How to Sell Used Clothes
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Selling used clothes isn’t necessarily unique to homesteading, but the further I get into a self-sufficient, homesteading mentality, the more I want to simplify my life. I want to live with less and have less clutter. I also find myself in a place where my income isn’t as consistent as it used to be, and I need to think creatively about bringing funds into our homestead.
These factors have led me to a desire to clear out my closet. I want to pare down to the most essential items and find ways to earn at least some of my money back on clothes I no longer need.
Yes, I read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. While I may not have pared down everything in my house, I still use her method of asking myself “does it bring me joy?” as the deciding factor in determining how to cut down my wardrobe.
But just because a piece of clothing doesn’t bring me joy any more doesn’t mean it can’t bring someone else joy. In fact, I have become practically an exclusive thrift store shopper and I know that one person’s ill-fitting pair of boots can be exactly what another person is looking for.
Over the past three years, I have explored and tested a number of methods for selling used clothes. I judge my success based on number of items sold, return on investment of my time, ease of use, and contribution to the local economy and small businesses.
This income has supplemented our income on the homestead and provided a little bit of spending money for when I need something new that makes more sense for our homesteading lifestyle (like a good pair of overalls for the garden).
I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m “making money” because I bought most of these clothes in the first place, but I am recouping lost resources.
In no particular order, here are four ways to sell your used clothes and the pros and cons of each.
Local Independent Consignment Stores
Here I’m talking about the local, independent, non-chain consignment store that might specialize in women’s clothing, maternity-wear, children’s clothing or another category. This might include a church-based consignment store, too. They’ll likely be particular about which of your clothes they will take, choosing the most current styles in the best condition.
You’ll agree to a specific share of the profits when they sell it (my local store offers 60%) and you can usually use that money in the store for your own purchases or get paid out by check (sometimes you get a better rate if you use the money in the store).
For me, there are two big pros for this option: 1) you are contributing to your local economy and supporting a small business; and 2) if you want to use the money in-house you can purchase clothes in person and often end up paying next-to-nothing for your purchases. In addition, this can work well if an item you want to sell just seems like it needs to be seen to be appreciated. You also won’t have to mail items.
The con of a local consignment store is that your audience might be small. If you have a unique item, it might not sell in a small store with limited foot traffic and it will end up getting donated at the end of the season (unless you have the option to come pick it up). Likewise, these small stores may not take as much of your stuff because of limited space.
Lastly, the consignment rate for this store will take into account the need to pay for staff and a physical space, so your return might be less than options through which you are selling more directly to the consumer.
Chain Second-Hand Stores
Chain second-hand stores are the bigger ones that are found in multiple locations, stock a huge inventory of items, and usually offer you cash for your clothes rather than consignment rates. You can bring in a big bag or box full of clothes and their staff will look through it and decide which items they want to take. They’ll then offer a bulk price for the items and you can take it or leave it. They’ll pay you then and there and you’re done.
The benefit to selling your clothes this way is definitely the convenience factor – you bring in your clothes, get the money for them, and walk away. You don’t have to worry about coming back to see if you’ve made any money, and you don’t have the manage the sale at all. If you have little time and aren’t too concerned about making a lot of money from your clothes, this could work.
The con, though, is that you won’t get as much for your clothes at these places. Often, I see people bring in a box of 20 items only to have the store take 5 of them and offer them less than $10. Your items need to look good to the person reviewing them, so aim for nice items that are likely to fit a wide variety of people, and go for bulk.
Online consignment options are popping up all over the place these days and offer you a chance to sell your clothes to a wider audience through a web-based sales option. Some of these services, like eBay, Poshmark, or Tradesy allow you to set up an account and put your own items up for sale to the winning bid or offer. Others, like ThredUp, have you send in a bag full of clothes much like a consignment store and they’ll pay you for some things up front and put some things on consignment and pay you when they sell.
Much like the choices you make with in-person stores, the choice of online options has to do with how much time you want to spend selling your stuff. If you want to actively sell your stuff and push it out often with good photos and marketing, then Poshmark or Tradesy are going to be good choices. Poshmark offers you opportunities to sell within their online community by sharing your items often and in themed parties. You can connect to other sellers who share your tastes and communicate with potential buyers through comments and “bundles.”
Full disclosure – I have been using Poshmark for about a year, and this is where I have made most of my sales. If you decide to join Poshmark, feel free to use my invite code (CFWILLIA) to sign up – you and I will both earn a $5 credit 😊.
The pros to selling through these online vendors include an expanded audience (1000 people might look at that dress you’re selling compared to 100); control over how you present an item for sale, and lower commissions (Poshmark and Thredsy charge about 20% compared to the 40% that is common at a local store).
The con is that this takes more work on your part. You have to photograph your item, share it, and build an audience that will look at it. This can take time, which can be well-invested if you have time to give, but isn’t going to offer immediate satisfaction. This also means that these things stay in your house while they are waiting to be sold.
The other con to online sales is that you will be mailing your items. This means trips to the post office and needing to consider how you feel about your contributions to more trucks on the road. That said, these services have made mailing really easy with pre-negotiated rates and easily printable mailing labels.
Helpful Hint: consider getting a reasonably priced dress form to showcase your items. This helps the shopper to see what they look like when worn.
Online Direct Sales – Community Sites, Craigslist, etc.
Another option for selling online, but within your own community, is to list your clothes on community or neighborhood list serves or things like Craigslist that are specific to your area. This way, you can sell directly to someone else without any commission taken from your sale.
This option works best when you have a larger item to sell or a “lot” (a bunch of items of similar size in the same category). For example, you might have a nice work coat or ski parka that would be worth someone coming to meet you to get a good deal on it, but they probably wouldn’t do that for a simple shirt.
This also works well for lots of maternity clothes – a time when someone wants to buy a bunch of wardrobe options all at once – or kids’ clothes (20 items in size 4T).
The con here is that you might not get the right audience looking at your item if your post is lost among other community items. Likewise, people might offer you lower amounts knowing that you aren’t paying anything to list it. Craigslist is almost always going to bring in low-ball offers that you’ll need to negotiate. You also have to be willing, most of the time, to meet a stranger to exchange the item for money. This is not comfortable for everyone.
No matter what method of selling your clothes you choose, make sure your clothes are clean and that you are honest about what you are selling. Don’t hide holes or damage, because the buyer could come back to complain. I try to choose the best of the clothes that I am selling for these purposes, and give fair and honest descriptions whenever possible.
Also, if your sales reach a level where you’re starting to treat it like a business, be sure to check up on related tax laws. You may have to report your income.