Often, it is suggested by the personal finance community to get more money by selling your stuff (here’s three posts, just to get started).  Of course, not every strategy is going to work for every person or every family.  Recently, we’ve had a chance to run a bit of an experiment in how well this would work for us, and frankly, I’m not impressed.

In general, we don’t have a lot of “stuff.”  About a month ago, we went through all the drawers, clothes, boxes, and bookshelves in our one-bedroom apartment and got rid of a bunch of stuff that wasn’t important enough for us to box up and move.  But despite the big pile of stuff, there was very little there that would have been worth the trouble of attempting to sell.

The biggest pile (and now I’m wishing I had taken pictures!) was clothing that no longer fit, or we hadn’t worn in so long it didn’t make sense to keep it in our closets.  But we tend to buy cheap, off-brand clothes.  Places like Poshmark and Thread Up do sell used clothing, but we tend to wear our clothing out.  I frankly don’t know if Goodwill even keeps it, or it’s just my guilt giving it to them and hoping they’ll get some use out of it.  If I eventually decide that I’m never going to do law again, I have a few professional clothes that I might be able to sell for something, but it’s an experiment I haven’t tried yet.

We have also spent the last several months trying to sell stuff for my mother-in-law, because she is convinced that the things in her house have value.  This is apparently a pretty common idea among older folks – because a thing is “old” and cost money when it was purchased, obviously it appreciates in value, right?  Nope.  It doesn’t help that none of the kids want or even have room for the stuff parents and grandparents would like to pass on to us.

For example, we’ve tried selling inkbrush paintings and hand embroidered wall hangings from Singapore, a set of Japanese china, foreign currency, and silver.  Frankly, the silver was the best deal.  We brought in a bunch of stuff, but the silver buyer only took about half, and we got about $40 out of it.  So much “silver” that was sold mid-century was apparently silver plated, and not full silver, so you don’t actually get much of anything for it.

The art from Singapore was not old enough, rare enough, or by someone important enough to get anything for it.  I tried several auction houses, Ebay, Etsy, and even LetGo and Craigslist and got nothing for them.  They’re just going off to Goodwill.

The plates are going to be sold to Replacements.com.  It’s another thing I shopped around to various antique shops, auction houses, and online platforms.  There’s at least one other set similar to this one that has been sitting on Ebay for months and hasn’t been sold, so I know it’s not just me that’s having trouble moving it.  I think I will get about $200 out of it, less packing supplies and shipping, so about $100 to $150.  So far, that’s the best I’ve been able to do.

I’ve also taken multiple boxes of just “stuff” around to antique shops and consignment shops only to be told that none of it is sellable.  It’s not in demand and anyway they get a lot of similar things and can’t sell the stuff they already have.  It all goes to Goodwill (again, I hope they can sell it, but I have no idea).

My mother in law has been able to consign some crystal glassware, and one set of plates at a consignment shop, but they were big name brands, and complete sets that were rarely used.  Everything else though has basically been a bust.

So, if you’re looking into making money selling things, some things to look for:

  1. Is the item branded?  A brand-name item will generally resale for more than a non-brand-name item.
  2. How old is the item?  Just because an item is “old” doesn’t mean anyone wants it.  Talk to your local dealers and find out what eras are actually selling.  A lot of mass-produced stuff just isn’t as interesting.
  3. Is there actually a market for what you’re selling?  If you’ve got Louboutins in your closet, you may have something.  Certain types of vintage are popular, but you’ll need to do research or already have your finger on current trends to know what people are likely to buy (I do not have this knowledge, nor do I care to acquire it).

If you have lived a relatively lavish lifestyle before downsizing or have inherited really high-quality pieces you may have more luck in selling off unwanted, gently used clothing, jewelry, or household goods.  If you have not, it might be a better use of your time to find a different way to raise funds.