This is the season when many people purge their homes of excess STUFF. Maybe it is Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon that inspires us to be grateful for the wonderful gifts in life and want to rid ourselves of unnecessary excess. Maybe it is the toy drives, coat drives, hat and mitten drives, and shoe drives that inspire some to donate useful items to others. Maybe it is the upcoming holiday season that inspires some to sell their useful items for extra cash to buy nice gifts for loved ones.
Whatever your reason for purging your home, you basically have three options for what to do with your STUFF: throw it away, sell it, or donate it. Nothing that still works or is intact should be thrown away. Even if it is a toy that doesn’t work anymore, you can list it for free on Craigslist or put it on the curb with a sign that says “Free – Doesn’t Work” and someone will be happy to claim it.
But how do you know if you should sell a useful item or donate it? Here are 5 questions to ask yourself to help you decide.
1. Will others find it valuable?
In other words, will other people be willing to pay money for it? Sometimes it is really hard for us to donate something that we or a loved one paid good of money for. But if the item is now obsolete, you will likely be hard pressed to find someone to buy it. This is especially true for old electronics. Electronics become obsolete so quickly that you are probably not going to find a market for your 20 year old tube television. Sure, you may think that some teenager somewhere would be willing to pay $10 or $15 for an old TV to put in their bedroom. But you’ve got to find that teenager and they are likely not scouring Craigslist for an old TV. Besides, flat screens are so commonplace now that you can find those used all over the place. Which is the teenager going to choose – the flat screen or the tube TV?
2. Do you have the time?
Selling your stuff takes TIME, especially if you sell it through a website like Craigslist or eBay. You’ve got to take pictures, write the description, and get it all in the website’s format. Then you’ve got to wait while it is listed and possibly take the time to package and ship it. If you don’t sell it online, you might decide to sell it in a garage sale. If you’ve ever had a garage sale you know that it takes much more than 5 or 6 hours on a Saturday morning. You’ve got to set it up, price all of your stuff, advertise it in the paper or with roadside signs, and you probably need to have it open for at least 2 days if not 3. Do you have the time for all that?
3. How much can you sell it for?
Is the selling price worth the effort? I personally will not sell anything on Craigslist for less than $10 and if it is less than $20 I only meet people when and where it is completely convenient for me – like at the grocery store when I’m already going there to shop, for instance. I have similar rules for eBay. Keep in mind that you can group lesser valued items together to sell, like a bag full of toys instead of just one toy or a box full of videos, for example. You have to determine your floor selling price and stick with it. Anything worth less than that amount, you should donate.
4. How badly do you need the money?
This will help you determine the lowest amount you’ll take the trouble to sell things for. If you are in a tight spot, you should probably be more open and flexible about selling your stuff. Selling several things on Craiglist for $5 each can really add up, and if you need the cash it might be worth it.
5. How badly does someone in need need it?
Many items we purge are not only useful, they are essentials, like jeans, coats, shoes, and gloves. If you don’t need the money, I encourage you to seriously consider donating those items. I personally prefer to donate those to a shelter that doesn’t sell the items for profit and actually gives them to the needy. If you do this, make sure those items are in gently used condition. Just because someone is getting it for free through a shelter doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to have a jacket without holes in it.
It is really important to make smart decisions about selling and donating your stuff. Selling is not easy and can create mental clutter that causes more stress than it is worth. Donating is physically easy but can be emotionally challenging because you know how much was paid for those items to begin with, or because the items you are getting rid of have sentimental value. Hopefully these questions can streamline the decision making for you and help you be at peace with whichever decisions you make.