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Home » Lifehack & GTD, Lifestyle Finance

The Spend What you Sell Strategy Gets Rid of Clutter & Makes you Money

Last updated by on January 6, 2014

There are a lot of tactics to decluttering and downsizing your personal belongings. I’ve covered a few guerrilla tactics to get rid of clutter in the past.

But there’s a new strategy that I just devised that I’m going to try out for a while.

It’s simple, fun, and if carried out with a little discipline, should be amazingly effective. You may want to give it a try too!

I call it the “Spend what you Sell Strategy” (SWYS). Let me explain…

What is the single biggest problem with traditional decluttering strategies?

You keep accumulating new stuff! All organization, selling, trashing, and other decluttering strategies only focus on the outgoing component. Rarely do they also tie in to what you accumulate. The ‘SWYS’ strategy does just that.

Here’s how it works:

declutter strategy

  1. Sell stuff you no longer need and want to get rid of.
  2. Record what you sell and how much you sold it for in a spreadsheet. Sum it all up.
  3. Simultaneously keep a list of things you want to buy. Don’t include food/entertainment/utilities. Just material possessions.
  4. Create a third list of stuff you actually buy. Your sell list minus your bought list equals your balance to purchase new things.
  5. This is the key component: Only spend the equivalent amount that you have sold. Don’t go over that amount.

In Action

I recently tried this strategy out last weekend. I realized I had a few huge items just sitting around that we weren’t using – a guest bed that only gets used a few times a year, a couch in the basement, a dresser, a fake tree, a luggage set, etc.

At the same time, we wanted to turn our guest room into a more functional room and thought a futon, storage unit, and rug would do the trick.

I was able to make $335 by selling all of the used possessions on Craigslist and the new items cost $320. I got rid of clutter, made my house more functional and enjoyable, and still came out ahead financially. Win, win, win!

Why the SWYS Method is so Effective

Outside of collectible rarities, used material possessions rarely accumulate in value. This is a key component to this system being so effective. The SWYS strategy simultaneously has a few great benefits:

  1. It declutters: It forces you to sell off stuff and declutter. You’ll eventually need to buy some new things at some point.
  2. It is frugal: It’s incredibly frugal! You’re essentially creating a bank account from stuff you already own.
  3. It encourages mindfulness: You’re forced to really evaluate what you are buying (you can only sell off so much stuff). It also creates a ‘holding period’ between adding an item to the list and actually buying it. This will really cut down your impulse purchases.
  4. It’s very efficient: Because new stuff costs more than used, you’re eventually going to hit a point where you’ve sold off everything you no longer need. Wouldn’t that be a great problem to have?
  5. It’s very fun and motivating: It’s kind of like running a mini business!
  6. It’s accountable: You record and keep track of everything you are buying and selling. This allows you to see progress (selling) and your consumption habits (buying).
  7. It’s sustainable: This strategy motivates you to find a buyer who will use what you are selling versus simply tossing it in the trash and sending it to a landfill.

To Help you Get Started

Here is replica of the Google Doc spreadsheet that I am using to keep track of everything. You can log in to your Google account to make a copy, or you can download as an excel sheet.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Spend what you Sell Strategy Discussion:

  • Have you tried anything like this?
  • What decluttering strategies have worked for you?

Related Posts:

About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 10,000+ others by getting FREE email updates. You can also explore every post I have written, in order.

  • Justin @ MoneyIsTheRoot says:

    I used to sell all of my “clutter” back in the day, now I keep it pretty lean around my house. Most definitely an effective way to help maintain a budget and limit spending.

  • Josh says:

    I would say also, buy what you can sell and sell it when you can still get most of what you spent. For the most part I will buy things that I want, especially electronics, and sell them a year or 2 later for more money than I bought them for. Works pretty well you just have to educate yourself and be patient in the purchasing process.

  • Mel says:


    Thanks for the spreadsheet outline. I’ll be using it this summer when I’m cleaning out my old books, stationary, and toys. Oh, and anything my parents want to sell too.

  • Ron Ablang says:

    The spreadsheet is a nice simple tool.

    I think it all starts in the mind. You have to want to get rid of stuff. It’s hard to let go of things you’ve spent your whole life accumulating (and this is all you have to show for it).

  • Melissa says:

    This is a great post. Thank you!

    I recently helped my mom move from a large house to a much smaller one. She is borderline hoarder and a friend and I sorted through an entire 2 car garage filled to the brim, rafters included! I guarantee nobody seriously sorted that stuff during the past 10 years, maybe longer.

    In the process of sorting we threw away 1/3, donated 1/3 to charity, and kept 1/3 for use. My mom couldn’t be present for it, as it was too painful for her and she would pull everything out of the giveaway pile. Two steps forward, one step back.

    Both my friend and I agreed, after 3 days of sorting nonstop, that we were both going home to aggressively declutter our own homes. We both had the same unspoken thought the entire time we sorted and didn’t voice it until the car ride home!!

    I don’t become emotionally attached to objects in the same way as my mom, but like everyone else I tend to accumulate little by little until one day you do a self-check and it’s way too much!

    I would like to sell things on eBay or a rummage sale. Does anyone have any tips on how to know when something is worth my time in eBay or garage sale? I tend to throw it away and take a loss, rather than hassle with a garage sale…

  • tami says:

    Great idea! I’m going to try using Craig’s List. I used to give everything away through freecycle. Now I think, “why not make some money?”


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