Nothing makes me happier than purging a big pile of old kids clothes and toys. Living in a small, 1920s home with three kids, storage is always a challenge. So despite my penny-pinching ways, I get a sick thrill when my son’s pants are two inches too short or my daughter decides dresses are so last year. Out with the old and in with as few new items as possible. I am obsessed with clutter control.
But what to do with the nicer items we can no longer use? After the “Want this stuff?” message on Facebook, and garage sale season winds down, there are several ways to get rid of clothes and toys in good condition. You can even make a little dough to go toward baby’s new pair of shoes.
Here’s the rundown:
Consignment or second-hand retail stores
If you don’t want to wait until tax refund season to see some dough for your discarded items, consider a consignment store. Kids consignment chain stores such as Once Upon a Child take many items in good or better condition—from kid’s clothes to tap shoes to toddler beds and playpens. It’s best to call ahead if you’re planning a large drop-off or are hoping to sell several large items; sometimes even the best things are turned down if inventory is too high. The stores generally only buy what’s in season, although Once Upon A Child stores will take out of season items from high demand brands such as Hanna Andersson, Gap, Columbia, and Gymboree.
Don’t expect big bucks for each item. Generally speaking, you’ll earn cents on the dollar. Better brands and items with tags will net more cash.
Some stores pay you right away; others pay only when your item sells. Bottom line: It’s a convenient way to rid yourself of items quickly. Items that are turned away can then go into the donation pile.
eBay or CraigsList
If you have an in-demand item (think high-end strollers, bike tagalongs and other bigger ticket, brand name baby and kid gear), selling directly to other parents may be your best option. Bigger items are easier to sell on Craigslist, although Craigslist typically involves time-consuming back and forth and schedule coordination with potential customers. Haggling for price is common.
eBay can also be time-consuming. Thinking about all of the photo-taking and uploading and post office visiting that eBay involves crosses it off of my list of kiddie-crap-purging tricks.
St. Paul parent Mary Kate Boylan, however, enjoys the “fussy activity” that an eBay listing requires. Her hobby of selling on eBay nets her $250 to $300 monthly. She says now is a good time to list kids items because people are starting to think about holiday gifts.
Before selling, Boylan recommends being a buyer. “It makes you a better seller and you understand the point of view of your buyer.” It also helps with the research it takes to list an item and determine sale price.
When you’re ready to sell, do a search for your item to see how much comparable items ultimately sold for in past listings.
A quick search may reveal that the time, effort, and the financial return of selling on eBay isn’t worth it. “As much as I like to sell stuff,” Boylan said, “I really think people overlook donating for tax deductions. It’s short term reward versus long term reward.”
Big, big baby sales
Semi-annual kid sales such as Munchkin Markets or Just Between Friends rent space at large venues such as the State Fairgrounds and throw a massive garage sale of sorts. They tend to be more work than consigning items, but less work than selling items individually. Generally, sellers will earn more per item than consignment (65 to 80 percent of the original price, according to Munchkin Markets) and get the added perk of pre-sale entry. Volunteering at the sale earns additional perks.
My favorite no fuss feature of these sales? Some will send a check shortly after the event ends, making for hassle-free payment. Also, if you prefer not to pick up your unsold items, the sale will donate the goods to charity and provide an itemized receipt.
Donating to charity is so easy, yet so ugh-inducing. You can dump off a big garbage bag of clothes, but if you aren’t tracking what you’re giving away, you could lose a significant tax deduction if you itemize. Plus, charities have been pleading with consumers to stop dropping off holey jeans and stained T-shirts (note/ some recyclers take those), meaning a conscientious donator will have some sorting to do.
If you decide it’s worth the time and effort to save some money at tax time, try a higher-tech way to track your donations than a heap of scrap paper and receipts. Try It’sDeductible, a free program from Turbo Tax, or the app idonatedit ($2.99 at the iTunes app store).
Remember, the IRS requires a receipt that includes the name of the charity, contribution date, and description of the item given away. If possible, take pictures of higher value items. If your drop-off amounts to more than $250, additional rules must be followed. Learn more at IRS.gov.
Kara McGuire is a personal finance writer and a St. Paul mother of three. Send comments, questions and story ideas to