Downsizing for Dollars:

Dear Savvy Senior,

Over the years, my husband and I have acquired a house and garage full of stuff, and would like to start downsizing before we get too old. To do this we would like to sell off what we can. So my question is what is the best way to get the most money for our possessions? —Retired Packrats

Dear Packrats,

Selling off old items that you don’t want or need anymore is a great way to downsize, de-clutter and pad your pocketbook. Here are some top options to help you pedal your stuff.

Online Selling

If you have the time and access to the Internet, the best way to get top dollar for your old unwanted possessions is to sell them on the World Wide Web. Online selling provides literally millions of potential customers, so your odds of getting more money for your stuff is much greater than you’d get at a garage sale or through a consignment store. While there are lots of sites that will help you sell your stuff, the two biggies who draw the most visitors are Craigslist and eBay.


If you’re not familiar with, it’s a huge classified ads site that serves more than 550 cities and attracts some 50 million visitors each month, and it’s free to use. It works just like putting an ad in your local newspaper. You list the item you want to sell including a brief description (pictures too) for the price you want. Interested buyers will then contact you directly via e-mail, and the rest is up to you. Larger items that are difficult to ship sell well on Craigslist like furniture, appliances, exercise equipment and even vehicles.


With around 85 million active members, is by far the biggest selling site on the Web. Almost anything can be sold on eBay. The downside however is their fees which cut into your profits. EBay charges a non-refundable listing fee between 10 cents and $4 per item, depending on the asking price. And if it sells, a closing fee of 8.75 percent of the sale price up to $25, with declining percentage paid on larger sells.

EBay can also help if you don’t have the time, or don’t want to do the selling yourself. Just go to where you can find a trading assistant in your area who will do everything for you. They typically charge between 15 and 40 percent of the selling price.

Another large selling site you should check out is (it charges sales fees too) which is great for selling old books, CDs and DVDs. Also see, a green company that buys old cell phones, computers and other electronic gadgets to recycle them.

Easy To Use

If you have concerns about learning how to maneuver these selling sites, you’ll be happy to know that they are all pretty user-friendly and offer step-by-step instructions. Once you sell a few items you’ll feel like an old pro. You also need to know that if you’re planning to sell a lot of items, a digital camera is a must. Pictures are essential to selling on the Web, and a digital camera makes it easy to transfer your photographs to your computer so they can be uploaded to the sales site.

Price Setting

When it comes to figuring out how much to charge for your stuff, you can get a ballpark idea by doing a search for items that are similar to yours on the sales site you’re planning to use. If however, you suspect you have a rare or extremely valuable item, you should get it appraised. Check with a local auction house to see if it offers free appraisals. If not, for a fee you can hire a professional appraiser (see or call a reputable dealer to assess your possessions.

Other Options

If online selling doesn’t appeal to you, have a garage sale (see for tips), or see what your nearby consignment store will sale for you. While neither of these options will make you as much money as the Web, they’re still great ways to get rid of old stuff and make a few bucks in the process. And the stuff that doesn’t sell can always be donated to a charity for a tax deduction.