Thanks to the craziness of the year, a lot of people have recently been decluttering their homes – which is great! If you haven’t guessed, I’m a big proponent of simplifying your life, and that starts with your home. But then the question comes up – how should you get rid of the stuff you’ve decluttered? Should you sell it or give it away? In this post, I wanted to cover the pros and cons to both, and illustrate where and how I’ve both sold and given away the stuff I’ve decluttered.
How to Get Rid of Your Decluttered Items – Selling Versus Giving Away
Some people advocate for just giving away anything you declutter. Their point of view is you should get the things out of your house as quickly as possible, so you can’t change your mind.
It’s a valid point, but when you’re a stay-at-home mom, living on a single income, the thought of just getting rid of nice things can be really painful. When even another $20 could be useful to your family, getting rid of those nice outfits your child wore once for half-an-hour and promptly outgrew feels wasteful.
While giving away things can be beneficial, and is certainly the quickest option, it’s not always the best. We’re going to go ahead and cover my favorite options for getting rid of things – giving them away, selling them online, or selling them via a consignment store or sale.
Pros and Cons of Selling Decluttered Items Online
If you have nicer items – think nearly new, or items that are bigger ticket items – the best option might be to sell them online. I like to use Facebook Marketplace. I can snap a couple nice pictures, write up a description, and be arranging to meet up and exchange money within minutes. I’ve made hundreds of dollars this way with relatively little effort.
The problem with this method is that it can require more work on your part. You either need to arrange a place to meet up or arrange for them to come to your house. This can lead to a potential safety issue.
How to Sell Items Online (Using Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist)
If you chose to sell items online, be aware that they are not going to go for as much as you want them to go for. A lot of people overprice their items. Usually, I wind up selling items online for about half to one-third of what they might cost new (depending on the condition). If I will need to ship something, I try to factor that into the pricing. Leave a little bit of room for negotiation on bigger ticket items – for example, pricing something at $200, anticipating that someone will offer $150, and you can come back with $175. You’re trying to find a happy middle ground where you feel like it’s worth your time, and the buyer feels like they got a good deal.
Good photos are a must! Take photos that show all sides. If there is any damage, take a photo of the damage and try to show the scale (either show where it is located in context to the larger item or show it compared to a coin).
On some things, especially big-ticket items, people may want to see more pictures. Don’t be afraid to ask them what sort of pictures they mean or if there’s some specific angle they would like to see.
Pay attention to the details. If you’re selling clothing, iron it. Make sure it’s wrinkle-free and looks nice. If you’re selling furniture, dust it. Try to get the spot out from the time your preschooler spilled the cheese dip. Make it look appealing.
Going back to my law enforcement training, I was taught to take pictures of crime scenes and evidence starting with an overall view, then a middle-distance view, then any close-ups. So if I was photographing a cabinet, I would stand back and get a good, clear shot of it in the room, then I would take a shot where it filled the frame of the photo as much as possible, then I would focus on details (interesting features, scratches, etc). It sounds silly to say I take crime scene photos and sales post photos the same way, but that is the case.
Make sure you communicate as many details as possible. The measurements, the brand, the color, the year it was made, the price you bought it at – if you have any relevant details, include them! Half the messages you will get will probably be asking for things that you included in the post. You can pull the information from there, or you can give the passive-aggressive response of “that’s in the post.” Hint: the passive-aggressive response, while occasionally satisfying, does not generally make a sale.
You have someone interested – now what? You can either meet up and exchange the item and money, or they can come pick it up. For larger items, they may need to come pick it up. For smaller items, I really recommend meeting up. I understand it can be inconvenient (especially with kids), so I suggest trying to batch it with other errands.
If you choose to meet up with someone, always meet in a public place. I have used gas stations, the library, Target. Many police stations have a designated “meeting location” out front. Pick someplace with good traffic, good cameras, and either meet in daylight or make sure it’s well-lit. Tell someone you’re going to be meeting someone to sell an item. Take someone with you if you can. And most importantly – listen to your gut. If something doesn’t feel right about a situation, don’t put yourself into it. Don’t rationalize it, don’t justify it. The worst-case scenario is that someone is mad they couldn’t get an item from you. Boo hoo. They’ll get over it.
