En español | Beyond garage sales and brick-and-mortar consignment shops lies the bustling bazaar of the Internet. But what should you sell where?
- Electronics. Reasonably new cellphones and other electronics can bring money on sites like uSell and Gazelle. Older vintage audio equipment and retro electronics might find buyers on eBay.
- Books. List recent hardback best-sellers at Amazon, Alibris or AbeBooks. (Old textbooks and most paperbacks, however, are probably best donated.) A store that specializes in used books can help determine the value if you have a large collection of rare volumes. "We've seen stuff that is not worth anything at all, and we've seen stuff that's worth more than we can pay," says Corby Gillmore, manager of the Dawn Treader Book Shop in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
- Clothes. Selling vintage clothing in good condition is a snap on eBay, Etsy or any of a host of online vendors such as Wiseling and Poshmark (for women) or Grailed (for men). The women's clothing consignment site Threadflip will send you prepaid shipping bags for your clothes and manage your sale; you keep 60 percent of the cash. Twice and thredUP offer free cleanout bags and pay directly for women's clothes; thredUP also accepts children's clothes.
- Furniture. Because of the shipping expense, think local: consignment shops or antiques stores for higher-value pieces, Craigslist or eBay Classifieds for the rest.
Got family heirlooms? Consider passing them to your kids as holiday or birthday gifts, says Kelly Gill, an estate lawyer at Belcher Fitzgerald in Boston. The exception? Anything that has appreciated greatly in value while you've owned it, such as an artwork or a vintage sports car. If you give away such a treasure while you're living, the recipient will owe capital gains tax if he or she later sells it. But the capital gains clock starts over at zero when it's inherited after you're gone.
You know you can donate clothes, toys and housewares to thrift stores operated by nonprofits such as Goodwill Industries and the Salvation Army. Many of these stores won't accept major appliances, mattresses or automobile parts, though, so call ahead. Better World Books has drop boxes and will provide free shipping for your donated tomes — or just donate to your local library. Old hearing aids can find new owners through recycling programs like the Starkey Hearing Foundation and Lions Clubs International. Don't forget to get an IRS tax receipt if you plan to write off charitable contributions when you file your income taxes.
Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post via Getty Images
To empty your house of every stick of furniture, consider a liquidator. These are the pros who run estate sales. But beware: The industry is unregulated, and there is plenty of potential to be ripped off, says Julie Hall, director of the American Society of Estate Liquidators and author of The Boomer Burden: Dealing With Your Parents' Lifetime Accumulation of Stuff. Hall suggests interviewing several liquidators before choosing one. Ask for references, an explanation of fees (which average 35 percent) and a copy of the contract. Make sure your liquidator is insured and bonded, and check online reviews and the Better Business Bureau before you sign. And trust your gut, says Hall: "If something feels wrong, find someone else."
Last stop: your local landfill. But before you rent a Dumpster, summon a junk hauler, or call for local bulk-trash pickup and drag your crud to the curb, think green, and set aside recyclables. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, about 70 percent of heavy metals in municipal landfills are from discarded electronics. Many states and cities offer free electronics recycling; Staples and Best Buy stores recycle computers, cellphones and some office equipment without charge. Best Buy will also haul away televisions and appliances when a new one is delivered.
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