Things I Learned Selling Stuff On Craigslist

Well, it’s official. As I wrote about last week, I’m now “homeless.” Yesterday I officially vacated from my apartment, and as of today I’m living in hotels full time. I have a lot of thoughts to share, though let me start by sharing my experience on what was my biggest moving “obstacle” as of last week:

Still not sure what I’m doing with my furniture

Yeah, I have to move out in the next week so it’s probably something I should have put some thought into, but I’m still going back and forth. Ultimately I work best under pressure, so I’m sure I’ll get it figured out. But I still can’t decide between selling everything on Craigslist, getting a storage unit, and shipping it to Florida.

And it’s really tough for me to make an educated decision, since I have no clue where I’ll move in a year.

Obviously if a year from now I decide I want to stay in the Seattle area I’d be best off getting a storage unit here. If I decide to move back to Florida in a year I’d be best off shipping my stuff. If I decide to live in hotels long term, I’d be best off selling it.

So based on that I’m really not sure what I’m best off doing…

So while it’s not directly travel related, you guys were so helpful with this move that I figured I’d share my experience.

I decided to sell (almost) everything on Craigslist

I crunched the numbers best I could, and ultimately decided in favor of trying to sell everything on Craigslist.

I could have rented a storage unit. They’re kind of expensive in the Bellevue area, and I’m not sure how long I’ll live in hotels and where I’ll move after that. So it would be silly to rent a storage unit and then two years later still move it cross country.

I could have just moved my belongings cross country and stored them in Florida, but by the time I factored in the cost of moving them and the fact that I’m not sure where (or when) I’ll settle down somewhere, that doesn’t make sense either.

So I figured I’d do my best selling things on Craigslist. It would be a learning experience, if nothing else.

I decided to sell everything in a period of 72 hours

I work best with tight deadlines. A friend was kind enough to fly in Friday to help, and by Monday we had completely moved out. That turned into 72 mostly hellish hours, since we weren’t just selling furniture, but I was going through my wardrobe and sending stuff to Goodwill, cleaning, etc.

And while it was crazy hectic, I’m happy we did it that way. I wouldn’t want to draw out the process longer and basically start getting rid of furniture further in advance. And if anything I found having a sense of urgency made people more quick to respond. That being said, a bit of prior organization wouldn’t have hurt.

Now, on to the actual process of selling stuff on Craigslist…

For the most part there’s a “culture” to Cragislist

Other than browsing the “Missed Connections” section of Craigslist for entertainment, this was my first time actually using it. And I was pleasantly surprised on the whole. People were sane, and most people seemed to be “down with the program,” even if I had no clue what I was doing. They showed up when they said they would, didn’t try to bargain too much (for the most part), and were generally decent people…

Some people suck

Craigslist

LO… NO!

Some people suck even more

I should have known before she even arrived. She called to ask for directions, which is fine. What wasn’t fine is that in addition to getting directions we had a conversation about her cats, her husband, and other stuff I can’t quite remember.

She was interested in an IKEA table with six chairs, which I was selling at a huge discount. It was in good condition, and for that matter I’ve rarely used the table. Apparently prior to driving to pick up the furniture she drove all the way to IKEA (which is about 30 minutes away) to test out the chairs and see if they were comfortable. Seemed a bit odd, but okay.

She sits in the chairs again at my apartment and thinks they’re comfortable. But then she decides she doesn’t like how the light reflects on the surface of the table. So she asks me if I can use Pledge on it. So I do.

Then she decides that she doesn’t like the “streaks” that the Pledge left, and I explained that maybe Pledge wasn’t the right thing to clean it with.

So she asks if I have a rag to clean it with. I don’t, but I have an undershirt, and bring that out to clean the surface. Which I do. But she still somehow doesn’t like how it looks, and so she asks if she can just stand there for a bit and look at the table, and tells us we can go do something else.

Except she’s standing in my living room just looking at a table. After what felt like an eternity she decided to take it…

Some things are lost in translation

Most “transactions” were pretty straightforward. We agreed on a price via email, they came to look at it, and if everything “checked out” they paid and took it.

Then there was this one lady, whose first language wasn’t English (nothing wrong with that of course, but just pointing out the source of the potential context/language barrier). I thought we had agreed on a price, and I was really counting on her, because she was going to buy three different things (my desk, couch, and dining room table — this is before the other crazy lady).

She didn’t really speak much English, but was very polite. She walked into my apartment, bowed, looked at everything, and then said “okay.” I said “so would you like it?” “Okay.”

She then said “thank you” and walked out, and that’s the last I heard from her.