Avoid Getting Scammed
I have occasionally had people try to scam me. This is why I prefer using Facebook Marketplace, because being able to look at someone’s profile is a way of verifying their identity.
If they offer to pay more than you wanted for it, that’s a scam. If they’re trying to get you the money in some unusual way, that’s probably a scam. Don’t accept a check. Don’t accept PayPal (they can file a dispute claiming they didn’t get the item, and then it’s a huge pain to prove that they did). Feel free to look at cash and make sure it’s legitimate (especially larger bills that look newer).
Once again, listen to your gut. If something feels off, it’s okay to not follow through.
Pros and Cons of Using Consignment Sales
In my area, we have two semi-annual children’s clothing consignment sales. I have gone as a buyer several times, and have sold as well once I had some things to get rid of.
They tend to attract a large crowd who are looking for the exact thing you’re selling, which is nice. You don’t have to worry about advertising it. You need to wash and prep the clothing (which usually involves adding it to an online inventory system, printing labels, affixing them to the item, and pinning it to a hanger), drop it off, then come back a few days later to pick up your check and any extra items you have left.
On the other hand, there is time involved in doing this, especially if you have a lot of items – you have to register everything, list it all, attach the right label to the right item. The consignment sales tend to limit some items depending on the season, so if you want to sell those unworn snowboots, you’re going to have to hold onto them until August or September. And you may have to deal with unsold items at the end of everything.
The other alternative is consignment stores – you don’t have to do anything but give clean clothing and items in good condition to them. They’ll sort them, return anything they feel they can’t sell (or some places will donate it on), and may give you credit for it or a cash payout. If you accept a cash payout, it will be the option that gives you the least amount of money, but it takes the least effort. Taking store credit can be a good idea if you need to buy clothing for your children anyway.
How to Sell at Consignment Sales
Getting Ready and Item Prep
You’re going to need a printer, cardstock, safety pins, and hangers (certain sales might require particular types of hangers – i.e., plastic only, no wire, sizes above a particular point need to be on adult hangers).
Items should be freshly washed. They should be stain- and rip-free. You may even have to iron some. The sale may have particular requirements for how they should be placed on the hanger or where the tag should be located. Double-check their requirements.
Most sales have certain items that they will or won’t accept – for example, since the recall of Fisher-Price’s Rock n’ Play, many sales have stopped accepting those. Verify that what you’re wanting to sell is accepted.
Adding everything to the consignment sale’s system can suck up some time, depending on how many things you have. I usually plan to spend a few evenings working on this, and I make sure I have some podcasts to listen to or something interesting to watch.
Some consignment sales offer “valet service,” where you simply drop off your cleaned items, and they do the prep work for you – but that usually means you won’t make nearly as much money.
Making Money with Consignment Sales
How much can you make? At my local Just Between Friends sale, it’s from 45% (for people who use the valet service) to 75% (if you help for at least three four-hour shifts). If you sign up to work, you can get a higher sales percentage, plus payment for the time you’re working, and usually early access to the sale itself (first pick of the items!). If you have the time, it’s worth looking into doing that!
The default earning is 60% of the listed price for the sales I attend. Most sales have a “reduced” day at the end where everything is half off the price on the tag. You can choose to exempt your items and keep them at full price.
Again, as with selling things online, I tend to price things between 30-50% of the cost for the new item. I find that if I try to go any higher, the items don’t sell. I tried selling a pair of nearly-new maternity jeans that had cost me $30 for $20 and couldn’t sell them at that price.
Remember, you’re only making approximately 60% of the ticket price too. If I could have sold those jeans for $20, that would have netted me $12. That’s why for higher-priced items, I prefer to use Facebook Marketplace.
