There’s money to be made selling other people’s unwanted stuff. Today, I’m going to show you exactly how to do it.
So, you’ve read our guide to selling anything online, and you’ve cleaned out your place. You’ve offloaded all your saleable clutter for a decent chunk of change, and you’ve been bitten by the sales bug. You’re ready for the next step.
Here’s how you can graduate from selling your own unwanted stuff, which you most likely paid good money for at some point, to selling other people’s stuff, which you can usually get for absolutely free.
Table of contents
Sell for your family and friends on commission
As with so much in life, the first place you should turn is to your family and friends.
If you live in modern-day America, almost everyone you know has piles of unwanted and potentially saleable goods languishing in their garage, squatting in the basement, or crammed into the attic.
So don’t worry about coming off as money-grubbing when you ask your dear Aunt Peggy if you can sell her antique dressing table for a cut of the profits. You’d be surprised how many people will actually be thrilled that you helped them clear out their homes. If someone isn’t interested, the worst they can do is say no. Some will, and that’s ok.
Ask around to see who has stuff they’d like to offload, and offer to list it online (if you don’t know where or how to do this, read this article). Set terms upfront: agree on an acceptable range for the sale price of each item and your compensation.
I suggest you start with a 20-30% commission on the sale price, plus any fees your selling platform requires, like shipping or transaction fees.
If anyone objects to your rate, explain to them the effort you need to put in to make the sale: You may have to clean the item; take great photographs; list it on the appropriate platform; communicate with potential buyers; and when the time comes, process the transaction.
These are all headaches you are removing from the owner of the item. All they have to do is point, and a week or two later, the clutter turns into cash.
The beauty of this arrangement is that everybody wins – you make money with an investment of only your time; the former owner makes some cash and declutters with almost no effort.
Partner with a junk hauling company
If you get very good at this, you can be a real asset to junk removal businesses. My aunt made up to $800 a week simply listing items on Facebook Marketplace for a local junk hauler on 20% commission. This was on top of her full-time job.
It was a great arrangement – she helped the junkman offload valuable items he’d already been paid to remove from a residence, and he kept her well supplied so she never had to go looking for more stuff to sell.
It’s worth your while to make an offer to partner with a local junk hauler or cleanout service. That’s a good source to consistently access and sell people’s unwanted stuff.
Go university dumpster-diving
It’s absolutely amazing what college students throw out every year. The problem is getting so bad that many universities hire fleets of dumpsters during move out season. Brand new furniture, flatscreen TVS, videogames, dinner sets — they all wind up in the trash.
Beginning in late April, start checking the dumpsters at your local university. Also, go to popular off-campus housing sites. Always dumpster dives safely and ask permission first. Most groundskeepers and maintenance departments will be only too happy to let you take cast-away items off their hands.
Some schools are beginning to organize collections to divert much of this unnecessary waste at the end of each year. The salvaged items are then sold at bargain prices to students moving in the next year. Sometimes these sales are open to the public, so if you miss dumpster diving season, be sure to get a ticket to a bargain sale like this one at Rochester Institute if they occur in your area.
Learn to love suburban garbage day
It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that garbage day in affluent suburbs is an untapped goldmine. My father used to pay for our family beach vacation, sports fees, and even ski club for my brothers and me with profits from perfectly useable stuff he pulled off the side of the road.
Look up the highest tax-assessed suburbs in your area; find out their garbage collection day; then grab a buddy with a truck and go treasure hunting. Air conditioners, furniture, sports equipment, construction materials, appliances, electronics – everything you can imagine is free for the taking at the curb.
A word to the wise: use your discretion with upholstered items. In most affluent areas, you won’t need to worry about bedbugs or other pests, but odors and stains are a universal human condition. I’ve had enough unpleasant experiences with aesthetically sound but otherwise soiled upholstered items that I no longer take the chance.
If you got it free and easy, sell it cheap
The secret to making easy money with this side hustle is to sell stuff cheap. Don’t try to squeeze every last penny out of the items you pick up for free. Even if a piece is worth $50, but you found it on the side of the road, sell it for $35.
You’ll get more offers, make more sales, and wind up placing fewer items back on the curb. At the end of the day, you’re still getting a great deal. The takeaway is to sell people’s unwanted stuff as quickly as you can. There is no need to hold onto it for longer than needed.
Don’t take everything – sometimes trash is really trash
I love selling other people’s junk for profit. But the truth is, most of the time there is a good reason stuff is in the trash.
Whether you’re selling items for a friend or family member, or you’re mining the curbs out in the ‘burbs, be discerning. You’ll get a better feel for what will sell and what won’t with practice, but if you’re unsure about a particular piece, move on. There’s always more treasure to be found!
Jason’s note: I did exactly this with his parent’s unwanted stuff and made over $3,000 selling their unwanted things on Craigslist. But you can sell other people stuff in other online marketplaces like Facebook, OfferUp, or if it’s books or tech gadgets on Decluttr and Gazelle for immediate cash.
There is money to be made with people’s unwanted stuff and junk. The saying is true that someone’s trash can be someone else’s treasure. What may look unusable can be easily cleaned or repaired. Sometimes a good deep cleaning, great photos, and a straightforward description of your post online will do the trick.