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When we first started selling on eBay, we had things stashed in cupboards…then sneaking across the floor, then creeping out of our small extra bedroom. eBay quickly took over our house and left us having nightmares.
Things were impossible to find when they sold and we had no room for new inventory.
Our pride in making a living on eBay started to fade as we realized that we looked more like hoarders than business people.
We finally hit the point where, if we wanted to stay sane and continue to grow our business, we needed a reliable method to organize and store eBay inventory.
While it may not be for everyone, this is the method that we’ve found to keep our eBay inventory organized! It’s not rocket science. In fact, it’s similar to methods used by dozens of other resellers.
If you’re new though, I know it can be overwhelming to set up.
Let’s break it down into steps so we can better see the journey we have taken thus far:
#1. Keep Your eBay Inventory In A Storage Unit
One of the nice things about having a normal job is that you can leave work at work. When your home is your workplace, it’s really difficult not to bring your work home with you.
Separating our home life from eBay as much as possible has given us the real freedom we were looking for in a small business. We originally rented a 10’x15′ storage unit but outgrew it within a matter of months. We now rent a 12’x30′ unit which can easily support a 2,000 item store. (Obviously, this depends greatly on the size of your items….but that’s a good general guesstimate).
We pay $250 a month for our unit but it has repaid us many times over with peace of mind and a home we can relax in.
We live in Utah with 105 degree summers and -20 degree winters which can take its toll on storage. We don’t use a climate controlled unit and lose some inventory (usually shoes) to the weather every year.
However, we ran the numbers and came to the conclusion that a temperature-controlled unit doesn’t make sense for us. Instead, we try to keep inventory moving and keep any truly sensitive or expensive items at home.
#2. Keep Things Organized From Death-Pile To Sale
For a while, after we started, we’d go thrifting, bring the items home, and they would become one with our carpet. Or a shelf. Or in their Goodwill bag in the corner.
People joke about having an eBay “death-pile” but the idea doesn’t really amuse me. That’s not how a business functions. I always imagine being at a part and someone who sells on eBay asks how I handle my unlisted inventory. The idea of telling them that I just dump it on the floor until I feel like listing it makes me feel like a loser.
Having a designated spot for unlisted inventory was instrumental in streamlining our processes.
It also kept us from making a huge mistake that many eBayers make, that is, as soon as you get home, you list the fun/exciting things that you bought and then let the other things just sit. Forever.
So here’s what we do. When we bring items home, everything goes into one of 3 areas:
- Clothing Rack (your clothing should be hanging, not in a pile)
- Shoe Bin
- Hardgoods Shelf
When we list, we go grab a single tote to work on. We don’t cherry pick items! If our shoe bin is too full, we’ll list only shoes for a few hours. This allows us to use a template for our listings and get into the shoe groove while taking pictures and listing. No more moving around and switching between items.
3. We Pack Our Inventory As We List It And Keep An Inventory Sheet
Every clothing item under 2lbs is packed well before it’s shipped.
While there are some exceptions (such as down jackets, expesive fur, etc. we find it’s easy to organize and store eBay inventory that is in polymailers.
As soon as it’s photographed and measured, it goes into another, larger bin. Every few days we pack all of the items from that bin into poly mailers, assign them an inventory number, and take them to our storage unit.
- Fold clothing neatly and place in a poly mailer.
- Close poly mailer with a small strip of masking tape.
- Write the next inventory number on the masking tape and add it to the listing
- Place the poly mailer in a tote. When the tote is full, we label it with its contents and place it on a shelf in our storage unit.
- When something sells, we check the inventory number in the listing, find it, seal it, and ship it!
Voila! Easy as it gets!
While this method is mostly for storing clothing, we use a similar method for hard goods.
#4 Organize Non-Clothing Items By Type
Apart from our clothing totes, we have spots in storage for shoes, coats too big or valuable for poly mailers, and hard goods. Our small hard goods go in numbered totes and larger items simply go on numbered shelves.
The more organized you can keep your eBay inventory, the better off you’ll be.
If you can find things quickly you’ll be able to ship things faster and with much less headache. Also, you’ll never have to send that dreaded email, “I’m so so so sorry….I’ve looked everywhere but I can’t find the item you bought from me. Please accept my cancel order request so I can send you a full refund as soon as possible. Sorry again! :(“
The more accountable you can keep yourself, the better off your business will be!
Having a solid and reliable way to organize and store eBay inventory is the major difference between having a frustrating hobby, streamlined side business, or a full-time living.
As a parting note, just be sure to choose an inventory system that is consistent with your long-term goals. We’ve had to redo our entire inventory system twice which takes several days and is super unproductive. Make sure that whatever you do can be scaled up when you have more inventory and adjusted as things sell.