When you need a little extra cash, selling your possessions is a no-brainer. It’s a relatively quick way to monetize the value in your home, and just about everyone has an old television or sofa collecting dust in the basement or attic.
But when you’re just looking to declutter, the question becomes a little trickier. Is it worth your time to help a college student haul your sofa out of the basement? Is the money you’d receive from selling that old television really significant enough to justify the effort? Do the tax breaks and good karma from donating your items make that a better option?
Read ahead to find out when it’s best to sell vs. donate, and the best methods for hawking the items you do choose to sell.
Is it worth it to sell your stuff?
Whether you sell or donate your stuff boils down to how much you value your time. Are you trying to save money for a vacation? Then maybe it’s better to sell anything you don’t need, even if it takes time to do so.
Do you have a busy social life or a time-consuming side business? Then it’s best to donate everything and save yourself the stress.
Selling your old clothes, furniture and trinkets is cumbersome, especially if you’re listing items individually. I’ve spent hours meticulously taking photos, looking up serial numbers and pricing items only to see a meager profit.
There are some steps you can take to make sure all that work is worth the time. Figure out what your ideal hourly rate is. Then, calculate how long it will take you to list an item, including taking pictures, writing the description, answering buyer questions, packing and going to the post office, etc. If you earn $50 an hour and can only make $30 an hour selling your stuff, it might be better to donate. When the figures are almost even, then it’s probably worth your time.
If you decide to donate, you can often find organizations that are willing to come pick up your items. You often have to schedule these appointments in advance, and they might not be willing to take everything you have, so don’t use this as a last-minute attempt to declutter.
As long as you keep your receipt, you can deduct any donations if you itemize your taxes. You can only deduct the fair market value of the items, not what you paid for them. If you calculate the market value, you might find that the deduction is more valuable than what you’d earn from selling those items.
How to make the most money when you sell
When spring cleaning, people often decide to get rid of clothes that no longer fit or CDs they don’t want. Instead of selling these individually, try bundling them together. Pair like items with like items—like all your action movie DVDs or size four Ann Taylor pants. It’s less hassle to pack and ship when you have a bundle, and you’ll need fewer boxes and packing supplies.
Before you list anything for sale, look up what the item last sold for on the site you’re using. Remember, every marketplace will have different price standards. What you’ll earn for a Michael Kors purse at a yard sale is different than what you’ll get on a used clothing site.
Try to clean or fix up the item you’re selling as best you can. Be honest about any flaws, stains or problems. Many sites allow buyers to leave reviews, so it’s best to be truthful about the state of the stuff you’re selling – especially if you plan to sell more items in the future.
The best places to sell your stuff
Now that you’ve decided what to sell, here are the best ways to do it:
- Craigslist is best for selling items that are too clunky to ship through the mail, like your old guitar or a child’s playground set. Write an honest description and price the item fairly. Be prepared for buyers to haggle and be wary of potential scammers, which are rampant on Craigslist. Some local police stations allow citizens to meet on their property to sell safely, but if that’s not an option try to meet in a public space.
- eBay is still king when it comes to selling online. It has the biggest market, making it the best for selling collectibles or niche goods. eBay takes 10% of the total selling price, and buyers can determine if they want to pay shipping themselves or have the customer do it.
- Poshmark is one of the top sites for clothing, shoes and other accessories. They charge a $2.95 fee on any items sold for less than $15 and 20% for those sold for more than $15. The buyer always pays shipping. Users can create their own bundles to receive an extra discount on your clothes, so try to sell items individually if you want to get the maximum available value.
- ThredUp is one of the most popular used clothing and accessory sites for women and children. They also make it easy for you to sell your clothes. They ship a pre-addressed clean-out bag you can stuff your clothes in, which costs $9.99.
- Yard sales are still a popular way to get rid of all your junk in exchange for cold, hard cash. Even though setting up a yard sale can take some time, you won’t have to worry about hauling your items to the post office or dealing with returns. You won’t get as much money as you would selling online, but you also don’t have to pay any fees or report the earnings on your taxes. Make sure to advertise your sale on Craigslist or on the Facebook marketplace, as well as with visible signage around the neighborhood.
Selling your stuff is only worth it if you make a decent profit. It’ll take more time than you realize to price and ship your items. If you don’t have the time or your items aren’t worth a whole lot, donating is always a great option.