It’s surprising what’s in high demand

I guess ultimately it makes sense, but I was kind of surprised by what was in high demand and what wasn’t. A $50 coffee table? You’d think we were running a Black Friday sale. A really nice 49″ TV? We basically had to pay someone to take it (in the end it worked, out, but I was surprised). I guess it makes sense that if you’re going to buy something from a stranger on the internet you’d rather it be something you can easily assess the condition of, vs. something that could have problems.

Took me a while to process that, though.

I’m not traveling quite as light as I had hoped…

I envisioned living out of a carry-on. Yeah, that’s still a work in progress…

Moving-Luggage

Have you sold stuff on Craigslist? If so, what has been your experience?

Comments

  1. “browsing the “Missed Connections” section of Craigslist for entertainment”

    Ahem, sure Ben…we believe you. 🙂

  2. About 5 years ago I posted a 27-inch flat screen for $40 to which the buyer asked to deliver because they didn’t have a car. When I arrived, they immediately said they liked it and if I can set it up and show them how to program it. I did. But when time to pay, the wife told the husband to ask for a discount. I reminded them that I delivered 7 miles out and practically carried the item up the steps to their living room. She payed up.

  3. i have posted on missed connections a few times but never got a response sadly. i think guys in nyc just don’t care to follow up.

  4. In the past, i have just called up the Salvation Army and they come to pick up my items for free, and they get the donated items of course. I would rather do that than have internet strangers come to my door.

    But glad it worked out for you.

  5. that’s awesome! Craigslist is very sane when you’re selling stuff. I sold alot of bedroom stuff a few years back and got good money for it

    if you end up in LA at a hotel on your journey, would love to grab a drink and hear some of your stories from your frequent travels

  6. @ Lucky — do you plan to exclusively fly business/first class so you can check-in 3 bags and take 2-3 carry-ons? 😉

  7. That “Missed Connections” section should be very useful for you when you’re living alone in hotel rooms.

  8. Yeah, I’m seriously wondering how you are going to move

    ALL.
    THAT.
    STUFF.

    Sure, I’m a packrat, so I shouldn’t judge, but I’m also not the guy trying to live out of hotels, LOL!

  9. I’ve used it to sell a few cars and misc things. It’s way better to meet people some neutral public place in my experience.

  10. I second #12 jeff. The last time I moved (last August) I was so busy I couldn’t spare a second even to check Facebook on my phone.

    Re: craigslist experiences, I once had trouble selling an old computer until a rather verbose man offered my asking price. I delivered to his house and, after an hourlong spiel about Jesus, he paid up — but if time is money, I made a net loss.

  11. First time selling on craigslist was few years ago, during reno and before move. First item to sell was 14 bricks for 14 dollars. Seriously. Sold within 30 minutes. The oddest stuff sold first….motorcycle tank bag, etc.

    “Sure thing” items did not sell.

    Im convinced theres an ofd subculture of people looking for the obscure and waiting to punce.

    Go lucky!

  12. When I sold my house, had about 3 weeks to sell most on Craigslist. Great for the most part, even the college kids who bought and dismantled the pool table. Then Goodwill to stuff that didn’t sell, storage for personal items. Left for months in hotels with about half your stuff.

  13. In my experience and area, people are much more likely to haggle, always try to knock something off the listed price (“would you take XX for it?”) and they are pretty flakey – no-shows are at least a third of the time.

  14. Yes. A lot of people on Craig’s List are total flakes. They say they’ll show up and don’t or come and try to get something for nothing.

  15. We sold 2 cars recently on Craigslist. I was pleasantly surprised. I figured I would get all kinds of weirdos wanting to haggle. We did meet in a neutral location, but both times they brought cash or cashiers check. Although it was a few hundred less than the original asking price, it was fair, and most of all, mostly hassle free!

  16. You have a lot of baggage (pun intended).

    As a general rule of thumb for unsettled life i.e. not ready to settle down, best to live a minimalist lifestyle. You never know where you’ll be packing next and head off.

    I live with lots of 2nd hands and hand me downs which I don’t really mind as they are just things that I don’t have strong attachment or need brand new things. I rather have more cash in my bank account instead than spending money on things.

    So, best to sell all your possessions and have some spare cash until come such a day to settle down.

  17. How old was your TV? Agree that it’s terrible trying to get rid of large TVs. Even for free. It was worth it to me to “sell” my last surplus TV for free to avoid the recycling or hauling fee. Same issue for computers. Sounds like you did great for only 72 hours to clear decks.

  18. 2 questions:

    1 – What did you do with your rimowa kitS? If you need to make some additional space I’ll gladly take one or all off your hands (and pay for shipping!)

    2 – I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of years, but this is the first time I’ve noticed the frequent use of ‘we.’ New living space partner? And will this other person be tagging along in the hotels??

