Ebay for beginners

Long term readers will know I’ve had some hardcore decluttering sessions over the last couple of years, getting rid of everything from clothes to mountains of out of date paperwork. While this is all good there have been odd moments where I’ve wondered if I shouldn’t have tried to sell some of it. Most of the things I’ve got rid of (that weren’t total rubbish!) have been donated to charity shops which I’m more than happy with. However, I’ve kept back a few things that I thought might sell on ebay. Without, er, actually getting around to reactivating my ebay account and getting on with it. The trouble is, I’ve forgotten how the whole system works – what sells, how to present it, when is best to list things and so on. Caroline from What’s Happening At My House has always impressed me with her dedication in heading out to local car boot sales nearly every Sunday morning and actually getting things listed on ebay on a regular basis (unlike me – the lazy, hoarding type)! She has kindly agreed to do the first ever guest post here on Shoestring Alley on how to get started. Over to Caroline…

Hello – I’m Caroline.

I’ve been reading and enjoying Shoestring Alley ever since Shoestring began writing it, and she has asked me to write a post about selling on eBay.

Whilst I don’t consider myself any sort of expert on the subject, and am still learning all the time, I have been selling on Ebay for almost ten years now, and have grown my business over the years to make a good, regular part-time salary from it.

So, without further ado, here are my top ten hints and tips for selling on eBay, aimed particularly at those who are new to it.

1. RESEARCH – you can see how much similar items have sold for in the recent past by ticking the ‘completed items’ box in the Advanced Search feature. Also useful to see which category is best to list in.

2. DESCRIPTION – be as honest as you can in your description. If the item has any faults or is well-used, say so. Try to keep the written description factual and concise.

3. PHOTOGRAPHS – as the old saying goes, a picture paints 1,000 words. Good quality photos are the key to getting a good price. Generally speaking, the more photos, the better (although in some categories, eBay charge extra for more than one photo).

4. TITLE – Remember that people will find your item by searching on certain words. An item title that reads “DRESS SIZE 12” will therefore get far fewer hits than the title “BLUE LONG SLEEVE SILK WALLIS DRESS, SZ 12, BNWOT”.

5. START/END TIME – Everybody has their own ideas about this, but personally I’ve found the best end times for auctions are Sunday early evening and Mon/Tue/Wed between 7 and 8.30 pm.

6. STARTING PRICE – As a rule of thumb, I like to keep my starting price as low as possible, which I have found encourages more bids and interest. I start many items at 99 pence (which also means free listing).

7. OVERSEAS – For many years, I didn’t send items overseas, but after a friend had some success I tried it, and about 5% of what I sell now goes abroad. Touch wood, I’ve had very few problems with postage – only one item has gone missing in the last 12 months. Do make sure that the Royal Mail will pay out if the item is lost, though – I found out the hard way that perfume is not insured overseas.

8. FEES – remember to take into account eBay and Paypal fees – they are often higher than you anticipate.

9. POSTAGE – weigh the item, and work out roughly what it will cost to post with packaging added. Do not be tempted to overcharge for postage, although adding a small amount to the actual postage cost to cover peripherals is acceptable.

10. COMMUNICATION – probably the most important tip I’m going to give you. Always communicate with your buyer. Answer any questions promptly, thank them for their purchase, post their item as soon as humanly possible after they’ve paid for it, and let them know you’ve done so. In the rare event that there are any problems, communicate politely and promptly.

Thanks Caroline! Now it’s just down to me to get some things listed…!

Categories: Decluttering, Frugal ideas | 2 Comments

The 5 step programme

No, I’m not in an anonymous group dealing with some kind of addiction (though starting getting my house ready and then not seeing it through could possibly be argued as being some kind of disorder). I’ve just been thinking about what I can do to get the ball rolling and have decided (because I like these mini goals) that I am going to take 5 proactive steps each week towards getting ready to go on the market and making our home ‘work’ better (which is all the same thing really). I’ll try and report on this each week until a) it’s all finished or b) I lose steam again…!

1. Buying a magazine: ‘A magazine?!’ I hear you cry. Yup, a magazine – one focusing on interiors. I am desperately in need of fresh inspiration. I decided that there is no point trying to make this place look super smart in that very catalogue-ish, hotelesque kind of way. It won’t work here – it is too quirky and odd. What is needs is a bit of a rustic vibe (we live in a country/seaside town after all). Thus decided I was pleased to see that Ideal Home have published a ‘Country Issue’ this month. I promptly bought it and got a loads of ideas. Good start…

2. Decluttering: Yup, more of that. I’ve put aside 22 books to take to the charity shop on my lunch break after seeing if anyone at work wants a rummage first. I’m getting better at not hoarding books. My collection still runs into the hundreds (and hundreds) but I’m trying to be more ruthless about getting rid of books I didn’t really love, persistently skip over when I’m trying to find something to read or probably wouldn’t read again. I also added a weird little pot to the charity shop bag. It was a gift about 8 years ago. We don’t see the people who gave it to us anymore and it doesn’t really ‘go’ anywhere. Maybe it will be just right for someone else.

