One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Hustle

By Tayrn Shaw

In a world where the hustle never stops, side hustles have become increasingly popular. Whether a side hustle becomes your full time job, or provides you with supplemental income, they are a great way to break up the mundane 9-5. Not every hustle needs to be revolutionary, it can start from something you already have an interest in. And that’s exactly why I started flipping furniture!

From 2018 to 2022, I moved 10 times, within three different states. I quickly shed my habits of holding on to larger sentimental items and became a pro at packing my only belongings into my car like a real-life game of Tetris. I became familiar with the world of Facebook Marketplace and actually looked forward to selling my furniture with each move. The money I would make was used for new (at least new to me) furnishings, thus allowing me to scratch my itch for wanting to switch up the aesthetics for my next humble abode. As often as I was selling and buying my own furniture, it started to feel like a second job, so I embraced it as one. I would not consider myself a crafty or creative furniture flipper though- there is no sanding, staining, painting, reupholstering, or any hint of creativity. I prefer for the furniture to find me, as I drive through town, where I pull over to rescue it, dust it off a little, tighten a loose screw or two, and find it a new home. In other words, this is just the bare bones of furniture flipping and you will not find any refurbishing tips here!

What Sells?

The places I lived in Colorado seemed like people were constantly throwing their like-new chairs, lamps, tables, etc. to the curb and taping a “Take me home” sign to them… to which I happily obliged. I became that person who would brake for trash, quite literally. Trash night was a gold mine.

The art of publicly pilfering people’s trash isn’t the only way to find free items that you can flip. If you prefer to scavenge in secrecy, check out the “Free” sections on Nextdoor, Facebook Marketplace, local Facebook groups, and Craigslist. Be mindful though, as some trash should stay trash (ex: items with bed bugs, mold, pet urine damage, etc.). Also, if something has been listed as “Free” for a decent amount of time, it’s unlikely someone will buy it from you if it wasn’t claimed when it was free. This is where those crafty furniture refurbishers come in!

Over time I learned what items were hot, and what items would come full circle to being marked down to “Free” since no one wanted it. The thought process behind knowing what to pick up and what to leave is hard to pinpoint, because what does and doesn’t sell can depend on several factors including, but not limited to: your location, condition of the item, and current trends and styles. If you are considering flipping furniture, do some research for your area to see what types of things other people are selling and their average price points. It’s a game of trial and error at first, but often worth the reward once you get the hang of it!

How to Get Started

  1. Prepping

At the very least, clean off the item and make any minor repairs within your wheelhouse.

  1. Take good photos

Take well-lit photos from each angle, and if it’s not too much of a hassle, stage the item in your house. Add a plant or something trendy in the scene that helps the buyer envision the item in their own home. Make sure the main photo of the post is the best photo!

  1. Writing the description

When writing your description, be upfront and honest if there are any flaws or damages. Include all measurements as well as clear, concise details that anticipate the buyer’s questions. I will usually put the information in bullet points, and include the general pick up area so they have an idea of how long their commute will be.

  1. Pricing

Doing a quick search for a similar item gives you an idea of what the price point is in your area for items in roughly the same condition. If you’re open to bargaining, include “OBO” in the title (or best offer) to let buyers know you are willing to negotiate. Just remember that you’re still making a profit on something you found for free, so be flexible with your pricing!

  1. Advertise!

Post it on multiple platforms if you can. My main source is Facebook Marketplace, but I am also in several “buy, sell, trade / online yard sale / free stuff” local FB groups that I post to as well. 

  1. Communication

Be quick to respond to interested people. Though beware of scammers! If it feels weird, it probably is. Anyone immediately asking for your phone number or to text them instead of communicating through the app is likely a scammer. Usually, they are easy to point out on Facebook, because they either are too pushy, have no profile picture, or when you go to their profile it says it was just created a few days ago. 

A Note on Buyers 

Expect ghosting and no shows! There will always be people who drop off in communication around logistics, as well as people who don’t show up even after setting a time and date. Set guidelines for this. Too many times I’ve held on to an item because the buyer said they couldn’t come for X amount of days. In the days spent holding it for that person, I told other potential buyers that it wasn’t available or that it was pending. The day would come for the person to pick it up, and they wouldn’t show or respond to my messages. Due to this, I started requiring a 50% deposit if the person couldn’t come within 24 hours. Regardless of the guidelines you set in place, communication is key! Communication with the buyer, as well as with other people who are interested while it is pending is crucial to selling your items. Let them know they are next in line and that you will update them if the original buyer is a no show. 

So, is it worth it? 

Flipping furniture can be an easy side hustle that requires little time and energy, and depending on how dedicated you are to sprucing up those curb items, it can be a pretty lucrative source of income! Most of the items I’ve flipped range from $15 to $80, which doesn’t seem like a lot… but it certainly adds up. It seamlessly fits into my day to day and there’s an endless supply of used furniture just waiting to be rescued- allowing me to flip as much or as little as I want. The most satisfying part of it all is that by snagging your neighbor’s tossed furniture, you are helping to keep it out of the landfills, so the environment also benefits! 

In conclusion, side hustles are a great way to turn your interests into hard-earned cash! So next time you see a curb alert, don’t be so quick to dismiss it – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

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