Well, she did finally show at about 6pm.
The transaction then was really easy. I gave her the bed, she gave me $30. Woohoo! That means $15 for Acorns and $15 for Ratesetter. Conservatively, that money will have doubled by the time I get to retirement. Thanks, Facebook Garage Sales.
The cat toy and candelabra had no interest at all. I sat on them for the day, then the next day I deleted and re-listed (I don’t know if that is what you should or are allowed to do?) Later that day I then duplicated the listings in three other local groups. Facebook makes it very easy to do this. I just check in each morning and evening to see if there is any change. There really wasn’t anything, then the cat toy got a “like” on one of the sites. I’m not sure what that means – maybe the person is sort of interested? (I later found out that it’s a way of them following any activity on that item – if they like it, they will be notified of any changes.)
I decided to leave them for a week, then re-list again. In week three I dropped the price on two of the items. This stuff has been hanging around for literally years (our dogs passed away 5 years ago now), so I’m not in any real rush to have it sold. I do need to set a final not sold out-the-door date so they don’t hang around for another 5 years. One month should be long enough.
A Second Round
The next weekend I added 5 listings for suitcases we’d had forever. I listed one for $30, and I received a message asking whether I would accept $20. I replied back that I would and requested that the buyer comment “sold as discussed” on the public listing, while also questioning when the buyer would like to arrange to pick it up. She asked what location the item was at (despite having my suburb twice in the listing). After I replied, silence. I let her know that I was only happy to give out the exact address once I’d formally sold the item and arranged a pick-up date. I never heard back. Maybe I was being too formal? Or maybe it was my suburb. There’s a local joke that changes part of our suburb’s name to include the word “crime”…
I also received a message on a Friday night while I was at roleplaying, asking if someone could pick up the cat toy. Unfortunately I was out, and they weren’t able to make it at any other time. Due to their circumstances I actually offered to drop it off, but they weren’t local. That’s OK, we tried.
Bits of interest kept appearing. Someone would like my post. Someone would write “interested”. There seems to be a few definitions of why people comment this way. I decided that the definition from The Simple Dollar made the most sense – ““Interested” is essentially a placeholder, giving you a certain amount of time to ask the seller questions, see whether your spouse likes the item, or do some research on the purchase.” I’m not sure what I should do to encourage these people to close, if anything at all.
My second sale came as I was about to remove the suitcase listings. It was all straightforward and we arranged for the person to come and pick it up on Sunday before 11am. After learning from my first experience, I asked the buyer to send a FB message when they were leaving. It hit 11am and… nothing. I sent a message asking if they were still interested. 3 hours later I got a reply that they were, and were leaving now.
The third pickup was to occur on Sunday at 6pm. Essentially repeat the story above, but move the pickup to Monday night. Then Monday night became Tuesday. Again, I was the one chasing the buyer.
I find it really frustrating. Mr. ETT observed that we both see it as a point of pride to follow-up anything that we have said we will do. It’s obvious others don’t place the same level of importance on this. I also don’t care if they don’t want it or circumstances change. All I’m expecting is the courtesy of letting me know that they won’t be coming when they said they would.
I also wonder if it is the platform. There’s no consequence for being unreliable. No feedback. As a matter of fact, it really is buyer (and seller) beware. I guess in a way it is like the stock market. There are different levels of risk, and you have to decide whether the reward (money in the case of a seller) is worth the risk (inconvenience). For buyers, it’s whether the reward of cheap goods is worth the risk of being ripped off.
While I moan and groan, my total sales to date have been $55. That’s gone straight to Acorns/Ratesetter. I’ve also managed to clear some sizeable clutter, and I have found myself eyeballing items in each room. Can we get rid of that? What’s that worth?
Will I Continue to Sell on Facebook?
I applied to join 2 more local groups, but haven’t heard anything. Perhaps the admins aren’t very active (which I understand, I know I’m not). Also, I have my Facebook profile locked down so tightly with as little real personal information as possible, maybe I don’t seem trustworthy! Will I keep selling on Facebook? Yes. I don’t think I will ever be very comfortable doing it, but I know that discomfort is good for me. It really takes very little effort to list, and check in a couple of times a day. The effort comes when an item has been sold, but I guess that’s what I’m getting paid for. I may even investigate Gumtree as a second option. I know this will never interest me as a side hustle, though.
What’s your experience selling second-hand stuff? Are my expectations of behaviour too high? Any tips?