Frugality Tip #3: Use local classifieds to declutter and create capital

This is one of those tips I keep coming back to, year after year, because it lets us compound more than a benefit (I’m almost tempted to call it a “Lollapalooza Effect” like Charlie Munger calls them).

Even if you’re an extremely frugal person, if you live anywhere near society and spend Christmas holidays with your family, you’ll no doubt have several items in your house that you don’t use.

This can happen for a variety of reasons, including gifts that you don’t use, items that broke and you never had the time or inclination to fix, old books that are just collecting dust et cetera.

Over time, this creates a constant source of inefficiency and entropy in your house, because you have capital tied up (inefficiency #1), you have clutter and less space in your house (inefficiency #2) and it makes other people buy new items when they could just as well buy your used one, creating pollution and waste (inefficiency #3).

We shouldn’t let that happen in 2020, as there are plenty of classified websites (like Ebay or Craigslist) that let you put your unused items for sale in a few minutes, smartphones are ubiquitous (making it easy to take photos), and if you’re here you most certainly have the required IT skills and willingness to make that happen.

Blueprint to start decluttering and creating capital right now:

#1 Visualize the benefits:
  • You will free up space in your house
  • You will free up capital that you can reinvest
  • You will reduce pollution by letting interested third parties purchase a used item instead of a new one
#2 Make it easy and low-effort to sell a random item around your house

As with any productive habit, what we want to do is to reduce the cognitive load (e.g. the energy required to do that particular task), and hopefully try to make it easy to form a repeatable pattern (e.g. a habit) when presented with a cue (the realization that there’s an unused item in your house).

The best advice I can give you for this, is to go create 2-3 accounts for your local classified websites (or global ones too) and save the passwords into keepass so that you can securely and automatically login in a few seconds when you need it.

The other piece of advice is: whenever you see and item you want to sell around the house, grab your cell phone and take 3-4 photos (front and rear). You will discard the worst ones and use the good ones to display images on the classified website. Make you sure you get into the habit of taking 3-4 photos of every side of your item, otherwise when you go list it, you’ll find out the images are blurred and you’ll probably either give up selling it, or it will take more cognitive load to go back and re-take the pictures. Do it once and do it right.

#3 Set a threshold under which it’s more convenient to give the item away or trash it

Yup. It’s very efficient to sell a 200$ item that’s sitting in your house collecting dust. It’s not efficient to sell small items for 5$ and message back and forth with sellers for a couple days, and maybe even drive there, while you could have done something much more productive with your time.

One good trick is to group up low-value items (like books) and sell an entire lot: for example you might have 4-5 books from the same author, worth 10$ each, and grouping them up in a 50$ lot saves time for both you and the buyer, and makes the sale much more efficient.

In any case set a threshold, and decide that every item worth less than that will either be gifted to relatives, go to charity, or trashed in order to de-clutter your home. Then stick to this rule.

#4 Make it into a habit

After doing this for around 10 times, you’ll notice it becomes easy and it takes very little effort, now make it stick. Every time you notice and item that could be optimized and sold, take your photos and list it, until it becomes another productive habit-

#5 Reinvest the newfound capital

This is the best part: you have successfully decluttered your home, but you now also hold some cash that you can reinvest right away and make it produce income forever. This is important as it makes the whole endeavour go exponential, thanks to the power of compound interest!

There you go, I hope this helped you be 1% better!

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