Second-Hand Stores Can Be Your Decluttering Partners

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second-hand store

As part of my annual series about downsizing or decluttering by selling, here is another method to consider: second-hand stores


Today I’m sharing three of the most common: consignment shops, pawn shops and thrift shops. Each venue is unique with what it can offer. Equally important is understanding the entire selling process, from what they are willing to sell, how much payment to expect, as well as when you’ll receive your net share. So let’s dive in!

1. Consignment Shops

How they operate:

Consignment shops typically pay you when your items sell. A few may buy your things outright but this can be less common. Expect to receive between 40-60% of the final sale price. They may also charge a small flat fee in addition to the percentage payout. Your return will be slightly higher if you agree to take a store credit instead of cash. After all, this makes sense when you help with moving inventory off the store floor.

The store will quote you a starting price. Be sure to ask if there are periodic markdowns that would impact your return. Many shops will have a set cycle for when they mark down inventory. They need to ensure goods are not just sitting and taking up valuable floor space. If your item doesn’t move, you may be asked to pick it up. But they also might offer to donate unwanted items to a local charity on your behalf, so ask about this option, too.

There are numerous specialty consignment shops so there are too many to address individually. Some carry a little bit of everything and others specialize in furniture, clothing or household items. Many are independently owned and operated as opposed to a chain of retail fronts. Finally, it can make more sense to take your stuff to a store that focuses on that type of item, i.e., an upscale shop selling designer apparel or a furniture store specializing in contemporary pieces.

The bottom line:

Be sure your items are in clean, serviceable condition. If the store politely passes on your stuff, don’t argue with the staff. They are making decisions based on their professional knowledge and the current demand. Ultimately, they are not interested in having your stuff collect dust on the sales floor and nor would you be, either!

If you’re looking for a quick payout, this will not be your best option. Until a second-hand store client buys your stuff, you are in a holding pattern, waiting for your cash. If this is the case, then consider a pawn shop for selling your stuff, instead.

2. Pawn Shops

How they operate:

Not everyone immediately thinks of pawn stores as viable second-hand stores. Until popular TV shows brought these stores to the forefront recently, there was always an aura of shame and intrigue. Why did someone sell their family heirlooms? What financial downturn occurred?

However, there are distinct advantages to checking one out. Here, you turn possession of the item over to the store and receive an immediate payout before you leave.  You are not impacted if it sells at an extraordinarily low price or never sells at all. 

Pawn stores can be a good venue for items that are in less demand at other second-hand stores. Think taxidermy, electronics, guns, tools or musical instruments. In fact, a pawn store is a very good venue to sell gold or diamonds! Just be sure to compare their bid to shops that exclusively buy and sell used jewelry before moving ahead with the transaction. 

The bottom line:

If you’re looking to convert your stuff into cash quickly, these second-hand stores will pay you on the spot. Do keep in mind, though, that payment up front means you will realize less than if you were willing to wait for a buyer at a traditional consignment shop. On average, pawn shops pay 25-60% of the resale value of your items.

3. Thrift Shops

How they operate

Thrift shops are the third type of second-hand stores. What makes them distinct is that most operate as a nonprofit business. This means that many will not pay for your items. However, I mention these as they are also a viable resource for offloading excess personal items. That in itself, is a bonus!

You may not receive monetary compensation but you may qualify for a tax credit (consult your financial advisor). They are often linked to a business such as a local hospice. Or think of Goodwill. Profits are funneled back to the parent business. So ultimately, you also get the satisfaction of helping out a worthy cause. 

The bottom line:

When clearing space quickly is more important than a monetary payback, thrift stores are an ideal outlet. Not only will your stuff get a second life with new owner. Your donations are converted into dollars that support a worthwhile service in your community, too.

The Wrap on Second-hand Stores

Which type of second-hand store makes sense for you? Keep the following factors in mind when decluttering:

  • Time: how quickly do you need to turn your items into cash?
  • Money: how much (if any) return is enough for you?
  • Specialty: are your items rare or of a specific genre?
  • Donation: would you be satisfied with supporting a higher cause?

Some folks enjoy the whole selling experience and seem to really cash out.  Others, not so much. Like anything else, it takes time and energy to makes the rounds and see what you can get. If nothing else, it can be enlightening to visit a couple of second-hand stores to view what merchandise is available and what the going rates are. 

Something is better than nothing but at some point, diminishing returns can set in. Charitable donations start to look much more appealing! You make a difference to someone who can’t afford new and you may realize an income tax credit, too.

This is the third article in this series on selling.  Did you miss the kickoff? Catch up here: 3 Considerations to Maximize Your Return When Selling Your Stuff

And here’s the second article to bring you up to speed:How an Estate Sale Moves Everything (But the Kitchen Sink!) 


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