Wardrobe Curation: Tips for Consigning Your Clothes.

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The process of cleaning out a closet can be daunting for several reasons. First and foremost, there is an emotional component to separating with our things. We might be unwilling to part with some items because of the fond memories they are attached to; maybe there is an underlying fear that getting rid of the things that trigger our memories will lead to us to forget. We may also be reluctant to get rid of certain pieces of clothing because that item represents a past self that we hope to get back to being, or a future self that we aspire to become someday. An example that comes to mind is a favorite black dress that sat in my closet for years– I hadn’t worn the dress since my early college days, yet I still held on to it, hoping that by some miracle of miracles I would finally have the willpower to lose the 15-20 pounds I gained during my first year of grad school. By getting rid of our possessions, it can sometimes feel like we are getting rid of a part of our selves… and is that something that we are really willing to do?

In addition to the emotional component, there is a more practical/logistical hurdle that makes the cleaning process difficult– when you’ve amassed a bunch of stuff over the years, the sheer size of the task can be simply overwhelming. When I first started streamlining my wardrobe, I had to do it in chunks (e.g., one rack, one shelf, one drawer every week). I repeated this process several times, culling and re-evaluating my wardrobe bit by bit. Decisions of whether to throw away, donate, or sell items are difficult to make. I definitely have my regrets. But at the end of the day, I have to shrug my shoulders, let it go, and tell myself, it’s just stuff. It’s not supposed to be complicated.

Finally, tied into these difficulties is a financial component– this was especially palpable for me during my closet clean-out. When I realized how much stuff I had, how much stuff I used and didn’t use, and how much underutilized stuff I was throwing in my giveaway pile, it really hit home: Damn. I’ve wasted a lot of money. A. Lot. Cue the guilt. Over time, I’ve taken some solace in knowing that most of my donated and sold clothes have found new homes and are finally being worn. Fortunately, in the past year I’ve been able to consign a lot of items from my closet to recoup a small portion of the money I spent on clothes and accessories over the years. Along the way, I’ve learned a some things that help to make the consignment process a little less painful and a little more profitable. I’ve listed my tips for successful consigning after the jump, and I’d love to hear any tips you have as well.

1. Do your research. Learn about and compare the policies of your local consignment shops by visiting their online sites, or by visiting the shop in person. A few pertinent questions to ask: Does the store pay for your items upfront, or do you receive a percentage of the profits made from the sale of your items? If the latter: What percentage of the commission will you receive if your item sells? Are there certain types of items that the store is more/less likely to accept for consignment at the moment (this is relevant if the shop only accepts seasonal items)? Is there a minimum number of items that the store must accept from you in order to start a consignment contract with them? What brands do they accept or do not accept?

There are tradeoffs between bringing your clothes to a store that pays you up front (e.g. a Buffalo Exchange), versus a store that pays you a percentage of profits down the line. In my opinion, stores that pay you outright tend to be less profitable. For example, in a store that pays you up front, you might receive 20% of the sale price, but in a store that pays you by commission after X number of days, you have the potential of receiving 40% of the sale price. However, keep in mind that the 40% commission is contingent upon your item selling– there are no guarantees. If you are strapped for cash, a consignment shop that immediately pays you some cash for your stuff might be the better option. But if you can wait a while, a shop that pays through commission could give you a greater pay off.

2. Be strategic about drop offs. Ask employees about whether you need to make an appointment to have your clothing evaluated for consignment; the best time of day to drop by (this will save you time; sometimes a store is not as busy during the weekday or in the morning). If the consignment shop accepts seasonal items (e.g. coats during fall/winter), consider keeping some of your items in storage until they are in season before you bring them in. This will increase the chance of that item being accepted by the store (and hopefully being sold).

Another important note about being strategic: consider bringing your drop offs to your main consignment shop first, and then go to a “back-up” shop to bring any remaining drop offs that the first shop did not accept. For instance, I usually will first bring my clothes to one consignment shop that offers the highest commission rate. Then, if there are some items that shop has not accepted, I will bring them to a consignment shop that pays a smaller commission up front, as these shops tend to be more likely to accept items that are a bit more low-end/fast-fashion (e.g. H&M) but are still in very good condition. I donate the remainder of the items that are not accepted by either shop.

3. Don’t forget to tidy up. As someone who used to work in a consignment store, I cannot stress this enough– cleaning up your items and getting them in visibly good condition will increase the odds of them being accepted and sold by the shop. This means: make sure your items are clean and stain/smell free, launder things that need to be laundered (I once had someone drop off shirts soiled around the neckline… gross), iron and steam garments, de-pill sweaters, run a lint remover over everything, make sure that all zippers are functional and that all buttons and hems are intact, condition leather purses, clean the dirt off of shoes (consider getting them shined or go to a cobbler to get them repaired), polish jewelry, and finally, check all pockets to make sure they are clean and nothing is in them. Who knows, the effort you put into improving the condition of your old clothes might even lead you to change your mind about giving some things away and actually wearing them!

4. Read your contract and save the date. Be sure to read the fine print on your consignment contract– the contract indicates your commission percentage, how your items were priced, how long your items will be on the store floor, and when your claim date is (i.e. when you can arrive to collect your money and any unsold items). Mark this date on the calendar. Happy consigning!

I’m currently doing another closet clean-out for the season, so I’d love to know if anyone has additional tips for successful consigning! Thanks for dropping by!

– j.

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