Sell My Old Clothes, I’m Off to Heaven

I recently moved (again). When I did, I sorted my clothing into piles of things to keep and things to donate or sell. Bags of the donate-or-sell clothes sat in a corner of my bedroom for a few months. Getting those bags out of that corner was my one thing to do for the month of January; doing so required committing to a block of time to rent a Zipcar. I finally booked one for a Saturday morning, figuring I’d sell what I thought was buyable at Buffalo Exchange, which has recently opened some locations in D.C., and take the rest to Goodwill. (I, while out drinking the night before, coerced a friend to go with me so that, in my thrashing, pathetic, hungover state the morning of, I wouldn’t cancel the Zipcar reservation. This is a thing I’ve done. I did not do it this time.)

Buffalo Exchange will schedule appointments, but I walked in; there was no wait. I carried one of those enormous blue plastic Ikea bags, full of clothes, from my apartment to the Zipcar and from the Zipcar to Buffalo Exchange. I piled everything onto the counter, and the buyer—who was nice and funny and repeatedly complimented my awesome taste in clothing, thereby assuaging my hangover—unfolded, stared at, and assigned prices to the dozens of items I brought in. What she didn’t deem a good fit could be donated to Martha’s Table, a D.C. charity.

I came in with about 50 items and Buffalo Exchange bought about 35. Most were from J. Crew. Some were from Madewell and American Apparel. A few were from Forever 21 or H&M. Nearly everything was very, very gently worn—if worn at all. Buffalo Exchange will buy your clothes for 30 percent cash or 50 percent store credit; if your cash value exceeds $100, you get a check. I got a check for $153. This means that Buffalo Exchange will resell the clothes it bought from me for $512 total. 

I wish I had taken better notes of how the buyer priced things (I asked her if she could print me an itemized list, but Buffalo Exchange doesn’t provide such information unless your clothes are consigned). What the buyer assessed things to be worth seemed to correspond loosely with brand cache, seasonality, and her personal knowledge of trends. A new-with-tags neon-pink J. Crew shirtdress was deemed sellable for $42, and a Saint James tee was $17. A Land’s End Canvas windbreaker was worth $27, and a Martin & Osa peacoat was $19.

“I’m not supposed to take sweaters because we have so many of them, but this is just so fucking cute,” the buyer said, holding up a loose-knit BCBG sweater with cropped sleeves. I cringed. I had toted the sweater through five or six moves, but never wore it. My mom, who rarely bought me clothes, sprung for it; in high school, there were moments (admittedly selfish, misguided ones) when I wanted nothing more than for her to take me shopping.

“I’m going to take this blouse for $12,” the buyer, onto the next one, said. “So do you, like, just buy clothes and not wear them?”


With the exception of the aforementioned, emotionally wrought sweater, nearly everything I brought to Buffalo Exchange had sat untouched in my dresser. I’m horrified, but not surprised, by my tendencies. I know that clothes are my material weakness, but I don’t really know why. There’s certainly no practical reason: I’ve worked jobs without dress codes since I graduated college, and have adopted the practical uniform of boots, black jeans, T-shirt, and water- and windproof jacket that I need to appear as if I did not ride my bike somewhere. Regardless, I’ve bought a lot of clothes over the years, entirely new, as rewards for finishing projects, when I have extra cash, when I don’t have extra cash, because I can.

Selling my clothes was humiliating—I can’t even begin to calculate the amount of money I lost by buying things, rarely wearing them, then reselling them at a small percentage of what I paid for them in the first place—and a relief. I cleared out a corner of my bedroom and got paid for it. By getting paid for it, I actually understood my financial loss. Unlike tossing a black plastic bag into a Goodwill cart and driving away, watching Buffalo Exchange’s buyer tell me what my stuff was worth was an incentive to never again accumulate a pile of unworn clothing.

I’m not the first person to realize that a shopping ban is a net positive because it keeps you from throwing money into a void (and exceeding your dresser’s capacity). Not mindlessly adding things I might wear that might look good on me to my J. Crew Factory or Forever 21 or ASOS or Madewell basket, then clicking “check out,” is a significant challenge. And I don’t know how long I’ll do this: One of the two pairs of black pants I wear is starting to sag, and it’d be nice to have an extra pair of chamois shorts for bike touring in warmer weather.

But I’m keeping track of my progress through a account—a site that helps you “stick to good habits and break bad ones.” Every night, I swipe the bar that says “not buying clothes” on my iPhone, and it tells me how many days in a row I’ve maintained the habit. I’m into the 40s now, and, for once, I’m wearing most of the stuff in my dresser—which I paid for.


Alex Baca is wearing black jeans and a T-shirt right now. Photo: youngthousands


15 Comments / Post A Comment

sockhopbop (#764)

Once, when I was moving, I took a giant garbage bag full of clothes to Beacon’s Closet in Brooklyn. They took nothing. Which is to say: At least you are stylin’ and Buffalo-approved!

kellyography (#250)

@sockhopbop I literally almost posted the exact same thing. It’s good the OP at least got SOMETHING for her clothes, as well as the reality check of seeing all those unworn clothes all in the same place.

r&rkd (#1,657)

Haha yes! For me, the refusal to take my clothes is almost more painful from a personal rejection standpoint than a money standpoint.