3. Shopping at home: I’ve decided to try and make a bit of a feature of the (extremely oddly proportioned) ‘mantlepiece’ in our bedroom. It isn’t really a mantlepiece. I mean, it clearly was one but it has been filled in and there is no chimney. And it looks like it has been cut in half and separated. I told you this place was odd. Anyway, I saw a collection of things in the magazine and decided to see what I already had that I could make a similar arrangement of (all in off white). I found a little lantern (that I will probably paint at some point) and an unused candle in a little dish. They are now randomly placed on the mantlepiece awaiting further developments!

4. Shopping in the shops: To add to the decorations/finishing touches in the bedroom I bought a very gorgeous hanging tealight holder (can’t describe it – will take a photo at some point) for £7.49, an old-fashioned metal candleholder with a ‘flower’ base (which I also can’t describe) for £5.99 and a little boat for £5.99 – all items in off white thus helping me to start creating a ‘look’. Total spend £19.47 which I think is pretty good for the above haul!

5. A make-do print: I have an ongoing battle, trying to find a print that I can hang over the mantlepiece in our bedroom. Nothing seems to work. I really wanted something a bit folk arty but I just can’t find anything. Anyway, I already have an old IKEA frame with a mount so I went to a local gift shop today and bought a pretty piece of wrapping paper in the right sort of colours for £1.75. I’m hoping it will look right once framed. The frame also needs to be painted but, if it looks good, I should be able to get something hanging over the mantlepiece for under £2!

I’ve really got to keep at it and get everything done. Onwards and upwards…

Categories: Decluttering, home improvements, Make do | 3 Comments

Day 3: Financial planning

One quick bit of organising I did earlier was this:

I have a habit of stashing articles that have caught my eye; I find them stuffed in notebooks, the back of drawers…all over the place. I had some A4 plastic envelopes left over from when I was reorganising my paperwork and so I’ve sorted the articles by category (Interiors, Books etc). This means I can find them easily and know exactly where to put any articles I come across in the future. Okay, it was hardly urgent but it helps! 

I’ve also sat down and gone through our joint finances. I only tend to talk about my ‘own’ finances on this blog – not so much our joint finances. When I started this blog in 2009 I had not long finished paying off my last bit of personal debt (a small loan) and was gearing up to save. However, we did have an overdraft on our joint account at the time. It wasn’t huge at £1000 but I did want it to go. We’d tried paying it off before but somehow the overpayments ended up getting swallowed by the account and we’d be back, fully overdrawn again. However, through 2009 we ‘overpaid’ the joint account each month and the overdraft got smaller and smaller until, by the end of the year, it had gone. During 2010 we continued to overpay the account and it meant we suddenly had a nice little fund for smaller emergencies – we could pay for the car to be fixed etc without having to try and scrape and squeeze the money out of another fund for example.

Now we’re in 2011 we are planning to continue overpaying the account. We already have a savings account put aside for car tax but are hoping we can add a bit in for car maintenance (which would otherwise come out of our monthly pay). We are also able to put a small amount aside in our ‘House’ account. The ‘House’ account is where we keep the funds for our home improvements. Once we’ve got it all done (should be sooner rather than later) we’ll continue saving and use this towards putting a larger desposit down when we – hopefully! – buy our next home.

I mention this because, when I do a post on my personal budget, it will be a bit ‘light’ on the saving side. Not because I don’t want to save but because a) I’ll be putting more in the joint account to go towards the ‘House’ savings and b) because I’m not going to have much left over. I’ll be doing a post on this once I know by exact take home pay, but I know I’m not going to have a lot to play with. I suspect some ‘living on less’ posts will be appearing here soon!

So that’s two things ‘done’ today – organising my articles and preparing a strategy for our joint finances. Nice.

Categories: Decluttering, Getting organised, Money Management | Leave a comment

Decluttering and separation anxiety

My decluttering spree didn’t happen as planned. Baby had a terrible night (though got her first tooth through – yay!) and I was too knackered to even contemplate it. However, I did manage to crack on with it today (despite having another rubbish night. The teething saga continues). Actually, Baby is sleeping in her own room for the first time tonight. Our bedroom is the largest room in our house (weird I know) and so we’ve been able to have the cot in with us since she outgrew the moses basket. We’ve been meaning to make the move for ages but then there was the snow (her room can get very cold) and then it was Christmas (enough faff going on) and then the teething. But there’s always going to be something so we thought we really must do it before she gets old enough to get upset by the change. As I type she is fast asleep in her cot in her own room for the first time ever. I had to go back in to resettle her after five minutes but all seems to be well for now. I suspect that she will be fine and it will just be me waking up through the night trying to listen to her breathing – the separation anxiety is all me!

