Decluttering, Selling, Donating, Kondoing, and More

declutteringWe are doing a major declutter of our apartment, and I just feel completely scatterbrained because of it.  We donated a good chunk of stuff to charity a week or two ago, I have a ThredUP bag filled and ready to go, and yesterday some eBay auctions ended, so I’ve been scrambling today trying to get packages out to people. (The last time we did a major declutter we talked about eBaying and selling your old stuff, as well as what the best stuff to buy on eBay is; we’ve also talked about thrifting for workwear.)  We are trying to get rid of a ton of baby stuff via the local parents’ listserv, first offering it for sale and then issuing curb alerts, which requires more email management.  (The woman who sent her nanny to pick up the Bumbo this morning sent like 10 texts, which is fine, but considering it was a $5 sale, the drain on my attention was less than good.)  It is a colossal waste of time, when looked at per hour. And here’s the thing that I’ve been asking myself all morning:  Why do I feel obliged to do this, make “use” of stuff we no longer want? Why am I not just walking it to the trash chute/garbage room and disposing of it?  I answer myself with these thoughts:

  • I/we loved these items once (or at least thought enough of them to hold on to them for a thousand years), and I would like to see them go to good “homes”
  • It is wasteful to just throw stuff away.  (In fact, honestly, I would even use the word “sinful” — it feels sinful to throw stuff away.)
  • If we get $100 or $200 out of the $1000s of dollars of things we no longer want, then hey, it’s a meal!

But it’s starting to feel hugely wasteful in terms of my time.  The things that don’t sell will require research.  I have to research how to dispose of electronics in NYC (such as, say, my old TiVo from 2003). I had the idea this morning that I should see if we can donate some of the old toys (the Snugabunny swing! The rainforest bouncy chair!) that don’t sell — but researching that, and then schlepping the items somewhere (not to mention inventorying them, estimating prices for tax purposes, and so forth) seems like an even bigger waste of time.  (And some of those involve electronics that may require special disposal also.)  This is, after all, our old stuff.  

This is actually a pretty big topic right now, of course — our decluttering isn’t so much inspired by Marie Kondo’s book, but of course I am aware of it, and the general thesis that if an item in your home doesn’t spark joy, you should get rid of it.  But how should you get rid of it? How do you walk the line between being environmental/respectful of your old things– and being respectful of your own time? Why does it seem so “sinful” just to throw stuff out, even if I know that that is largely what happens with many “donated” items? (See, for example, this Slate article.)

Ladies, what are your thoughts? When you declutter, what do you do with your old stuff? 

Pictured: Shutterstock/Anneka


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  1. Yay! What a great bunch of suggestion’s! I used to keep thing’s and get full of clutter, but ever since Sheketovits, I have been very good about throwing thing’s out. It turns out I never look at 99% of the thing’s I threw out, and now just throw everything out. If I need something, I just go out and buy it.

    With clotheing, I donate everything I don’t wear for 9 month’s. If it get’s to small, I donate it. If it gets to stained, I throw it out. And dad make’s me throw thing’s out that he does not like. The ONLEY thing I threw out that I regret was a pair of Ann Klein pump’s that I stepped in POOPIE with. I wish I could take a step back and have cleaned them b/c I REALY loved those pump’s. Even the judge liked them. I have NOT been abel to find another pair like that. FOOEY!

  2. Hahaha, “trash shoot.”

    If you consider it such a “colossal waste of time” why do you do it? Just pitch it and congratulate yourself on the time saved and the clean apartment.

    • Aiyiyi. I am so out of it today that I knew that looked wrong but just had to Google to find the right spelling. #scatterbrained.

  3. I donate almost everything. I log everything on the Intuit “ItsDeductible” app, which assigns FMV to everything and automatically syncs with my taxes on TurboTax. With a biglaw salary, the deduction seems to be worth far more to me than selling would get me (time spent + not much $).

  4. Need to Improve :

    For kids stuff like a Bumbo, I just send a post to my neighborhood listserv saying the thing is available for free to the first person who takes it, then I leave it on my stoop. No email or text management.

    For ordinary clothes, I take it to goodwill and take the tax write off. Way more worth my time for the dollar than selling items individually.

    For nice professional clothes, I donate to Dress for Success or give to friends.

    • +1. I long ago decided selling stuff wasn’t worth it. Ordinary items and clothes go to Goodwill; nice clothes go to Dress for Success.

      • Me too. I rarely sell anything anymore, but donate directly or use Craigslist for Free Stuff.

  5. I live in the suburbs, so that may make things easier, but I get regular calls from a few charitable organizations asking if I have clothing and small household goods to donate. I put the items outside, a truck comes and they leave me a receipt. That takes care of a lot of the outgrown clothes and miscellaneous stuff.

    For electronics, I learned a few years ago that Best Buy will take and recycle a lot of that. We took a carload of old TVs and computers and they helped unload the car and disposed of the items responsibly.

    For furniture and larger items, there are local organizations that help with transitional housing for various needy groups. I can generally find someone who can use (not just resell) the items that I no longer want.

    I am much happier making donations of unused goods than trying to deal with the mechanics of posting and selling. I know I could have gotten some money for my old kitchen set, but I liked knowing that someone who needed it would get it. It’s a small way of giving back and I keep all receipts for tax purposes.

    • Diana Barry :

      +1. I get the VVA or the epilepsy foundation to come and pick it up. I don’t really care (bad environmentalist!) about whether it gets thrown out later as long as it is out of my house.

