No life on the line as in Hamlet, but whether or not to sell items when downsizing is nevertheless a weighty decision.
Although I had visions of the treasures that meant so much to me growing up as being worth something, the hard fact is that most things will fetch little these days. Between the ease of selling through the Internet and the number of people getting rid of things, values have plummeted, even for most antiques. (Just watch Antiques Road Show, and you will see what I mean.)
So, selling rarely means making much money, and it can be quite time-consuming preparing items for sale. The standard ways to sell your possessions are:
Selling directly through sales websites/selling at flea markets. If you plan to go through Ebay or Etsy, among others, you need to be familiar with these channels of selling, do your research about value, take good photos, price appropriately, and then be prepared for follow-through, including packing and sending items. Local sites, such as Craigslist or Nextdoor, remove the packing step, but require you to be available and deal with strangers. You can also purchase space at local flea markets, but that feels like even more work along with hard physical labor. Frankly, these routes feel like starting another business, one in which I have little interest given the other ways I’d rather spend my time. But you might find the prospect intriguing.
Consigning and selling to third parties. Alternatively, you can consign or sell outright to a third party. I have chosen the consignment route for vintage outfits (from my mother and even me), clothes from my designer sister (with her label in them), and more current items from my own wardrobe that I no longer wear. The shop typically takes 60% these days. Online equivalents, such as swap.com offer consignees a larger percentage, but also charge for mailing and require a certain amount to make it worthwhile. In past years, I’ve made good money for the vintage clothing, but not so much lately. (Of course, if you are lucky enough to own designer label clothes, you might do better.) Still, I’ve made enough to buy myself the odd new item. I do like that someone will be enjoying the clothes that have meant something to me because of their family history.
Other items for which there may be a market are records/cds, antiquarian books, oriental rugs, furniture in stellar condition or on trend currently (such as mid-century modern), musical instruments, silver/gold, and certain collectibles. BUT you will need to do your research. Even then, the prices you see online will not be what you will realize, and the values of things can change. Even those Beatle albums that appear to fetch in the $15 and up range will net you only a few dollars at most if you sell them to a third-party dealer. The good news is that you’ve moved them out the door, and like the clothes, someone else will enjoy them. The one downside is that unless you have an unusually large collection of valuable items, you will generally have to trek them to the shop yourself. I did have a recent success selling some furniture to a dealer who was willing to do some refinishing himself. I didn’t get top dollar, but I felt he was fair, and he made a house visit. Large items, gone!
Yard sales (called also garade sales, tag sales). Who doesn’t love a yard sale? I’ve picked up many an item I didn’t really need at one, and at bargain prices, too. The plus sides of organizing a yard sale is that you can sell a wide variety of items without moving them very far from your house and that all this can take place in a few hours. There is a whole art to yard sales (probably another post). Having some items that are likely to sell for more than a few dollars each (like furniture in decent shape) may make the enterprise worth your while. Of course, some of your success will depend on your location and the weather that day. At least, with better ways of adveristing than those hand-made signs posted on telephone poles, you may get visits from some of those “professional” yard sale attendees, who are willing to travel more than three blocks to find a deal.
My rule of thumb re selling. If I can net $50 or more either for a single item or a group of items, it’s worth it to me to take the time. Less than that, I will probably take one of the other disposal routes. Time is money to me!