How to sell almost everything


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Hi wannabe Canadians, I wrote this piece for my own journal and decided to post it here, may give some inspiration to others.  It is quite lengthy...

How to sell almost everything

The Decision

When we decided to emigrate, we vaguely discussed the options of shipping over a container, or maybe just a few things in shared container, or selling everything.  Initially we made the decision to ship over a container.  In January 2017 we submitted our application (after receiving ITA in December 2016) and then the thought process and investigations as to ship/sell got a lot more intense.  The following facts led to our final decision:

1)      We have good solid wood and genuine leather sets that we hand-picked according to our specific taste and needs.  These are of great quality and it fits our home perfectly.

a.       Drawback: apparently Canadian homes are a lot smaller than we are used to. We didn’t know how soon we would be able to settle into a new home, as we were comfortable to go over without jobs if need to.

b.       Drawback: we have heard that leather and wood need extra special care because of the extreme weather and accompanied heating systems

2)      To ship a 20ft container (the smaller size) would be anything from R80000 upwards and can take up to six months to arrive.

3)      Bed sizes in Canada are different to South Africa, so beds, mattresses and sheets would eventually not match each other

4)      Voltage in Canada is 110V vs South Africa’s 220, so that leaves all your Kitchen appliances and audio-visual systems at home

So, we decided to sell as much as possible and try to get as good as possible prices. For those who decided to take a container over, a friend of mine, Andrea, did a great vlog entry on how to pack everything!

However, we would take over clothes that fits in our suitcases, and “a few boxes” and our beloved original art pieces.  The definition of “a few boxes” was very vague, but I had in my head that I would keep my books, some children’s toys, photo albums and some sentimental trinkets and gifts.

After submitting our application, we knew that the standard time for receiving PPR is six months, and so we weren’t sure when we would settle in Canada.  We made the decision that we would wait till end of June 2017 to decide when we would settle, and June came and went, so we decided we would settle in March 2018, leaving our house in January for an epic last SA Roadtrip.

Ok, so beginning of June we got the ball rolling.  We’ve put the house in the market, as we’ve heard that it could take 3-6 months.  If the house gets sold early, we will “make a plan”.  Then I had to start selling all our things.  This was a daunting task and I wasn’t sure how on earth I would get to do it.  But I had to start somewhere.  My strategy soon unfolded: I started clearing rooms and cupboards, taking pictures of items that could be saleable and that we could do without.  I think the first few items I listed was a mirror, a set of kitchen chairs that were scattered through the house, the baby’s cot and changing table.  I started advertised these on Gumtree, a free and easy system, and later also used OLX, Facebook Marketplace and my own website.


I started selling items in June 2017 and we left the house in the first week of January 2018.  From there we did a roadtrip for a few months and left South Africa in March 2018.


Guilt of selling vs giving away...

When I started this whole process, I felt guilty because we have so much, and now we are selling our items instead of giving them away.  There is so much pain and need in the world, and I can make a good contribution. But then later I realised that each and every item I need to sell, I will need to buy once settled.  However, this process opened my eyes for need, and where possible I tried to give items away when I see a need and know it can make a difference.

I felt that some items are not saleable, such as old duvets, sheets and blankets.  We contacted Helpende Hand, a charity organisation that collects and distribute items to charitable people.  I enquired about their process and felt safe in the knowledge that they have a system in place of following up on people and not just give where the need is, but also support and sustain. 

Then we also cleared out our old baby-items and made the children select a few of their most loved stuffed animals, the rest was to be given away.  We selected our Church’s Baby House that takes in babies from 0 to 18 months.  I was a great experience to take our children and drop off the toys and items. I was not sure that they would remember the experience as they were 1 and 3. However last week my now 4-year old needed a new washcloth. I bought it and wanted to throw the old one away, because we can “give it away to someone who doesn’t have one like we did in Africa”.


First Customers

My first customer phoned, and I was very excited, he wanted a mirror I advertised for R400.  The conversation went something like this:

He: Hi There, I am interested in the mirror you are advertising, is it still available? I can come and pick it up now.

Me: Sure, still available.

He: What is the price again, I have only R300 cash.

Me: Well it is actually R400

He: Well, I have only R300 on me right now.

Me: Maybe you can pop by an ATM and get the other R100?

He: Hmmm. I really want the mirror; my girlfriend will lend me the rest.  Good, I’m on my way.

