En español | Many of us embrace spring as the time to clean out our closets and get organized. But if there's a chance of earning a little cash for decluttering our wardrobe, wouldn't any season seem right?
Ask yourself: Which type of clutter bug are you? Are you the shopper who buys the same pair of black pants again and again? Do you shop and forget what you've purchased? (How many price tags can you count in your closet?) Or are you the type who's afraid of throwing anything away?
Well, according to some organizational gurus, you may want to rethink your ways. "If you haven't worn it in the past six months, it has to go," says Tracy DiNunzio, founder of Tradesy.com, an online resale marketplace that works like a consignment shop. "We tend to hang on to old clothes thinking that 'some day' we'll fit back into them, or they'll come back in style. But those are the very things that contribute to closet clutter — and mental clutter, too."
The good news is that what is no longer right for you (think of that red sequined shawl you've been holding on to) may be just right for someone else. All you need to do is commit to analyzing what you have; creating a pile of what you don't need, don't want or can no longer fit into; and freeing your closet of it forever in one or more of the following ways.
1. Consign it
For your higher-quality or designer garments, consider consignment. Today, you have choices beyond your neighborhood store. The process is very similar: You enter an agreement with the operator to sell your item for a slice of the profit. But for an online store, you'll need to upload a photo of your clothing. There's also some shipping and handling involved — some companies offer it for free, others don't. When your item sells, the store takes a percentage, so compare shops for the best deal. (On Tradesy.com, for example, you take home 91 percent of the profit; on Perfect Fit Consignment, it's 75 percent.)
2. Have a yard sale
Break out the tables, chairs and clothes hangers. Displaying furniture and knickknacks is one thing; showing off your used clothing may take a few extra steps — but it's worth it. "Think of yourself as a manager of a retail store," says Lynda Hammond, the Garage Sale Gal and author of The Garage Sale Gal's Guide to Making Money Off Your Stuff. "Have it neat and inviting." Clean, wrinkle-free clothing will sell faster and sometimes for twice the money, she says. Make it simple for yourself and buyers by assembling all clothing in one area. Hammond suggests grouping tops, dresses, pants, belts and shoes, and pricing each category. For example: "All tops $3." If you think an item is worth more, then leave the price off, separate it from the bunch and allow buyers to make an offer.
A rolling clothing rack is an ideal way to show off your clothing. Or try this workaround from Hammond: Grab a ladder and a couple of straight link chains from a hardware store. Connect the end of one chain to the ladder and tie the other side to a tree or other stationary object. Place a hanger on each link to hang your items. Remember that everything can sell at a garage sale, even a holey, paint-splattered shirt, Hammond says. "When in doubt, put it out. They may pay you a quarter to repurpose it. You never know why someone needs what you have."
3. Donate to a good cause
You won't earn any money here, but you can certainly claim a tax write-off at the end of year, not to mention the warm and fuzzy feeling of knowing you've done a good deed. There are an incredible number of nonprofits in need of like-new clothing. The Salvation Army or Goodwill Industries are two reliable options. But you can also explore more specialized groups. For shoe donations, try Share Your Soles or Soles4Souls, or Give Running if you have athletic shoes to donate. Donate career wear to Dress for Success. Pass on old purses to Change Purse.
4. Swap and save
Swap parties allow you to update your wardrobe for free and get rid of your clutter at the same time. This option can work in one of two ways: Host a swap party, asking your invitees to drop off their own used items before the day of the event. Send out invites at least a month in advance to give attendees time to rummage through their closets. Display all the items for the party in an organized fashion. On the day of the party, allow swappers to browse and bag what they want. (You may want to come up with your own swap policies and guidelines to ensure fairness.) Leftover items can be donated to a local organization.
If you have no time for party planning, then try online swapping networks, such as swapstyle.com or bigwardrobe.com. Upload a photo of an item, and wait to see if someone reaches out to negotiate a swap with you. Or you can send another swapper an offer. On these particular websites, membership is free. But you do pay for shipping.
5. Help the planet
If, after decluttering, you find clothing that may not be worth selling or swapping, aim to reduce landfill wastes by donating to a local recycler. Check the parking lot of your grocery store, and you may find a convenient drop-off bin for organizations such as Planet Aid, a nonprofit that collects clothes and shoes to support community development programs. Know that a growing number of nonprofit and for-profit groups operate recycling bins for various purposes. If you're willing to go this route, take the extra step to research the organization that owns the drop-off box to make sure you agree with its mission.
Stacy Julien is a writer and editor with AARP Media.
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