How Craigslist can be a Downsizer’s Best Friend

I have too much stuff in a house that’s too big. No big news there. Many people in my situation would hold garage sales and/or “moving” sales to get rid of a bunch of stuff all at once. I think garage sales are a poor investment of my time. I’m not ready to move so there is no point in opening up my house to a bunch of bargain hunters for a moving sale. Instead, when the mood hits, I take a few photographs, write a few words and “boom”, I’ve got stuff listed on Craigslist. So far it is working great, even for things I own that are not mainstream.

Every weekend I am in town, I am taking at least one trip to the dump and to Goodwill to get rid of clothes and smaller household items. Last Sunday I decided to up my game. I listed two pieces of furniture on Craigslist: a zero gravity recliner and a collectible display cabinet. I sold both this week, to the first persons who came to see them. I estimate the total time invested in posting the adds, responding to emails, and showing the two items to the two buyers was 30 minutes. In exchange, I put $700 in my pocket and watched while two large surplus items were moved out of the house. That felt good.  This house is looking bigger all the time! Also, I can take a mini-vacation with that $700.  I’ve already made plans.

I also went to the dump with two large bags of junk and to Goodwill with a car full of other random, unneeded stuff. I have to sustain my downsizing momentum.

Slowly but surely I am making progress towards the day when this house goes on the market. It may be a year from now or it could be longer. I’m not sure. Whenever it is, I want the bulk of my stuff gone so that there is no last minute crush. I will probably hire someone to stage this house for selling purposes. I know that I will be told that most of my stuff needs to be gone. Why should I wait to get rid of it?

It’s likely that wherever I move from this house, almost all of the furniture in my future home will be new. I don’t get attached to furniture. (I make an exception for the rocker/recliner in which I rocked all three of my sons when they were babies. That thing will stay in the family for a long time.)

Remember when selling household items meant running ads in the newspaper classified section? Craigslist has replaced that awkward system, and in a good way. I have been using Craigslist as a tool to help me shed my life of useless things.

I have developed preferences in how to effectively use Craigslist for baby boomer downsizing. It is important to me that the process of selling stuff not take so much time and effort that it becomes a part-time job.

These are my suggestions for those of you who have not tried the Craigslist downsizing strategy:

1. Open a Craigslist account. This is a necessary step for posting ads. It’s easy and free.

2. Capture and post some good photographs of what you are selling. Craigslist makes this easy also.

3.  Write a lot of detail about what you are selling. Prose is not important but content is: dimensions, colors, condition and features. If you can, include a URL to a retail site that sells the same or similar product. (I did that for the zero gravity chair.)  The more time you spend on this step, the less time you will spend answering questions from prospective buyers.

4. Price aggressively. Remember that you are trying to quickly get rid of stuff you don’t need. It doesn’t matter what you paid for it. You want a price that will attract buyers so you can sell it to the first person who comes to see it. For furniture and other large items, I pick a bottom line price and add $25 to arrive at my asking price. When a buyer offers me less than my asking price, I take off the $25.  So far, I have sold everything using this technique.  Keep in mind that the buyers are moving your unneeded stuff – not you. That has value.

5. Quickly weed out the nut jobs who respond to ads. For starters, I refuse to negotiate selling prices via email or with anyone who has not come to see the item that is for sale. I don’t talk on the phone or give out any contact information until a prospect has agreed on a day and time to come see the item I am selling. That seems to eliminate the crackpots.  If you are afraid of having strangers come to your house, agree to meet in a public location. For example, I sold an iPad to a buyer who met with me at Starbucks.

So how is your downsizing progressing? Or are you clinging to your stuff to the bitter end? Is Craigslist in your future?


  1. Jerlocarb says

    I got some good deals off of Craigslist in St Louis. A NuWave oven for 90% off retail and a Nordic rider exercise bike. I just sold the rider using Craigslist in 2013. I priced it at $10 and I hoped the buyer would bid $5 for it. She did. I felt bad asking $10 for it. I know she won’t use it after a couple of weeks, but better it is in her place and not mine!

    I just can’t seem to get motivated to sort through the basement to get rid of stuff. I don’t feel like I need the money. I only buy clothes and shoes when they wear out. I quit buying ‘stuff’ when I retired in ’07.

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