Get Paid for Cleaning Out Your Closet
But how can you get the biggest payout with the least amount of effort? I've tried many options over the years, from eBay (EBAY) to private sales groups (there are many on Facebook (FB), just search "swap group" under Groups) to local consignment shops. Each approach has its pros and cons, but most have required a lot of effort.
Enter online consignment sites. Each shop has different policies, but the promise is appealing. The shop sends you a giant bag, you fill it up, mail it off, and wait for an offer. Some shops pay you up front for your items. The downside? Your items may not be accepted or may not be valued as highly as you'd like.
I tried out two popular online consignment sites -- Twice and ThredUp -- to see how the process works, and compared them to selling to my local consignment shop.
The process: Twice will send you a free "Selling Kit" (a large bag and prepaid shipping label) or you can use your own packaging and get a prepaid label via email to print out. I packed up my loot (the bag easily fit the 16 items I sent in, including several pairs of shoes), dropped it off at the post office, and got an offer about 10 days later.
The payout: I was offered $99 in cash (via PayPal or check) or $123.75 if I took my payout in store credit.
I was disappointed to learn that three of my items had been rejected, including a brand-new silk blouse with tags attached that was dinged for "overall wear." When I pointed that out to the customer service team, the head buyer reviewed my order again and said it was actually faded, not worn. Still hard to accept on a brand-new item, but that aside, I was happy with the payout.
If I had not been OK with the offer, I could have opted to have all my items returned to me for $4.95, but it's an all-or-nothing proposition: You can't have just the rejected items returned.
What to know: Twice will buy women's and men's clothing, women's shoes, and handbags. As I learned from my experience, the company is extremely selective about the condition of items it accepts and has a fairly limited list of brands it will buy. For example, fans of Old Navy, Aeropostale, H&M and Garnet Hill are out of luck. Even L.K. Bennett -- a favorite designer of Kate Middleton -- is on the reject list, so you should be very careful about what you send. The online payout calculator is a good way to ballpark what you can get.
The process: Similar to Twice, ThredUp will mail you a large bag with a prepaid label, but there is no option to print your own label if you need to send a larger package. You do have to decide up front if you want items returned to you if they are not accepted -- this "Return Assurance" option is $12.99.
I mailed in 16 more items and dropped off the bag with the post office at the same time as the Twice shipment. I got an email about a week later saying that my bag had arrived, but it would take up to a month to process. Fortunately, it only took about two more weeks.
The payout: I was offered $48.07 for 14 of my items, which I could use immediately as store credit or receive in cash after 14 days. There was no explanation for why the others were rejected. I would have liked to know the reasons, but I was OK with the amount offered -- the items I had sent to ThredUp weren't as valuable as those I sent to Twice and most likely would have ended up being donated otherwise.
What to know: ThredUp accepts women's and kids clothing and shoes, as well as handbags. It's much less restrictive than Twice in terms of accepted brands -- in addition to brands like Old Navy that Twice doesn't buy, ThredUp even accepted a pair of jeans I bought in Australia from a brand not sold in the U.S. If you're curious about what your items might fetch, you can check ThredUp's pricing calculator.
The process: Call or email for an appointment, generally a few weeks out. Then bring in the items for approval. On the plus side, I find out right away if items are rejected and can keep them instead. On the downside, I have to wait until the items sell to get paid. On average it takes three to four months to get a check.
The payout: A recent drop-off of nine items was estimated to net me $176, but the check I got several months later was only for $100, so some pieces either sold at a discount or not at all.
What to know: Every store will have its own guidelines. Mine is very particular, and it sells only higher-end women's clothing, shoes and accessories. The payouts are generally higher than what I got from ThredUp and Twice, but very few of my items qualify.
I found both online options considerably easier than schlepping my stuff to the brick-and-mortar shop. I'll continue to use the sites, likely in tandem, sending my fancier stuff to Twice and shipping lower-end clothing and my kids' cast-offs to ThredUp. (Another DailyFinance contributor recently tested ThreadFlip and Tradesy.)
As a bonus, I discovered that both sites offer great deals on slightly used (sometimes brand-new) clothes. Now that I know how particular the sites are about what they accept, I feel more comfortable buying from them too.
Motley Fool contributor Robyn Gearey owns shares of Facebook. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of eBay and Facebook. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.