Now that it's a new year, why not get a fresh start by confronting the contents of your attic and closets — and maybe make some cash in the process? • There are many options for downsizing collections you inherited or amassed yourself, or for furniture that has more sentimental value than style. • Here's our plan to reclaim your storage space: Get your stuff into the hands of people who want it by selling it to a dealer, on consignment, at auction or online. The bonus is a little extra money at a time when many of us could use it. • We chose four categories — books and furniture today, and vintage wedding dresses and sports trading cards next Thursday — and found several avenues for possible resale. Experts in every field stressed that the items in the best condition will net the best price. • Other tips: Always call ahead. Investigate several venues if possible. The savviest sellers are informed about the market and realistic about value. Let's be honest: Not everything you want to get rid of will find a buyer. • If you make a few dollars or none at all, at the very least you've liberated some valuable space in your home. That's something you can't put a price on.
An online option for used books is Powell's Books (www.powells.com). Based in Portland, Ore., the bookseller will buy just about any title, and the people there make the process easy: Type in a book's ISBN number (usually on the back cover), and they'll tell you if it's a title they need and how much they will pay for it. Expect $1 or $2 for popular fiction paperbacks and $10, $20 or more for specialized academic or technical titles, says Hillary Smith, director of used books. (Powell's will buy textbooks, but they must be the current edition.) Payment is typically issued within one to two weeks through PayPal or through an online credit that can be used at the bookseller's Web site. The bonus: Powell's pays for shipping, too. "Our goal is to keep books circulating," says Smith, "so we want it to be simple."
Just because your grandparents gave you antique furniture doesn't mean you have to keep it. If you can get past the sentimental value, consider consignment shops. But before you load up your car, keep the following guidelines in mind:
Pieces you want to sell should be close to flawless, with no rips, tears, stains or broken legs. Most shop owners request you e-mail clear photos of larger pieces before hauling them in. Include background information in your e-mails, too, such as dimensions, manufacturer, designer and approximate age. If they accept your furniture, you'll sign a short-term contract (typically, about 90 days) and agree to split the sale price with the shop. Judith Carrig, co-owner of Capital Consignment in Bethesda, Md. (www.capitalconsignment.net), says expect to get a third of the retail price if the piece is in perfect condition. "If you have a Crate and Barrel sofa that you paid $1,000 for, you'd probably be able to sell it for $300 to $400 if it's in pristine condition."