Giving away, not selling, my stuff

Ever since I cleaned out my closet, I've gotten more and more ruthless, editing more and adding less.

The result of deleting items from drawers and hangers is two large brown boxes taking up floor space in the closet, overflowing with castaways. The boxes have grown into mountains, and I can't walk to the back of my closet anymore.

My intention was to sell these items, which are the nicer things that I actually like, but don't work for one reason or another. I didn't want to drop them off at the consignment shop because the shop keeps 60% of the profit and only accepts in-season clothing, meaning I'd have to keep some of this Stuff in my closet for almost a year. So I planned to sell it on eBay, thinking I could make some of my money back and maybe sell the out-of-season items.

Procrastination or Lack of Motivation?

Month after month passed, and I never got around to selling a single article of clothing. I even bought a cheap postage scale, convinced that the lack of a scale was what was holding me back from listing my Stuff.

But last week I finally realized that there are about a hundred things I'd rather be doing than messing with this pile of Stuff. I didn't want to wash, iron, dry-clean, photograph, upload, list, weigh, package, or mail it. In fact, I'm awful at getting anything in the mail on time, which is why online shopping is my saving grace! I know many people who are eBay aficionados and could blaze through listing my Stuff in no time, but I'm not one of them. I've never even bought anything off eBay. I just lack the interest, and I can't really tell you why.

Anyway, those are my excuses reasons, and so the Stuff continued to clutter my closet floor.

A New Home for Stuff

Whenever I pull clothes for the discard pile, I call my mom so she can decide if there's anything she can use. Mom is a talented seamstress who re-purposes clothing into new things. Once she took a tank top that she bought me 10 years ago for $2 and sewed it into several pairs of doll tights that sold for $5 a pair. (Mom always gets a great ROI.)

She mentioned that there was a dress and shirt she thought were too nice to cut up after all, so she gave them to a teenage mother she knew who was on her own and trying to work and finish school.

The girl liked both items, and we are the same size. You can probably guess where this is going.

I've decided to finally banish my Stuff from my closet, sorting through it and giving her anything I think she'd like. If there's anything left after that, the in-season clothes will go to the resale shop and the out-of-season clothes will probably end up at Goodwill.

It's become obvious that I'm just not going to eBay it, and it's time to let go. Again. And that's the thing of it. Keeping that Stuff in a box is no different than keeping it on hangers. I'm still attached to it. It still takes up space and occupies my thoughts (I can't believe I still haven't listed it, I really hate looking at it every day, I can't remember what the closet floor looks like anymore…)

I felt like I needed to sell to make money back on past purchases, but I soon realized that not only do I not want to bother with it, but it doesn't make sense for me to spend my time this way. My time would probably be better spent working on my business, especially when I consider my hourly rate. Trent at The Simple Dollar said it well when he discussed the value of time, writing “…money is not the only criterion that should be considered in a financial transaction in our lives. Time is often a major concern — and I see it overlooked time and time again.”

Maybe it's not best financial decision. Who knows how much I could have made by selling it? But after considering the time cost, I've elected to be free of the clutter now. And I'm really looking forward to walking into my walk-in closet next week.

More about...Giving, Clothing

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Katherine
Katherine
10 years ago

I love to give away stuff – to family, friends and Goodwill. Yes, I could sell some of it and make money, but the pleasure of knowing the recipients really wanted or needed it, makes the giving away worth more to me than the money. And with Goodwill, if someone buys it then resells it, then all the best to them. And honestly I’m amazed at what is given to me from time to time. I am content.

Kristine Smart
Kristine Smart
1 year ago
Reply to  Katherine

I respect the donation part of what you were writing about. I did that a while back; but now I’m struck with regret. I had a terrible, invasive thought process since I was a child. I was extremely obsessive and reading assignments in school were a nightmare. The fix many years later was counseling co-mingled with Paxil & Clonazepam. They all changed my life for the better. I finally left the isolation of my parent’s home, got married, moved on. So I thought. However, I still shopped and obsessively collected very specific things. It’s an addiction, I admit, as destructive… Read more »

Alicen
Alicen
10 years ago

I always give my closet cast-aways to other people. I have an aunt and an aunt-in-law, both from lower income families, who are always excited to get a bag of things I’m tired of wearing. I always tell them that if there are things they don’t want – to pass it on to someone else or drop it off at the local charity second hand store.
I don’t have the time or patience to sell it and this way it is being enjoyed by someone else and not going to waste.

