It all started innocently enough with some moving boxes.
Having unpacked my worldly possessions into my new home about a year ago, I found myself in need of a way to dispose of the cardboard boxes.
A friend suggested a new fancy feature on Facebook called "Marketplace", where you can buy and sell things – or even just give them away for free.
So, I listed my 30 boxes for free. They were whisked away in a few hours by an extremely grateful man, who smiled broadly and thanked me profusely as he shoved them all into his Hyundai hatchback.
Huh. How easy was that? I thought.
As I continued to settle into my new abode, the urge to purge overcame me, surrounded by my old furniture and decor items that no longer suited. So, I took to Marketplace again, gifting a coffee table to a young man that had just moved from Adelaide, a desk to a lady who was getting into writing and a bookshelf to a woman and her teenage son who lived locally.
Finally, I discovered my nerve to start actually selling things. I struggled initially with this concept. What if I set my asking price too high and look greedy, or silly? What if I set it too low and feel regret? Turns out, you find out pretty quick on Marketplace whether you've priced incorrectly. Inundated with messages immediately? Priced too low. No messages for a day? Too high.
Eventually, I found a sweet spot pricing items at about one-third of their store cost. On some items, you can charge more, such as pot plants and vintage items, or anything that can be advertised under the guise of being "Hamptons" style. Some items you will struggle to even get one-third, such as books, kitchen items and anything damaged.
My first real sale was $20 for an IKEA shoe rack. Things escalated quickly after that.
My next sale was a wicker chest of drawers for $120, including $20 delivery fee for me to drive it to the next suburb. Delivering soon became my new hobby. Turns out, I quite enjoy motoring around the city and it saves you waiting around for buyers to arrive. You have to factor in petrol, of course.
Not long after, I met a woman on a street corner outside a pub near a large public housing complex, exchanging an IKEA bedside lamp and ceiling light shade for a crisp $10 note. I didn’t charge her delivery.
One month I made $155 by encouraging my son to part with old toys – under a strict revenue-sharing arrangement, of course. Less cluttered house for me; valuable finance lesson for him.
During gym lockdowns and the peak of the home gym equipment boom, I sold an 8-kilogram kettlebell for $30 that I’d previously bought for just $5. They’re now selling for just $5 again – talk about Tulip bubbles.
Where possible, I'd try to sell seasonally, offloading outdoor chairs and picnic baskets in summer and cosy furnishings in winter.
In addition to selling my own purchases, I've sometimes flipped things I’ve bought on Marketplace for a profit.
My best flip was a 1.5-metre wide, gilt-framed Indonesian Batik that someone posted on Marketplace for free. I displayed it for about six months in my home before deciding it didn’t suit my style. I sold it for $150. A very tidy and tax-free profit.
I also bought a vintage dressing table for $50 that I later on-sold for $100.
I drove about an hour and paid $40 for a wooden ship's wheel and two glass buoys and later sold them for $140 (Hamptons style!).
Perhaps my weirdest sale was a collection of eight large pine cones I'd found strewn on the ground of a sprawling country estate where I'd spent a weekend getaway. Got $45 for 'em. You really can sell anything.
Discovering the second-hand economy has been a revelation for me. I've always previously bought new. And it never occurred to me to sell unwanted items.
Now, I see that furniture and homewares are just like cars: they depreciate in value the moment you take them out of the store. Having seen that, there’s no way I can go back to paying three times as much for anything new – not when this cornucopia of readily available second-hand goods exists, albeit hidden on the internet.
All up, I’ve made $2706 this year selling 96 items (and yes, I keep a spreadsheet!). That’s an average sale price of $28. I sold nine items at just $5, including a doormat, a clock, an outdoor umbrella, a bedside table and an IKEA circus tent.
If you factor in all the time I’ve spent, I doubt I’m ahead financially. I could probably have earnt more money doing other jobs which better use my skills.
But the truth is, I enjoy it. It's great meeting like-minded frugal types and having a chat.
I’ve only ever had one or two buyers fail to show up. And everyone has paid in full – either in cash, or by bank transfer.
Thanks to technology, there has never been a better time to turn your clutter into cash.
You can follow Jess’ money adventures on Instagram at @jess_irvine_pics
Jessica Irvine is a senior economics writer with The Sydney Morning Herald.