I was laughing so much, he too, and we had a deal. My first sale! For the next few months I was never out of cash, as my customers usually brought cash with, unless it is a really big item and big amount.  The next funny story was “Indian Lady” as it sounded on the phone, wanting the kitchen chairs.  She phoned on a Saturday morning and was “on her way” most of the day, and eventually rocked up at about 20:00 the evening.  Willem and I had an agreement that I would let the customers in the gate only if I feel absolutely safe and never in the house unless he is there as well.  So, this little minibus/kombi rocked up with a Muslim lady in full covered clothing, with her three children from ages 10-20 that popped out of the bus and next moment they are in my kitchen testing out the chairs.  The husband stayed in the vehicle.  I think the chairs was R150 per chair or R800 for the set of six.  The lady was very friendly and tried to negotiate the price down.  “Got some discount for me?”  I told her that I already give her a discount if I give her the R100 of for taking all six.  She acted a little bit upset, but then smiled and said, “I am Indian, I have to ask!”  We were both laughing.  She then called in the husband to make the final decision, pulled out the cash, loaded the chairs in the bussie and off they went.  Willem was laughing at me trying to not give discount to and Indian person, but hey, it ended well. 

This gave me confidence to make sure I “load” my price before posting it on Gumtree and try as much as possible not to give in to lower offers – if it is a good price and a quality item, it will sell eventually. As I went on selling more and more items, I realised about 50% of people ask for a discount or make a lower offer.  By loading my prices by about 20% and giving discounts when it is not a ridiculous request, I eventually evened out on the prices I wanted.  Sometimes people would ask for a 50% discount and I would just ignore them.

Scams, safety

Not long into the process I posted a leather couch set, with a hefty price tag for such a luxury item.  Very soon, less than 20 minutes after posted, I got a call from a guy that is very interested.  He has a sister that is relocating to Joburg from London and he is setting up this person’s house.  His first question was if the item was in a good condition.  Of course, it is!! He also wanted to know what else I was selling.  I quickly mentioned our spare queen size bed with pedestals, a carpet and a TV cabinet. He then immediately wanted me to send pictures of all these items, with prices.  I did that and he phoned again to organise collection for the same day.  I insisted that I want to be paid before collection.  I mentioned that I am with FNB and he said he is with Nedbank.  He will send me a copy of his ID and proof of payment as soon as I give him my address.  The conversation started getting awkward and I did not feel comfortable anymore.  I insisted that he can only collect once the full balance is reflecting in my account.  He said he would get back to me and I never heard back from him. 

This pattern soon repeated with another luxury item – I would say anything above R4000 triggered this “scam”.  The person has a relative relocating, they want to set up house and take same-day collection.  I never really figured out how exactly they planned to rob you, as I never gave them my address, but please be aware of this strategy.

At another time Willem advertised his laptop and I was listening to him receiving a call within 20 minutes of posting the ad.  It was the first time he advertised something.  By listening to him I realised it was a scam.  The clues:  It is for my daughter; I live in Vereeniging but have a driver in the area that can pick up immediately.  Willem decided to see what happens and decided to suss out the villain.  He arranged to meet up with “the driver” at a local coffeeshop and do the exchange there – cash for the laptop.  He was very nervous, parked far in the corner of the parking lot, walked with the laptop to the agreed location and waited for “the driver” to contact him.  While on the phone with “the buyer” he identified the car of the so-called driver, but the driver never got out of the vehicle.  We think that they wanted him to climb into the vehicle??  Anyway, this did not happen, and Willem disappeared to his vehicle, made a few quick darts and dashes with his car for in case there is an attempted high-jack and arrived home safely.

However, during the six months I’ve sold items, I was never scammed and never felt unsafe.  I’ve noticed that if there is a family (husband and wife) dealing with me, the wife will do the talking, negotiation and the husband will stay in the car, until I specifically invite him inside the house.  I saw this as a sign of them respecting my privacy and safety.


What else are you selling?

I got into the habit of taking pictures of obsolete household items and posting it quickly on both Gumtree and OLX.  Then, quite often, people that picked up some item and seeing the “For Sale” sign in front of the house, started inquiring as to where we are going.  Most of them were very excited for us emigrating, knowing a family member/ friend that is also in Canada and how happy they are.  Some responded with the well-known “You know it is very cold there?” and I just smiled and nodded. 

