If you are an expat or diplomat who moves every 2-3 years, the dreaded question before the end of each posting is “How do I get rid of things that I can’t bring to my next destination?” Below are some tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way. This can be a really stressful and confusing time, so I hope you will find it useful or that at least it gives you a place to start.
This also applies to people who want to massively and speedily declutter!
Traditionally a physical garage sale is the way to go. But that’s not recommended during the pandemic! I also don’t recommend physical garage sales if you want to get a better price for higher-end items. Here in Manila, Garage sales are okay if you are willing to sell them at rock bottom prices because usually, it’s household staff that comes to buy.
I love doing online garage sales because you can upload things one by one and it doesn’t require inviting many people and an entire day to do it. And you can reach more people on the internet. Here is how:
- Look for websites, classifieds or mailing lists that people (especially expats) view to sell or buy secondhand stuff, like the eBay Kleinanzeigen in Berlin (I found it better than craigslist, but craigslist might be better in other cities), Carousell in Manila and the Uppercrust Classifieds during the years that I was in Jakarta (you need to sign up for their mailinglist).
- Join high-quality Facebook groups that specifically cater to your locale like DeclutterMNL and MFAC. There are bigger groups but I always prefer to join high quality groups so I don’t end up with time wasters or joybidders.
- For those who aren’t on social networks, you can upload an album of photos on Dropbox or any other cloud, then email links to friends and ask them to forward it to their friends. *You may also upload on a public album on FB or Google+ BUT… and it’s a big but… Always consider privacy and personal safety before doing this. You don’t want to announce your contact details and contents of your home to potential robbers.
- Take bright and clear photos under natural light with a white background – a white couch or a white shawl/bedsheet on a table beside a window will do. You don’t need an expensive SLR camera to do this. An iPhone or good compact camera will do. The important thing is to take the photo in natural light so it doesn’t look yellow or blue which happens in artificial light. Turn off all warm lighting while doing this. If you have a ring light, you can use this too, so that the item has lights from 2 angles and less dark shados.
- Take and upload at least 4 photos of the item – Top, bottom, front and back. The more photos you upload, the more likely you can sell your item. If you have the original box, make sure to post this too. And a close up photo of the instructions and another for the technical specificiations, like the model, watts, voltage, etc.
- Always edit your photos using your phone or editing apps – my favorite are iPhone photo editing app, Foodie & Lightroom – to crop, straighten, brighten, lessen the shadows, lessen warmth and bring out the colors closest to the actual item. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. It makes a difference whether you sell it within a few hours or not at all. When you see lovely photos online, it’s because the photographers did not skip this step. No respectable photographer uploads photos before “developing them.”
- Price your item well and also indicate the original price you purchased it for, and when you purchased it. I usually just go with 50% of my purchase price. If I cannot remember the price or if it was a long time ago, I google and check the prices of similar items online then just go with 50% of the lowest price that I find. People expect a good deal when they are buying online. If you price to high, nobody will be intrested.
- Indicate why you are selling it or RFS (Reason For Selling) i.e. moving to another country, size outgrown, etc. as this builds trust from your buyer.
- Clearly describe the item’s flaws or signs of wear. Even better, take a picture of any damage or worn out spots. So they know what they are buying. Use the most accurate wording to describe like:
- As new / never been used
- Mint condition
- Used but in good working condition
- Needs x part replaced
- EUC or Excellent Used Condition
- VGUC or Very Good Used Condition
- GUC or Good Used Condition
- If you are still using the item and would like to let go right before your departure for convenience, then be sure to say “available for pick up on [INSERT DATE]”
- “SOLD AS IS, WHERE IS” means that the buyer needs to bring enough manpower to dismantle/pick up the item and must check the item before buying as there is no return. This is especially helpful with bigger items (i.e. sofa set) so that the buyer knows that they have to arrange for people and transport.
- You can also write “private sale, no guarantee or warranties”
- If you are not comfortable having strangers over at your place, you can also arranged for a meet up instead. “Pick up possible at [insert name] coffee shop, bus stop, etc.”
- Or if meeting people is inconvenient because you are pressed for time, have a baby, etc. then send the item to them by courier instead. Include the shipping cost and area you are willing to ship to. Or to make it more attractive you can also make it “FREE SHIPPING WITHING METRO MANILA” if you have a driver.
- Get paid. On DeclutterMNL we require that buyers pay within 48hrs of commenting sold/mine, or else the item automatically goes to the person who sold next. Each group has different rules. For online purchases that you will post, set up a Paypal, Gcash or local bank account so buyers can pay you. In Europe it’s easy to do direct bank transfers using IBAN. You can also download your bank’s mobile app and enable money transfer to other accounts.
- Pack items well with scrunched up used paper or used brown paperbags so that they don’t get damaged in transit. I usually try to use the least amount of tape or paper tape if I need to. Whenever possible I just tie them up with reused ribbons. Do not overdo it with tape and bubble wrap. If the items breakable, it’s best to place it in a thick carton, surrounded by fluffy scrunched up paper. I only reuse whatever packaging I receive from online shopping.
- Here in Manila, buyers usually arrange if they want to receive something via same day delivery services like Lalamove, Grab or Mr. Speedy. Or if the buyer is on a budget, I use Fastrack.
- EXTRA STEP: I always track to check that the package was successfully delivered to the person. On Fastrack I use their website to print my waybills and it’s easy to check the status of the package. In Germany, I used DHL of course.
USE GRAPHICS TO MAKE SELLING EASIER
I’ve made these graphics available on DeclutterMNL so that anyone can use them to make decluttering transactions easier! Feel free to copy and use!
Or if you are the one purchasing, I like to make a graphic with my shipping address so I don’t have to type it every single time I make a purchase. Here are some sample templates:
Then you can add your own text by using any text/font app like:
WHAT IF I DON’T WANT TO SELL?
There is another Facebook group here in Manila that you can post your stuff in if you are willing to give your stuff away for free. BUHAY ZERO WASTE PRELOVED is an online dumpster diving platform where people post things and other people who need your stuff for upcycling, etc. will collect the items from you! It’s very convenient!
Just like DeclutterMNL you need to strictly follow their required format. This makes for fast and convenient transactions, therefore speedy decluttering too!
I’ve done many garage sales over the past decade – from 6.5 years of living abroad and also doing estate sales for my clients – and before you need to sell your things, you can help yourself by keeping in mind a few things that have helped me lessen the things I need to dispose of.
Start with only buying things that you truly find beautiful and useful. This minimizes buyers remorse and the stuff you need to get rid off.
I know it’s tedious and easy to put-off till next year but grin and bear the annual spring cleaning and you will be thankful for having less things to sort and sell, when it’s time to leave.
Don’t let things pile up in your garage, storage, kelle, guestroom, or under the bed. A good rule to follow is that if I don’t use something for a year, I pass it on to someone who will make more use of it – use good judgement on whether to sell, donate, recycle or throw.
This also applies to items that in perfect condition. Don’t hold on to something just because it works or looks new – hold on to things because they truly spark joy.