Clothes to Free: Spring clean your closet, sell clothes for cash

spring cleaning clothesHave you seen that A&E show, "Hoarders"? It chronicles the stories of people whose inability to part with items has taken over their lives. The show acts as a warning of the dangers of holding onto too much. While your closet full of clothes gathering dust may not be enough to land you on the show, spring is the perfect time to clear some wardrobe space and earn some extra cash in the process. You can go for cash or trade on the spot or hold out for the potentially more lucrative consignment contract.

Stores like Buffalo Exchange pay on the spot and depend on people exchanging their unwanted items in good condition for cash or trade. The process can differ by store but typically, sellers can come in without an appointment toting bags full of clothing and accessories. Employees go through the goods to determine the saleability, and the seller receives an offer for selected items, either in cash or trade. The cash offer will always be less than the store credit. Places that offer cash on the spot should have a posted policy on the percentage of the sale you will be receiving. Plato's Closet, is notorious for this. I vowed never to shop or sell there again after bringing in four bags of clothes and waiting hours for offering me $1 for one purse which they were already selling in the store for $10. This translated into only a 10% profit for me. Avoid selling anywhere that offers less than 35% and seek fair alternatives with clear policies.

If you're lucky enough to live in Northern California, Pretty Penny not only provides shoppers with vintage, trendy and indie apparel, but it's a cash-earning spot for fashion-forward students at the nearby University of California at Berkeley. Its Web site provides the most comprehensive guide to selling I've ever come across. In addition to listing available selling times and a clear buying policy (35% in cash, 50% in trade), they give an exhaustive instruction on exactly what they are currently buying. Broken into categories like buzz words, colors, looks and fabrics, Pretty Penny saves sellers time by detailing exactly what they are currently purchasing and updates by season.

Getting cash on the spot makes for some instant spending money, but waiting out the sale at consignment stores may lead to bigger profits. Consignors receive a portion of items that sell, rather than a smaller sum of cash up front. Christina Novak of New to You in Virginia says 30% of consignors/shoppers are students. But just having stylish clothes to sell, won't land you the buy. "Make sure that your items are not too worn and a quick wash is a must," says Novak. "A dirty pile of clothing stuffed in a bag is a bad presentation."

The buyer will set aside items for purchase and offer you a contract like this one from Girlfriends Consignment Boutique. The store may give your items two to three months to sell where you receive 50% of the profits. When the contract is up, you can go in to collect, or if you're lucky, you will be mailed a check. Sometimes stores give sellers the option to donate unsold items or to have them returned.

Finding the right place to sell may take a few attempts. Novak says, "Not all stores cater to all styles so try your best not to let your ego get in the way. If you are turned down, it really is just business. It is not personal." Browse the Resale Shop Directory for stores to sell at near your campus. Check web sites for policies on acceptable items.

For students like Notre Dame College '09 graduate Greg Clawson, selling clothes did not provide the cash flow he expected. After graduation, he tried selling at Plato's Closet to earn back some of what he had spent. "I only got like $10 for spending over $200 on these clothes," Clawson said. "I would rather donate to Goodwill because you get money off on taxes, and you feel better about it."

The choice of clothing disposal is yours. Whether your path to cash or a tax refund, clear out that closet before it's too late.

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