Decluttering 101: 6 Things You Should Sell and 4 Things You Should Donate

A woman ponders some thoughts on her bed covered in clothing.
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Whether you need a little extra cash or you’re selling things as part of a decluttering process, it can be tempting to gather your old stuff and push it to the curb for a massive garage sale. But before you throw the mother of all yard sales, consider whether what you’re trying to get rid of is actually worth selling.

In many cases, you can make more money donating gently used clothing and other household items to local charities. So shelve plans for a time-consuming sale and use this guide to determine what’s worth selling, what to get rid of and what you should donate instead.

How to Make Money Dropping Stuff Off at the Donation Center

You may be wondering how dropping donated items to a local charity actually makes money. Aren’t you just giving stuff away that you could sell for free? The answer is both yes and no.

As long as you’re donating to a qualified charitable organization, giving things away means your generosity earns a tax deduction from the government. And in many cases that tax write-off is probably more than you’ll make at a yard sale or through online resale platforms, especially considering the extra effort involved in finding buyers, taking photos or haunting the post office to ship packages.

In order to make an informed decision, there are a few things you need to know about tax deductions to charitable organizations. First and foremost, you’ll need to itemize your taxes to receive the deduction. And while you don’t have to claim the full deduction right away, eligible donations have to be reported within the first three years after donation.

Pro Tip

Explore IRS guidelines for charitable donations including specifics about determining fair market value for donated items.

The Pros and Cons of Selling vs. Donating

The advantages of rounding up your clutter and selling it off versus donating several bags of items in good condition is really just a matter of priorities.

If you have a large volume of stuff to sell quickly because you need the cash, yard sales should be your go-to. But if you just need the space in your house for other things and don’t mind waiting for the kickbacks, donating to a qualified organization is a better option.

You’ll also want to consider the type of used items you’re dealing with. Things like furniture, art or even designer clothing and shoes hold more value and make sense to sell. But you’ll want to take into account how long it will take to snap pictures, post it online and find the right buyer.

Don’t haul junk to the curb without reading this first. Our guide to garage sale finds focuses on where you might find treasure among your trash.

Comparing Fair Market Value: Selling vs. Donating Items

The language the IRS uses when assessing the value of donated items is “fair market value.” But what exactly does that mean? It’s defined as the price that item would sell for on the open market.

This can vary according to location and person-to-person, so the IRS has specific guidelines regarding the value of different categories of donated items. Below is a snapshot of the value assigned to used items and clothing by Goodwill so you can assess whether you might save money if you donate or sell.

What Are Used Items Worth?

Category Estimated Value Per Item

Accessories and handbags


Blouses, pants and dresses










Children’s clothing


Coffee and end tables


Dressers, bureaus and wardrobes












As you can see, cleaning out the closet and dropping bags of used clothes at the donation center will earn you more in the long run than most yard sales. Just make sure you carefully list each item you bag up for donation.

But if you’ve got valuable clothing or items in high demand, like a pair of Louboutins, you’ll certainly fetch more by posting them in the local classifieds.

Pro Tip

Finding the right place to sell used clothes online and preparing clothing for resale platforms can help you get top dollar.

6 Things You Should Consider Selling Online or Locally

As you’re going through the process of deciding what to sell, what to scrap and what to donate, consider setting aside these items as good candidates for cashing in on resale value.

1. Sports Equipment and Outdoor Goods

That treadmill that’s gathering dust in your basement deserves a second life. As long as your exercise equipment or sporting goods are relatively clean and in good working order, they’ll clean house with people who shop secondhand in the classifieds.

2. Designer Shoes, Accessories and Clothing

Those Gucci sunglasses or that Prada handbag might not find the right buyer locally, but these relatively small items are easy to ship. Spruce them up, snap some pics and then post on resale platforms that specialize in designer clothing.

3. Vintage Collectibles

As you sort through your stuff, keep an eye out for vintage gems like old typewriters, vintage game consoles and popular toys that have become collector’s items.

Pro Tip

Everything old is new again so don’t toss your 90s stuff. Here’s what’s hot on the collectibles market.

4. Furniture

Unless it’s an eyesore or literally broken, you can make money selling used furniture locally to the DIY crowd. And if you’re willing to put your back into it, flipping furniture is a good side hustle.

5. Musical Instruments

Most parents prefer not to spring for a brand new guitar for the teen who has decided to turn rock star this week. The market for used instruments with minimal wear means these items can turn notes into banknotes if you find the right buyer.

6. Baby Items and Children’s Toys

Speaking of parents strapped for cash, gently used baby items and toys in good condition are hot commodities in the classifieds. Just be aware that donation centers won’t take certain baby items, like cribs and car seats, due to concerns about safety recalls.

The secret to making money selling secondhand stuff is all about timing. Find out when to sell everything from prom dresses to holiday decor.

Where to Sell Your Stuff Online for Extra Cash

If you’ve got a pile of high-end goods to sell online, there’s a platform for that. The local classifieds or sites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are the best spots for large items like furniture and appliances.

Got collectibles or toys? They’ll go like hotcakes on eBay. And if you’ve got some designer clothing or shoes that are now the wrong size, let specialty sites like Poshmark or Mercari take them off your hands.

Pro Tip

Our complete guide to selling stuff online including which platforms are best for clothing, games, books and more.

4 Things You Should Donate to the Thrift Store

Now that you’ve weeded through and found the secondhand gold, it’s time to deal with the rest of your stuff. Here are a few categories of items that should find a second home at your local donation center.

1. Clothing

Most professional organizers agree on this rule of thumb. If you haven’t worn a piece of clothing in a year or more, it’s probably time to part ways and free up your closet space for something you’ll actually wear.

2. Household Goods

Provided it’s in good working order, most of the stuff around your house will be appreciated by someone else who can’t afford to buy it new. This includes items like dishes, cookware, small appliances and inexpensive electronics.

3. Home Decor

Maybe it’s not your style anymore, but home decor items usually have plenty of wear left in them. Give them away and let them be repurposed by a thrifty DIYer looking for supplies for their next craft fair or Etsy shop.

4. Books

Books are a dime a dozen, sometimes literally. Unless you have a rare edition, remove castoff books from your shelf and let someone else find value between those covers.

Pro Tip

Want to make a cash donation instead? Here’s what you should know before you open your wallet.

Some Unwanted Stuff That Should Be Thrown Away

We’ve discussed determining what to sell and what to donate, but let’s be real. Some secondhand stuff is just trash. If an item is broken, has obvious signs of extensive wear and distress or might pose a safety hazard (think used bicycle helmets or antique cribs), toss it in the bin or take it to a landfill.

Does the idea of a full garbage bin leave you feeling guilty? Try these thrifty ideas for repurposing what others might call trash.

Kaz Weida is a senior staff writer at The Penny Hoarder covering saving money and budgeting. As a journalist, she has written about a wide array of topics including finance, health, politics, education and technology for the last decade.