Spring cleaning with Poshmark for fun and profit

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It’s just after 3 a.m., and I’m doing what any rational human would be doing at this hour: I’m crouched on the floor, trying to accurately measure the zipper inside a small satin handbag. After pulling the tape measure across 5.87 inches of tiny interlocked teeth, I type the information into an iPhone app, adding a cheerfully jaundiced emoticon to say “It’s no problem, I’d been waiting for the opportunity to get out of bed and wear this purse like a hand puppet.”

Two weeks ago, I decided to start selling some things on Poshmark, a mobile app that lets you empty your real-life closet into a virtual one, several oddly cropped photos at a time. I’ve long since realized that I have too much stuff, but I don’t have the patience to follow the advice of Japanese organization guru Marie Kondo. She expects you to empty all of your kitchen cabinets onto the floor so you can consider each item individually, holding a “Punch Today in the Dick” koozie with both hands while you ask yourself whether it — in her words — “sparks joy.” (Yes, yes it does.)

Poshmark is euphemistically described as a “fashion resale marketplace,” and the items listed range from new items that some top users sell at a wholesale discount to infrequently worn pieces that were purchased on the afternoon a store clerk convinced you that you could pull off high-waisted denim. Founder Manish Chandra has said that he was inspired to launch the app after seeing all of the unworn items in his own wife’s closet, because tech millionaires are just like us! (Although maybe with fewer hot sauce-stained Mr. Barbeque T-shirts).

My sister has had some success with the app, making some extra money by unloading the clothes that my 2-year-old niece seems to outgrow every afternoon.

“It’s easy,” she said. “You’ll have fun with it.”

Sure, it’s easy for her. My sister is ridiculously pulled together, the kind of high-functioning multitasker who can endure long hours at her day job, teach a toddler how to read and still look like she fell out of a magazine dedicated to shiny hair. She is someone who can casually learn how to apply a faux finish to her bedroom furniture. I am someone who has to be reminded not to wear wind pants to a funeral.      

But I decided to join Poshmark. I uploaded a photo of myself, one where I flashed the kind of trustworthy smile that said, “Buy my old pants!” and “I have never had scabies!” I took pictures of a few purses I never carried and a couple of pairs of shoes I never wear and just sat back and waited for the cash to roll in. Instead, I got a lot of questions from people who clearly have no intention of ever buying a pair of leopard print flats (which are size 7.5, reasonably priced and still available on the app). What is the actual color? What is the height of the heel, in millimeters, please? Why would you wear those in public? Every time my phone bleats another alert, I picture someone in a darkened apartment, instructing women across the country to provide two additional pictures, a shot of each handbag holding up today’s paper or those crucial inner-zipper dimensions.

The reason I do this, why I kick off my sheets and fumble in the dark for a tape measure is partially because I want to get this stuff out of my house and partially because of Poshmark’s all-important seller rating. Buyers give sellers between one and five stars and, as far as I can tell, most buyers are impossible to please. Last week, I was shorted two stars because, as near as I can tell, the purchaser decided that a pair of shoes didn’t fit, and I spent the afternoon furiously stomping around my apartment. I understand legitimate complaints (“There was bleach splattered on this sweatshirt”; “The jacket pockets were filled with severed fingers”; “This handbag was haunted by a malevolent spirit”) but it’s not my problem if your feet would make Cinderella’s stepsisters look like catalog models.

I don’t know how long I’ll keep doing this. On the one hand, I’ve sold enough stuff to cover my out-of-pocket health insurance premium this month. On the other, it’s 3 in the morning and I’m shoving my hands inside a purse I haven’t carried since I put my flip phone into that 5.87 inch-long inside pocket.

This app has given me a newfound respect for small business owners and for anyone who works in customer service, and not just because I was just asked why I hadn’t shipped an item out on a Sunday. (Because I believe the app’s terms and conditions prevent me from breaking into a post office or committing any federal crimes.)

And despite my complaints, there have been some positives: There was that little increase in my bank account balance and I do have some extra space in my closet where that stuff used to be. But ask me about all of that later; I’ve just been asked to take a detailed picture of a pair of tote bag straps.