Ask Shira: Should I Sell or Donate?

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A question that’s been coming up a lot in my work is how to handle the items you want to let go of.  Should you sell or donate the items you no longer want?

I’ve given this topic a lot of thought, and I want to share my perspective, as well as some clarifying questions that may help you make the best decision:

Your Time or Your Money?

What do you need more of in your life right now – time or money? When I was a bit younger I had all the time in the world and was eager to earn extra money – even an extra $20 felt like a major win no matter how much time it took to earn it. Now that I work full time, and have two kids and a packed schedule, time is the resource that feels more scarce, and therefore more valuable. I think I would actually pay to have more time in my day. Because of this, I seldom opt to sell my unwanted items. I can live without the extra income, so I donate, and I don’t look back or lament the sunken cost. Onwards!

Consider the Current Value

Most people dramatically overestimate the value of their belongings and are shocked to learn how little they will earn by selling them. Most consignment stores sell your clothing for a third of the original value and then give you roughly 50% of the selling price. So a sweater you paid $100 for will be sold for about $33 and you will make about $16.50 if that sweater sells. You can also opt to take the time to list and sell high ticket items only. Decide what potential dollar amount is worth your time, and only sell items that will sell for that amount or higher – i.e designer bags, high end electronics, or new items in original packaging. You can also pick and commit to a specific number – i.e “Items I can get $100 or more for I will sell – everything else will be donated.”

Consider the Selling Options

If you’re interested in selling your unwanted items, it’s important to consider your options:

Consigning Locally: You can sell brand name clothing in great condition at your local consignment store. Most stores give you 50% of the selling price which will be well below the retail price you paid. You’ll need to drop off your items, fill out a form, and then remember to check back in to see if your items have sold.

Selling in Your Community: Sites like Craigslist make it easy to list and sell bulky items like furniture or baby gear. You will need to take pictures of your items, list a detailed description and coordinate a time for the transaction to take place. You can also use these sites to list things for free. Just remember you’ll have to deal with hagglers, no-shows, and sometimes spam or scammers when you post online. Make sure it feels worth it.

Listing Online: You can also list your items online on ebay, Etsy, Letgo, or endless other e-commerce sites and apps. Remember – most people vastly underestimate how much time and energy is required to list and sell an item. You often need to research the item to find a comp, style and photograph the item, write a detailed description of the item with measurements, and post to sell. Not to mention, if your item sells, you then need to pack it up and send it off to the buyer if they aren’t local.

Third Party Sellers: If you really want to get some cash but don’t want to deal with all of the work involved, you can ship your clothing, shoes and accessories off to third party sellers who will do the work for you and take a cut of the profit. Thredup accepts trendy name brand clothing in good condition and The Real Real specializes in higher-end designer items. Both will send you bags so you can pack up and ship off your items. Note: they will often only accept a small percentage of what you send in and return the rest.

What Feels Better?

When deciding whether you want to sell or donate, check in with your current priorities and pick whichever option most aligns with your values. If you do decide to donate make sure to check out your local resources so you can support and strengthen your local community. Schools, community centers, creative reuse centers, non-profits, parent groups, and local Buy Nothing groups are a great way to contribute and keep things out of the landfill.

In the end, it’s truly a personal choice based on your desires, finances, and lifestyle. I almost always choose to donate because I believe it helps to orient me towards an abundant mentality, cultivates a generous spirit, and saves me time.

Values and priorities can shift, so no judgement here – do whatever feels best to you right now. The most important thing is to make a final decision and then take action. Decide and go!

Image Credit: Andrea Posadas for Honestly WTF x Shira Gill 

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