Cashing in on Clutter

21c Flea Market Sept 09 MatchesDeciding to tackle clutter is a major endeavour, but it is one that can actually pay for itself. As savvy secondhand shoppers we know the social, environmental and economical value of not buying new. We live in an era where we can be proud of our frugal buys but we must also be just as conscious when deciding to get rid of it.

The challenge is to figure out the best possible way to dispose of our accumulated possessions, often referred to as clutter. Unfortunately not everything will be sellable but again not everything needs to go into the trash. Some careful sorting ahead of time will help you to figure out the difference.

Keep in mind that selling your stuff won’t necessarily be easy nor will it be quick. There is a misperception out there that all stuff is valuable and that people will pay top dollar for it. This is not so, secondhand shoppers are quite savvy and will shop around until they find what they are looking for and at the price they are willing to pay.

Your job is to make sure that you choose the right venue to sell your clutter and to be prepared to also donate some of it to charity. Some of it will need to be tossed out, but make sure that before you do throw it in the garbage that you check to see if it is recyclable.

Once you have sorted through your clutter and organized the stuff that needs to go, it is time to decide where it goes. Arriving at this step in the process is a huge accomplishment, so take a moment and congratulate yourself on getting this far.

Step One – Take Stock

Make an inventory of all the stuff that you wish to get rid of. Take a few minutes to physically go around your home and write down all the things that need to go. Sometimes it is easier to focus on one room at a time.

Step Two – Categorize

On another sheet, write the following headings on the top of the page: Trash, Recycle, Give Away, Donate, Storage, and Sell. Now go back to your previous list and start to place items in the appropriate columns. For all categories except the sell column, collect the items and place in bags or boxes, making them ready to give away or for storage. For the items you wish to donate, contact your favourite charity and make arrangements to get it to them. If you need some ideas, check the Charity section in the Online Directory. With all these items taken care of, now you can tackle those you wish to sell.

Step Three – Preparing to Sell

Look at all the items in the sell category.

For each item:

1.Make sure you want to sell it.
2.Make sure it is sellable.
3.Make sure you have the time and energy to sell it.
4.Make any necessary changes to the list.

Step Four – Figure Out Where to Sell It

There about nine main ways to sell your clutter. Each is a bit different and requires some thought and careful planning. Good to do your homework ahead of time to see which way would work best for you and your stuff. The GVRD has published a wonderful little resource online that acts as a directory to many of the services listed below. It is called 101 Things to do with all your old stuff.

1. Classifieds

This is a standard method, used by many for specific items. Traditionally people have used their local papers to sell furniture, electronics, and higher priced items. Today there are many different publications available in print and on the Internet. Make sure you choose the right publication. You can often do a lot of the screening ahead of time on the phone or through Email, quickly finding serious buyers. Tip: Posting on local sites like Craigslist or Used Vancouver is free and can generate results quickly.

2. Garage Sales

Another common approach, but seasonal. Can be time consuming, but this is a great way to get rid of a lot of clutter all at once. Keep prices low and be willing to negotiate. The whole point of a garage sale is to get rid of stuff. You can make money, but usually through volume not high ticket items. TIP: Good signage is key, always have arrows on your sign pointing people in the right direction…this works especially well for the “drive-bys.”

3. Flea Markets/Swap Meets

If you have a lot of stuff, but would prefer to not have people come to your home, you can always purchase a table at a local community flea market or swap meet. Often you can get a table anywhere from $10 to $55 and you can usually make that money back because of the sheer volume of people coming to the event. Key here again is to have attractive displays, know your prices, and be willing to negotiate. TIP: Check out listings in Market Market to find out about upcoming flea markets and swap meets in and around Vancouver.

4. Auctions

An often underused resource, auction houses will not only purchase estate items but everyday housewares as well. Make sure when you contact them that you find out about their various fees, consignment process, and how they calculate the final price. Most auction houses have auctions on a weekly basis and can get fair prices for your items and many list items on their Web sites. TIP: Best to visit some of the auctions during preview times to see if they would be a good fit.

5. Consignment Stores

Traditionally these stores have focused on selling clothing and sports equipment on consignment. That is, the selling price is split between the seller and the store owner. Now, you can use this same process for everyday housewares including furniture, kitchen items, books, small appliances, antiques, collectibles, and so much more. Keep in mind that each store has their own consignment process and will only keep items in stock for a few months at a time. Many consignment stores have their own Web sites that outline their basic expectations. TIP: Good to do your homework ahead of time, often you can email them a photo of what you are looking to sell and they will let you know if they can sell it for you.

6. Antique Stores

Every antique store seems to have its own specific area of expertise. Important to call around first to see which store might be the right one for you to approach with your antiques and collectibles. Some stores will buy outright whereas others will consign your items. If you are unsure of the exact value of something, it may be useful to have it appraised before you take it to an antique store. Generally most store owners are quite knowledgeable and will give you an honest assessment of what your items might be worth. TIP: Good to have photos of your antiques to either Email the stores or to show them in person.

7. Dealers

There are also a special group of people who buy and sell items without having a store front. They are called dealers and will often sell items through flea markets, swap meets, and antique shows. They usually collect very specific types of items and are also quite knowledgeable and will pay a fair price. TIP: The best way to find them is through word of mouth and by going to various events and shows and talking to them in person. Often, with smaller items, you can take them with you and see what they say. Or, you can also take pictures.

8. Used/Secondhand Stores

These are stores that will usually buy items outright, like books, records/CDs, instruments, electronics, computers, furniture, housewares, sports equipment, and more. Again, it is always good to call each store to see what they might pay for your item. Prices and the buying criteria will vary from store to store. TIP: Best to call them in advance to find out if they will purchase your items and at what price.

9. Vintage/Retro Stores

These are specific stores that will purchase vintage/retro items such as clothing, jewellery, accessories, and housewares. Although some may sell a few items on consignment, generally vintage/retro store owners will purchase items outright and often they collect stock through a variety of sources. TIP: Every store is a bit different, so best to call in advance to let them know what you have.

Step Five – Start making all the calls and start turning your clutter into cash!

Step 6 – Still feeling overwhelmed?

Maybe time to revisit the list or consider hiring a professional or getting some support to move through the process. Vancouver has some well respected consultants in this are; Out of Chaos and Paul Talbot.


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