My wife keeps telling me we have to clean up the clutter which translated means, when are you going to get rid of all those old vinyl records collecting dust next to the Blu-ray machine or all those old clothes crowding what once was a walk-in closet?
I've often thought about all the stuff I've accumulated over the years and wondered if was worth anything. I know I could donate it and take a tax credit, but what if one of those old out-of-print albums is really worth something, or that old suit which now has a vintage clothing motif could sell for what I paid for it? Besides, who couldn't use a few extra bucks right now?
Apparently, this is a great time to sell your stuff because thrift-conscious consumers are on the lookout for quality used goods. According to Caring Transitions, a company that sets up estate sales, there's an army of bargain-hungry shoppers trolling estate sales and spending from 15% to 25% more money than they did a year ago.
What's driving this train? According to the National Association of Realtors, there are more than two million baby boomers with homes on the market and most of them are trying to downsize. That's about 40% of all home sellers with years of furniture, baby clothes, books, records, board and video games and knick-knacks to get rid of.
You don't have to be selling your house to take advantage of the trend. Just put a notice in your local newspaper and a sign on your lawn that says "Estate Sale.â€ If you want, you can call a company that will even price and sell your items for you. But what fun is that?
Plus they take a good chunk of your earnings.
I prefer to do what the good folks at Smart Money magazine did. They asked the experts how you can make the most money selling the stuff you were going to throw away.
They broke each group of items up and then asked when you should bargain hard, take the best offer or don't even bother and just donate the suckers.
Let's look at furniture, which could fetch the most money in this kind of sale. They say you should bargain hard if it's mid-century modern furniture from the '50s and '60s. A mid-century modern buffet that sold for $75 or $100 earlier this decade, for example could now sell for $300 to $400.
On the other hand, you should probably take the best offer for everyday furniture like couches, chairs and coffee tables, especially if the pieces are light wood, aren't chunky and less than five years old. A couch in good condition might fetch a few hundred dollars through a site like craigslist and even more if its leather.
As for what to donate, those old clunky television sets and entertainment centers that used to take up a whole wall and now just take up half your spare bedroom. Same goes for mattresses, bedding, and dark-wood pieces like traditional dining and bedroom sets. They're just not in style right now.
With clothing, bargain hard on couture brands like Chanel and Gucci, especially vintage pieces like my old suits from the late 60s. Buyers have also been snapping up finely made vintage fur capes this season, which can go for up to $500.
Take the best offer if your clothes are just out of fashion and fail to meet the quality standards of a fashionista on a budget. Clothing in good condition from retro-hip eras like the '40s, '60s, or '80s will still sell, but just be prepared to take what you can get. Interestingly, native-American style pieces are popular right now. Go figure.
Donate any mass-produced items from large chain stores like GAP or L.L. Bean along with anything that's heavily stained as well as sweatshirts, or sweatpants.
Books & records
As for books and records, this is where it could get tricky and you sort of need to know what you've got. For example, if you have any first- or limited-edition books, or copies signed by the author, have them appraised before you put them out for sale. A limited edition, leather-bound book of Tennessee Williams plays could bring in hundreds of dollars. So could leather-bound series, such as those from Franklin Library books, a company that produced collector-edition books of the classics.
For vinyl LPs, look for things like more obscure Rolling Stones and Beatles records in their original sleeve and unscratched. Some of those have been selling for about $500. A rare bootleg of an original Bob Dylan Great White Wonder album recently sold for $300.
Take the best offer for any individual leather-bound books, especially of the classics. Same for any LPs by jazz greats or by bands from the 60s, as long as they're in good condition and in their original sleeve. Feel free to donate any paperbacks and mass-produced hardbacks, along with any LPs that are heavily scratched or aren't in their original sleeve. Toss in your old cassettes, eight-tracks and CDs as well. They've all be replaced by digital music downloads and aren't worth anything.
Collectibles on the other hand could be worth something. Bargain hard when it comes to porcelain dolls, tin toys made between the '20s and '40s, and many toys popular with the baby boomers. A complete Lionel train set or Mattel's Herman Munster doll could be worth something.
Vintage movie posters, coin collections, especially those that feature gold coins, and vintage cameras in good condition are all hot right now. Especially, cameras made by companies like Carl Zeiss and Leica from the turn of the century until about the 1970s.
Take the best offer for your old toys that are not in perfect condition, along with complete coin collections that aren't especially rare. They still sell because of their nostalgia factor. Contemporary art is popular right now, as is local art, so a painting that features an iconic building or landmark in your community may sell well in your area.
Feel free to donate those collector plates with dates, the kind where you'd get a plate each month in the mail with a date on it -- especially if the collection is incomplete. You can also toss any velvet paintings along with 1980s pastel, floral and landscape paintings and prints.
There's also a market in family snapshots and video. Stock photography and film companies sometimes buy home movies -- 8mm, super-8mm and 16mm versions -- and photos that include an iconic event or a famous person. Believe it or not, you can sometimes make hundreds of dollars from them.
With such things as silverware and china, sterling silver flatware is extra valuable right now. However, silver-plate and stainless flatware will sell because it is an item that everyone can use.
Don't forget those items from your garage. Tools are selling well now because they're easy for buyers to carry home and tend to be pricey when purchased new.
Old bicycles are also in high demand, including those old three-speed cruisers. A good bike in decent condition could sell it for $100 or more, which may be more than you paid for it.
Not a bad way to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Ring 'em up. You haven't been on those roller skates in 40 years.