Anyway, you might wonder what all of this has to do with decluttering. Basically, a lot of things had to be moved around today to facilitate the move and so it was a good opportunity to get some more clearing out done. I took a large bag of stuff to the charity shop and three bags to the fabric recycling bank. A couple of carier bags of ‘stuff’ went in the bin too.

I’m at that weird stage where I’ve cleared and cleared and cleared and – annoyingly – it doesn’t really look any different. Anyone else been there? However, a fair amount of storage space has been cleared up so as I tackle different areas I should actually be able to put things away properly. I’m counting on that making all the difference!

Categories: Decluttering | 6 Comments

Decluttering fatigue

I’m trying to revive my flagging enthusiasm for decluttering. I had quite a good go at it around New Year and I think I used up all of my mojo. One of my January goals was to get the decluttering finished as part of our prep for getting the house on the market.

So far I’ve finished the kitchen (including a swap around of various cupboard contents which has made it all work better) and thrown lots of things out. In fact, the reason I haven’t done a ‘Declutter 10’ post for a while is that I’ve got rid of too many things to log. I even tackled the area on top of the fridge where loads of random things without allocated homes tend to get dumped. No more. It is now home to a very neat basket full of medical stuff (plasters, tablets and so on), two pretty cake tins and a stand for recipe books. It looks so much better and I get a little kick out of it every time I look there.

I’ve also tackled various bits and pieces here and there but the kitchen is the only room that I can count as ‘finished’. Thus I need to get on with it as the end of the month is getting closer and I am not going to get behind with things on the very first month of the year. My parents are going to babysit for a bit tomorrow so I can have a good couple of hours at it. Hopefully I’ll be able to tick a few more areas off the list!

Categories: Decluttering | 5 Comments

Decluttering 10: Week 2

It’s been quite good having the focus of getting rid of, or organising, ten things a week – enough of a focus to get me going but not so much it becomes an annoying chore! Here’s what I’ve managed to get done in the last week:

  1. Colander: A cracked, plastic affair which Husband bought a replacement for months ago. Why I have been hanging on to it since is something of a mystery.
  2. Plant: Sadly deceased (they have to be hardy to survive living in this house).
  3. Coat: Ah, a faithful old friend but ripped and ragged beyond wear. Even though I’d gone off it I had been rather sentimental about it (it has been to many places with me including New York and Prague). I was on the verge of getting rid of it last winter and then realised that, due to the cut, I could actually wear it over my bump, thus it survived another winter. But tramp chic isn’t a look I’m really going for…
  4. Lipgloss: Free with a magazine about two years ago, residing unused and unloved in a drawer. I don’t wear lipgloss (the texture makes me feel weird plus it comes straight off. I don’t get lipgloss) so it had to go!
  5. Hot water bottle: Discovered in a drawer, gone crackly and disinegrated. Bye bye.
  6. Frying pan: Fell to pieces. Literally.
  7. Frying pan: Replaced the same day the old one went into bin. Did not buy cheapest one available for a change. I am hoping this means it will last a bit longer. Frying pans seem to have a short life span here. Like plants, they need to be hardy to survive…
  8. Pile of old magazines and catalogues for recycling
  9. Old phones: Two dead handsets. One died after being dropped in the bath (Husband likes to make phone calls from the tub). the other died of natural causes. Time they went in the bin.
  10. New phones!: Actually bought these when we saw them on offer a month ago but had failed to unpack and charge them up. I know – mental. Got a couple of cheap phone bills out of it though! Now charged up, in situ with an answering machine message and everything.
Categories: Decluttering | 5 Comments

Decluttering 10

I’m on another decluttering mission! I did really well earlier on this year when we did a lot of redecorating and other home improvements but, inevitably, this is something that needs to be done again and again and again to keep on top of. I vowed I wouldn’t let things get quite as out of control as last time. However, even though a lot of stuff went, there is still more that I could get rid of. Does anyone else find that they end up looking at the same things over and over again while clearing out and yet they only get rid of whatever it is on the 5th or 6th round? Most of the time I find myself throwing things out that I could have thrown out the last time, if not the time before. I suppose sometimes it takes a while to decide if you really want to keep something or not.

