Declutter Clinic: Should I Sell, Donate, Or Throw It Out?

Declutter Clinic: Should I Sell, Donate, Or Throw It Out?



One of my mottoes is:

Have what you love; use what you have. 

Anything that doesn’t serve you, doesn’t earn a place in your life.

But an obstacle to decluttering that many people face is deciding what to do with the stuff they get rid of.

Unfortunately, this dilemma can be so confusing that some people get completely immobilized – they end up unable to part with their stuff because they can’t decide where it should go.

Don’t let confusion stop you from releasing unloved, unused things from your home and your life.

Instead, use this guide.

1. When To Sell Your Clutter

If it’s worth good money, you should sell it, right?

Well, not necessarily.

When you’re decluttering, only allocate something to the ‘Sell’ pile if:

1. It’s worth more than it would cost to organize the sale (list online, hold a garage sale, etc), and

2. You can be bothered to do the work to organize the sale.

The second point is crucial. If you know you’re unlikely to ever get around to doing what’s needed to sell your items, then save yourself time and guilt and don’t tell yourself you’ll sell.

If you’re looking for ways to make cash, then that’s a different matter. But if your top priority is to declutter your home and your life, then don’t create unnecessary hurdles. Skip the ‘Sell’ pile.

2. When To Donate Your Clutter

You should donate everything you can, shouldn’t you?

Again, not so simple.

Everyone has their own sense of what’s donate-able. I have a pretty high threshold for donation and will only give stuff to charity that:

  • Looks appealing – nothing tatty, rusty, etc
  • Is in working condition – nothing in need of repair
  • Is decent quality – nothing that’s basically junk.

I figure that donating questionable stuff only makes more work for the charity, so I toss anything that doesn’t meet these criteria.

You may be more or less strict with your standards. But if in doubt, throw it out!

Only allocate something to the ‘Donate’ pile if:

  • It’s in good condition and/or
  • It’s sell-worthy, but you can’t be bothered to sell it.

3. When To Throw Away Your Clutter

If you’re a seasoned declutterer, then by all means sell or donate your heart out. And if it doesn’t meet selling or donating standards, then toss it.

But what if you simply can’t decide?

If you’re fighting years of hoarding, or deep-seated procrastination, or a profound sense of overwhelm, then don’t let indecision about what to sell or donate stop you from clearing the clutter.

Instead, simply put everything into a bag and let it go.

Yes you’re wasting it, but having it in your home when you don’t love or use it is wasting it too, and it’s also costing you stress and clutter and quite possibly happiness.

Now let me be clear: I’m not suggesting you throw stuff away out of laziness or disregard for landfills, or cluelessness about poverty. If you can navigate these issues then I think you should.

But if you’re in such a state that you need to start somewhere very simple (and many people are; we all get overwhelmed sometimes), then I think it’s okay to start where you are and do what you can.

Once you begin the decluttering habit, you’ll gain confidence and can donate many future bags to worthy causes. But until you make a start, your stuff isn’t doing anyone any good.

Declutter Clinic Summary

To sum up:

Sell it if:

  • It’s worth more than the cost of selling and
  • You’re motivated enough to organize the sale.

Donate it if:

  • It’s in good condition and
  • The question of donating versing tossing won’t immobilize you.

For everything else, throw it away!

And enjoy the timespace, and mental clarity you’ll gain.

Note: This article originally appeared in my Get Organized Newsletter. 
It has updated in September 2017 with the video.

50 thoughts on “Declutter Clinic: Should I Sell, Donate, Or Throw It Out?

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  10. Donation Pick Up says:

    This is probably one of the most important decision that anyone has to ever make. When you are decluttering your certain portion, you can giveaway those which are actually dont need at all. Rest of the items can be used for your own purpose.

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  12. Josh Rachlis says:

    I’m currently selling my condo and my stuff is in storage while the condo is for sale. I’m not planning to get another mortgage or lease. I want to be a digital nomad, free to travel the world, interviewing celebrities and other interesting people. I’ve been gradually selling some stuff. But I still have a lot of household items and my storage locker expires on Friday. I just moved some stuff to a woman’s house in another town and then had to rent a truck 3 days later to bring it back to my storage locker because she decided she didn’t like me. With that truck rental, I get a free month of another storage locker. But I’m starting to think I should just donate all my kitchen stuff and towels and clothes tomorrow, instead of trying to spend another month selling dishes, cutlery, kitchen knives and a toaster bit by bit on Facebook Marketplace. I have 7 bins of childhood memories and photos and toys that hopefully a friend will let me keep at her house for a bit. Or maybe I will have to get a small storage locker. But I’m so stressed about trying to sell all my household items. I like the idea of just donating them and being done with it. I can make money doing copywriting and voice acting and interviewing businesses.

  13. Rashford Ozil says:

    thank you so much. as a person is has been battling years of a hoarding mentality by selling and throwing things away, i had recently hit a wall, becoming indecisive with how to rid of certain items that have been cluttering my space as well as my mind. reading this article was really helpful in giving me decisiveness moving forward. thank you again.

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