If you haven’t already, take a look at “Overdressed: the shockingly high cost of cheap fashion.” That + your recent clothes-selling incident should be enough to keep you from ever buying a cheap thing “just because” again.

chic noir (#713)

@Amber Pye@facebook – excellent book. I now find myself paying more attention to the fabrics used in making a garment. Cotton, cashmere,silk, and wool please.

kate@twitter (#2,935)

Yeah, I also brought a huge trashbag of clothing to Buffalo Exchange and they bought nothing. It was an embarrassing experience for me and for the buyer (especially since my clothing was not only cheap but also several years old and largely worn to shreds). Luckily the store I went to was one street over from a Goodwill, so I just hauled the whole bag to the Goodwill and threw it dejectedly into one of their big blue donation dumpsters.

The buyers at Beacon’s Closet destroyed my self-esteem forever. Also, does anyone else think it’s fishy that they will “keep” whatever they don’t buy to donate later? I think there’s a story there…

beet hummus (#946)

@Meghan Nesmith@twitter
Good lord, I never thought of there possibly being something shady about that. Oh well… I usually take clothes there so I can just be rid of them no matter what.

kellyography (#250)

@Meghan Nesmith@twitter Oh totally. I would never leave clothes with any reseller to “donate later.” I’ll just donate them myself, thanks. I do wonder if someone could find a buyer to speak anonymously on the practice of reselling clothes that people left for donation. I am like 90% positive this happens at all of those places.

Faintly Macabre (#1,043)

@Meghan Nesmith@twitter I briefly worked at a local chain of consignment stores that had people stay in the store as they went through the clothes. At the end, people could either take home rejected clothes or leave them to be donated. I am mostly sure that they didn’t sell any of those clothes, at least at accepted-item prices (the chain seemed to have generally ethical, or at least rule-abiding, owners). Clothes that didn’t sell could be taken back by sellers before a certain date or left in the store to be sold, often on clearance.

However, in my initial tour of the store, there were a lot of bags of these for-donation clothes in the basement. I think they kept not with the intention of selling them, but because didn’t have a system or real incentive for driving huge quantities of clothes to a thrift store/shelter. Towards the end of my time there, we got a huge load of mostly ugly, outdated clothes from other locations to sell on clearance. No one told the lower-level employees where they came from, and based on the mystery and quality of the clothes, we speculated that they were for-donation clothes from other locations. If so, it’s a little ethically shady, but at least at our location, most of the people left unwanted clothes because they didn’t feel like carting them home/to the thrift store, not out of altruism.

I always wondered where all the clothes with tags on came from there. I lived a half-block from that Buffalo Exchange when they first opened, and I found that they were less ok with the not-quite-perfect, third-hand but still wearable and on-trend vintage that I’d gotten so used to selling to their locations in Brooklyn.

(I guess this post is one more bomb thrown in the New York-DC culture wars.)

Lily Rowan (#70)

This article just reminded me to call the consignment place and see about the stuff I left there. So my items sold: A used Banana sweater and an unused Kate Spade wallet, and I’m getting $12. TWELVE DOLLARS! I will bring the rest of my stuff to the Goodwill, because it’s less hassle. And I will probably save $12 shopping at Goodwill instead of the consignment store.

milena (#3,288)

I made an account just to comment on this post… I tried selling my clothes at a place called Rescue in Boston and it was horrible. They rejected most of my (nice, carefully curated, gently-worn) clothes and took a pair of boots and a dress and gave me $10. The guy left two nice handbags out of my duffle bag when he repacked it, which was SHADYYY.

And from that humiliating moment on, I vowed not to resell my clothes. Dropping them off at a charity shop and getting a receipt to deduct from my taxes is far nicer.

BananaPeel (#1,555)

Isn’t it funny how it feels worse to get $20 for half the clothes I took to Plato’s closet than to get $0 if I were to take the whole load straight to Goodwill? Especially after they said I had “great brands and great style.” Although, whatever, that $20 paid for two days of lunch, and the clothes are out of my house.

I think Plato’s closet really runs on rich high school girls who buy the whole Abercrombie line every season and ditch the whole old season right away.

MalPal (#1,200)

I need that app telling me not to buy clothes! It’s awful – I have a shopping problem where I walk into a store, see something that is a “good price” and magically I am convinced that I need it. Until I get home and I’m like where the fuq did sixty dollars just go? I bought a bunch of weird stuff at Nordstrom Rack a few weeks ago and I just have no idea what I was thinking. I spent a hundred dollars! Makeup is the newest thing I spend SO MUCH money on… I’m completely addicted. Makeup is not that exciting. But I need more of it all the time. I would really like to stop. I know that I’m having shopping troubles right now because I have been out of college since last May and have done nothing but acquire two menial jobs. I’m bored and demoralized and I am sad.

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