  19. I prefer to donate to Salvation Army and Goodwill than sell in Craigslist. I can stand most of the people (not all) that are trying to buy something at Craigslist. It gets beyond bargaining but it gets to a point of people almost begging for a discount after you agreed on the selling price. I had terrible experiences when trying to sell anything there so I won’t try again.

  20. I’d be interested in learning how you continue to reduce your possessions and avoid collecting new ones. What do you do when you recieve a gift, etc.

    Also, how much stuff was left and is it all in those bags and going where?

  21. Great comments re the sweater and the greedy eye set on the rimowa kits. Why no interest in the conrad ducks?

    All the best, good luck….

  22. i sold an exercise bike for $85 and the buyer gave me $90. i didnt have change so gave the buyer back a $10, he told me to keep it, consider it a tip 🙂

  23. @ Brian — I sent the Rimowas and my airline teddy bears to Florida. Sorry, to clarify, “we” is referring to the friend that helped me with the moving process. No one else in my life!

  24. @ Bill — Eventually I plan on sending all but the carry-on and one other bag to Florida. That’s the goal at least. Some of those bags had documents, winter clothes, etc.

  25. Craigslist is the worst. If Craigslist was a store, there would be a site called “People of Craigslist” – 10x better than “People of Walmart”

  26. @Carlos – You nailed it!!! I would rather buy at Walmart everyday than sell at Craigslist once in my life.

  27. So now all of your stuff (sans kits and ducks) fits into 6 bags? That must be a wonderfully freeing feeling.

  28. Staying in third world countries like Cambodia, Laos, India, Vietnam, Phillippines, Myanmar, Thailand… could save you alot of money for foods and daily costs. You can stay on points for hotel rooms/or cheap 3-star hotel rooms included breakfast. For transportation, you can rent car/bike/motorcycle at a cheap rate like 4-10 bucks per day. For good foods, Thailand/vietnam are on the top for healthy and delicious foods. You can even get a English teaching job on short term for a good amount of money, more than what you need for every day. A friend of mine did that. So staying in hotels is not bad in the end, just another idea for those countries you can consider.

  29. You are carrying way too much stuff Ben. I’ve found that moving with anything more than 20kg of luggage is counter productive in the end. Drop most of the stuff off at your parents place or at a friends somewhere en route. Believe me, you won’t regret it.

  30. Congrats!

    Welcome to the world of the voluntarily “homeless”!

    You are definitely going to need to pare down those suitcases. I hope you aren’t actually trying to travel with all of them.

    As I shared before, I live out of a carry on and a computer bag. Everything I bring with me must fit. But, I’m a cheating cheater who cheats….so I’ve got random stuff stored with family and friends in various locations. I actually had to start keeping a running tab of where things were. Off season clothes at my sister’s, books at my parents’ house, bottles of wine at friends (probably actually not still waiting for me, but c’est la vie).

  31. To quote Randolph Duke, “sell, sell, sell”!!
    The cost of the unit, vs the constantly diminishing value of furniture…sell it.

  32. I use craigslist a lot. We bought both our current cars off craigslist and it’s one of the best resources for buying and selling used farm equipment that I’ve found. You get used to dealing with people and like you said, most people know the drill. It’s often easy to tell via email who’s going to be more hassle than its worth.

  33. I sold a used toilet once for $50. It was one that came with our house, had about 5 years of use but we had swapped it out for a nicer one.

    Some guy bought it on Christmas Eve. His daughter had stuck a doll down their toilet and it was clogged.

    I was pretty excited.

  34. Have bought and sold many items on Craig’s List, never had an issue. I offer the suggestion that you stay in some guest houses. In Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia we stayed for an average of $10-$15/night which usually included a basic breakfast. And these were regular rooms with private showers. Could probably even negotiate a lower rate if you stay for a longer term. This will allow you to interact with some more younger people and be a festive atmosphere than a stuffy Park Hyatt. Try it out for a bit I think you’ll like it, and will save some serious cash.

  35. Missed Connection

    You were the guy in first class, drinking champagne, taking lots of pictures of the food, menu, seat etc. You came through the cabin in airline pajamas and schmoozed with the flight attendants. You seemed pretty comfortable in that lay-flat seating when it came time to snooze. You seemed to be talking in your sleep, mentioning about being Lucky, and then calling out the word “janesis”. (Sounds like maybe a biotech stock I should buy?) How were the freshly made scrambled eggs for breakfast? They smelled good from back in economy. If this is you, please get back to me. 😉

  36. @ Peter – hilarious! But what city would this be posted under? Or is there a special flight-related missed connection site?

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