To Sell or to Donate: That is the Question

posted by Andrea | 01/20/2014

to sell or to donate

Over the past few years, I’ve talked a lot about selling our unneeded items on Craigslist — and it’s true, I DO use Craigslist as my main (and basically only) source of selling anything.

BUT… what I might not have said in so many words is that I most definitely DO NOT sell everything we purge!!! 

In fact, I would estimate that I donate over 70% of everything that gets moved out of our house on a weekly and monthly basis — I don’t even try to sell it.

Sometimes, this is because the items I’m purging aren’t high-value items (like adult clothing or small decorations).

Sometimes it’s because the items aren’t in awesome condition, but still usable.

But many other times I donate the items simply because I want them out of my house ASAP — without the hassle of taking photos, typing the information, checking my email, and dealing with no-shows.

Yes, the extra income is nice (and I have made thousands of dollars from my Craigslist sales) but as many of you probably know, there is just something to be said for getting the stuff out of your house RIGHT. NOW. and then being done with it! 

Am I right!?

I’ve actually always felt this way — but looking back through my post archives, I guess I’ve never written a post specifically about “when to sell and when to donate”.

Not sure how I could have overlooked this topic for so long since I have this exact conversation with blog readers, friends, and family on a regular basis!

Anyway, better late than never I guess — especially since my email and Facebook inboxes have recently been inundated with questions about this very topic.

Here’s just one of the emails I got the other day — I think this person explains the “pull” we often feel between “should we sell or should we donate?” very well.

Hi Andrea,

I want to have my home simplified SO bad (excess clothes, shoes, coats, bedding, furniture etc.) that I just want to donate all of it so I can make fast progress and move on! But, then I think of your experiences selling on Craigslist and the money you have made.

So is it really worth the time to keep everything until it sells and get the money? Or should I just donate now?

Please Help!

I’m sure many of you can relate to that plea… even I have struggled with purging things I know I could easily sell on Craigslist but just don’t have the time, energy, or desire to do it.

As with so many things in life, there is always that constant struggle and pull between the option for more money or the option for more time. Some of us obviously have more wiggle room when it comes to time and others have more wiggle room when it comes to finances.

But we almost always have to make that difficult choice — time or money. 

to sell or to donate

photo source

Want to know my personal opinion?

If you really ENJOY selling things on Craigslist (or Ebay or Facebook) AND HAVE THE TIME to do it, I would say try to sell some of the bigger items.

HOWEVER — and this is a big “however”

If the idea of trying to take pictures, post items for sale, deal with the emails, etc. is very overwhelming to you, then I would definitely recommend donating everything right now and being done with it for good.

And yes, I do “practice what I preach”.  

I actually just brought a huge car load of stuff away last week. I could have probably sold most of it and made $75 or so — but it just wasn’t worth my time right now, and I wanted the stuff gone ASAP. The peace of mind and instant de-clutter was way more valuable to me than $75.

However, there were 2 larger items that wouldn’t fit in my vehicle, so I figured it would actually be easier for me to try and sell them. So after I returned from the thrift store, I listed both items on Craigslist for a VERY reasonable price. That was Wednesday  night — and I told myself if they didn’t sell by Saturday morning, I would list them for free at that point. However, as I expected, both items sold ASAP!

Mission accomplished, house decluttered, large items gone with little to no effort on my part — and I made $25 :)

.

So are you ready to purge?

Just do it — I promise you won’t regret it when you get back home and can instantly enjoy your extra breathing room! There are many times when our time is MUCH MORE valuable then our money (and our sanity). In my opinion, purging small items is definitely one of those times.

Also, since I’m often asked: we don’t claim our donated items as tax deductions anymore, just because it doesn’t make a difference for our taxes so it’s not worth my time (or the extra paperwork.) However, if that’s something you’d like to do and it DOES make a difference on your yearly taxes, then definitely look at the deduction as an added bonus to a clutter-free home!

