We dropped off clothes to sell at our local consignment sale last week, and it made me think about the fact that I didn’t know a lot about this sort of thing until after we had kids. In some ways, I wish I’d known earlier; I would have been a little more prepared for the realities of children’s clothing, both buying and selling. It’s yet another of those inner secrets of the Parenthood Club. So for today, I thought I’d talk a little about what I do with my kids’ clothes after they outgrow them, just as a general overview (where I get their clothes and what I look for when I’m buying is another post altogether!).
Once your kids outgrow their clothing – and they will do so much faster than it seems possible – you’re faced with boxes and boxes of adorable tiny clothes to find something to do with before they overwhelm your closets and attic. If you’re planning on having more kids, of course it makes sense to keep some clothes. But if you don’t expect any more babies to come into your life, what do you do with all those clothes?
The obvious answer is hand-me-downs; pass on the clothes to friends and family who are having babies. But if, like us, you’re at the end of the line and the last of your friends to have kids (or those friends who had babies after you had giant Amazon babies who are already bigger than yours even though they are months younger), or if you feel a pressing need to try to recoup some of the costs of provisioning your army of children with clothing, there are some other options.
I organize my options by the quality of the clothing. Generally speaking, there are three categories of children’s clothes. The high-end clothes are designer clothes – Ralph Lauren, Hanna Andersson, Tea Collection, Zara Kids, Baby Gap, etc. The mid-range clothes are the ‘standard’ baby brands like Carters, OshKosh, and Children’s Place. And the low-end clothes are from Target (Circo) and Walmart.
For high-end clothes, I find that you get a better return on them if you put a little work into it. So I pull them out of the pile of outgrown clothes, take individual pictures, and list them for sale on various Facebook buy/sell/trade groups – there are brand-specific groups and also general ones. You can also create a shop on Instagram to sell higher-end clothes – this works better if you’re someone who already has a decent following there, though. The process for selling on Facebook and Instagram is surprisingly simple – you post your item, and if somebody wants to buy it, they just leave a comment that says so and includes their email address. Then you use PayPal to send them an invoice – which provides a little extra safety for both buyer and seller. They pay, you ship using PayPal’s shipping label printing (no post office trip!), everybody is happy.
Some mid-range clothes will sell on Facebook, but they have to be in really good condition and super cute. It’s easier to put together outfits or sets, too. For both mid-range and high-end, you can also sell on apps like TotShop and Kidizen – entirely mobile device-based. They handle the payment processing and take a small percentage. I find that it’s a little harder to sell there because you’re a little less in control of your items being found by buyers; on Facebook, you can self-promote and cross-post to make sure that your items are reaching their intended audience (which in turn is more work – if you would prefer to just post and then ignore it, the apps are great).
Finally, most mid-range and all low-end items (and anything that doesn’t sell through the other methods after a long enough time that I don’t feel like trying anymore) get taken to the local consignment sales. In our area, there are two big sale operators, each of whom operate between two and four weekend sales every year in different locations around the region. Both sales use a tool called My Consignment Manager for sellers to tag their items, and you can simply transfer unsold items from sale to sale if you want to. That’s more effort than I’m willing to put in, though – I never want to go and sort through the unsold items to collect mine and haul them back home! So I simply mark mine as ‘Donate if Unsold,’ and the sale operator handles the donation of any unsold items to charity. I can use their consignment manager website to download reports of sold/unsold/donated items for tax records, and they send me a check a couple of weeks after the sale.
Most consignment sales give you about 65% of the sale price of your items; you can bump up the percentage you receive by volunteering at the sale. Generally speaking, I’ve found that what sells at consignment is sets and bundles; I hang several onesies or outfit options together and price it as a single item. Consignment sale prices are pretty rock-bottom; not great for making money, but anything’s better than nothing. And we frequently go to the sales and poke through to find things to buy for our kids to fill in their wardrobes – people tend to send stuff to the consignment sales that they just want to be done with, so if you go through the racks carefully, you can often find really good prices on nice stuff (which, bonus, can often be resold through one of the other options for a decent price once your kids are done with it). The outfit my little boy wore in his Christmas pictures came from a consignment sale – it was a high-end brand, with no wear on it, and it was an entire three-piece outfit. We paid maybe ten dollars for it. And I’ll resell it on Facebook for at least that much, if not more, since he literally wore it only once.
The caveat to all of this is that it can take a lot of time. With two babies to clothe, though, and a little extra time on my hands since I’m no longer working, I’m willing to put in a little bit of effort. We agreed that if I wanted to buy ridiculously adorable and unnecessary baby clothes beyond the basics they actually need (and I do), I would only spend the money I made selling off their old stuff. So it’s a little extra incentive. Every item I sell gets me closer to buying things like Freshly Picked moccasins or ornate headbands or distressed jeans and hand-printed shirts.
My husband built me a rack out of PVC pipe; it lives in our guest room, and when the babies outgrow clothes they go onto the rack to be sorted, cleaned, and bundled into sets if necessary. Designer clothes get pulled out and photographed; midrange and low-end clothes get packaged together into sets and tagged in the consignment system so they’re ready for the next sale. I don’t sell at every single sale – many of them are too far away. But the ones that are close enough wind up being every couple of months, so I have a pretty regular rotation. So far it’s working out pretty well. When we graduate to ‘kid’ sizes instead of ‘baby’ ones, things may change, because the wear and tear on clothes may make them harder to sell. But for now, we’ve got a pretty good system going.