Donate. Consign. Sell.

Every shopaholic’s dilemma – what to do with unwanted clothing hidden in closets and drawers. You shop and shop, and you really loved that Aztec printed poncho! You swore you would wear 4.5” snakeskin heels, even to work! And you really did look super skinny in that bandage mini dress. Besides, you were celebrating being over the flu!

Once you come to from the fever dream of a shopping addiction, what do you do with lightly-loved collections? I have tried every permutation of donating, selling, and consigning, and offer some tips to get a return on your habit.

Donate

Family & friends: Why not? From sunglasses to puffy coats, let them dig through and take what they want. They deserve it.

Non-profit orgs: Aside from tossing Hefty bags of t-shirts into the blue boxes, how can you donate higher quality items to make a difference? Supporting a favorite charity with clothes donations is a wonderful way to give your clothes a second life.

Find an organization that provides for women re-entering the workforce. Local and national organizations like Suited for Change, domestic violence shelters, and religious institutions source professional attire to aid women looking for a fresh start.

When donating, ensure each piece is clean, without stains, rips, and of a quality that you would wear to a meeting. Leave tags on unworn items.  Always contact the organization for more information. Many times there is a need for certain sizes, or in winter, for example, outerwear may be top of the list. Offer to deliver clothes on hangers, and shoes should be in new or lightly worn condition with no damage.

Donation rule of thumb – If you are not willing to wear it, if it’s risqué or in disrepair, don’t pass it on.

Return – Most non-profits will offer you a receipt for tax purposes. This shouldn’t be the intent of donating. Returns for this option are non-monetary.

Selling rule of thumb – The Golden Rule applies – treat buyers how you would want to be treated.

Consign

Somehow I got to the age of thirty-[muffled sound] before truly understanding what the heck it meant to consign something. Basically, you put forward an item for sale and get paid after the purchase is complete. But there’s waaaaay more to it than that.

All establishments have rules, if not contracts, for which you must agree.  Many stores provide a list of labels they accept.  Some may require that pieces be pressed and hung.  All will reserve the right to turn away unwanted pieces.

Your cut of the sale will vary. The percentage of profit may decrease over time, and ultimately, your unsold clothes may be donated to a 3rd party. Each seller will have different policies – shop around to find your best fit.

For online lovers, look into swap.com, TheRealReal or thredUP, but do your homework.  Find someone you trust and work through them.  Test out a few mid-priced items. Hold pristine pieces until you have some success with sales.

Consignment rule of thumb – Use a well-trafficked, reputable establishment, and a seller with stellar reviews and reputation. Ask questions. Read the contract.

Return – Varies, but all money is “gravy” in that you didn’t do any of the heavy lifting.

Sell

Start digging – selling unwanted clothes is a great way to make some cash! With a weekend of work, you can thin out your closets and get setup online.  Pretty soon you’ll be making a respectable return!

Craigslist: We’ve all posted furniture on Craigslist, but what about clothes? There are no fees so no obvious downsides to trying, but in my experience the buyers are fewer and they tend to be in search of steep deals. I’ve successfully sold shoes over Craigslist, but have had no luck with clothing.

CL tips – Do not give out your phone number, use the email “mask” relay option and be very selective with who you go into negotiations. Offer no returns and require that buyers pay before shipping. If transacting in person, accept verified online payment or cash only.

eBay: The world’s most popular online selling site is a no-brainer for addicts like me looking to re-house high quality items. The buyers are there; it’s worth setting up shop!

There are fees for listing and eBay takes a cut of each sale. Additionally, Paypal assesses its own transaction fee. Between fees and shipping & handling, expect to take home approximately 85% of the sale.

There is some ‘elbow grease’ in becoming a reputable seller. You must snap good photos, and write accurate and clear descriptions of the items. You must be responsive to questions from potential buyers.  Once sold, I wrap the item in nice paper and include a thank you tag with each purchase. I do pass-on estimated shipping fees for any sale under $125, but refund any overages to the penny.  I want happy buyers and I’d love it if they would shop again.

Problems do arise outside of your control. You will have to manage issues with buyers and locate lost packages. If addressed quickly, most problems can be resolved, and eBay is there to intervene.

Payment: Set-up an online payment account before listing any items, and become very comfortable using it. I’m loyal to Paypal, but some sellers offer multiple payment mechanisms, including credit cards. Never ship before you receive the payment.

Shipping: I have tried every shipping service in the States and for my money, there is no more efficient delivery than through the U.S. Postal Service.  You can order packaging materials and use your own printer to take advantage of reduced-rate labels.  You may require a scale to determine the correct weight, which is why I go see Angie at my local USPS.

Always choose First Class or Priority mail with tracking, and upload the number to the website promptly.  Monitor until successful delivery.

Online selling rule of thumb – The Golden Rule applies – treat buyers how you would want to be treated by guaranteeing high quality products and efficient service. Honesty is key.

Be flexible and sensible with pricing. Be willing to revise the item, take better photos, and be responsive to buyer questions and requests.

Return – Cold hard cash. Depending on the effort and the quality of the items, you stand to make something more than mad money. While you may never recoup the original cost, it does take the edge off that inevitable next splurge.

k

(P.S. – this was us. Thank you, Society of Grownups, for the chance to share our story.)

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