I don’t know about you, but Craigslist has always given me the creeps. Sure, I’ve been able to sell some stuff on there – most notably, a very well-used breast pump for a tiny fraction of what I paid for it – but for the most part, I’ve avoided the site like the plague. Headlines like this – Craigslist Killer Sentenced To Death – don’t help. I mean, how do I know that the seemingly well-intentioned “working mom” I’ve been emailing with isn’t going to kill me over a pair of size 4T Gymboree overalls?

But in today’s economy, selling stuff online is basically a way of life. After all, why would you go through the trouble of setting up and advertising for a garage sale so you can wake up at 6am on a rainy Saturday morning, just so people can turn up their noses at your outdated china pattern? Why spend hours sorting and tagging dozens of pieces of children’s clothing for a consignment sale that will only pay you 50% of the sale price? Seems like a gargantuan waste of time to me.

So when a friend of mine invited me to a new place to sell stuff online – on a site I, admittedly, already spend way too much time – I was curious.

And that curiosity turned into addiction – the healthy kind. Here’s how.

Facebook Sell, Buy, & Swap Groups

My friend’s invitation was a link to join a closed group on Facebook for parents in our area. The group’s only purpose is to facilitate the sale and purchase of unwanted merchandise. The group I joined – which was limited to only women living in 5 neighboring towns – was a closed group; administrators would only add new members if they came with a referral from an existing member. In other words, we’re all like one giant game of “6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon” – everybody, tangentially, at least, knows everybody else. It’s a huge network, too; currently, there are 2,200 of us in the group.

The “Rules” of the Game

My Facebook group has a pretty strict set of rules that regulate how the group operates. It comes with a series of abbreviations – things like ISO (in search of), NIL (next in line), and OBO (or best offer) – that took some serious getting used to. But all that protocol – as well as the exclusivity of the group – means that it’s a very orderly place to search for and sell items.

Now, not all of these online groups come with such copious codes of conduct; in fact, I’m also a member of two other, similar groups on Facebook that let you sell stuff online without any regulation whatsoever.

Like Charlie Sheen, I Am “Winning”

Since joining this group, I’ve managed to free up a lot of storage space in my closets. As my husband joked (at least, I think he was joking), “If it’s not nailed down or you’re currently wearing it, Libby’s going to sell it.” Here’s just a sampling of what I’ve sold:

  • A coffee table we bought more than 7 years ago, used (and abused) copiously, then sold… for $50
  • All the cloth diapers my son no longer uses (he’s potty-trained, HOORAY!), as well as potty seats and one of those potty-training books that makes the sound of a toilet flushing when you press a button. The whole kit’n’caboodle went for $100
  • A deep freezer we’d never even bothered to plug in since moving into our new home 8 months ago. We used it for 5 years, then sold it for $50

Could I have sold all these things for more money? Maybe – if I was willing to put in a heck of a lot more elbow grease – but here’s the best part: all I had to do to unload these items was take a picture, post it, and collect the cash when the buyers came to pick them up.

I’ve also made several purchases, too. Most notably, I’ve bought my son’s entire wardrobe for the next year-plus from three separate sellers. I’ve nabbed 2 pairs of brand new shoes, a dozen tops, a few sweaters, half a dozen pairs of shorts, another half-dozen pair of pants, and a jacket all for $43. And a lot of this stuff still has tags on it!

And You Can “Win” Too

So, as one of my friends who lives in another state asked me, “How can I find a site like this one?” Well, I can tell you with certainty that I did not stumble across a one-of-a-kind goldmine: there are Facebook groups like this in almost every city.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Log on to your Facebook account (and if you don’t have one, seriously???  Even my mother has joined…)
  2. Use the search box at the very top of your home page to look for groups containing words like, “Buy and Sell” or “Mommies Sale,” along with the name of your town, or other towns in your immediate area.
  3. See if the groups are open or closed. If they’re open, you can request to join on your own – but keep in mind that fewer rules may mean less security for you.
  4. If the group is closed, search the group’s members to see if you are already friends with anyone. If you are, send a message to that friend, requesting that they add you to the group.
  5. Read all the group’s rules. Each one operates on its own devices, and if you don’t follow their protocol, they can – and will – kick you out.
  6. Be honest. Nobody wants to be told they’re getting a new, unopened set of Disney Princess dolls, only to discover that the seller’s daughter got chewing gum caught in Sleeping Beauty’s hair.

That’s it! I hope you have as much success – and fun – as I have with my Facebook swap & sell group.

Have you found any other sites that are great alternatives to Craigslist when it comes to buying, selling, and trading household goods?

Libby Balke

Libby Balke