Undercover Kitty
Undercover Kitty
10 years ago

I agree! I have been cleaning up the house, doing it bit by bit. I found lots of leftover stationery/school supplies that I had bought for my students from a couple years ago! So what I’m doing w them now is to give them to my students as rewards for good behaviour etc. It gets the kids excited and motivated and it keeps the Stuff from cluttering my house. Win-win 🙂

Peter Brülls
Peter Brülls
10 years ago

Hmm… Can’t say that I ever have away a piece of clothing, they just take on different shades, starting with

– good enough to wear for a business meeting
– good enough to wear to work, the thatre or the metro
– good enough to walk to the supermarket
– good enough to work in the garden or home improvement
– good enough to use as a cleaning rag or to polish shoes

That said, I’m just now filling a box of kitchen utensils for evaluation. (i.e. if it’s still there in six months, it “go”)

Frugalapolis
Frugalapolis
10 years ago

I have the same problem – I emptied my Tshirt pile into a box and now its been in the middle of the dressing room floor for almost a year! I need to just give it away too.

Lynn
Lynn
10 years ago

I don’t have the patience to sell, either. I live right at the poverty level in a smallish community, and I am pretty comfortable. When I see true poverty, people who can’t afford $3 for a shirt st the thrift store, I figure it’s better to just give things away. Freecycle for batches of clothes in one size, and a round-robin trash bag for many other things. A bag appears on my porch, I take what I can use, add what I want to pass on, and move it on to the next porch. It’s a great system!

CO
CO
10 years ago

Hi April, Good advice, and if you donate your old stuff to a charity like the Salvation Army, you can claim it as a tax write-off and potentially net more than you would have sold it for. Takes very little time, goes to a good home, and saves you money. win-win-win.

Tara
Tara
10 years ago

My policy on clothing that I don’t wear anymore is to either
a) throw it out if it has holes
or b) give it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army or a women’s shelter or something like that

I think that there is more value in someone else getting my old clothing for free or cheap than me spending time to get money from it.

Nicole
Nicole
10 years ago

Oh man… Ok, so not only do we give stuff away to goodwill once a year (which is always nice come tax time), BUT we will PAY a college student $8/hr to drive it there for us and get receipts. (They also take our recycling to the recycle center.) It is the total opposite of ebaying or craigslist. We just don’t have time. I did pass on nice maternity clothing to a pregnant friend of my sister’s. Unworn baby clothing (we got a LOT of baby clothing presents) has also been passed on to people with babies. And books go… Read more »

Beth
Beth
10 years ago

I’m with Tara. It upsets me that I always read on PF finance blogs to sell every little thing you no longer need. I donate used housewares and clothing to a shelter or the Salvation Army. It’s something I can do to give back, and it’s a bit of a reality check for me too.

If the clothes aren’t in good shape, they go into the scrap bag.

frugalscholar
frugalscholar
10 years ago

Ebay used to be great for the seller, but those days are no more. Truly, it is seldom worth the time or effort. If you live close to a Buffalo Exchange or similar, you can take your things there and get a small amount of cash or credit. Or, as everyone else is saying, donate it! We do that–and we don’t itemize deductions. Most of our stuff comes from thrifts anyway–just participating in the cycle.

Rachel
Rachel
10 years ago

I’m with you! I feel much better about passing on things we no longer need, like clothing and housewares. We don’t have extra cash for charity (other than tithing), but I feel like giving away these things somewhat makes up for that.

The exception to this was my maternity wardrobe. The pieces were all new, worn only 3-5 months, and expensive to begin with! I was able to recoup $250 of the $400 I spent. Yay for Craigslist!

Chipmunk
Chipmunk
10 years ago

1. Quilting.

2. Rags.

Both equally valuable, in my opinion.

Money Smarts Blog
Money Smarts Blog
10 years ago

Awesome.

Selling junk is great if you have lots of time and need the money. For most people, it’s better to just focus on selling the few items that are actually worth something and give the rest away.

Mike

Techbud
Techbud
10 years ago

My wife does this often with our kid’s clothes. They grow out of them so fast and are usually in good shape so we exchange with friends. I’ve lost count how may times I’ve seen neighborhood kids running around with clothes items my children use to own. 🙂

JM
JM
10 years ago

I have a big bag of clothes that’s been sitting in my closet for months that I need to get rid of. I’ve been meaning to go to Goodwill or Salvation Army to drop them off but I never seem to get around to it…. Thanks for reminding me, I will talk to my husband tonight about maybe having him purge his stuff so we can get this Stuff out of our closet for good!

