I’ve been meaning to write a blog post to clarify something I said to Nathan at the beginning of this year. I told him that he could probably make $1 million by selling all the stuff he owns. Now before you get excited and plan the heist, understand that Nathan doesn’t own anything all that valuable. For the amount of work that you would have to do to sell all of Nathan’s stuff to make $1 million you would be better off to start your own reselling business, probably starting by selling all of your own stuff.
If you live in the US, you probably own a lot of stuff. It’s what we do. When I suggested to Nathan that he sell everything he owns that could be replaced (basically, nothing with extreme personal value) what I was saying is that he owns stuff that others would want to own. When you’re going to thrift stores to buy your inventory, you will find some of the stuff that other people want to own, but most of what ends up sold at thrift stores is stuff that people wouldn’t pay a higher price for. You can build a reselling business buying from thrift stores, and it likely would be better in the long term, because if you sell all the stuff you own and then buy it all back then what have you done?
Let me clarify though. What Nathan asked me was how do you make $1 million in gross revenue, which is a wildly different question than how do you become a millionaire. If Nathan sold his copy of Red Dwarf: The First, First, Second, Third, Fifth, Eighth, and Thirteenth Series for $30, and then bought it from someone else for $35, it doesn’t matter. The point was to make $1 million in gross revenue, not profit. He could sell his house tomorrow for $80,000 and it would count as $80,000 toward his gross revenue goal even if he would be losing most of the value of his house.
I was trying to say to Nathan that among his valued posessions he doesn’t own 17 copies of “The Rural Juror” by John Grift-Sham from buying up a dying book store. He owns stuff that he was willing to pay good money for, and most of it is stuff other people would be willing to buy. On top of that, Nathan would place a better price on his cherished stuff than he would put on the seventeenth printing of “Evil Dog Cars” by Steven Kings that he got at the library sale for 50 cents in case his buddy Chris didn’t own it yet. I know for a fact that Nathan has made more than $1 million in his working life. The fruits of that income are his collection of board games, movies, books, and the toys! Oh dear god, the toys!
I heard an estimated figure in a video recently talking about minimalism. He said that the average person has around 300,000 items in their house. Now, I understand that most of that is minutia. It’s a drawer with old mail we forgot to go through. It’s things like clips for the potato chip bags or the six nail clippers that were misplaced necessitating the purchase of the seventh. It’s frayed wires for phones we no longer own or cheap ink pens that haven’t written for a decade.
Let’s say though that 100,000 of those items could bring an average of $10 per item, well there’s your $1 million in revenue right there. It might only be $200,000 after shipping, listing fees and taxes, but we were talking revenue, not profit. Also, I believe he would average much higher than $10 if he focused on the best stuff first.
I think that one of the issues that many of us have is that we are to some extent collectors. We sort of focus our lives around the stuff we own, because stuff is neat. I think most of us value the people in our lives more than we value our stuff, so this isn’t a judgment call about that. It’s just an observation that maybe the answer to many of our futures is to sell more stuff than we buy. Would your life change if you sold 100,000 items in your house for $1 million in revenue and had $200,000 left after fees and taxes? Certainly not if you just blew through that $200,000, but maybe if you used that $200,000 to eliminate your debt and hold an emergency fund of 3 to 6 months of living expenses.
If there is one thing that I’ve learned over the years that Nathan and I have been reselling, it’s that you can find some cool stuff for surprisingly little money. I know that both Nathan and I enjoy the hell out of going out and finding the stuff. We’re less enthusiastic about listing things to sell and shipping the stuff out, for sure. The idea of spending a year selling all of your replaceable stuff probably sounds counter-intuitive. The reason you want to make money is to have more, not less. But it may be the foundation you need to bring another aspect of your life into focus.
Chris McGinty is a blogger who realizes that a lot of the stuff he owns is stuff he bought to resell anyway, so why not get to it?