Blogger kat started digging out of more than $45,000 in debt by monetizing her closet. Here’s how she went from a shopper to a seller en route to becoming debt-free.

Over the past two years, I’ve paid more than $45,000 toward credit card debt. Here’s how I worked to stop shopping my way to financial ruin and become a Grownup.

How I Spent Like No Tomorrow

A few years back, I was swimming in credit card debt. Close to $40,000 of credit card debt—a sobering and sickening amount of money. After months of haunting anxiety, I was determined to face the problem head on. I took thousands of dollars from my money market account, applied it to the balance, and quickly became consumed by paying off the staggering amount owed.

How I Came Clean

Having no idea how to structure payments and being utterly ashamed, I did what any 30-something would do—I called my mom. She was well aware of my notorious blind spot for money management, but thought me in reasonable control over my budget. I was not. I had spent myself into oblivion.

As a single person with many frivolous expenses, making deep cuts and redirecting 30 percent of my take-home pay toward the debt was difficult, but possible. Throwing thousands at the balance every few months helped me regain control and instilled confidence that paying off the card was achievable.

Realistically, though, even huge sums of money were not enough to erode the mountain of debt—I needed additional sources of income.

How I Dug Out

I was (and remain) addicted to clothes. My wardrobe was filled with the latest looks and coveted pieces. They were tokens of travels and proud examples of my seeming success in life. But mostly, they were taking up precious space in my crowded apartment.

I was somewhat familiar with online selling, having underwritten multiple moves by re-housing furniture. I chose a few unwanted and un-wearable pairs of shoes and listed them for local sale. To my shock, people bid—immediately. I was making money.

Bolstered by early success, I logged on to eBay and created an account. I took photos with my phone, uploaded a few pieces, and let the site work its magic. Within days, I was heading to the post office. Within weeks, I was sorting through unloved items, assessing their quality and posting them online. Within six months, and with improved selling skills, I sectioned off half my living room, created a mini-consignment service among friends, and opened a small store. Within a year, I celebrated more than 100 sales and became a Top Seller. I even had return customers! More than 150 sales and $6,500 later, I have paid down my debt, in part, by monetizing my closet.

How I Charted a Clear Path

A year later, my apartment is cleaner, my wardrobe leaner, and my money troubles lighter. Selling has been a great distraction from the tough (and sometimes boring) slough to financial health, and it has helped me fight my shopping addiction. Clothes are still a big part of my life, but now I try not to buy. I sell!

In a few months, the debt will be paid, and the balance will be at zero. I intend to continue selling, as I still own way too much, but with far different goals. “Stuff” used to have me moored in one place, and without its weight, I am planning for a different life, one free of debt, full of adventure, and surrounded by beloved essentials. A fresh start.

How I Turned My Clothes into Cash

If you’re looking to monetize your own closet, here’s what worked for me.

  • Minimize to monetize. Embrace the pop-culture fascination with simplified living. As part of your financial detox, stay in this weekend and sort through your overstuffed dresser. Decide what to keep, toss, donate, or sell.
  • Read the fine print! Choose your online marketplace carefully, as policies vary widely across sites. Payoff may be in cash or credit. Clothes may be donated if not sold. Be aware of the “cut” the site takes and shipping costs. Every step in the process affects your bottom line.
  • Inspect each item thoroughly. It is not OK to sell something with imperfections. A stain or tiny tear disqualifies a piece for sale. Be transparent and thorough in descriptions and include quality photos. Buyers will notice discrepancies.
  • Communication is key. You will often receive questions about item characteristics, and if there’s room to bargain on the price. Whatever the inquiry, these are your potential customers, so be responsive and polite. Always be clear and stand by your word. Some sites review your emails and may use them in resolving disputes.
  • The Golden Rule applies. Treat buyers as you would want to be treated. Honesty is essential. Be sensible and flexible with pricing. Ship items quickly and with care.

No matter what, situations will arise where a buyer is unhappy. This can be enormously frustrating, but lean on the marketplace website for help and always play by the rules.

A reformed shopaholic, kat lives and teaches in Washington, D.C.

Any third-party resources or websites referenced above are not under Society of Grownups control. Society of Grownups cannot guarantee and are not responsible for the accuracy of the resources, websites, or any products or services available through such resources or websites.

While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, schedule time with a financial planner.

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