When to sell vs. donate

You have decided to de-clutter your home – great! But as you begin to sort through your belongings to decide what stays and what goes, you may consider, “What do I do with this stuff now?”

As you de-clutter, you will be making four basic categories of stuff:

  1. Stuff to keep
  2. Stuff to sell
  3. Stuff to donate
  4. Stuff to toss (recycle if possible)

Keep and toss are pretty self-explanatory. Sell vs. donate can become a sticky situation.

You spent good money on that stuff, why would you just dump it without trying to recoup some of your investment back? That’s completely true for big ticket items such as electronics, specialty books, collectibles, fitness equipment, furniture, formal dresses and new clothing, kitchen appliances, tools, children’s toys and clothing, etc. These can be sold at yard sales, on websites such as Craigslist or Ebay, or at consignment shops. I come from a long line of yard sale mavens, both in the buying and selling departments. I love a bargain and I love getting rid of stuff while I make money doing it.

But here is a hard truth: Sometimes it is not worth the effort to have a yard sale or to price and list everything online. Sometimes it is better for your mental health to just let it go and donate it, whether that is on Freecycle, to a local shelter, or to an organization such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill.

My mother had a joint yard sale with a friend early in the summer. She told me to price up all of my stuff and she would take care of the yard sale itself. After going through the whole house and boxing and bagging stuff to purge and sell, my boyfriend and I made about $300 for very little effort – what a success! We wanted to do more yard sales. My mom agreed to house the leftover stuff at her house with the caveat that I had it out of the basement by September 1.

So we had a yard sale. And I think we made about $50 for two days of work. That second sale was not worth the time and effort that went into it. I loaded two more car loads of stuff to take to my mom’s house for the sales. We set up tables and tents. We carried a bookshelf outside to put all the books on for display (which helped on day 2 but only helped about two dollars worth).

We were going to have yet another sale, but I was officially over it and couldn’t bear to host yet another sale. So I packed up two car loads of boxes and bags and took it to Goodwill. On top of that, I still brought a car load of stuff home again! Some of the things I think we can sell on Ebay or Craigslist, but if I can’t move it within a month or so, it will also be donated.


As an added bonus, you can claim charitable donations as a tax deduction, so don’t fear that your stuff investment will go completely to waste. You can recoup a little bit come tax season.

To recap:

You should SELL your items if…

  • They are typical “hot sellers” at yard sales or sale sites
  • They are in good working order or near mint condition
  • They are collectible items
  • They are in good shape and can be sold at a consignment store (this is a good option for clothing in new or nearly-new condition)
  • They feel worth the effort of your time and energy to sell (and possibly ship, if you are selling online)

You should DONATE your items if…

  • You don’t want to expend the time and energy to *maybe* make a sale
  • They are common household items with low demand at sales
  • You want a tax write off for your donation
  • You want to support a specific charity (for which your donation is relevant – think prom dress charities, etc.)
  • You just want the stuff gone NOW

What are your methods for determining whether you should sell or donate?


2 thoughts on “When to sell vs. donate

  1. Aphrodite Priestess says:

    If I don’t need or use it on a regular basis, and it isn’t beautiful enough to be out on display, it goes out.

    They’re my guidelines and they make things pretty simple.

    Since clearing out all the junk I’ve realized how little I needed it – and how much I love the new space I have! 🙂

    • Caitlin says:

      I agree with that measure of what stays or goes… I really need to be more strict with things. It’s very hard when living with a non-minimalist. He doesn’t see things the same way with regard to saving stuff for later vs. just getting rid of it if it’s not used. The things we do for love!

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