Keep, Sell or Give Away
When we downsize, declutter and purge, we’re faced with three key decisions. Should I keep it, sell it or give it away? Seems simple enough, but there are both emotional and analytical factors at play in the process of letting go. Let’s tackle each one in hopes of making the decision-making process a little easier.
Should I keep it?
This is the first decision to make. If you’re struggling to determine if you should keep something, ask yourself: “Does this item serve me now?” Focus on your current priorities and goals, not what you enjoyed in the past or what you plan to do someday. If keeping it is not going to help you achieve your goals, you’ll know it’s time to let it go.
I can’t tell you how many “projects” I accumulated at yard sales thinking I would get to them some day or in retirement. After a while I knew that day would never come. Fixing up old furniture and craft projects were not a priority and they still aren’t. So, this is also a good question to ask yourself before you bring another thing into your home: “Does this item serve me now?” If I’d stuck to only having items in my life that supported my current goals, I never would have purchased those things. When I sold them at my yard sale, it felt good knowing they were going to someone who would put them to good use.
Whether you’re making a decision about sports equipment, art supplies or other hobbies, ask yourself if you really need these things. Are they a priority now or can you buy them in the future when or if you do get into painting or kayaking?
The same question applies with decisions around paperwork, articles you might have clipped or recipes. Is this what I’m into eating right now? Is this information I need right now? If the answer is no, then you can recycle it. Chance are, you can find more current information and recipes on the internet if you need them in the future.
The decision to keep something becomes more difficult with sentimental items. I found it hard to part with copies of corporate videos I produced 20 years ago. But I have come to realize that’s not my life anymore. I am proud of what I accomplished, but by purging my past, I am making room for a better future.
Sometimes we’re just not ready to let a sentimental item go, and that’s okay. I still have boxes of photos, cards and letters to sort through. These items can bring back strong emotions. Leave them for a day when you’re feeling stronger. If you do decide to let it go, you can take a photo of the item so you have a visual memory. Another idea is to keep only the sentimental items that bring you joy and keep them in a special box to look at occasionally. Or create a scrap book.
Should I sell it?
If you’re ready to part with the item, first determine what value it might have for another person. And then determine how much time and effort you’re willing to put into selling it.
If it’s antique or vintage, a quick search on eBay.com can determine if it has some value. If you think it might be something of a higher value, contact an antique dealer who specializes in that particular type of item, even if the dealer lives in a different state.
Have a yard sale: Yard or garage sales are great if you have a lot of miscellaneous household items to sell. As someone who’s had many yard sales, I've learned that the more stuff you have to sell, the bigger the turn out. Enlist a group of friend or neighbors to join you.
Saturday is usually the best day for a yard sale, but see what is customary in your neighborhood. Start early. Never turn away a potential buyer because they showed up early. That’s when the dealers and serious buyers tend to shop. Put prices on everything and set prices low. After all, the goal is to sell as much as possible. Otherwise you’ll just be dragging everything back into the garage or off to Goodwill. Make lots of signs to post throughout the neighborhood and take them down afterwards. Advertise on Craigslist, Nextdoor, Facebook Marketplace and any other free papers and websites. And have plenty of change. Having a yard sale with friends and neighbors can be a fun way to spend a summer day, but it does require a lot of work to be successful.
Sell on free online platforms: I’ve sold over a hundred items on Craigslist, from my Hello Kitty toaster to a dog run, and everything in between. When I drastically downsized, I sold most of my furniture on Craigslist. The great thing about Craigslist is that it costs nothing — only an investment of your time.
Free sites to sell stuff include:
The downside to selling online is that it can take months to find the right buyer. And you need to determine if it’s worth the investment of time required to photograph the item, write up a good description, post it and set up appointments with buyers.
Buyers can be flakey, so be prepared for cancellations and no shows. I make it a rule to never change my schedule to accommodate a buyer — it’s just not worth it. And I don't give out my address until I have a confirmed appointment. Be flexible on your prices and be willing to negotiate. Buyers like to feel they're getting a bargain. If using Craigslist, renew all your items on the same day so you can easily renew them again two days later.
Be safe when meeting buyers. I am a single woman living alone, so I take all precautions. If it’s a small item, I either meet the person in a public place or set the item on my front porch or in my backyard, so I don’t have to let a stranger into my house. If you have to let someone into your house to see a larger item, have someone else with you — or at the very least, text a friend ahead of time and let them know you are meeting with a potential buyer.
With any free site, be aware of scammers. Review the Craigslist page on avoiding scams: https://www.craigslist.org/about/scams. I like to talk to the person on the phone to know they are a real person in the local area.
Sell on global platforms: The advantage of selling on sites such as eBay, Etsy and Poshmark is that you’re reaching a nationwide (and sometime international) market of potential buyers. eBay is a great place to sell off your collectibles and smaller items of value. Etsy is more for handmade items and decorative vintage. Poshmark is for selling gently used clothes, jewelry and handbags.
On these platforms, you’ll pay a fee or commission. On Poshmark it’s as high as 20 percent for anything over $15. If you’re already selling on these sites, it will be easy to add new items. If not, there is a steeper learning curve than the free sites.
Another advantage is that you don’t have to meet buyers in person. But you do have to quickly package and mail items to buyers. That said, if you’re only selling a few items, you might be better off sticking to the free and local venues.
Should I give it away?
This is the easiest option. If it’s not something your friends or family are interested in, find a place to donate the item and be sure it’s something they will accept. Even Goodwill will not accept certain items, including stained or broken furniture, sleeper sofas, non-flatscreen TVs, large appliances and mattresses. The benefit of donating is knowing that the items will go to a good cause and you can take a tax deduction if you itemize.
Another option is to post the item for free on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor or other free online selling platform. Place the item where it can be easily hauled away and be sure to delete the ad as soon as it’s gone.
Before you’re tempted to put that item in the trash or haul it to the dump, see if the item can be recycled. Ask your trash pickup company or city hall where the specialty recycling centers are located and what items they accept. If you have old paint or other toxic items, see if your city has a household hazardous waste collection program. Nonprofit organizations like Habitat for Humanity will gladly take your useable, leftover paint.
I’ve taken several old laptops and cell phones to a center that specializes in recycling and restoring electronics. I pay a small fee, but at least I know they won’t be going into the landfill.
I hope these tips help to make the purging process easier. Enjoy the journey to a more streamlined and intentional life.