Mama Koala
Mama Koala
10 years ago

I enjoyed this article, and can relate. We were working through paying off debt (just paid off this month), and I felt guilty if I did not sell the stuff. BUT I just ran out of time, so off to goodwill it went. It was such a relief to free up the extra space.

Lindy Mint
Lindy Mint
10 years ago

I’m currently selling my stuff to prove a point on my website. It is not so much fun, and there is much whining on my part :). I’m finding out it’s only worth it if you have the “bigger” dollar items to sell. Clothes don’t fit into that category, so donating is still the best bet.

JC
JC
10 years ago

I’ve listed stuff for free on Craigslist that I could probably have gotten $20-50 for – an old SLR camera and an old b/w laser printer. The thing was, to me, that the items had been siting around for a few years that when I finally had the motivation to list them I didn’t want to slow down the momentum by trying to figure out pricing. It was easy to list something for free and they were claimed within an hour and picked up the next day.

Sara
Sara
10 years ago

I agree. When my son was born, I used to take his gently used clothes and furniture as he outgrew it to a consignment shop or eBay it – but the $$ was totally not worth it. I’d bring in 6 garbage bags of clothes, after having washed and sorted them, drive 45 minutes, and make about $30. I finally came to peace with this solution. First, I offer them to anyone I know who has a child the who wears that size. Secondly, I take what’s left to the Salvation Army. It takes less time, takes away a lot… Read more »

Mike Panic
Mike Panic
10 years ago

With eBay’s recent increase to final listing fee (now 9%!) and the increased cost to mail stuff, even in flat rate boxes, combined with Paypal fees, to sell a single item will end up costing you upwards of 15% plus time to list it, pack it and ship it. It’s nuts, and why I believe that Craigslist is slowly growing into a bigger monster. That said, there is nothing wrong with a good old fashion yard / garage sale, again because you can advertise it for free on Craigslist. Sure, it does take a few hours to setup and run… Read more »

Leah
Leah
10 years ago

kudos to you for giving it away! Especially if you’re in financially decent shape, I think it’s okay to let go of trying to get any money out of something. For years, my parents would declutter in fits and starts only to give up after just a tiny bit of progress. The culprit? They wanted to get back some of the money they spent. They invested insane amounts of time trying to sell things for piddly amounts. Finally, my brothers and I convinced them that thrift stores were a fine destination. Since then, decluttering hasn’t been a problem. I’m excited… Read more »

Norman @ simplemoneylife.com
Norman @ simplemoneylife.com
10 years ago

Wow, I’m with you on this one April. The only time I’ve ever sold anything that I didn’t need anymore is when it would sell for an amount that would be worth my time and effort to sell it. I gave away almost a household full of stuff last year when I was on a minimalizing streak and gave it to a couple at church that provides housing for women coming out of prison. It was easier for me than going to the trouble of selling it all because they came with a truck and picked it all up and… Read more »

Rae
Rae
10 years ago

I’m glad to see I’m not the only one with this idea. I have three giant bags of clothing in my trunk to drop off at Goodwill if I can ever get there during their inconvenient drop-off times. Could I use the money for selling them all? Sure, it could go toward the last of my debt. But, at the end of the day, the effort to sell everything (it’s not like it’s designer brands or anything) would probably cost me more than I’d make. Filling those bags also made me reevaluate what I spend on future clothing, so I… Read more »

Janette
Janette
10 years ago

Our little town has a great place for women who are reentering the workforce. My work clothes found a new home! I did hold on to a few pieces because I volunteer in the schools now. I don’t want to be totally out of place.
The best thing that I got rid of—all of my heels. My feet do not miss them one bit!

ami
ami
10 years ago

April – I think you make a great point about the importance of your time in deciding what to do with your old clothes. If you would derive more value from spending the time with family or creating something or engaging in a great hobby vs. boxing/cataloging/photographing/mailing/etc., then you should definitely do what will give you more personal satisfaction. The other benefit I see in simply boxing/bagging up your old things and giving them away is peace of mind. Meaning, the act of getting rid of unwanted things (and removing the piles from your floor, clearing clutter, making space) makes… Read more »

Karen in minnesota
Karen in minnesota
10 years ago

I give/donate ALL my excess stuff away. I can’t use it/don’t want it so I want others to use it if they need it. I also don’t want the hassle of trying to haggle/sell it. I’m doing OK economically, and I think giving stuff away is sensible charity. It just feels cheap to try to wring every cent out of stuff like this. My kids’ too small clothing that’s still in good shape? Their tiny down coats and snow boots? It’s expensive stuff and they grow out of it quickly. I just want another kid to use it, so their… Read more »

Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom
Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom
10 years ago

