My recent decluttering spree has produced bag after bag and box after box of items we no longer want or need. It can be so exhilarating to see valuable space open up inside the house when clutter leaves, but dealing with the piles of discarded items can sometimes be an ordeal in and of itself. My instincts have always been to sell first, donate after. But in recent months, I’ve been choosing to donate right away instead. There is certainly no clear-cut way to determine if you should donate versus sell your unwanted items; and oftentimes circumstances, timelines, and personal preference are key factors. If you’re working through a lot of clutter, here are some things to consider as you get rid of the stuff you no longer love!
Deciding how to get rid of your items is often a personal preference…and even a fluid one depending on what and how much you’re getting rid of, what you have going on in your life, and how badly you want or need money. There may be times when you’re ready to donate it all, yet others when you want to put in the effort to get some cash for your goods. When all the factors are boiled down, it most often comes back to an age-old conundrum: time or money.
Do You Have the Time?
Selling off items, whether it’s at a yard sale, online store (e.g., ebay, Etsy) or online marketplace (e.g., Craig’s List, Facebook Marketplace, Buy/Sell/Trade platforms), requires time. It takes time (and space) to store items until they are sold. It takes time to stage, take, and upload pictures. It takes time to create listings and interact with potential customers. It takes time to meet up with customers or box items up for delivery. It takes time to organize for, market, and conduct a yard sale. And it takes time…sometimes a long time…for items to actually sell. Selling does eventually get rid of your stuff, but it doesn’t usually provide that immediate “it’s all gone” relief you get with donation.
Do You Want/Need the Money?
If you’re willing to work for it, there is money to be made in decluttering; and it’s certainly a WIN-WIN to be left with a clutter-free house AND money in your pocket. Making money off your unwanted items usually works best when you not only have the time to devote to the process, but also when the items themselves are worth selling. This most certainly applies to high-value items such as antiques, collections, jewelry, good-working electronics, appliances, craft supplies, etc. But even if you only have small things, don’t discount the money-making potential of sidewalk sales. Lots of small, low-value things (think: estate sales, moving sales, neighborhood yard sales etc) can yield good money too. Our average family yard sale produces a few hundred dollars each time (enough to build a good vacation fund every few years); and my family made over $20,000 selling off my parents’ stuff when they were downsizing. Yes, it took a ton of time, a heck of a lot of work, and 4 different sales to do it, but those efforts translated into serious money in the end.
Do You Have the Space?
The third thing you need to consider is how badly you want your decluttered items gone. If you have an out-of-the-way spot to store unwanted items until your next garage sale, selling first, donating second is likely a sound approach. However, if you decluttered for a reason (e.g., you’re seriously maxed out on space and just need items gone), then a drive-and-drop donation center will be your fastest and easiest route to saying goodbye to your goods once and for all!
Deciding Whether to Sell or Donate
Deciding to sell or donate is not a cut-and-dry, black-and-white decision. So if you find yourself wondering what you should do, here are some things to ask yourself and some potential answers to consider!
- How badly do I want this stuff gone?
- “Really badly. I can’t look at it another minute.” Donate it.
- “Eh…it’s not bothering me. I have space in the garage to store it all until the next garage sale rolls around.” Sell first, then donate.
- How easy will it be to sell this item?
- “It’s gonna require a lot of work that I don’t have time for or feel like doing.” Donate it.
- “I know 4 people who would buy it from me right now.” Sell it.
- “There’s a community yard sale this weekend.” Sell first, then donate.
- Does this item have inherent value?
- “Yes. It’s in great condition, and I know these sell online for good money.” Sell it.
- “Eh. I see them at yard sales and thrift stores all the time.” Donate it.
- Do you have the time/space to store it until it sells?
- “Yes – it’s tucked away in the garage and not in the way of anything.” Sell it.
- “We’re moving in 5 days and I need it gone yesterday.” Donate it.
- Do you have the time to put toward selling items?
- “Not really, but we’re really strapped for cash and every bit helps.” Sell it.
- “Yep. The annual Community Garage Sale is the highlight of my year.” Sell first, then donate.
- “No…and I really just want it gone.” Donate it.
- “I do, but I hate garage sales and online selling is too much work.” Donate it.
Our Family’s Approach to Sell vs. Donate
I typically fall into the “The annual Community Garage Sale is the highlight of my year!” description. When I do a bunch of decluttering, especially if it’s leading up to a move, I usually hold a big garage sale. I am often getting rid of good quality stuff, so I like to make a little bit of money back on each item. And, the few hundred dollars we typically make in the sale usually offsets some of our impending moving costs. Nine times out of ten, we attempt to sell our items first and then donate what doesn’t sell after some time and effort.
In recent months, my attitude has been more: “I really just need it all gone. Now.” Why? Life is super busy, and I just don’t have the time, energy or focus required to sell my stuff. The community yard sale doesn’t roll around until the Spring, and our garage is about at capacity for storing items until then. And…I really just want it gone (<– see…the most driving factor of all!). The most wonderful thing about most donation centers, is they will just take just about anything and everything. And you drive away with an empty car, back to an empty garage and an even emptier room that you just decluttered. So for all the grey area that is deciding whether to sell or donate…that awesome wonderful feeling is very crystal clear!
I hope what I’ve shared here helps you sort through whether you should sell or donate your recently decluttered items. Keep in mind there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Instead, take into account the stuff you have to sell, the time you have to do it, and how badly you need the money in order to decide the best solution for your current situation. And know that whichever way you choose to make your unwanted items disappear, the benefits of less stuff and more space will be yours to enjoy no matter what!