Turning Your Closet into Cash with eBay

One of the only things that I enjoy writing about more than fitness and fashion is finance…specifically about putting cash back in your pockets! And while I love sharing tips about sales and promo codes and how to shop smarter, the only thing more satisfying than getting a great deal on a pair of killer shoes is selling stuff that I no longer love and sometime getting more than I paid for it in the first place! So, as your authority on all things fashion and frugal, I feel that it’s time to share with you the secret of ebay online resale, and how you can take those old forgotten clothes stuffed in the darkened recesses of your closet and turn them into cold hard cash (which you can then use to purchase new, shiny, fun items). And if spending isn’t your goal, save that money, use it to pay off debts or credit cards, or put it towards a vacation. An added bonus is the fact that your closet will be gorgeous, clean, and orderly – totally making it time for a Pinterest=inspired closet remodel.  Now here is the honest truth: becoming a successful ebayer can be pretty difficult and if you’ve never done reselling online it can be absolutely daunting, but the good news is that there are some oh so important tips and tricks that are guaranteed to make you a killer seller, and today we are going to cover each and every one!


After working in retail for several years in my late teens and early twenties, I amassed quite the impressive collection of clothes, shoes, and various accessories. Unfortunately, I also had a super hard time letting go of anything; in my mind I could totally justify hanging on every single thing that I had ever bought. Like these corduroy True Religion cut-off overalls…totally hideous, but I mean you never know when there might be an occasion that calls for cut-off cords! Am I right? Of course. Lucky for me (and my closet space) I discovered ebay, and all of my issues were magically resolved. I realized that if I sold all of my things that I never wore, I could buy new things that I actually wanted. Genius! All from the comfort of my house I could sort through my clothes, take pictures, and list items without ever having to take off my pjs or (shudder) interact face to face with other people. Even better, I also came to find that I could sell ANYTHING in the house that we were no longer using. Electric tooth brush charger? Sold. Candles? Boom, sold. Little C’s old toys? Sold! And so began my ebay obsession.

In the beginning of my ebay love affair I definitely made mistakes, I learned through trial and error how to sell and what not to do. Luckily for you guys, I went through that tough learning process so that you don’t have to! So, without further ado, let’s get it started.

First of all, know this: there will always be someone who wants your castaways. Those green socks covered in glittery stars that your great Aunt Elsa gave to you that never even made it out of the package? Yeah, Sue Anne Swane in North Virginia has been on the hunt for a pair JUST LIKE THOSE, and she can’t wait to place her bid. There are hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world searching the massive data mine that is ebay, and out of all those people at least one is going to want what you don’t. So when you’re looking at something and wondering if you should just toss it rather than list it, think again. 99% of the time your stuff is going to sell, even if it takes a little longer than normal. And remember, you can sell ANYTHING. eBay isn’t just for clothing, sell old lamps, random candles, electronics. I once sold my 11 year old compaq on ebay. Yes, anything can be sold for the right price.

Second of all, know what the goal is and how to achieve it. Simply put, the goal is to make money. And to make money, you need to have one very important thing: happy customers. Happy customers leave good reviews (bad reviews can ruin your sales), and even better buyers who have great experiences with you will come back again and again to bid on your items (more money for you, yay!!).


THE RULES (according to me)

Be honest: This is the MOST important thing to remember when you are selling on ebay. If the item has a flaw or some sign of wear, LIST IT IN THE DESCRIPTION. There is nothing worse than being a buyer and receiving that item you are sooo excited to get only to realize that there is a massive stain and the seller doesn’t accept returns. Furthermore, unhappy buyers are likely to leave you scathing remarks and poor ratings, which can really hurt your ability to sell going forward. You would be amazed at what people will buy. Just be honest to the best of your ability and nothing can go wrong.

