Diary of a Seasoned Life – What to Do with Used Furniture

If you ever took any economics classes, you have heard of the laws of supply and demand. If the supply is high and the demand is low, the prices are low. If the supply is low and the demand is high, the prices are high. I am sure many of you have felt the later the last couple of weeks when you went to the gas pump!

We are a couple of years into an ever increasing supply of furniture and other used household items coming on the market and very few buyers. There are many reasons for this, such as, many large retailers offering new, relatively inexpensive furniture in mass quantities. The public will buy these pieces knowing that they are not meant to last a lifetime. It is really like disposable furniture. Another reason is that there are many baby boomers starting to retire and looking to move into smaller homes. They have a large home full of furniture, some of which, was passed down from previous generations. Much of this furniture was well made from well known furniture manufacturers and may have cost thousands of dollars when bought new. When these empty nesters are ready to downsize, they are finding it very difficult to sell the furniture. Many auction houses, estate sale services, antique and used furniture dealers, and even charitable organizations are becoming selective with what they will take and some are even flat out refusing to deal with furniture at all. There is just so much of it out there right now and will continue to be the case for years to come.

So what do you do, if you have a number of pieces to unload?

  1. Lower your expectations of what price you can expect to get for even the good quality pieces.  Dining room tables, china cabinets, large bedroom suites, entertainment centers, sofas, recliners, and armoires are the least desirable pieces today. I have personally seen entire sets of dining room furniture (table with extra leaves, 8 chairs, and a china cabinet) sell at auction for under $100 in the last couple of months.
  2. Consider donating the pieces to a charity like Habitat for the Humanties or The Salvation Army. The write off value for tax purposes may be greater than selling it outright.
  3. Can the furniture be re-purposed in order to make it more desirable with today’s styles and trends? If you have the time and willing to put in a little work, it may pay off in the end. Darker stained woods are less popular right now and a trend towards lighter colors has developed. Antiqued or painted furniture in white, ivory, gray, and even blues and greens is red hot in retail stores and vintage shops. Many dealers are buying vintage 70’s and 80’s furniture cheaply and then doing this rustic treatment and successfully selling what otherwise would have been undesirable for 5-10 times what they paid.
  4. Inquire with dealers in your area about any desire they have to purchase your pieces. Smaller items like plant stands, blanket boxes, benches, rockers, secretaries and small desks, drop leaf tables, end tables, coffee tables, shelves, game tables, and the like are easier to sell.
  5. Hold your own sale and advertise the pieces in your ads using Craigslist, Facebook, garage sale listing sites, or even phone apps.
  6. Hire a professional service or auction house to hold a downsizing sale for you. You will have to pay them a commission, but they do the work and generally have the ability to market the sale on a broader scale. (Seasoned Life Transitions is happy to help with this: www.seasonedlifetransitions.com )

One important thing I must point out about re-purposing furniture. Do not do this type of technique on a true antique unless it has already been devalued by damage or poor restoration. This suggestion is meant for a way to bring life back to an old piece of furniture that otherwise may end up in a junk pile or at Goodwill. There are some Victorian pieces that were mass produced pieces that are acceptable to refinish this way, but be careful about those decisions.

Author: Kim Lawrence

After owning a successful distribution business for 18 years, Kim’s life was turned upside down when her mother suffered a major stroke. She had to suddenly take over not only the care decisions for her mother, but also manage her mother’s business affairs, home, finances, and estate. This was all in addition to managing her own business and personal situation. This blog is to help tell the story in the hope that what she learned, and is still learning, will help guide others if they are or suddenly find themselves in a similar situation.