Then quite often they would ask what else I am selling.  To explain to them how to get a list of all my items on Gumtree is a bit complicated, so I used to put together a very simple listing of all my items.  I was even able to classify it into different rooms, e.g. Kitchen / Garage etc.  This came in very handy and easy to distribute to friends and family.  By using the default plug and play design you have very good-looking website for use on both PC and mobile devices.  I do not think I made a lot of sales through this process, but I enjoyed doing it and it.

I also used Facebook Marketplace to list items and got some good sales from there as well.

Memorable Sales

The Bed

Selling our bed was more difficult than I thought it would be. I wanted to sell it as a set with the bed, pedestals and mattress, and quite often I would get ridiculously low offers, or people would not be interested in the whole set.  It is also difficult to sell a used mattress, as it is a very expensive item, that loses most of its value, although it was in excellent condition.  At last I got a call from a friendly guy that is interested in the whole set. He came the morning as agreed with an enormous trailer, as he had in mind that he would take the whole bed and put it on the trailer, rather than dis-assemble it and re-assemble at home.  I tried my best to convince him that it would be a lot easier to take it apart rather than trying to get the whole thing out the door.  In the end he saw the light and we loaded it on his trailer, and then it was time to pay. As this is pricey purchase, there were some changing of limits on online banking involved, and he had some banking issues, so we spent some time with him.  He was a serious mountaineer and did some of the highest mountains on each continent and was on his way to conquer another mountain in South-America.  I was quite surprised, as surely a mountaineer should be a skilful person and be able to assemble beds!  However, we got our payment and off went the mountaineer with his bed. I hope slept well before conquering his next few mountains!


About three months before our Leaving Date, my Microwave oven broke.  O no.  So, we decided not to buy a new one, surely we can be without this item for a few months.  So being the opportunistic person I am, I tried to sell a broken microwave oven.  I advertised it as that: “Broken Microwave” and it worked!  Someone enquired about the rotating plate inside the microwave, as hers has broken.  She wasn’t sure if it would fit, so she paid for it and took it away, with the agreement that if it doesn’t fit, she can return it.  I didn’t hear from her again, so it fitted! Yea!  Then I even found a buyer of broken Microwaves that takes them in for parts.  Another small sale done!


In the last week of Willem still working, our iron broke.  No problem.  He had a few ironed shirts in the closet and for at least six months I didn’t touch an iron!  This iron didn’t find a new owner….


One of my favourite items in my house was a vintage looking kitchen scale.  I got an enquiry from a guy in the Cape that wanted the scale.  I was sad to inform him that it is too far, I am not going to deliver it that far.  But this was a serious buyer, he insisted that he would send a courier to collect, I just need to wrap it properly.  He is a collector of the specific scale’s brand and has a set of 4 scales in his kitchen, and this would complete his set. So, I agreed, he paid, I wrapped, and the courier collected.  I even received a picture from my satisfied customer of the scale and its new friends!

Patio set

Sometimes I sold pricey good quality items and had to wait almost forever to get a proper deal.  As we’ve started early, I was in the position to keep on to items until I have a proper deal.  One of these was our patio set that we dearly loved and had some lovely outside dinners at with friends and family.  I had so many offers for about 60% of the price I offered and did not want to let go.  I insisted to get my price or at least 85%, as it was inflated.  One evening a friendly young fellow came over to have a look at it (about the fifth person) and at last I’ve found my customer.  He saw a different new item in Makro of about the same price, but of course it wasn’t as sturdy and good design as our table.    He was sitting and thinking and pondering and then suddenly jumped up saying he will definitely take it, if he can have it at the same price as the Makro table.

I was so relieved, because it was a good price and within my range of being acceptable, so we made a deal.  He paid a 50% deposit and came a month later to pay the balance and collect the table.  In that time, we had one last dinner and said goodbye to our table!


Neliswe and Lesego’s story

One of my best strategic decisions was to list three items, a fridge, washer and drier for R100 each.  They were all at the end of their lives but if you knew how to finetune them, they were doing their jobs just fine. So, I listed them along with an honest explanation as to why the prices are so low.

 A lady called Lesego* came over one evening in October to look at a dressing room table that she wanted to purchase for her mother, Neliswe*.  She was very interested but did not have the money right there.  When she left, she asked me what else I was selling, so I’ve sent her the website link.  She was ecstatic to see the fridge, washer and drier and promised to come again over the weekend, bringing her mom.

