After a long winter, clutter in peoples’ homes or apartments can build up. According to Yahoo Finance, 78% of households participate in some form of spring cleaning each year. Spring cleaning has long been a tradition in Maine – serving as an opportunity to find lost items, increase productivity, and get rid of inventory that is no longer needed. To make the most of the tradition, people might consider cashing in on their spring cleaning efforts, and making a little extra money. But please do so carefully, and don’t share unnecessary information with strangers.

Decide What to Sell
Items traditionally sell for less than what they would cost in stores, so remember not to sell something that will later be needed, as it would cost more to buy it again. In the long run, sellers may have to spend more reacquiring the item than they earned on their sale. A good practice is to set aside items and wait a while; if they remain unused, it’s time to consider selling. After determining what to sell, the next step is to determine how to do so.

Print Publications
The classified section of local newspapers and publications such as “Uncle Henry’s” are great places to list items for sale. As an added bonus in our digital age, most print publications also have online sites.

Online Listings
To sell locally and avoid shipping costs or electronic payment methods, list items on reputable websites like Craigslist, OfferUp, or Facebook Marketplace. Once a seller and buyer agree on a sale, they can arrange delivery or pickup. An alternative is to list items on websites like Etsy, or eBay. But be prepared to pay for shipping, insurance on the package, and seller fees. Etsy takes 5% of the final sale price and eBay takes 10%. Regardless of where an item is listed, there are some best practices to increase the chance of making a sale. The seller should take clear pictures of the item from all angles, write an easy-to-read description, and price the item competitively.

Donating items to a charity is a good choice, if the spring cleaner can afford this. Giving to those who are in need feels good and can also benefit the person donating – donating to a nonprofit can reduce the donor’s taxable income. But before making a donation, ask the nonprofit or charity if it’s a tax-exempt organization. To ensure being able to take the deduction on taxable income, request a receipt with the estimated value of the items at the time of the donation.

Safeguard the Sale
Regardless of whether a sale is local or online, protecting finances should be a top priority.
If selling locally, avoid sharing personal information with a prospective buyer. Don’t share any information beyond an email address or phone number necessary for communication. Do not share a checking account number, date of birth, or address. If the buyer wants to chat, be careful not to reveal information, as those details could potentially be the answers to security questions when accessing financial accounts. Generally, cash is much safer to accept than a check, as a check can always bounce and leave the seller responsible for any fees. Sellers should always meet in a public place and bring a friend or family member along, if possible.

If selling online, much of the same advice applies. Don’t give away extra information to payment accounts like PayPal, Zelle, or Venmo. Further, never ship an item before the payment has been processed.
These tips can help turn spring cleaning into a more enjoyable, safer – and potentially profitable! – activity.