I have always given things away and never sold anything, even when dead broke myself. There are people who need those things more than I did. I give to charities who turn around and sell them to goodwill type shops, and we don’t have a receipt system. I wish we did, I’d probably get rid of more sooner. The other reason why I like to give things away is that over the years, it has helped me to realize that many things are worth NOTHING and has stopped me from bringing in as much through the door and carefully considering… Read more »

Candy
Candy
10 years ago

April, your article came along just in time! I too am faced with an overstuffed closet despite downsizing it several times already. Yes, I was a shopaholic 🙁 My problem is that I have been feeling ambivalent about the whole thing. Not ambivalent from the point of view of donating, but ambivalent from the aspect of how much money I wasted on this stuff. I felt compelled to try to sell the remainder but, like you, I really don’t have the time or inclination to be bothered with the trouble of everything that goes into listing an item of clothing.… Read more »

Nancy
Nancy
10 years ago

And for anyone who doesn’t already know about it, check out free cycle.com. It’s a great way to find a new home for all kinds of extra stuff that’s cluttering up your life. In the last few months I have freecycled printer cartridges from printers I no longer own, children’s toys, furniture, kitchen appliances I don’t use…. And I’m not done yet!

David/moneycrashers
David/moneycrashers
10 years ago

There are a lot of thnigs that I give away rather than sell, and some that I could make good money off of.

What factors go into my decision?

How much “good” it will do someone else. For example, somtimes I buy a few extra toys and include them with my next donation to Goodwill.

There are other “good samaritan” type factors, but also some financial ones as well.

The size of the item. if its too big, and I can get somebody, anybody, to take it for free, then I do that as well.

Kelley
Kelley
10 years ago

The trick with this is getting into your car IMMEDIATELY after purging. That way, it’s one more step removed from your closet. Then when you’re out and about just drop it off. I often find thrift stores that have drive up service in the back and that way I don’t have to worry about the kids getting out of the car. Very important when they were 1 and 3 years old! Big Sisters just did a pickup in our neighborhood yesterday and I had forgotten until I saw the neighbor put her stuff out. I ran upstairs, purged 2 bags… Read more »

trb
trb
10 years ago

Amen to all of this. Too much time and mental energy is spent trying to recoup that which we’ve already lost or used up. Better to acknowledge the loss/waste (or the love/use) for these things and let them go.

partgypsy
partgypsy
10 years ago

I agree with this. We put a crib for sale on Craig’s list but it didn’t move after dropping to $80 (originally a $200 crib). So we gave it to a friend who was having a baby. Last weekend we purged the attic of baby/child clothes. We divvied up the clothes into sets of nice and age appropriate groups, and are in the process of giving them to 5 different families with babies or small children. Any remaining pieces are going to a nonprofit. We were very fortunate in getting a lot of nice hand me down clothes and at… Read more »

Janice
Janice
10 years ago

I’m good at the purging part, just not the get it in the car, take it wherever part. I like the other posters who pay a college kid to do that stuff for them. That’s creating a job for someone too. Really, though, when it comes to used clothing, why would anyone go through the hassle of trying to resell when there are so many people in need?? Unless you’re having a garage sale anyway, then of course give it a shot. Then donate the rest. The few bucks you might make is not going to make you richer. Not… Read more »

Rachel211
Rachel211
10 years ago

USE YOUR OWN CURB!

People will take anything with a big ol FREE sign on it. A few weeks ago I said goodbye to my over 200 VHS movie collection. Over 6 people came by, picked through, and took all those movies.

I can’t even imagine how long it would have taken me to list, sort, photograph, and sell each one for probably a whole quarter at a time. 😉

Peter Brülls
Peter Brülls
10 years ago

@trb Amen. That’s one of my pet peeves. Back, when Dolby Surround becoming mainstream and Dolby Digital/DTS the latest new thing, I bought a nice set of speakers and an amp/receiver/decoder thingie. While I did and do consider the ~2000$ (I think, it’s been years) money well spent (because I don’t have to go the cinema), I get kinda of furious when people asked me how much I invested. I didn’t „invest“. I spent money. It’s nice when it has some resale value and I do have an eye on our insurance, but all in all, I consider that money… Read more »

Zina
Zina
10 years ago

I’ve come to a similar conclusion recently. The hardest things to get rid of were some collectible hobby items (bobbin lace-making supplies) that had some value (I’d sold one for $50 already on eBay a few years ago, and had several more) but that no one would know what to do with if they ended up at a thrift store. I hated to think of them being tossed in a Dumpster because no one knew what they were. But when I finally accepted that I really didn’t have the time or inclination to sell them, I called up a local… Read more »