That weekend she brought over her mother. And of course, some of the rest of the family, I think an aunt and sister.  They rocked up in a taxi, driven by the brother.  First, they had a look at the appliances, and decided that they definitely wanted all three.  We agreed that they can take it when we leave Joburg in January.  Then came the next question: what else are you selling?  I mentioned the website, but they were more interested in my kitchen, and I have not yet put these on my site, as I use it daily.  But they insisted to go through all my cupboards and wanted to see everything, even the teaspoons.  As I was totally unprepared, I promised to take pictures of everything and send to Lesego.  Ok, so they left with a gas heater and lots of promises to buy almost everything I owe.

Over the course of the next few months they came about once a month to bring some money, take some items I can do without, bring some more family members, go through my house and see what they want and discuss prices.  At some stage Lesego suggested that I do a garage sale just before we go.  This was in the back of my head and sounded like an interesting idea.  I’ve never been to one and it may be a bit risky security wise, but a good way of getting rid of all the little items, given that I have some customers.

 *Not their real names

The cars take a ride

What did we do with our cars? We had three cars, our bakkie to transfer rubble and dogs and big items, my car, and Willem’s car.

Willem’s car

Willem’s car was the easiest, as his dad was looking for a new car, and offered to buy it.  He still had his own car, so this was no problem.  In the last week of us being in Johannesburg, we did the owner’s transfer and all the relevant paperwork.  He took us to the airport in our car and left with his new purchase from the airport. 

My Car

To get rid of my car and the bakkie, we used second-hand sites such as Gumtree, WeBuyCars and some others.  We decided to let go of one of these as soon as we get a decent price.  Mine was the first to go, via Gumtree. It is not easy to do a Gumtree sale of such a high-risk item, but Willem met the potential seller and decided that he looks honourable.  Of course, I was negotiated down on my price, but in the end, I safely sold my car and got my money, so that one was sorted.  I think the car was sold in the end of November, and as Willem was still working and the children needed to go to school, I took Willem’s car and he took the bakkie to work.


Willem got a few quotes from WeBuyCars and those type of pages but decided to go with a company called Wheelie.  Wheelie worked like this: Willem listed the bakkie with specs and pictures on this site.  He had one week to receive offers on it, kind of like a bidding system.  The bidders were mostly second hand car dealerships.  He contacted the highest bidder to accept the price.  This bidder now had one day to decide to continue with the deal.  The bidder responded with acceptance and a transfer date was agreed.
The bakkie found a new home after the last day Willem quitted his job.  Although we were a little bit nervous about the system it worked out well.  We didn’t have any problems receiving the money or doing the paperwork.  I assume that Wheelie also takes responsibility in vetting the bidders.

Garage Sale

From about Christmas we didn’t have a lot of furniture left in the house.  Most of the big items have been cleared out, but we still had to live and sleep there, so we had a two mattresses for the children, an blow-up camping mattress for us, towels, cutlery, and then a hoard of other items, like hangers and countless of dustbins and random things.  Perfect for a Garage Sale.  I told Nellie and Lerato to bring all their friends, as well as my gardener and domestic lady.  Then we also told all our friends and I advertised on the local Facebook page.  I was sooo ready, everything had prices on, and I had a system in place. 

My gardener’s other job was that of security guard, and he agreed to be our gatekeeper for the morning.  The action was about to start at 9.


At about 8 o’clock Lesego and Neliswe and their friends and family arrived and started grabbing things and fighting over prices.  I cannot even remember how they got into the property; it was a blur.  I was hardly dressed and had to negotiate and bring out more towels and bedding that were still in cupboards because if you have buyer you need to sell!

At about nine o’clock when my gardener and his family arrived, they were devastated to see that “all the good things are gone”. Well not really, but the bedsheets and towels and curtains were really an attraction.  Plates and cutlery and glasses were also a favourite. And clothes hangers!

So, we had this fun system: when someone come to me to pay, they would bring their items, and I would count the total, and announce the final price.  Then they would negotiate to round the price down and squeeze in one or more small item.  Finally, we would agree on a price and the cash would be handed over.  Then the satisfied client had the opportunity to select a Fizzer from a box, and we had so much fun in them deciding if they wanted a green or a pink one.  It was a steaming hot day and while my customers were shopping, I handed out water and tried to cool down the garage.  I carried the cash close to my body and occasionally Willem would come and clear out my cash and go hide it in the house.

