Last month, I introduced the topic of downsizing. Today I want to get into the nitty-gritty of it all by focusing on the non-internet options for getting rid of crap.  In next month’s post, we’ll explore internet-based selling options.

At the start, I need to say what I share reflects my experiences. Your area, city size and economic demographics may affect your success / not success with the various options. There may be other non-internet selling options. If you have other ideas please share in the comments section.

Blenko Handcraft vases I donated to a charitable auction for breast cancer awareness.

I suppose the first place to start is to refer back to the Art of Downsizing Introduction post and repeat a question I asked there. Do you need or want to make money in your downsizing efforts?  If the answer is no, you have the easiest, fastest options for getting rid of your stuff. There are two.

Giving away your possessions to friends, family or others in need is a great option for ridding yourself of most things quickly. The other option that doesn’t put cash into your pocket is to donate your things to charity. If you are downsizing an entire household, it’s best to go with a charity that has a store such as Goodwill that will resell your items for their mission.  The bonus here is that you can usually call and they will send a truck out to collect the items. And an added bonus is you will be able to write the donation off on your taxes so you will see a financial benefit.

Donate to charities close to your heart.

If you have high-value items in like-new shape, you can call your favorite charity (animal rescue, for example). They might be able to use your item as an auction item if they hold such events. You’ll still get the tax write-off with the bonus of the proceeds going to a charity close to your heart.

But if you want to make cash from your downsizing efforts, the process is completely different.  For starters, it takes time.  This is true for both non-internet and internet selling options.  Plan on it taking more time than you expect, making less money than you hope and others not valuing the things you own nearly as much as you. Go in with that mindset and it will lessen your frustrations and heartache.

I don’t enjoy admitting this but the place I started when I dove into downsizing was to return never-used items. For me this was clothing with tags still attached. If it’s been a while since the purchase it’s unlikely you will have the receipts but many places will still accept the return. If you aren’t able to, items with tags are great candidates for internet selling. We’ll talk about that in the next Finances post

One option you have for select items is sell them on consignment. In my area I am only familiar with clothing shops that work on consignment but I am guessing consignment shops are not limited to clothing.  How they work is you take your items in.  Go in knowing they will only accept what they think will sell. In all likelihood, you will walk out of the store with much of what you walked in with. The items they agree to consign will be kept for a set number of days. Items are marked at half of the original price or less. Then when it sells, you and the store split the proceeds. Generally I’ve seen a 50/50 split.

Hints for a successful consignment experience:

  • Know the store, their target client before you haul your items in. A shop whose clients are professional women won’t likely take your ripped jeans.
  • Visit the store’s website to see if there are any current needs or restrictions.
  • Read and understand the agreement.  If you want unsold items returned to you, pay attention to how long they will display your item and mark your calendar.

You might be wondering why anyone would do consignment after reading the above.  The reason: if you have a successful sell, you’ll make more money than the other options. A garage sale can be a great option for getting rid of varied things in one day. Garage sales can also break your heart with how little value others place on things you have loved.

In my experience, people who attend garage sales not only want a bargain but, no matter what the item is, they don’t want to pay a lot.  So you could have a Coach purse you bought for $400, kept in pristine condition and people will still offer you the same $5 that they’ll offer for the $19.99 purse you bought at Walmart.

Ideal weather for a garage sale.

Know there are garage sale buyers who you will want to strangle. Know that it’s okay to ask insulting or rude ones to leave. I’ve only had to do that once but wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.  And, by insulting and rude, I also mean the person who wants to argue that your Coach purse is only worth $5 because it’s used.

But know that most people are lovely.  They enjoy spending their Saturdays going from garage sale to garage sale.  Most people will pay the price you have it set for or only ask for a discount if they are buying several items.

Hints for a successful garage sale:

  • Watch the weather. Pick a day that’s moderate.  Have a tent on hand (if you have one or can borrow one) in case it’s too hot or it rains.
  • Make a flyer and distribute to your neighbors, co-workers and friends to get as much traffic as possible. Advertise both the garage sale and individual items throughout the day on Craig’s List and social media.  Put up signage and balloons to direct people to your house.
  • Get neighbors to join you so you can advertise it as a neighborhood garage sale.  Or, if you have a friend or two who has things to get rid of, have them join you. The bigger it appears, the more likely people just driving by will stop and look.
  • Know your bottom line and say “no” to offers that will haunt you later.
  • Start the day with change for big bills.  And for security, every hour or two take handfuls of cash into your house so the cash box never has too much money in it.

Two other options, neither of which I have experience with, are to sell your things to a pawn shop or via an estate sale.  I wanted to get to a pawn shop before I posted this to tell you about the experience but I just didn’t make it.  The guidelines are similar to working with a consignment shop in terms of reading paperwork, checking out their website, etc. The difference, of course, is that a pawn shop purchases your items outright.

I did an internet search for estate sales and found a site where you put in your state and it tells you if there are any in your area.  Alaska had none. I did another search for Alaska companies to hire to help you with an estate sale. None.

However, here is what else I learned.  An estate sale is much more than a garage sale. Usually most everything in the home is priced. Then the public is invited to walk throughout the house shopping. There isn’t the dickering like at a garage sale.  Most people use it after a death or when they are liquidating because of a divorce or other big life change.

I could be wrong, but in my mind, if you are downsizing nearly everything and live in a large area, having an estate sell is a great option.  Imagine how fast it would be to liquidate your life. I’ve been working on liquidating mine for over three years now. Some days, it feels like I haven’t made a dent.

I hope I’ve given you some ideas about how to ride yourself of the things you no longer want or need.  With some options you’ll make a few dollars, some you won’t.  I’ve read a lot of blogs from people who have downsized and the resounding theme is one of feeling a weight being lifted, of no longer being owned by your own possessions.

In the next Finances post, I’ll share more ideas about downsizing options using the internet.  Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.