Anyhow, I’ve decided that I am going to set myself the challenge of getting rid of 10 things every week until I can honestly say that I want to keep everything we’ve got. This will also probably entail a bit of reorganising, thus the 10 things I have to do can include:

  • Items that I am getting rid of (either by giving away, taking to the charity shop, keeping back to sell or going in the bin)
  • Items that need be thrown away and then replaced
  • Sorting out an untidy area: a drawer, a cupboard, a storage box, the corner of a room and so on

Since there is no time like the present I thought I might as well just get on with it. It took me about ten minutes to do a quick sweep around our bedroom to find the following items to get rid of:

  1. Tatty old scarf from H&M
  2. Black top
  3. Old hairbrushes x3 (what kind of brushing emergency was I keeping them for?!)
  4. Wallet (not used for about 8 years)
  5. Packs of contact lenses x 4 (prescription now out of date)
  6. Make-up bag
  7. Black fleece top
  8. Calligraphy set (I’ve had it over ten years and never used it!)
  9. Small handheld mirror
  10. Scented sachet

Not bad. And now I can put my feet up knowing I’ve done something vaguely constructive!

Categories: Decluttering | 1 Comment

Weigh-in: week 2

I’ve lost 3.5 pounds this week so that’s £35 to go into the new clothes pot! Since starting I’ve lost 5 pounds so I now have 21 of 26 to go.

I managed to have another clothes cull this week, getting rid of two carrier bags full. It was mostly things I hadn’t worn since I became pregnant and a lot of it hadn’t been worn for even longer. Some people say if you haven’t worn an item of clothing for a certain length of time (ie 6 months or a year) that you should just get rid of it. I’m never sure about this as I tend to go through phases of really liking things/forgetting I have them. Even so, I’ve decided I must be a bit more ruthless. If I don’t really, really like it (or it looks like it has seen better days) then it must go.

A couple of weeks ago I ordered a few items in a size larger than my pre-pregnancy clothes so I’ve got something to wear until the weight has gone/I can fit back into my old stuff. I suspect this will be sometime around Christmas if I keep at it. To keep me going until then I have bought a pair of jeans, a fitted cardi, a vest, 2 T-shirts and a shirt. The jeans have been a lifesaver. The trouble with wearing maternity trousers is that they tend to be cut so they fit just under the bump. Unfortunately this is at exactly the right point to rub against caesarean scars – ow. Anyway, my new capsule warobe (supplemented by the odd ‘old size’ item such as cardi’s and tops that look okay) should be plenty enough to see me through. I can’t wait to get back into my old things and also get some new bits and pieces. I took my favourite GAP cardi out of the drawer the other day only to find that moths have been at it and it now has two large holes. GRRRR. Anyone know how to repel these little buggers without resorting to stinky old-school mothballs?

Categories: Decluttering | 4 Comments

The purge

It was no good. I tried doing one kitchen cupboard a day but it seemed to be dragging on forever so I’ve just had a massive purge and cleaned/tidied/rearranged the lot. There are only a few bits and pieces of the big spring clean left to do and then I’m done. I hate doing it but can’t deny how much easier it is to keep on top of things if I have a really good sort out every few months. 

Thanks to everyone who left me book recommendations – I’ll be making a list to take to the library on my next trip. Yesterday I picked up a few titles and am already halfway through a brilliant book on Shakespeare written by Bill Bryson (how did I not know about this?). I think I’ll go and read a bit more before getting ready to go out for lunch with some friends…

Categories: Decluttering | 2 Comments

The war on stuff

I can see another big sorting out and decluttering session is on the horizon. The spare room is in the transitional phase between being the spare room and a nursery. The walls, ceiling and woodwork have been painted and Dad came up and laid the carpet for us yesterday. As yet there is no actual furniture in the room. What is in there, however, are piles and piles of ‘stuff’. The ‘stuff’ has now crept out of the spare room/nursery and has started to drape itself all over our bedroom in the manner of an obsticle course. I even noticed a rogue bag or two of ‘stuff’ has snuck downstairs (possibly during the night?) and has lined itself up in the living room. ‘Stuff’ is sneaky – you have to watch it constantly otherwise it will have its own way and create chaos.

This stuff is of the worst kind – it doesn’t fall into any clear category (ie books, clothes etc). It comprises completely random items that, upon individual inspection, a) cannot be thrown away and b) have no place to call home. Thus I find myself picking up various objects, looking at them and then putting them back down thinking ‘I’ll, er, deal with that later’. Well, later is now. It has to be done so I might as well just get on and do it and then I can stop thinking about it. And, you know, other benefits like being able to get to my wardrobe and bed…

Categories: Decluttering | 2 Comments

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