There’s nothing like being stuck at home to force you into finally doing something about the clutter you’ve been stashing in closets and under the bed for years. Deep cleaning our homes – like baking – has emerged as one of the universal human responses to this pandemic, according to recent data. The JustAnswer Art Appraisal team has been fielding something like 4,000 questions a week from people wondering if any of their clutter qualifies as vintage, collectible, or – better still – rare art.
Often, the answer is a startling, “Yes!”
One man in Wisconsin, for example, asked a JustAnswer appraiser if the painting his father picked up at an auction years ago and stuffed in a closet, where it was still gathering dust, was worth anything. According to the Christie’s certified art appraiser who took his question, that piece might very well be a 17th Century lost Old Master painting master that’s probably important and could be worth as much as $3 million dollars.
Do you have a lost masterpiece languishing in your garage? Or even enough spare cash tied up in junk to pay the rent? According to JustAnswer appraisers, you can find untold riches lurking in costume jewelry, old dolls, and even old books. One rare book appraised at $45,000. An old 5-dollar bill signed by Elvis Presley signed turned out to be worth $3,000. Here’s how to find out if your clutter is trash or potential cash.
Start with the new stuff
Unless you live in a house full of artifacts accumulated by past generations, the most likely place to find cash tied up in goods is in your orphaned gadget drawer.
A recent survey by tech resale sight Decluttr found that Americans are holding onto $43B worth in old phones, DVD’s and other tech gear. The average person can make around $200 simply by logging on and trading that unwanted tech for cash.
The trick here is speed. Unless that gadget becomes a collector’s item, tech loses value quickly as it ages. (Becoming a collector’s item is hard to predict and takes decades.) Last year’s phone, for example, might net you a decent check. Next year, though? It’s probably a donation.
The clothes off your back
It seems a bit Dickensian to sell clothes right out of your family’s closets. But if you aren’t wearing the stuff, it’s worth more to you as cash than as clutter. If the clothes are designer brands, see what it’s worth at Tradesy or Poshmark.
If the stuff is merely nice brands like Lucky Brand, Lululemon, or Gap, you can clean out an entire closet quickly by ordering a bag at Thredup or Buffalo Exchange by Mail, filling it up at home, mailing it in, taking what they’ll give you for it, and donating the rest.
If you don’t mind snapping a photo and creating a listing for each garment, try Mercari, Bonanza, Facebook Marketplace, Etsy, or eBay. You can sell everything from jeans to handbags to kids clothes to vintage jewelry at most of these sites. You’ll have to pack and ship each item separately this way – unless you create a clever listing of, say, size 8 jeans – but you’ll get more money.
Got furniture stashed in the attic?
If you have some terrific pieces of furniture lying around that don’t fit your space or style, selling it is a great way to free up space and fatten your bank account.
Online classifieds, where the buyer picks up from you including, VarageSale, letgo, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and 5miles, are better options for furnishings and sporting goods that are gently used but not antique. When items are big – like furniture and appliances – you’ll do best by selling to people who are physically near you. Shipping can really eat into your profits. And it’s so easy when someone takes away your junk and hands you money.
For china and more valuable collectibles that are easy to ship, try Ruby Lane, Replacements, Invaluable, LiveAuctioneers.com, or AuctionZip.com. You won’t be selling directly to the buyer, for the most part here. These are more like vintage and antique consignment stores.
Got a lot of stuff?
If you have a variety of clutter to offload, you probably want to pick a site where you can list it all. If you sell all over the Internet, you’ll be quickly overwhelmed by the various online selling tools. eBay is a great place to sell your gear because so many people buy there. Also, to help people get started selling online, the site is offering new sellers an extra 200 free listings per month through July.
It’s a great idea to figure out what the eBay trends are and see if you have something that’s hot. At the moment, unsurprisingly, things people can do at home are selling like hot cakes: video games, puzzles, at-home training equipment, swimming pools, and gaming consoles. And given that everyone has become a pandemic baker, this is a great time to get rid of the bread machine you haven’t used in years. Demand for bread-making machines rose nearly 800% since the pandemic hit.