Why eBay can be a declutterer’s downfall

That jacket. The one you got in the clearance sale. The colour was never quite right and it was a bit tight on the sleeve but it was a total bargain. Designer jacket for that price! So of course it has spent a long and lonely life in the back of your wardrobe. It did see the light of day briefly 5 years ago when you moved house. And… no come to think of it you never did wear it out. You should have got rid of it years ago.

No, you say. I’ll sell it. It must be worth loads by now. I’ll make the money back.

Really? You think?

Why you won’t get the money back

Sorry to burst your bubble but you’ll never get that money back. It’s sunk economics. The second you handed over the cash/swiped/clicked, then vamoose, the money was gone. You can’t get it back.

That jacket, it’s not a key asset, it isn’t a property or a well-known vintage wine. It isn’t appreciating in value as it was mass-produced. It’s just festering in your wardrobe taking up space.  Look at it like a meal out or a holiday – once you’ve signed the money away, you can’t cash it in at a later date.

False hope dressed as eBay

Ahh, you say triumphantly, but what about eBay! I’ll make some cash on there. That jacket of mine may even start a bidding war.

False hope we say.

Sites like eBay are one of the problems. There’s a proliferation of second hand good sites and while they’re great if you’re looking to buy a sofa on the cheap, if you’re trying to sell it’s easy to delude yourself that because YOU paid lots for it, others will too.  Auctioneer valuers will tell you that no matter what retail price you paid for it, the true value of most of our purchases is about 25% of the paid price and that is especially true with jewellery. Put yourself firmly in the buyer’s seat and check recent sold prices on eBay (hint: click on the advanced search and check the ‘sold listings’ box.  Sold prices appear in green only.)

Is selling worth the effort? 

It’s such a hassle.

All that photographing it, does it look classy on that background, should you use a filter, how many angles do you include, researching a price, putting it on hold for 2 weeks because you can’t find your eBay password, eventually posting it, answering loads of questions about info you already included in the description… only to find it sells for £16. So you realise you don’t have any brown paper, spend £1.99 on a jiffy bag in corner shop plus £2.29 on parcel tape because that’s gone missing too, you package the thing up (after giving the coat some TLC because you’ve just realised it’s covered in dust), you trek to the post office, stand in a queue for what feels like 10 hours… all for the princely sum of £16 (minus the above purchases). Seriously? Not exactly a get rich quick scheme, is it?

And because you know this is going to happen, because you’ve been here before, you put it away for a rainy day. You know – that day when you’ll have loads of time for projects like eBay selling, doing photo albums and decluttering your inbox. The one which never arrives. So it sits there until you move house, when you end up shoving it at the nearest charity shop anyway. Yep, definitely worth having clogged up your wardrobe for 10 years.

Is selling distracting you from the important stuff?

So. Before you embark on this long process, weigh up the time-versus-energy component here. How much do you get paid? How badly do you need even just this little amount of cash? And is this a priority in your life right now?

For instance, I am working with divorcing clients who were spending way more time trying to sell their not-worth-much goods than on the important stuff like filling in their Form E. Which is why trying to eBay things when you’re recently bereaved or divorcing is not always the big idea. It’s an unrealistic distraction.

Remember, no matter how much you spent on it, that item is only worth as much as someone else will pay. Often, it’s better to cut your losses. Gift or donate it, feel good about that and move on.

Sarah Macnaught is an internationally recognised and accredited Professional Organiser based in London.  For any advice about your belongings, contact sarah@right-size.co.uk

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