| Sell or Donate?

Sell or Donate?

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Now that it’s garage sale season, a question I am getting asked a lot is… What about the stuff I no longer want? Should I sell or donate it?

I know what you want me to say. You want to be told “Sell! Get money!” right?

I’m a huge, HUGE advocate of donating in 90% of the circumstances. After all:

  • Selling is a hassle. Donating items means that they go into a bag or box, then into your car, and away to the donation center. Or if they are large items, they can go out on the curb. But if you choose to sell, you have suddenly added several more steps to the process:
    • Dividing the Sell items into piles like eBay, craigslist, ThredUp or consignment, Replacements Ltd, the We Buy Gold/Silver place, Half Price Books, Game Stop, Auction/Estate Sale, Garage Sale, “offer to friends”… The list is endless!! How time consuming is that? And are you actually going to take a full day to hit all of these locations? Donations can all go to one place, but I’ve never heard of a venue where you can easily sell all of the types of items that you are decluttering, other than a garage sale.
    • Advertising: Making signs, posting an ad on craigslist and facebook- how else can you draw traffic to your sale?
    • Photographing: If you’re doing the online sale thing, this step can be pretty time consuming.
    • Sitting outside all day: Unless you absolutely love to host a garage sale and perform every step involved (and some folks do! You have my blessing), this is time that could be better spent doing the things that made you want to declutter your home in the first place. Entertaining friends, bonding with family, a relaxing space to craft or do hobbies… These are all motivations that I have heard for wanting to simplify, but I’ve never heard anybody say that they want to declutter in order to throw more garage sales. :/
  • Many folks seem to forget that donating items and taking a tax write-off is simply a delayed form of money. And in that line of thinking… When you donate, you get paid for 100% of your cast-offs! Folks are almost always disappointed after a garage sale when only a fraction sells.
  • “I need the money,” is a common reason I hear as to why people are unwilling to donate before they attempt to sell. If this is really the case, then I am not interested in picking an argument. Your finances are none of my business. But I also know that good things happen to those who donate… Life finds sneaky little ways to reward you for your generosity.
  • Because of the amount of effort and time that selling takes, I am rarely surprised when I return to a client’s home long after our last session to find that the Sell items… Are still sitting out in the garage or on the floor of the coat closet.

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So then when is selling worth the time and effort? This is just my opinion, but I believe that selling is worth trying when:

  • It’s a small item (easy to ship) worth $50 or over… eBay it!
  • Bigger items or furniture worth $50 and over… Craigslist! Insist on cash-only, and have somebody home with you when a stranger comes to pick up. If you feel unsafe using Craigslist, post your item on Facebook for one of your friends to claim, or join one of those Swap and Shop Facebook groups. I think some have had success in those groups but I will tell you honestly that I tried to sell my rollerblades on there (the Shawnee, KS group), but I think my post quickly got buried under others, so I ended up donating mine to Savers.
  • Gold, silver and old coins can be placed in a Ziploc and turned in at one of those We Buy Gold establishments. Know that you will not get much for it, and at the time of writing this, gold is not very valuable, and silver does not pay well. But I like the idea that these unwanted items will be melted down and made into new things; even if you are not getting paid much, it’s still one of the only forms of recycling that you get paid for!

Some tips on donating:

  • If you’re still not sold on donating, go inside of your local thrift stores and see how they operate. Find out who benefits when you donate. I personally love Savers, because of how well organized their operation is, how many types of items they accept, and their mission to support Big Brothers Big Sisters. For anything that Savers doesn’t take (food, toiletries, scrap metal, hangers, car seats, cribs, mattresses) my go-to is Shawnee Community Services. They take everything. Most cities and towns have similar versions of both Savers and SCS. SCS gives free tours of the facility, just call and ask in advance!
  • Take your children with you when you visit a donation center- if they have been on the fence about parting with their old toys, they may be ecstatic to finally see that there is an important destination for their cast-offs, and they may go home and declutter with a renewed sense of purpose and generosity!

Final thought: I send my clients tax write-off slips at the end of every session, because donation hauling (as long as it fits in my little Toyota) is built into my organizing rate. I have learned that I am not supposed to write the amount that I think the donations are worth, and instead I make a general list of what was donated, and I legally have to let the client figure out the deduction amount. Here is the resource that YOU can use to calculate your own items. Even though it is on the Salvation Army’s website, I believe that you can apply the same write-off amounts to Goodwill or Savers or elsewhere- it shouldn’t matter who is accepting the items, but what the items are.

So tell me, in the comments… Where do you love to donate? Where do you love to sell? When have you had success with selling, and when have you wished you had just donated in the first place?

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  1. Rebecca

    Thanks for a great post! I have found that THREDup is Great for ongoing simplicity in two situations: one
    Is in refreshing a child’s wardrobe without breaking the bank (you can use what they pay you to buy beautiful new-to-your kiddo clothing) and in clearing out expensive career clothing that doesn’t fit your body or lifestyle any longer (and use the proceeds to refresh your own). They offer free bags and free shipping of the bag back to them, and they donate what they don’t think they can sell to good causes. Since we don’t itemize on our tax returns, the deduction doesn’t help us, and since a certain organizational genius moved to the Midwest, it’s lovely to just bag up some stuff and have someone else (the postman) take it away. Other than that, we donate all the way.