The Unexpected Way Selling My Stuff Online Has Helped Curb My Clutter

published Nov 20, 2022
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Selling items on online marketplaces has helped me in a very unexpected way: curbing my love of clutter. Yes, I was reducing my basement stockpile, but the experience has also helped me become more critical of my shopping habits.

After seeing how many months, dead-end messages, and listing edits it took to sell a single item, I’ve become motivated to really edit what comes into my place. I don’t want to declutter by relying on thrift stores since many things end up going to the landfill, so the onus is on me to find the piece a good home. I also want to make sure there aren’t hundreds of items in my “sell” pile. 

Here’s what the whole experience has taught me.

I need to ask myself, “Is it worth it?”

I’m very susceptible to the serotonin hit that comes with purchasing something shiny and new. I love the rush that comes with treating myself, but once it fades, so does the love for that knick-knack I just bought. I love shopping in thrift stores and online markets (challenging myself to find the diamond in the rough was my hobby), and it was easy to spend a few dollars here and there to feel the dopamine kick. But that was before I forced myself to list everything rather than donate it. It has shown me how hard some stuff is to sell and what a burden it is to get rid of it, making me slow down in stores. Now I think, “is this worth the hassle later down the line?” If I genuinely love it, I don’t need to ask myself that because it feels like a forever piece. But if I’m just swept away with shopping, I ask myself that question, and the thought of the months of messages, no-shows, and ad maintenance makes me put the item down and walk away. 

I first need to know where I’ll put it.

Dropping things off at the thrift store is like a cheat code — your mistakes disappear with the rattle of a donation bin. But now that I no longer want to deal with selling items, I make myself slow down and figure out where exactly I would put the thing I’m craving. When perusing Facebook Marketplace, do I really have a spot to put that faux-marble side table, or is it just going to sit in the guest bedroom? When walking through HomeGoods, do I really need another candle or will it just join the other scented pots I have crammed into the cupboard? When aimlessly strolling through Target, do I need that bench or will that mean I’ll have to post the perfectly good ottoman online to make room for it? If I don’t have a spot to put it, it’s not worth the hassle of rearranging or selling pieces to make room for it.

No one really wants anything.

It’s amazing to me how hard certain things are to sell. While furniture might move at a fast clip, knick-knacks and decor pieces will sit in your basement or spare closet for months, if not years, before an interested party will snap them up. And that made me realize that no one really wants any of this clutter. As cool as I thought that vase was, I will have to keep lowering the price to $5 before someone will be enticed enough to clutter up their own space with it. It’s just the lure of the shops that gets you. Selling things like candle stick holders, decorative bowls, lamps, and random tchotchkes take eons to move, and that’s because you can be wary of bringing more things to keep track of into your home. This leads me to my next lesson.

I’m probably just feeding a need with this purchase.

If these items are so hard to move — but fly off the shelves in home goods stores — then I’m probably buying them to satisfy an unmet need. I know when I go shopping, I’m usually bored, uninspired, treating it as a hobby, or feeling sad over something. Rather than lighting up the reward part of my brain with a credit card swipe, I need to do something proactive to meet that need. Maybe I need to make more time for myself between work and chores, so I don’t feel like the only enjoyable window I have in the day is when I run to Target. Maybe I need to set aside some money to invest in a real hobby, so I don’t get that moment of flow digging through thrift stores. Or maybe I just want to get out of the house, and the easiest way to do that is to run to a store, so I should find cute coffee shops, hiking trails, or local events instead.

I thought I was just going to make some side cash by listing things on online marketplaces, but instead, I changed the way — and rate — of how I shopped.