A regular debate this time of year is, “should I have a garage sale, or will it be a waste of my time?”. I have had that debate with myself, and others, many times! I can’t give you an easy “yes”, or an easy “no”. However, I can give you some insight into a variety of ways to purge the clutter of unwanted kid stuff. I will be focusing on kids clothes and baby gear, but many of the concepts apply to household items and adult clothing as well.
Start by considering all your options. There are a lot of places to sell or take unwanted items. It is also helpful to consider your financial goals. If two days of sitting in your garage is worth a few hundred dollars to you, then garage sales are great. If you’ll be missing lots of family activities over those two days or haven’t had two days at home to do anything in the last year, a few hundred dollars probably isn’t worth it!
There are some products that sell really well at garage sales – like baby gear. And other things that don’t do so well – like adult clothes. Personally, I found that a year or two of garage sales after our last child was out of the infant and toddler stages was very profitable. However, our stuff was clean, in good condition, and I still had almost all of my manuals. I combined the larger baby gear items with baby and child sized clothes, miscellaneous housewares, toys… and we made plenty of money to have made it worth my time. Over the next couple of years I did garage sales, and made less and less money each year. I finally decided I wouldn’t be having any more garage sales!
You can find a million posts online about setting up for a garage sale, so I’ll keep my suggestions here brief. I recommend making your sale organized. I know you were all shocked by that suggestion! Seriously though, having like items grouped together, clothes folded nicely or hung, and everything clearly marked will attracted garage sale goers that will pay you what your stuff is worth. Now that is a tough question, what is it worth? I’ll get to that later in this post.
Another option we have all heard about is Craigslist. Despite all of the crazy stories you hear, I still use Craigslist and have very good experiences with it. Here are some guidelines I go by to make Craigslist successful…
-Don’t bother with Craigslist for something worth less than $20 (the only exception to this is large items that would cost money or just be a pain to get rid of)
-If you want to sell kid clothes, create bags of clothes divided by size and season. It is much more efficient to wait for one buyer to give you $100 for an entire wardrobe of 3T clothes, than sell 20 outfits for $5 each to 20 different people!
-Don’t list your exact location
-Don’t allow people into your home, sell items from your garage during a busy time of the day or meet at a public place
-Don’t give out your address via email – email is VERY anonymous, only text your address to a cell phone, or give it out over the phone. A phone is easier to track and removes some of the anonymity
I provide as much information in a Craigslist ad as I can, and always include a photo or two. I make sure that I provide accurate information about the condition of the item and how it functions. I want people to be interested, but I don’t want to oversell my item and end up meeting buyers that aren’t interested when they actually come pick it up and see its flaws. I also make sure to include brand names – people often search by brand, and not just item description.
Community Facebook sites are also popular these days. I will just say that I tried them a couple of times and found the rules and procedures to not be worth my time. However, I do know others that are huge fans!
Consignment stores are another option that yield a cash profit, but require much less time commitment. There are several consignment stores just in the Des Moines area, and almost every town has one these days. However, all consignment stores are not created equal! You have to again decide what format works best for you. Here is a brief summary of the consignment stores I know of for kid & baby gear in Des Moines.
Once Upon a Child
This consignment store is my favorite, but I have a personal bias. I have a great working relationship with the owner, that allows me to assist my clients. However, I approached Once Upon A Child about working with them on behalf of my clients because it was my favorite option and where I had been taking my stuff for years. I like Once Upon A Child because you take in your clothes, they sort them while you wait, they offer you a dollar amount that you can accept or reject and then they return any items they are not buying from you. You can then take your remaining items to Goodwill for a tax deduction. One thing to note is that they ask that you only bring in 2 bins of clothes at a time, but you can bring as many other toys and baby items as you would like.
Mommy & Me to Be
This store has a very different procedure, and give you two options of how to sell clothes. They will go through your clothes and give you cash for the items they want to buy from you, or you can bring them a bin of clothes to sell on their floor as a “vendor”. They put your items on the floor and pay you a percentage of money for each item that sells. After a specified period of time you return to the store to pick up your items that did not sell, and you only get paid for what actually sells. You will make more money per item on the second option, but only get paid for what they sell so I’m not sure it is ultimately more profitable.
Kidding Around buys your bins of clothes outright, much like Once Upon a Child. However, a major difference with this store is that they ask you to leave your items for a day or so, and then they offer you a dollar amount for everything. If you accept their offer, they pay you outright and keep everything you brought them. They then take everything they chose not to sell in their store to a charitable organization, and you do not get a tax deduction for the donation.
This store is located in Waukee and is the newest to the scene in the Des Moines area. I have only utilized this store a couple of times, but have heard really good things through friends and Facebook. This store buys your items outright and returns what they don’t buy, just like Once Upon a Child. The main difference with this store is that they will typically ask you to leave items for a day or two and return to pick them up. They will pay you for what they want and return everything else. Again, you can then donate the rest for a tax deduction.