Plus, think of all the people who will benefit from your cast-offs!

And for those of you with a nice pile you want to sell…

Here’s a link to ALL my Craigslist 101 posts — lots of good information and helpful advice in those posts!

Just keep in mind that your time is valuable… and set a length of time that you will allow your items to sit unsold. Once you reach that time limit, either post the item for free or donate it. After all, if getting the item out of your home is your main objective, that should be more important than wasting weeks and weeks trying to sell an item for $30.

Also, as you’ll probably read in some of my Craigslist 101 posts, I don’t ever take my time or energy to deliver products or meet people in other locations. I require all buyers to come directly to our house and haul everything away themselves. Sometimes we’ll just put things out on the front porch and let the buyer come get it… but it’s definitely not worth my time to load up items, drive somewhere, and then end up with a no-show.

If you’re wondering exactly how I handle my Craigslist meet-ups, you can read more about that here — and no, Dave and I are not nervous about having people come to our house.

OK, so I think that covers it!

What are your thoughts on selling or donating?

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34 comments

  1. Stephanie

    01/20/2014

    Warning: If you do post things for sale on Craigslist or Facebook, be prepared for no-shows. One of the most frustrating things for me is blocking off a time, and then no one coming. And, if you are a BUYER, please, please, please, do the rest of us a favor and SHOW UP.

    Okay, done with my rant. :)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Stephanie,
    I’ve actually talked about this in one of my Craigslist posts. You can read how I handle Craigslist meet-ups in this post (and I almost never have to deal with no-shows as a result)

    [Reply]

  2. Mary Ann

    01/20/2014

    We are saving for an anniversary trip this year so we’ll be doing a yard sale in the early spring with the stuff we’ve collected. If we weren’t trying to save up, I’d just donate it all! Any leftovers will be donated though.

    Anything I don’t want to deal with selling or is too awkward to move, I put on Freecycle. Some one comes and takes it away for me. Win-win!

    [Reply]

    Lee Cockrum Reply:

    I absolutely LOVE Freecycle!! I think it is the perfect place to,get rid of odd or specialized items that would be thrown away, or not even accepted by Goodwill or some other donation place. We have gotten rid of a riding lawn mower and a push mower to be used for parts. Also got rid of a whirlpool bathtub motor that needed to be rebuilt. It was not worth the time to my husband, but a retired gentleman was very happy to have it as he had the time to work on it!

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    Mary Ann Reply:

    Me too! Recent things we’ve posted on Freecycle are a dresser that needed some TLC, doors, pool supplies (we got rid of the pool when we moved here), a big box of sewing supplies, dress pants (given to me but wasn’t able to use them), an old but working vacuum cleaner…

    We are often blessed with hand-me-downs from friends, so I like giving some things away sometimes instead of trying to sell them!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yay — happy anniversary!

    and I’m SO glad you already have a plan in place to donate everything that doesn’t sell at your garage sale. I know WAY too many people who bring all the unsold items back into their house — which totally defeats the purpose. Definitely sounds like a win-win for you :)

    [Reply]

    Mary Ann Reply:

    Oh no, it won’t come back in the house! I get antsy just thinking about the boxes piled in the shed waiting for the yard sale. LOL!!! Want it gone!

    We usually make around $150-$200 at our yard sales so we feel that it’s worth the trouble.

    [Reply]

  3. Shelly

    01/20/2014

    Where we are located having a garage sale is a great way to get rid of our unwanted items. We easily make around $500 when we have one. The best part is our daughter (who is 4) sells the toys she picks that she no longer plays with. This has taught her so much already at such a young age!! Any leftovers we have we donate to a local organization that helps the needy. I would say if you donate, do your research and find what organization you feel will use your items most wisely. Don’t just dump it at the nearest place for convenience. There are so many great organizations that truly help those out who are in need! (And many will even come and pick the stuff up!!)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    We have TONS of garage sales in our area too — I’ve just never been a fan of hosting a garage sale at my house because I can’t bring myself to hang onto everything for such a long time :)

    Psychologically, it does me a world of good to just move the items out ASAP so I never have enough to warrant a garage sale… however, I’m super thankful there are people like you because I LOVE going to garage sales!!