Is it worth it? It can be. For doing something while I watched TV on a couple evenings, I wound up making $80. I’m okay with that.
After the Consignment Sale
You do need to pick up your items after the sale. This usually involves waiting for a while, since there’s just a limited window of time for everyone to come get their things. Some sales offer to donate unsold items to charity (there is a checkbox to do this when you register your items online). I’m very particular about what charities I donate to, so if I don’t know in advance who is getting the things, I would rather pick it up.
Pros and Cons of Giving Things Away
Giving away your stuff is the easiest, most direct way of getting rid of your unwanted items. You can bag it up and drop it off without having to think about it. Clearly, the ease is the biggest “pro” possible here.
Depending on where you give it to, you might be able to support a cause you believe in. There are several local thrift stores in my area that support causes I appreciate – so while I can’t give them a direct monetary donation, I’m happy to give them my items that are in good condition, which they can sell for the money they need. I feel like it’s a way for both of us to win!
Of course, the downside is that people perceive it as “money wasted.” You spent a lot of money on these things, and now you’re just giving them away. It’s hard to justify that in your mind sometimes.
How to Give Away Your Stuff
Getting Past The Value Mindset
When you’re giving away your stuff, get past the idea of it having value. It’s not a waste of money to get rid of things. Your money was wasted when you purchased it.
If you really, really feel like you should get something for an item, set a deadline. I keep a box for my consignment sale clothing, since that only happens a couple times a year. Otherwise, I list everything on Facebook Marketplace, but if it doesn’t sell within a week, I’ll either drastically lower the price, or I’ll give it away. I’ve also taken to listing a bunch of things on my local Buy Nothing group.
You can always ask friends or family members if it’s something they could use, or if they know someone who could use it. Remember – you have the option of blessing someone else with it.
Know Where You’re Donating
In my area, there are collection boxes in parking lots that state the proceeds from donations will benefit a local disaster-relief charity. Sounds great, right? Except when you look at the donation boxes, they state “a portion of the proceeds will be donated” without specifying how much of a portion. From what I can tell, the items being donated are going to a for-profit thrift store. I don’t know how much of their proceeds they might actually donate to charity – are they writing a $500 check once a year and calling it good? Are they donating 10% of their net proceeds? There’s a vast difference between those two things, but they both count as “supporting” the charity.
If knowing what you’re supporting is important to you, make sure you look for things like that.
What Happens to Unused Stuff?
Not everything donated will be sold. If it’s important to you, find out what might happen to your things. Are items given to other charities? Are clothes sent to a fabric recycler? Or is it just going straight to the dump? Feel free to call and ask these questions.
Thinking Outside the Box on Children’s Materials
One thing I’d like to add in here – there are generally local charities that provide clothing, toys, and other items to foster children. For kids who literally may not have more than a few items in a trash bag, getting to “shop” (often for free) is a huge treat and a blessing to them. Talk to the local foster case management agencies in your area – they can likely direct you to the right place to donate things for children in the foster care system.
See If Your Friends Can Use It
I am a huge fan of giving things to friends when they can use them. Maybe it’s bags of hand-me-down clothing (who doesn’t love getting those?!). If you know someone going through a divorce, give them household items. I gave a bunch of my stuff to a friend who held a garage sale to raise funds for an adoption, and then a bunch more stuff to my moms’ group garage sale. Think of it as “paying it forward.” You’re getting to put some good out into the world instead of holding onto things and being miserly.
Whew! Obviously, you have a lot of options when it comes to getting unwanted items out of your home. The important thing though is that you get them out. Don’t let the stuff just sit. That does no one any good – in fact, it may just allow the items to be ruined.
One option I didn’t cover in this post was having your own garage sale. I’ll be covering that in-depth in a future post.
If it’s not serving you anymore, it’s time to pass it on. Let it go to someone who can use it. Don’t allow it to stay in your house out of guilt, or because it’s worth a lot of money. The opportunity cost isn’t worth it.