Reader Amy submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
I’d love to see some advice on what to donate vs. what to sell when clearing out the clutter!
Amy, this is a great request. Here is the following method I suggest for deciding what to do with home and office items once you determine they no longer belong in your possession:
Step 1: Visit some online auction sites like eBay, MaxSold, or other online classifieds and find out how much money a similar item recently sold for on the site. Look at the closing bids will give you a better idea of the final sale price.
Step 2: If the item sold for an amount that you believe is worth your time and effort to sell (for me, this number is $50+), then sell the item. Websites such as eBay and Craigslist (and kijiji in Canada) are perfect for online sales, and local consignment or pawn shops are wonderful brick and mortar alternatives. Garage sales are also good options.
Step 3: If the item sold for an amount less than your time and effort to sell number (for me this is less than $50), but is greater than zero, consider donating the object to charity or posting it on Freecycle or a neighborhood Buy Nothing site.
Step 4: If you cannot find a similar item for sale online and you think the item is junk, recycle, or trash the item. A good rule of thumb is that you should not give to charity any item that no one is willing to pay money to buy. Charities are not depositories for junk.
Note: Some of our readers have been successful uncluttering by listing items for free that they thought were scrap. For example, a wooden bed frame was picked up by a carpenter (to repurpose the wood), a contractor took away a pile of steel rebar and angle iron, and non-functioning electronics were scooped up by an adult learning center/trade school. If you choose to do this, and no one claims the items after a certain period of time (e.g., two weeks) then recycle or trash the items.
Thank you, Amy, for submitting the first question for our Ask Unclutterer column!
Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.
This post has been updated since its original publication in 2009.