When the first round of chaos was over, I even had a few local residents that took their dogs for a walk that came by.  Some of my friends also supported us.

The garage sale was a wonderful experience, and although I definitely did not sell everything, it made a very good contribution to our kitty.

After the action was over, I spend the rest of the day packing everything in boxes and then contacted Helpende Hand and they took the rest of the items. 


The house…

To sell the house was the most difficult part of this whole emigration business.   I didn’t enjoy it at all, we got a much lower price than anticipated and had problems with transfer, so I will rather just leave the details out.  However, we are indeed blessed that we accepted an offer after leaving the house while on our roadtrip and that all the paperwork was completed before we flied out to Canada.


The dinner table

The house is getting empty….  Except for our dinner table.  The dinner table with 8 lovely chairs was bought in a set along with a server, coffee table and tv cabinet. We wanted to sell it all as a set, as they look beautiful together, but soon realised this was not going to happen.  Earlier on an interesting guy from the Netherlands took away the server, coffee table and tv cabinet.  Unfortunately, the dinner table wouldn’t have fitted in his house.  He recently moved to South Africa from the Netherlands and we can just wish him good luck in his new country.  He seems to love it. However, we were still stuck with the dinner table and again, a high-valued item that I didn’t want to let go at a very low price.  I had a few interested parties, but it never worked out.  In the beginning of January, we left the house with the table still in it, thinking that maybe we should sell the house with the table.

While on vacation I got a call from a guy that’s interested. Our estate agent (and neighbour) opened the house for him and he loved it.  We agreed on a price (hoooraay, I am fine with the price!!) and there it goes.  Cash in the bank, off goes the table.  I think this was the only item left in the house.

Settling in Canada

While selling all these items, I kept track of the money coming in, and decided that we would have these funds available to set up a new home in Canada. This worked out well, and I also realised that you can really get good value items in the second hand market.

We went over with our suitcases and a few portraits and sentimental value items in ten boxes that was couriered at later stage. We spent two months in an Airbnb and then three months in a furnished rental. During this time, I shopped on Kijiji (Gumtree equivalent) and Facebook Marketplace.  I also hopped around between shops to get the best value for money items.

To date, we have furnished our new place with a good mix of new and second-hand items.  So far, we have spent about 90% of our kitty, “replacing” our furniture, bedding and kitchen items.  There was money to invest in proper winter gear! My fried Andrea also has a great blog entry on places to go for good value shopping in the GTA:

Yes, the house is smaller, and we do not have a big garden, but I realised the value of decluttering your life.  Even after I sold about half of the items in our previous house, we still lived comfortably, just not able to cater for visitors.  Now we live a low maintenance rental, almost no garden, and a lovely park and forest just around the corner. Are we happy? Yes! Do I miss my “stuff”? Honestly, sometime yes. But mostly No.


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A great post! Thanks for sharing @LotzofTravel

We also sold everything, but it's been a risky move as we are still waiting for our visa. I'm a very sentimental person so it was a bit of a traumatic process for me, but at the same time it felt so wonderfully liberating to declutter, and now, after staying with my folks for the past six months and with just ten boxes to our name sitting in their store room, we realise how much we had and how little we can actually get by with. I've finally realised that it's all just stuff, and it's not important. But I'm really excited for a new beginning and can't wait to go shopping to refurnish our new home.

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We also sold everything and it was truly traumatic. We were married for almost forty years by then and that is a lot of memories. Beautiful oak furniture, antiques, heirlooms....

We brought some of our most treasured books and music with us, as well as all our photo albums.

In Canada garage sales were our salvation. My husband now has far more tools than he ever had. I have Royal Albert tea sets, a Noritake dinner set, and he found incredible art for an "appel en 'n ei."

In fact, we are planning our fourth (and hopefully last) garage sale this summer. 

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  • 1 month later...

Thanks for the tips! After reading it I tried and it was super easy and helpful.

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  • 10 months later...

We came over to Canada in 2002, and like LotzofTravel we were heartbroken to get rid of a yellow wood table, a welsh dresser and chairs, but refused to part with the bed and bedside tables and dressing table from the same company. Of course, a queen size in Canada is different from a queen size in the RSA and so for years we couldn't make up our mind as to whether we should have a mattress specifically made or not. However, I discovered that they sell a short queen mattress in Canada made for RVs which is 60"X75" and fits perfectly as opposed to the standard North American queen which is 60"X80".

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