Cleanse your closet: Let go. Yes, I know it’s easier said than done, but let go of those random clothes that you haven’t worn in five years. If you haven’t worn them yet, you aren’t going to; don’t be a hoarder or a pack rat like I was! Furthermore, if you haven’t worn something even in the last six months or so, consider possibly selling it. I used to dread selling but now I love to cleanse my closet of the pieces that I no longer need so that I can make room for new things, and going through my clothing also gives me a chance to clean out and organize my closet. It’s a win win, really, and somehow also super cathartic and therapeutic.

Be detailed: Ok so along with being honest about the items and detailing any stains, tears, sizing problems etc., it is SO important that you give detailed descriptions of what exactly you are selling. Do not rely on your photos to give perspective buyers all of the info they need. When I list something I make sure to include the following: size, material composition, color, thickness, heel height (if selling shoes), how often the piece has been worn if it is not new, colors of hardware, and style number and name if I can locate it. Regardless of whether you are selling something that is preowned or brand-new, details details details. The more your perspective buyers know, the better your chances of having happy customers and lots of bidders. In case you don’t know, the more bidders, the higher they will generally drive the price, and the higher the price, the more money in your pocket.

Be courteous and kind: Sometimes no matter how thorough and detailed you are, you will run up against a dissatisfied buyer. Some people are impossible to please for whatever reason, and will contact you to complain even if deep down inside they love the item. Always treat everyone with respect regardless of the way in which the write to you. Be calm and level-headed, and remember that poor ratings are far more detrimental than resolving issues and losing a few dollars. Generally if I come up against one of these types of customers I offer a partial refund to smooth things over and we both move on (and I make a note to to sell to that particular bidder ever again).

Create a thorough title: The title for the item that you are selling is so crucial – most people don’t look at the full item description until they have decided that they are indeed interested in possibly bidding. A detailed and eye catching title that gives the perspective buyer all of the basic info they need to know about what you are selling can be the difference between a sale and an item with 0 bids. I always list the brand name, style, size, color, and whether it is brand new with tags or preowned. For example: “Abercrombie and Fitch Light Wash Denim Cutoff Bermuda Shorts Sz 0 Preowned”. This gives those viewing the shorts a really good idea of what they are going to see if they click my link, and also makes it more likely for my listings to come up when people type specific keywords into the ebay search function. There is nothing more annoying than doing a search and finding those PERFECT over-the-knee boots you were looking for and then reading the full description only to find out that they are a size 12. PUT THE SIZE IN THE TITLE!


Be prompt: I can not tell you how important this rule is. Prompt shipping and timely responses are crucial to keeping your customers happy and coming back to buy again and again. Buyers expect their items to ship out relatively soon after they pay, and if you decide to take your time and not ship their purchase out for four or five days, you will have some very unhappy buyers on your hands. I make it a point to always ship within two business days after receiving payment, and I can not stress enough how much of an impact quick shipping has on your customer’s experiences. Again, happy customers equal good reviews equal more money for you (to go shopping with)!

Take great pics: ebay allows you up to 12 photos for each listing so take full advantage. The more pictures, the better – always make a goal to use all twelve photo spaces. You don’t have to be a first-class photographer – photos taken with your mobile phone are totally fine. Just ensure that you get lots of different pictures from various angles, front, back, side, etc.. Ensure that if there are flaws that those are pictured as well. Try to get the best lighting possible to ensure that the colors look as much as possible like they will in person. Choose your main photo carefully, as this is the photo that buyers will see first. A good picture will encourage a prospective buyer to click your link and take a look at what you are selling, but a poorly lit or fuzzy photo will surely cause bidders to gloss right over your stuff.

