Andrea Byrne tackles her shopping addiction by turning to eBay, where she discovered a joy for selling her cast-offs.
As anyone who knows me will testify, I've long suffered from a shopping addiction. At the height of my spending, my mother feared I might warrant professional help.
I wish I was joking.
She googled the symptoms. "Does the person hide shopping bags?" "Yes", my mother screamed anxiously at the computer, fearing the worst.
"Does he/she have a lot of clothes with tags still on them?" Guilty.
"When asked where a certain item came from, does said person lie and say they borrowed it from a friend?" Oops, seems I've done such a thing.
Anyway, thankfully, professional help was never drafted in, as I vowed to put more value on money and less on the latest designer clobber.
But the result of a decade of buying what I wanted, when I wanted, has resulted in the accumulation of a ridiculous amount of clothes and accessories.
Most of which, I admit, were bought on a whim, only to realise a month later that it neither fits nor suits me, which would be fine, only I am crap at bringing things back.
A few months ago, I flew the nest, which naturally involved a purge of my belongings. It was while earmarking half my possessions for the bin that my mother suggested selling them on eBay.
I figured, if it's good enough for Cherie Blair or Jemima Khan, it's good enough for me.
Having dabbled in it casually, my mum explained the process, which, being the spoilt little brat that I am, sounded way too much like hard work, so we agreed to share responsibility.
I would write the flowery descriptions and coordinate the photographs, she would answer any queries from potential sellers and look after the minutiae of the sale and postage.
Within six months, not only have I freed myself from a sea of unwanted clothes, but I have made more than €1,000. We're a fine team.
You're probably wondering what my mother gets out of it. An answered prayer: her youngest child is doing something financially sensible.
I'm guessing you're now wondering how one goes about making money from eBay. As I quickly learned, there's a knack. It doesn't just happen overnight and does require some graft.
EBay takes 10pc when your item sells, but if it doesn't sell, there's no charge. It also charges a nominal amount to list an item -- however, usually one weekend in every month, eBay offers free listings, so if you're a casual user like my mother and me, it's best holding off for those days.
EBay doesn't give you much notice as to when they're offering free listings, so best be prepared.
We usually list items for seven days, making sure the auction ends on a Sunday evening, which is when eBay experiences its highest volume of users.
Make your listing as visual as possible -- clean photos, preferably shot against a white background. If it's an item of clothing you're selling, a photo of you wearing it works better than it being pictured on a hanger.
Provide as much information as possible about the product -- size, label, style, colour, length. That way, when someone searches a very specific item -- such as, say, 'a black maxi dress' -- your item will show up in the results.
Be realistic in your pricing. Check what other people are charging for similar items. Also, don't overcharge on shipping. Ring your nearest post office to get an estimate if you're in doubt.
Register the item if the sale is above €20.
Early on in our eBay foray, we had an issue with a lady who claimed that she never received the items she had bought from us, and because we hadn't registered it, we had no way of proving otherwise, and had to refund her -- even though she could be walking down the high street wearing my clothes now.
You see, with eBay, you'll quickly realise that the buyer is king, and if, in a dispute with a customer, eBay will invariably side with the buyer.
Once you have been paid for an item, post it immediately.
Punctuality is commended. Basic though it may sound, make sure the item is in as a good condition as possible.
Always declare in your listing whether there's any imperfection, however slight -- be it a scuff on a pair of shoes or a tear in the lining of a handbag.
People are more trusting of honesty. If you sell a flawed item, and a seller picks up on this, he or she could leave you negative feedback, which is a disaster, because positive feedback is EVERYTHING as a seller on eBay.
The higher your rating, the more likely people will buy from you.
What sells? Well, for starters, it's a waste of time trying to sell something that didn't cost that much in the first place. So don't bother with Primark, Heatons or something in that range.
Also, given the ubiquitous problem with counterfeit, buyers are dubious of designer goods.
It's important to take a photo of the Card of Authenticity that you would have received when purchasing.
If you still have the receipt, take a photo of that too. Original dust-bags and boxes will also help.
Mid-market brands such as Karen Millen, Reiss, Ted Baker, Whistles have sold best for me. But high-street stores also have a huge presence on eBay.
I got €40 for a pair of Topshop stilettos that I paid €90 for a few years previously. A parka jacket from Alwear, bought in my college days, sold for €25.
If you're fearful that someone will buy your item for a price cheaper than it's worth, don't worry -- there's a safety net in place.
For example, if you aren't happy with your Chanel handbag selling for less than €800, you can put a reserve on it for that price.
Just because an item doesn't sell one week, doesn't mean it won't sell another. Don't get disheartened. We listed a watch five times before it eventually sold, and we didn't even have to compromise on price.
Be shrewd about the time of year that you list items. So, if it's a pair of Jimmy Choo flip-flops you're looking to flog, do so in April or May, ahead of the summer season.
October and November are great months for selling items, as people are in the market for Christmas presents.
Because I get such an unhealthy thrill from buying clothes, I never thought I would get the same from selling them.
But there is such satisfaction in completing a sale and making money from something that you no longer want -- an item that would have otherwise been destined for the charity shop or the scrapheap.
EBay has transformed my life, giving me a much-needed injection of cash while getting my dear old mother off my back.