KarenJ
KarenJ
10 years ago

As a person who’s done ebay, craigslist and flea markets, I can tell you it’s a lot of work for very little, except if you have something really valuable (like the $150 I got for my autographed pic of Mickey Mantle on ebay). I work a lot of hours outside the home and I’ve gotten to the point that what little I have left is either getting thrown away or given away. A friend who’s mother passed away gave us a flat screen TV and we gave away for free the TV entertainment unit we bought on CL for $200… Read more »

Dwight Anthony
Dwight Anthony
10 years ago

I too just get in moods of hating to deal with clutter and end up donating some of my older goods to good causes as well. I usually donate to my local Red cross chapter.

P.S. J.D., did you receive my guest post request? Thanks

cc
cc
10 years ago

i buy a fair amount of stuff at salvation army- i was a college student that turned into an artist so i’ve always been a little short on cash.
when i’m done with it though (clothes, housewares, boardgames, etc) i clean/wash it, bag it up and return it right back to salvation army.

i just think of the initial cost as a rental fee, and as long as i return everything in good enough condition someone else gets to enjoy it. salvo’s just like a big stuff library 🙂

Libby
Libby
10 years ago

I am all about giving things away for free to goodwill, etc. BUT I will never list something for free on craigslist ever again. I have never had a bad experience with CL unless the item was free, then some very strange people come out of the woodwork.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
10 years ago

I love putting things on Freecycle. Since they’re usually not big-ticket items I can be fairly sure they’re actually being used, not re-sold. My second-favorite Freecycled item: The two-CD recording of all the music from “The Nutcracker,” claimed by the single mom of a 4-year-old who’d discovered dance. When they came to pick it up the little girl was wearing her ballet leotard and tights. My all-time favorite Freecycled item? Five empty 42-ounce oatmeal boxes. I kept them because I knew someone would want them, and someone did. If it’s kosher to post URLs, here’s the link to the piece… Read more »

Angela of Neglected Princess
Angela of Neglected Princess
10 years ago

I just donated some NICE (read: expensive, stylish) suits to Goodwill. They’re all in perfect condition, but I’m simply not going to wear them. It makes me happy to imagine women being able to afford a nice interview suit or inexpensively building their business wardrobe.

Carla
Carla
10 years ago

It can be a PITA to give stuff away too. People flake and not show up (especially when you’re on a time crunch). You get weirdos showing up at your door. People who complain even when its FREE, etc. For me its a matter of knowing what’s worth it to sell and what I should give away. Clothes that are 10 years old and well worn (but still in good condition), I give away. A $400 retail Kitchen Aid mixer, I sell.

sandi_k
sandi_k
10 years ago

I recently had this same process with boxes and boxes of books. I’d been carrying around 4 big boxes in my car for a YEAR. When I took a couple boxes into the book store for a trade credit, they gave me .25 per book. When I culled first, and showed up with a carryall only, I got $2-$3 per book. So I’d been farming them out every 6 weeks or so – and then I was buying MORE BOOKS. It was a never-ending cycle. So, this time, I set aside the 4 boxes until my mom and sister were… Read more »

Marjorie
Marjorie
10 years ago

Ditto…I probably could have made some bucks selling my stuff but it would have taken forever and the sell piles would have just become clutter in and of themselves. I sold a couple of old cell phones which was easy with the sell back services online and gave the rest to Goodwill temizing the valuable stuff on my taxes. I reasoned that the pain of giving away valuable stuff for less than they are worth would be a valuable lesson the next time I try to buy something I don’t really need.

Tami
Tami
10 years ago

This post was right on time. I need to get my head around the “sunk cost” of all my stuff, and realize I’m never going to list it to sell. I’ll be making a huge donation of clothes and housewares to a charity thrift store this week!

chacha1
chacha1
10 years ago

This kind of thing is thoroughly discussed on the forums at Unclutterer. Among the points that every person has to address at their own time and comfort level is ROI. That is, we often try to get residual value out of physical possessions. However, the fact is we overwhelmingly buy things for their present value, not a future value. Clothes, books, dvds, kitchen gear, even furniture – these things are not investments. Once they have served their purpose, they have earned their keep and we shouldn’t expect them to also generate cash for us. Some people are willing to go… Read more »

Gal @ Equally Happy
Gal @ Equally Happy
10 years ago

I give it all to goodwill. The tax write off and time saved is worth more than the few dollars I could make on eBay. The only other alternative is Freecycle and I only use that for things that are going to be difficult to bring to Goodwill.

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