How to Decide Whether to Donate Something or Sell It (and Where to Take It)


Every decluttering method and technique is slightly different, but one thing they almost all have in common is that they urge you to sort your possessions into at least three categories: keep, donate, and throw away (with the possibility of adding a fourth: sell). Throwing everything away is pretty easy, but figuring out what could actually be donated—and how/where to donate it—can be hard.

What you should donate

For the most part, there are three questions you should ask yourself when considering donating something: Is it in good condition—not broken, missing parts, falling apart, or dirty beyond repair? Is it useful? Is it safe, or does it contain chemicals or small parts that could be harmful to someone, especially kids?

When I’m deciding whether to donate, throw, or sell clothes, for instance, I consider each item and where I got it from. I do buy some fast fashion from time to time and those tops and dresses don’t last many wash cycles, so I don’t usually donate them; instead, I consider if I can use them for household tasks, like wiping the floor or something, but usually, I throw them away. (Do not come for me while I’m being honest!) Give yourself permission to throw things away. If something isn’t in good condition or it’s not going to be useful, you don’t have to beat yourself up for not donating it, especially when you’re doing something good for yourself, like decluttering your home. That said, I always donate nicer things and attempt to sell really nice things, but if something doesn’t sell from my Poshmark storefront within six months, I donate that, too. If the clothing is in good condition, someone else can use it. Google whether there are clothing-specific donation organizations in your area. For instance, Dress for Success specializes in accepting gently used professional attire for women. Perform a quick search to find out if there are niche organizations like this looking for the kinds of items you have on hand or if any drives with specific needs are taking place near you.

Otherwise, check in with your local donation place. If you use the Salvation Army, for example, check to see what they’re taking right now. Call them or use their online guide to determine the approximate tax-deductible value of your stuff. Goodwill, too, releases lists of what they will and won’t accept, making it easy to figure out which of your items are worth bringing over. 

Easy ways to donate

Making a pile to donate and actually donating are two very different things. This exercise is not useful if you’re just going to keep a “donation” box around your house or in your trunk for months. Remember that your first mission here is to declutter your home—any good you can do beyond that is a bonus, so if you don’t live near a donation center or don’t think you can reasonably do it, make other plans. 

There are some ways to do this easily. Pick Up Please operates in 15 states and will come grab your donation bag from outside your house, while operates in 33 states and does the same. Check with your local centers, too, to see if they have their own pickup service. Bear in mind that when using pickup services, you are generally limited to donating smaller items that a person could reasonably pick up and transfer to their truck on their own, so if you’re trying to offload furniture or appliances, call ahead and make a plan for transport. Habitat for Humanity, however, does offer furniture pickups in select areas. Pick Up My Donation acts as a kind of liaison, so if you give them the details of what and how much you want to donate, they’ll coordinate with a donation center in your area for a pickup, provided you have enough to justify it. Otherwise, that center will reach out with information on where you can bring the stuff. Green Drop is similar, picking up your household items and clothing, then paying a local nonprofit for the access, funding community-based programs in your area.

You can also list larger or more unorthodox items on the Buy Nothing platform, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or independent Facebook “buy nothing” groups in your area. The Buy Nothing app exists as a platform for users to set up free exchanges or giveaways in their area and may not include your location, but try typing your city or town into Facebook with the words “buy nothing” to find other independent groups doing the same thing. Always do this with a timeline in mind. If the thing doesn’t get a taker within a month, have a plan to throw it away or donate it in an alternate way. Keep your goal of decluttering top of mind and don’t allow your willingness to get rid of something eventually to turn into an excuse for why you haven’t cleared it out. 

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