In the US, people get paid to get rid of their trash!

Well, kind of.

In Japan, selling used stuff is pretty much unheard of. It actually costs money to get rid of most of your stuff, in particular bulky items. Back when I was living in Tokyo, I could see good quality furniture on the sidewalk being thrown away. Each one of the items would have a sticker on it, indicating the name of the owner, and confirming the price they paid to the local government office to get rid of the trash.

Craigslist or eBay are embryonic at best in Japan, and from what I could tell while I lived there, it’s not really a part of the culture to buy used items in general (except maybe collectibles such as video games or anime figurines *), and from other individuals in particular. Living there, it almost felt sometimes that people have an aversion for used items (the first thing people do in Japan after buying a second-hand house is destroying it. They technically only buy the land). As a matter of fact, I never saw anyone scavenging the soon-to-be-sent-to-trash furniture on the sidewalk, while it seems pretty common in the US for people to just put something on the sidewalk with the word “free” on it and wait a couple days for people to just take it.

with such a context in Japan, one feels lucky when “recycle shops” (an offline and centralized equivalent of aforementioned sites eBay and craigslist) will take your furniture away and don’t ask you to pay them for it.

Dealing with those guys was always a nerve-racking experience: imagine you want to get rid of a perfectly fine microwave oven, for example, because you decided to buy a new one. The guys from the recycle shop will show up at your place, to do a free “audit” of the items you want to get rid of. It doesn’t really matter how expensive your furniture might have been, their conclusion for most items will in general be: “we won’t pay for that, but we can get rid of it for you at no cost”.


Since the choice was between them taking it off your hands for free, or you having to actually pay the government to take it away, the choice was often pretty easy.

With that kind of background, websites such as eBay, craigslist, and, to some extent, Amazon, are a great novelty to my household. It does feel like some people are willing to pay us for our unwanted items, in other words, our trash.

I’m the guy you don’t want as your competitor seller on eBay, because to me, the stuff I’m selling could go down to 0, I just don’t care. My threshold is that I’ve lived in a place where it would actually cost me money to get rid of those, so as long as I end up positive on a transaction I feel like I’ve done a great job 🙂

I’ve sold a few items on Amazon and eBay so far. To be honest the experience has never been great: Amazon dramatically underestimate the shipping costs, meaning a significant portion of the item’s sale price went into paying for shipment. The same happened for an item I sold on eBay this week. In this case the mistake was mine, I underestimated the weight of the item, and ended up having to pay $12 instead of $8 for shipping. Given that the item sold for $15 (+$8 for shipping), that’s more than 25% of the selling price lost in shipping estimates.

There’s also the effort involved in listing the items, handling the transaction, shipping, etc…I’m definitely  working below minimal wage at this point, even assuming I would expect the cost of the item to be 0. Opportunity cost is also a factor here, instead of spending 1h selling a $15 item, I could probably spend the same amount of time working on some better income stream on my side gig or something else.

But, just like my attempts at cooking at home, I currently count this as a hobby and a great learning experience. First, I feel it gives me interesting understanding of how these sites work, if I ever wanted to start a business in dropshipping or whatnot. Second, I’d much rather have my used-but-still-great items being used by another household, that adding them to the pile of trash in the local landfill. Plus with my recent attraction to minimalism, the less unused crap we have in our condo, the better I feel. More space for human beings rather than things = win.

At the end of the day though, every time I’m selling a used item, I strongly question why I bought it in the first place. My DVD collection, which used to define me as a movie geek, is now just something that takes too much space in our condo. So are the dozens of electronic gadgets I’ve purchased through the years. Baby items on the other hand have an excuse: they were useful at some point, and our children have now outgrown them. So, hey, it’s not all my fault 🙂

How about you, how do you get rid of your unused stuff?

* I have actually sold a Playstation portable for a reasonable price in a “used and new” video game shop in Japan, back in 2014. So, there definitely are exceptions.

  1. Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes
  2. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply
    • StockBeard
    • Sendug
  3. Sendug

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