Use a “Spend What you Sell” Decluttering Strategy To Limit Intake of Items

There are a lot of tactics to decluttering and downsizing your personal belongings. Why focus on this? It’s hard stuff! I’ve covered a few tactics to get rid of clutter and get rid of stuff (even sentimental stuff). It’s a constant work in progress for me.

Today, I wanted to share 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:

  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.

Declutter strategy

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 Spend what you Sell 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?


  1. Justin @ MoneyIsTheRoot
  2. Josh
  3. Mel
  4. Ron Ablang
  5. Melissa
  6. tami

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