Lifehacker recently published an article advising readers that "Before you throw something out, check if you can sell it."
"Today I learned that people will buy and sell just about anything on eBay, including empty toilet paper rolls and egg cartons. If you want to make a few bucks, consider what 'garbage' you have around your home that others will pay for," the article notes.
This advice may seem more relevant to 2003 than 2016, as eBay is hardly new, but what people are willing to pay for the stuff you'd otherwise consider worthless may take you by surprise.
Use eBay's completed listing search function to determine what's valuable
The key to knowing the marketability of your stuff is to run a "completed listings" search on eBay. Yes, some doo-dad may be listed for a million dollars, but unless that doo-dad is actually selling for that amount, the listed information is useless. Here's how to check eBay's completed listings. Click the small "advanced" link to the right of the big blue "search" button.
Then type in your search and click the "completed listings" link below. This gives you precise information on how much things are actually selling for. The key thing to know is that prices in green did sell, while those in black went unsold.
The article cites people selling empty toilet paper and paper towel tubes, but it turns out that profit lies beyond your recycling bin. (Also, hanging onto toilet paper tubes until I get forty of them veers a bit too close to professional hoarder for my comfort level.)
Whether you're holding onto a broken Nintendo DS, digital camera or outdated cell phone, there's likely somewhere out there who can either fix your stuff or needs it for parts. Just make sure to delete any and all personal information from the device before sending it off to a stranger. Use the words "for parts" in the description.
Not all toys are worth the time and effort to list on eBay, but many have greatly increased in value. The Lifehacker article's comments section includes a photo of a Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Disk that frequently sells for over $100 to cosplay enthusiasts. A quick look over at eBay completed listings confirmed this tip, and I'm now waiting for my 17-year-old son to come home from school, as I think we still own this (Goodwill purchased) toy. I consider the duel disk to be a worthless piece of plastic garbage, but I guess I'm wrong. The lesson here is to not assume toys need to be antique to increase in value.
Old computer software
If you've been holding onto old computer software and manuals, now is the time to check eBay for the resale value. Many companies prefer older versions and are happy to scoop up what has become clutter in your home or office. Again, delete any personal information.
Yes, you read that right. Pine cones. They fall from your trees and are considered a nuisance. However, not everyone lives in a climate with pine cones, and crafters want them for projects. This is more of a cold weather tip, as they're used for wreath making, but store up this information for late fall, and then put your kids to work.
If you're the type of parent who invests in higher quality clothing and shoes, the secondhand market may help fund the kids' college account. Whether it's your toddler's sandals or your kindergartener's pajamas, certain brands hold their value extremely well. Examples include Keen and Hanna Andersson.
Used cloth diapers
This one might make your grandmother roll over in her grave, but used cloth diapers sell for big bucks on eBay. Unlike the ducky safety pins and bleached white rectangles of fifty years ago, today's cloth diapers include nifty snaps and feature cute printed fabric. Groups of certain it brands of used diapers can sell for hundreds of dollars.
If you're intimidated by the thought of selling on eBay, I assure you that it's never been easier. Sellers can put together up to 50 free listings per month, so you'll only be charged if your items actually sell. (This is a big difference from older eBay which nickle-and-dimed sellers to the poor house.)
And for those who'd rather not deal with the hassle of your local post office, eBay makes it easy to print discounted postage from home and then arrange for your local mail carrier to pick up the packages from the porch. All for free!
Selling on eBay is always a gamble. Will your item sell, and if so, for how much? It's not necessarily worth buying items in the off chance that it'll sell on eBay, but it's certainly worth a try if it's stuff simply lying around your house. Just make sure to be honest in your well-written description and to take lots of crisp and well-lit photographs.
You never know how much cash is hiding in your dusty old stuff.