    [Reply]

  4. Melissa

    01/20/2014

    You make a very good point that time is often more valuable than money. I see people selling baby clothes, DVDs and other small items for $.50 to $1/item on a Facebook garage sale group and I just think are you going to meet someone for $1?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes I agree. I usually won’t drive to buy anything for less than $10 (just like I usually won’t waste my time selling something for less than $10).

    The only “exception” to my rule is if one person is selling multiple low-ticket items (like a whole bin of toys or cloths that I’m interested in). If they live pretty close to us, I might still make the trip for several $1 or $2 items — but that’s VERY rare!

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  5. Deni

    01/20/2014

    This post is perfect timing for me! To me, January is the perfect time to de-clutter your home, since you are inside more due to the weather. I have personally sold items on e-bay and been disappointed by all of the fees they charge for you to sell. In the end, I did not make enough to justify all of the time, money and effort I put into it. I have to agree it will be worth it to sell when you have big ticket items ($50 +) but for under $50., I say donate it. First I ask family members if they would like any of the items and if there is anything left, I simply drive it to the local donation center. I don’t even ask for a receipt for taxes anymore as it does not help on our personal taxes. The best thing about this, is the relief you will feel when you drive away and go home to a de-cluttered home!

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    Davina Sanchez Reply:

    I save every receipt for donated goods and I’ve made the comparrisons with or without this line item in my taxes and save between $300-$800 on our taxes depending on how much I have donated that year (The year we moved was my biggest savings.)

    With 4 kids constantly outgrowing clothes, toys, sports equipment and other household items, my donations add up.

    [Reply]

  6. Deb

    01/20/2014

    I try to find someone I know before I donate, like a lot of people want books, etc. So, I either post on my FB page or in a homeschool group I am in. I prefer this method if at all possible, it is amazing how someone is looking for exactly what you have at the same time. If no one wants the items which is pretty rare, then I usually give them to the Salvation Army (which has a drive thru here which is SUPER convenient)…….

    We are pretty much clutter free around here and I LOVE it.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I totally agree with your theory of asking friends or family first — but I had to laugh because I usually do the exact opposite (I never ask friends or family).

    I have lots of friends and family members that tend to “hoard” things just because they are free, so they will literally take WHATEVER I offer whether the need/want it or not. So we’ve just gotten into the habit of donating everything without asking :)

    Also, that’s crazy that Salvation Army has a drive-thru window! We don’t have a Salvation Army super close to us so I’ve never donated there before — but that’s really cool!

    [Reply]

    Deb Reply:

    It isn’t exactly a window, but it is a covered area around the back of the store that you pull into and they meet you at your car and unload for you. We live in MT, so just being covered is a plus and help for larger items is an even bigger plus. ;) I totally agree that some people will take ANYTHING that is free, but my parents are hoarders and they actually NEVER go on Craig’s List or garage sale, they just NEVER throw/give anything away. We could not be more opposite in that respect.

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  7. Debby

    01/20/2014

    I walk that line between donating, freecycling, and Craigslist. I donate to Goodwill very frequently. I freecycled a huge heavy entertainment center to some college kids that were thrilled. So much so that the mom kept offering to pay for it because it was so nice. I told her the fact that the girls were so excited was payment enough for me. I have sold things to friends just posting a status on facebook, and lastly we just sold our kitchen of old cabinets on Craigslist for $900. We were so happy and the people loved them. We took them down and he loaded them from the garage into a U haul. I also bring odds and ends to work and people shop for free out of the back of my van before I head to Goodwill. They love it. Beats it going to a landfill.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Sounds like you have a pretty good system down — and have found the right balance between selling and donating for you! Purging is always a continual process in our house so it seems like we’re always posting SOMETHING on Craigslist or starting a new pile for the donation center.