There are a few things that all consignment stores have in common. They will not take clothing items that have holes or stains. They are very particular about infant clothes, because they get SO much of it. They will accept seasonal items at all times of the year. Yes, even Halloween costumes! And, clothing for boys is in highest demand. Last, know that most consignment stores will not take clothes more than 5 years old, and you will get more money for newer items.
Your last option for what to do with you kids clothes and baby gear, is to just take it to a charitable organization and get the tax deduction. I know some people are very overwhelmed by the tax deduction portion of a donation because they have to calculate how much to deduct. Don’t skip this step! Or be intimidated by it! You will be shocked by how quickly donations add up, and how it affects your tax return in a real way! We’ll talk about assigning a dollar value in a minute. But first, there are a lot of charitable organizations and here is my take on a few…
I take most of my donations to Goodwill, and I know a lot of people will really be bothered by that. Many argue that Goodwill is not truly a charitable organization, but that it is a for-profit company that preys off of the disadvantaged and takes advantage of their status as a charitable organization. I can’t say I have a strong opinion on all of this, but I do know they create jobs in our community which I think is great. But, ultimately I don’t view my donations to Goodwill as an act of charity, I view it as a business that allows me to get a tax write-off for my junk that no one else would want. I don’t donate to Goodwill because my donations may help others in need, thus I don’t mind if someone that makes $200,000 a year also buys that junk.
Lutheran Church of Hope Ministries
If I have household items in good condition, or other nice clothing that I want to donate I like the LCOH ministries. They have donation bins outside every other Thursday to collect clothes. You can also call the front office if you would like to donate to the housing ministry. (They will take furniture, bedding, pots & pans, and any other necessities for a home) This ministry will give you a receipt for your donation and they are using your donation for an awesome purpose, to love others and help them have a glimpse of what Christ has done for us and how he loves us.
There are a ton of other great ministries that accept donations for the good of serving others. I have taken items to Child and Family Services in Valley Junction, there is the Salvation Army and so many more. I hope to get up a page of donation opportunities on my website but there is no shortage of places, or those in need.
Now for the economic aspect of the equation. For some it isn’t so much about the time, the charity, the hassle… it’s about the money! Which one will get you the most money? Well, an important first thing to understand is how much your used items are worth. Start by understanding the resale value for your items. This is the value that they are worth now that you have owned and used them. (Or not used them in the case of many baby items, right!) The general rule of thumb is that clothing items are worth about 20% of retail, and larger items are worth more like 35-50% depending on the item and brand. Here is a great comprehensive list of resale prices for baby and kid items. I find this list very helpful regardless of the decision to garage sale, consign or donate.
Notice that on this chart brand names make a big difference in how much things are worth.
If you chose to donate your items, then the value you can assign to them is similar to the value on this chart. Goodwill also has a resource on their website that helps you set a value for goods.
I don’t add up each individual item, but I think about what is going into a bag as I gather things up and then estimate a value. This has become very easy for me to do, and it honestly depends on how much of a rule-follower you are! Some people can throw out a number and not worry about how precise it is, others need to have a per item list to justify that they aren’t breaking the rules or cheating the system! I say, let it go a little and try to be as honest as you can without cheating yourself either! For the first few times you pack up a bag count the number of items you put in the bag, then estimate how many items were pants, shirts, dresses, etc. With that knowledge (and considering brand and condition of items) estimate the value of the bag as a whole. After a few times doing this, you will get a sense of how much an average bag of items from your house is worth.
If you decide to do a garage sale, this chart is a great place to start as well. Many people don’t want to price things too high for a garage sale, because everyone knows garage sale goers are looking for a deal. However, this is my theory… if I give everything away for really cheap at my garage sale, I don’t make any more money than selling less for a higher dollar value and I have nothing left to donate. I’d rather sell what I can for a fair price, and then take the rest to consignment or Goodwill for extra cash or a tax deduction.
Last, what will you get at consignment? I can’t say I have the inside scoop on this, but there are some important points to consider. Remember that chart above, well that it is what you can expect them to sell your items for in their store. So, they have to give you a much smaller amount so they can cover their expenses and still make a profit for their business. You will notice a significant difference between what they give you and what you would make selling it yourself, but remember they are doing all the work and have to make a profit too.
The money summary is this… Donating items (especially if you just unload your car at Goodwill) is the most efficient way of getting rid of things and still yields a good profit on your tax return. (for most, there is some dependence here on your financial situation) Garage sales and consignment stores are great because you walk away with cash you can spend right away – especially if you have plans for a new patio set, some landscaping, a porch swing, or other fun seasonal purchases! Garage sales will yield the largest profit, but also require the most work and time commitment. I would expect to make about 20-30% of retail on average for the items you sell, knowing not everything will sell. Consignment will yield closer to 10% of retail value for items in good condition, but is a really easy way of getting cash in your hand.
I know all of this information may have your head spinning! However, the most important thing is to think through your priorities (clearing clutter, saving time, making money, helping others) and then make a decision that best fits your priorities. Also, know that if you do a garage sale and it is a flop, you can still take things to consignment and donation sites. If you try a consignment store and don’t love it, try a different one next time! I hope this post at least helps you sort through why you would chose each option!