Our Cross-Country Move: 10 Tips to Sell Everything You Own and Avoid a (Traditional) Yard Sale
It's been a zany few weeks as Gus and I completed our pretty epic cross-country move from California to North Carolina. In the process, we did a few unorthodox things and picked up savvy tips along the way that would benefit anyone in an upcoming move or spring cleaning.
In our situation, the cost of moving everything, especially our furniture, would have dramatically outweighed the cost of replacing items later this fall when we have our own place. We're living at home with my dad for now so paying a fortune to move IKEA everything, then pay more to store it til we have a place later made absolutely no sense. So basically, all we kept was our favorite clothes, our favorite DVDs and books, all our kitchen serve ware and small appliances (since they were nearly all wedding gifts that had sentimental meaning for us) and sold EVERYTHING else. If it couldn't fit in a box via UPS, we didn't take it.
And so here's what we learned in the process of parting with so much so quickly. We hope this is helpful to you too. Leave your favorite tips in the comments for others to enjoy!
1. It's all about timing- start early and leave some buffer room.
Gus and I began the process of photographing our items and posting to Craigslist about 6-7 weeks before we left LA. If you have a finite leave date, make sure you leave time to account for the flakey flake monsters that troll Craigslist and leave you hanging. Some of our items went the same day, but most took several weeks of back and forth.
We only had one item (our 40" TV) that really created some stress on our last days, and that's because we decided to list it with only 2 weeks left, leaving us with less room to negotiate. The more time you have, the better the price you can get because you aren't desperate to get it off your hands.
We sold our couch about a month before we left because we had a buyer the same day we posted it. We were able to live without out because we swapped in our two twin mattresses from our daybed and made a makeshift little couch. This way, we got a good price on the couch and creatively survived in the aftermath.
2. Take great photos, and a lot of 'em.
Whether you do only Craigslist or use some of my other tips below for selling, make sure that you take fabulous photos of your stuff. You'd be surprised what you can sell if you have good photos of something, especially if you represent multiple angles. Make sure the background is de-cluttered for the furniture and everything looks homey. Take pictures during the day with natural light.
For lamps on down to smaller items, while we were already doing a white seamless shoot, Gus and I went ahead and photographed anything we might consider parting with - down to a Ti-83 calculator. Here's a quick, easy tutorial on how to make an inexpensive white seamless background.
3. You're about to sell to a bunch of rando people - time to get a secret (email) identity.
One of the biggest ickies of Craigslist is dealing with what I call "The People of Craigslist." You never know who might walk through your door or have your cell number, so keep things more secure by getting an email address solely for your move or de-cluttering sale (and later, you can delete the entire account too!).
We used Gmail to create our generic move email address. Through Gmail's settings, we then linked my email to it so I could send and receive emails as the generic account holder. This is great because it allows you to sign the emails you send however you like- sometimes I'd pretend to be Gus, for example, if I was concerned about a potential Craigslist buyer.
4. Keep up the privacy on Craigslist, too.
Start a brand new craigslist account with your new generic move email address - the more separate you can keep this from your personal stuff, the better.
When you secure a buyer, only give your cross-streets or a nearby address if the item is small enough to carry out to someone's car. I also only gave out Gus's phone number and made sure to mention that my husband Gus would bring the item out or help the person with it. If you wanted to take it a step further, you could use fake names but that seemed like way too much work to keep straight for us.
5. Discourage the Craigslist crazy with one simple phrase.
From my past interactions and non-scientific research on Craigslist, I've noticed that people who insist on shouting at you in emails in all CAPS that you should "txt them ASAP" are generally bad news bears and not people that I'd want coming near our home. To try and filter out some of the crazy, I added the following line to all my CL posts:
"Priority will be given to those who are happy to converse via email."
Sounds weird, but it does two things- 1) it implies that there are already buyers (which isn't necessarily true) and 2) it forces people to actually talk/show themselves to be a normal human being, someone that we wouldn't be uncomfortable in our home for a few minutes. We definitely ended up with a few strange people, but no one that I'd call dangerous, so I definitely recommend it. Might have cost us some buyers but we sold pretty much everything at a good price regardless.
6. Host a Virtual (and anonymous!) Yard Sale.
Okay, so when we moved LA was hotter than ever. There was no way we were about to sit outside on the curb and haggle with people over our wares. Instead, we did a VIRTUAL Yard Sale using a Flickr photo album.
On the privacy theme, we used that same generic move email address to start a Flickr account. We made a Flickr set and filled it with all the nice pictures we had taken and in the title of the image, we put the name of the item and the current price. On the description for the set, I wrote our generic move email address as the contact for interest. As items were sold, we simply deleted the image to remove it.
This virtual yard sale was an excellent way to sell the smaller, rando stuff like the calculator or our trash cans.
7. Get the word about the Virtual Yard Sale to Craigslist.
Craigslist has filters for putting in hyperlinks, so instead - list in every item post that you are selling any other items including furniture. Tell Craigslist buyers to reply and you'll send them the link to the Flickr set with the full sale.
8. Share the Virtual Yard Sale with friends too.
Make sure to post the link to the Flickr set to your Facebook page and to send it to friends who might be interested. It's easy to forward and that much greater because it's linked to a generic email account which you can choose to reply to or not.
9. Raid the random pile.
You'd be surprised what you can sell easily. The Flickr set makes it easy to post all the random stuff you may have lying around. We had many friends and even Craigslist people buy multiple things (I'll take the lamp, the trash can, and the dumbbells) because they saw them all available on the Flickr set. This was so much easier than doing individual posts.
I estimate we made about $500 off of items that could easily be considered "random" that we priced pretty low - everything from old side tables, our bedside lamps, even a blue vase. The items that surprised me the most were my earrings- I sold 3 sets of earrings that I was tired of for about $10 total, and they went to a friend. I had like 3 people try to buy them from me in 20 minutes! Who knew right?
10. Don't try to sell absolutely everything.
Firstly, we donated at least four car loads of good stuff because we believe in donating too. Most of why we sold our furniture, etc. is so we can afford to furnish an apartment here in NC but we wanted to make sure we gave back too.
It's also worth noting that while we could live without the couch, we couldn't live without somewhere to sit or our table. We downgraded to a card table, my office chair, and a bench til the bitter end but those things kept us sane. And we kept our television to the last two days too. An iPad is fine and all, but we probably would have totally lost it had we sold our TV any sooner.
Now, here's your turn. Any gems of wisdom? We'd love to hear em - though we are definitely not moving this far anytime soon!