    [Reply]

  8. Tricia B

    01/20/2014

    We have Facebook groups in my local area specifically for selling items. Most have at least 500 members. I prefer using this avenue to sell because even though you do have flakes, you likely are dealing with a real person, feels a bit safer to me. And about 50% of the time, I meet them outside a local grocery store.
    But most of them time, things like adult clothes and books don’t sell… And it surprises me what people ask for a item or what they think is worth selling, that they should just donate it.

    I just took 3 bags of clothing and a box of books to my local Green Drop trailer this weekend. I love that they are just down the street for donations since its a 20 minute drive to a local thrift store. https://www.gogreendrop.com/

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  9. Brenda

    01/20/2014

    I have a crowded house and very little ‘extra’ time, but my friend has lots of space in her basement and does daycare from her home and has little pockets of ‘extra’ time all thoughout the day. We worked out a deal this winter when I went on a cleaning/purging frenzy: she takes what we both think will sell and puts if on Craigslist and facebook then when it sells, we split the money. If there is stuff that doesn’t sell, I will put it in my car and drive it somewhere to donate. It will not enter my house again! haha

    [Reply]

  10. Cindy

    01/20/2014

    I have found that the idea of selling things has been huge barrier for me in decluttering. I work full-time and homeschool my kids. One reason for the accumulation of stuff is lack of time, lack of space, and feeling overwhelmed. I find when I donate and can get it out of the house immediately, I feel a sense of accomplishment and feel energized to tackle another small project. I imagine that when I have some space to store things while waiting for them to be sold, I might feel differently. For now, however, I’ve come to accept that the primary goal is getting the stuff out of the house. I do try to pass along used books/homeschooling items to families who need or want them rather than sending them to the typical places I donate.

    [Reply]

  11. Laura

    01/20/2014

    I have posted on Craigs list for larger items that I don’t want to deal with. However, we hardly make any money off it. We sold a large bakers rack that I bought for $950 and it sold for $30:( I needed something else for that space that was more contained. I loved that bakers rake, it was really pretty actually, glass and silver. Anyway, we got our years worth out of it and someone took it off our hands, if I had room I would have kept it, but then it would just be taking up valuable storage space. Then, just a few weeks ago I sold my glider and ottoman that was in my kids room for $25, pretty pathetic. But, it was going to a new mom and will be loved in a new house. She even texted me the next day saying thank you, the baby and I love the new glider! How sweet is that?! I priced it low because it looked like others on Craigs list that were $75 were sitting there for a long time. Glad it went to someone who is enjoying it.

    [Reply]

  12. Tracy

    01/21/2014

    I try to do a garage sale once a year, in the nicest Texas weather months. It’s very hot most of the year here so we otherwise never see our neighbors, and there’s a lot of Mexican people looking for things to take ‘home’ so I’ve often got talking to someone and donated stuff to their family. It’s usually a good day.

    There’s a Habitat for Humanity ‘Restore’ near by so anything practically can be donated there, they will come and pick it up if you can’t take it.

    I’ve also left things on the drive in good weather with ‘free’ signs, and people take them.

    [Reply]

  13. Carol

    01/21/2014

    I read your posts on selling on Craigslist and it really helped me. I got rid of a whole bunch of Halloween decorations just before Halloween. I also sold a small table with chairs, an air hockey table and a punching bag. I made sure I had lots of pictures and my descriptions were accurate. Since I wasn’t in a rush, I held out for the price I wanted, and I got it every time!
    It does take patience, but getting rid of the stuff was well worth it. Sure I didn’t get what I paid for, but these items were just collecting dust. Thanks Andrea!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yay — congrats on selling all that unneeded stuff. I’m sure it feels great to have a less-cluttered home (and a little extra cash in your wallet!)

