Notes to Self on Running My Online Vintage Store

Every job has it fun bits and the boring, tedious parts. When you’re your own boss, it’s easy to let the tedious parts slide. But yesterday, was not that day!

I was planning on heading out to a garage sale and a few thrift stores and then I stopped myself. Wait…hold the phone…I still have a huge pile of unlisted vintage clothes and piles of books and small totes full of games, linens, crystal and jewelry. In fact (I am embarrassed to mention this) some of these things were purchased over two years ago.

Note to self: Yes, hunting for stuff is more fun than listing,
but I can’t sell it if I don’t list it!

to-do-listSo I pulled on my big-girl pants and wrote up my to-do list for the morning:

  • select 6 items
  • clean items
  • take photos
  • edit photos
  • take measurements
  • finish the research
  • write the description (including any flaws)
  • set the price
  • add to inventory list
  • update Excel spreadsheets

This is how I would spend my morning. Alas, I used up most of it fussing around taking the pictures. I rely on natural lighting so I set up my base of operations in my living room to take advantage of the morning light, but it was challenging. Some things got photographed many times and I still wasn’t satisfied with the results. (I did get four things listed…a mere drop in the bucket.)

Speaking of buckets, here’s one that I finally listed. I’ve played around with brightening this (and the saturation levels) and even though I’m still not happy with the final result of this photo, it’s adequate for now.


Later as I was doing pricing research on “vintage brass champagne buckets” I took note of photos that I thought were particularly good and which ones needed work.

I thought this one was striking. It’s a beautiful bucket to begin with, but the black background really makes the detail pop.


Then I found this one. Oh boy.


I checked out the guy’s store (he has over 600 listings) and I noticed that some pics were okay, but others were blurry or had distracting elements like this one.

Note to self: Good photography is crucial! Learn how to do this better.

Yes, I wish I took better photos, but I am improving. 🙂 I do follow a few guidelines.

Generally I use a white or neutral background. This little Victorian Aesthetic silver bird brooch has a lot of detail and I didn’t want a background to distract from it.


That said, I occasionally use props or background elements to add interest or give size context. (I am not a fan of putting soda cans next to items as size references.)

I try to show all sides of the item and from different angles. (Recently I was looking a brooch in another seller’s shop and all five photos showed the pin at exactly the same angle and size, which was pointless. And the back was never shown at all.)

The last thing on my Friday To-Do list was to update my expenses in my Excel spreadsheet…probably my least favorite thing to do. I was not a happy camper entering all those receipts. (Why, oh why did I let them pile up?!)

Note to self: Don’t get behind in bookkeeping.

Anyway, it’s another day and I’ve decided again not to go out thrifting, but to keep working on my backlog of items with a final note to myself and you.

Note to self: Don’t be a drudge, have some fun this weekend!


  1. I’d like your opinion on shipping costs. I have sold some vintage/thrift finds on etsy and some of the larger items (such as a woven chunky basket) cost more to ship than what the person paid for the item. I do not charge extra for shipping beyond what the post office charges. Do you have base rates for your items or do you get a seller first then calculate the rates to their address? Any tips on keeping shipping costs down when all they seem to do is go up? Thanks for your opinion!! I’d like to get more into selling again, but I really feel bad for the customers when the shipping cost is pretty much the same as the piece itself.


    1. Hi Amy. Good questions. I hate that shipping is so costly too! I do have some base rates. For most jewelry items and books I charge $4.00 shipping. But if the item is expensive I add in the cost for insurance. Etsy has calculated rates, but I rarely use them because my items are all different sizes and weights and I usually don’t know what size box I’ll have on hand when something sells. I guesstimate on shipping costs and it usually works out fine. Once in a while I’m a little under, but if a buyer overpays by more than $3, I refund them the difference. Lately I’ve been using more Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes. I do buy boxes (6″ by 6″ by 8″) for lighter things (15.99 ounces and under) that can ship more cheaply First Class. You might want to check out YouTube. I think there are some resellers who have vlogs with great info. about how to ship things more cheaply. One caveat, some seem to skimp on packaging. I always try to err on the side of caution and use lots of bubble wrap and packaging peanuts when needed. All the best. – Karen


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