Compare pricing: When listing your items for sale, sometimes it’s difficult to know quite what to list them for. Don’t get wrapped up in sentimentality, and remember that one dollar is better than no dollar; some of my items only sell for two or three dollars but over time that money adds up. If there are items that you know you want to sell at a certain price point then you can also offer a ‘Buy It Now’ option so that buyers can make the purchase for the amount you are requesting without having to wait for the bidding to end. As you prepare to list an item, search ebay to see if similar pieces are being sold and compare their pricing to see if it’s in-line with what you want to sell yours at. If there are two pairs of identical shoes in the same size, the buyer will always bid on the less expensive of the two, so setting your prices on that lower end of the spectrum is generally a good idea. I generally set my starting bids at $0.99 because find that I get the best bidding and highest selling amounts when I do that (seems counterintuitive but I swear it works).

Understand Views vs. Watchers: While a piece is up for auction ebay will display how many views a piece has and whether there are any watchers. Views simply are the number of people who have clicked on your listing to look at it, while Watchers are the number of people who have added your item to their ‘Watch List’ to consider bidding on. Pay attention to both of these numbers because there is a lot to be learned from them. For example, if an item has very few views, this could suggest that you need to change your title to include more popular keywords. Views are based on searches, someone has to be searching for an item to see your listing; they might type in “Citizens of Humanity boot cut jean” and if your listing has these keywords it will be pulled up along with all of the other listings. So, if your item does not contain enough popular keywords, chances are it won’t be seen nearly as much if at all. Also pay attention to a listing with tons of views but no watchers. This means that your piece is being seen but no one is thinking about maybe bidding on it. Consider what might be stopping people from pulling the trigger. Price too high? Not enough pictures? Adjust accordingly and see if this helps (it should!). Do the same with an item that has a huge number of watchers but no live bids. There has to be a reason that no one is bidding. Figure it out and watch the bids roll in.

Be Patient: There are going to be items that take much longer than others to sell, for whatever reason. Keep re-listing! There is an option on ebay when you are listing your item to automatically have it re-listed up to three times if it doesn’t sell (if it takes more than three just re-check the automatic re-listing box). I have had pieces that took a month or two to sell, but when they did it was all worth it, especially for higher priced items. However, if something isn’t selling and isn’t getting views or watchers, then re-evaluate. How is the pricing? Should it be lowered? How is the title and description? Is it possible that you need to create a more descriptive title or use more searchable keywords? Play around with the posting if you feel like there is a reason the piece isn’t selling, otherwise just wait and keep re-listing!

Be Aware of the Seasons: Generally, I have found that it’s best to sell clothes during the seasons that they are used. For example, if it’s mid-August and 110 degrees in most of the nation, you aren’t going to sell a cashmere sweater nearly as easily if you could in December. Sell shorts, summer dresses, bathing suits, and sandals in summer, boots, sweaters, and coats in the fall/winter. This might seem like second nature but it definitely deserves to be mentioned (especially because I didn’t think about this in the beginning of my selling).

Shipping and personal touches: Order the shipping materials that you will need in bulk so that you don’t end up spending tons of money on shipping supplies. Ironically ebay is a great place to search for good shipping materials! Make sure that if something is breakable that you wrap it securely in bubble wrap. I like to wrap clothing in a piece of tissue paper for a more “store-like” experience and keep most of my shoe boxes so that when I sell my shoes I can send them in their original box. I secure the tissue paper or bubble wrap with cute Washi tape like this poppy print one from Target, and also make it a point to write a little personalized note on each buyer’s packing slip with a simple “Thank you, enjoy!” so that they again get a more personal, store-like experience. I can’t tell you how much of a difference it makes just adding some tissue paper and a little note. Always ensure that your packages are well sealed and taped up. The last thing you want is for your box to break open en route!

If at first you don’t succeed, try try again: ebay is something that just takes time, and you may not immediately have crazy success. You have to build your review, learn the ropes, get the feel for how the system works. A few lame experiences or low-cost sales should not set you back or stop you from continuing to sell. Everyone has to go through this learning process, and if you stick with it you really can make great money!

Hopefully these tips can help motivate you and get you started selling – you closet is a veritable gold mine just waiting for you to capitalize and make money on it. And who doesn’t like getting a little extra income on the side? Enjoy and happy selling!