    [Reply]

  14. Brigid

    01/23/2014

    Hi,
    Love this post!! So much I “pinned” it ;0) I am having trouble parting with my girls clothes…any suggestions? I still have ALL their baby clothes and most of their other clothes-they are 5 and 7 so we have a lot! I am sentimental over them so that is a huge factor and they are also nearly perfect shape. I want to sell some, donate some and come up with some idea for keeping some as keepsake.
    I was also curious if you had any suggestions on how to itemize/price donation slip? Our stores just give us a letterhead receipt stamped with the date, so I want to fill it out and submit with taxes, but not sure of the best way to do it.
    Thanks,
    Brigid

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Brigid!
    And if you want my honest opinion, you must remove your emotional attachment from the baby cloths and just realize that there is no reason to keep them anymore. I realize you want to sell some, but it will be SO much easier to just donate them all because then you won’t need to look through them all again (and get all emotional again). I think you should read this post to get a little more perspective on your stuff.

    Oh, and as for the tax deductions — they don’t make any difference on our taxes so I never even take the deduction slips (which means I also never itemize, so I’m not sure what to tell you on that) Sorry!

    Good luck with the purging — you can do it ;)

    [Reply]

    Brigid Reply:

    Thanks for your reply. Normally I am a huge purger and don’t have a deep connection with most of my “stuff” but baby clothes are giving me pause. Maybe it is because we have our two and are done with that part of the journey. Watching them grow and change is amazing, but also bittersweet! I have read the post you suggested, when it first came out, but alas, I am still stuck!!

    I think I will need to find a way to save a few pieces or make a quilt from some to really get me to let go of them.
    Thanks, keep writing your blog, it’s one of the best out there-I read it daily!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Well everyone has their “thing” when it comes to emotional clutter — your’s just happens to be baby clothes :)

    If you want to do some sort of quilt, I would HIGHLY recommend contacting Jane from Maiden Jane Quilts. She made an awesome t-shirt quilt for me 2 years ago and she’s going to be making another one for Dave here pretty soon.

    She is super professional and can take pretty much any scraps of clothing you have and turn them into a wonderful memory quilt that you can actually use. Then you can maybe purge the rest :)

    [Reply]

    Brigid Reply:

    Thanks for your suggestions and non-judgmental attitude, much appreciated!! I will contact Maiden Jane, her website and FB page look great! I may be on my way to some empty tbs and much needed space in our basement!!

    [Reply]

  15. Tanya

    01/25/2014

    Hi Andrea,

    I have a question that I hope you can help me with. I have a wedding dress that I am trying to sell. It is in great shape and I don’t have room for it. I put it on Craigslist, I put it on preownedweddingdress.com, I even tried eBay and the only responses I get are people from different countries who want to scam me. It is driving me crazy. Please help. Thank you!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hey Tanya, in my opinion, wedding dresses really don’t sell well at all. You basically need to give them away — especially if it’s more than a couple years old as styles change SOOO much.

    Here are some creative ways you can either donate or repurpose a wedding dress

    [Reply]

  16. Kelli

    09/04/2014

    Thank you so much for posting this! I needed to hear that today! I need to clean our basement out and I just couldn’t get past the feeling of what if I sold it! You are completely right that it takes a lot of time to take pictures, post, and then wait. I am definitely taking the time tomorrow to de-clutter our basement so we can finish it! Thanks again!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    You’re welcome Kelli — I was actually just struggling with this again as well. I’ve purged a lot of clothing lately and there were a few items I still wanted to try and sell. However, I just know I’m not willing to make the time to sell them right now… so I just bagged them ALL up last night (honestly!) and am sending them to ThredUp to see if I’ll get any amount of commission from them selling my items for me.

    If I don’t make any money, oh well, I didn’t waste any time. If I DO make a little — great!

    [Reply]