      For kid clothes, I have them all in boxes in the attic just waiting for my siblings to have kids. Then they will go away! :)

    • Same for us. We live in the ‘ burbs, so this seems to be a lot easier. We have several charities that will come and pick up clothes and/or furniture. That’s how we’ve gotten rid of a lot of older furniture that we no longer wanted. There are donation drop-off points close to our house that will take bags of clothes, so I can do that on my way to work. Unless we’re donating furniture, we don’t even really worry about the deduction write-off and getting a receipt. The time suck it would take to post and sell things (and then ship something if it’s via ebay) just isn’t worth it to us.

    • +1 I came to the comments section to add in that Best Buy takes old electronics so I second that. I’ve used it a lot over the years for old phones, laptops, ipods, etc.

      Also I would mention that it’s important after you declutter to not RE-clutter. While I can see your point about it being sinful to just throw things away, maybe in this country we need to realize that it’s kind of sinful to amass that much stuff to begin with?

      • +1 to this. I think it’s sinful to waste things, but that doesn’t mean that you have to keep things for life, either. Or that you’re not entitled to make mistakes or have things not work out the way you expected them too. That said, I am trying more and more to not let the stuff enter my house in the first place.

        Also, not to sound too preachy, but you can donate things without itemizing them for tax purposes (in response to Kat’s comment about how it can take so long to itemize things). I think it’s much better to donate and lose the tax benefit than to throw things away (where you also lose the tax benefit, for those who care). I actually think that’s where the “sinful” part comes in. I don’t feel that bad getting rid of things, but I would feel bad throwing things out because I didn’t want to make the effort to haul them to a donation place. There is a social good to donating whether you reap the tax benefits or not.

  6. Must be Tuesday :

    I post a lot of items on the free section of craig’s list.

    • Ditto or Freecycle. Sometimes it’s better than tossing because they take care of the labor of getting it out. I also charge really low fees just to make sure someone picks it up instead of not showing up because it’s “free”

  7. Donating the items does not have to become the complicated process described above. It isn’t necessary to research, inventory, estimate value, etc as a precursor to donation. One could simply hand them over to an organization that needs them and accept being rid of the items as the ROI or “payment” for the donation rather than the tax benefit. You’re certainly not getting a tax benefit if you just toss them so no loss in not going through the headache to get it to donate. In terms of schlepping, I know in my city at least, organizations will send trucks over to pick up things be it bags of toys or refrigerators.

    Sorry for the long post but I’m a fan of donating!

    • +1–sorry for repeating your sentiments above, I hadn’t seen this! Completely agree!

  8. The VA picks up donations, so thats what I do. I dont bother with ebay except for pretty high value items- I sold an ipad and a phone but other than that I just donate. Especially with the kids stuff, I feel like that has the ability to be such a game changer for a parent who cant afford something they need. I try to do in big batches so I dont waste the time of the pick up people. I tried Twice when doing the MonKori method and that worked out well- I got 30-50 for each bag and sent about 3 in.

    I loved the MonKori method and its really changed my habits- its not just a one time clean. I find myself putting everything back in its spot because I love the feeling of a neat home!

  9. Gail the Goldfish :

    What do you do with clothes that are too worn out to donate/sell? Is there somewhere that will take these for some sort of fiber recycling?

    • I know in my area (Pittsburgh) the Vietnam Vets group will take anything and then if it’s not in a state that it can be resold, they’ll shred it and use it as stuffing for something else (I forget what my friend’s dad said specifically, but think like coach cushions or something). They can sell that stuffing, so it’s still getting used and the Vets still benefit from it.

    • Goodwill takes pretty much any textile. They bundle and resell what they can’t put in their stores.

    • I was told that the agencies in our area take anything and some of the items are sent overseas or used as rags. For example, all of those “Oregon National Championship 2015” t-shirts that were pre-printed and ready to go (if only Oregon had been the winner instead of Ohio) are then shipped to Africa or other needy spots.

    • My local farmer’s market recycles textiles. You can bring everything and they’ll sort out what’s salvageable and what’s not.

  10. Kat, I think you might be able to bring your old TiVo to Best Buy for recycling (I’d call your local store first), but I know we can do that for various electronics on Long Island.

  11. I donate all my old clothes and household items to a local charity organization (Housing Works). They take everything from clothes to books to dishes so it ends up being a great place for those things. I don’t really worry about the tax write off so much, I just make a list of the items, estimate their value best as I can and they stamp a tax receipt for me. They also pick up furniture, so in the past when I moved I called them and they did a free pick up and I was able to give them a bunch of household items, books, etc., too (they normally don’t pick up clothes/non-furniture, but they will take them if you’re donating furniture).

    For magazines and paperbacks, I usually bring them to my laundry room where we have a sort of unofficial sharing library.

    I’ve sold one or two things on line before (old tv through craig’s list, old textbooks on, but I find it to be a lot of trouble and I’d rather just do donations now. There is a great website I found recently though called AptDeco that is like craig’s list with movers so if you sell something there, they take care of getting it out of your house. I’m thinking of trying it for my now-too-large-but-otherwise-awesome coffee table when I finally find a good replacement.

    • Anonymous :

      Related- when does it make sense to actually deduct the items for taxes? Every year I just do the standard dedcution. Is that because I dont make a ton of money?

      • I think most people start itemizing when they have home mortgage interest, so unless you own a home and are paying a mortgage, most people won’t have enough overcome the standard deduction.

        • Meg Murry :

          And I think it has to be pretty high amount of interest paid to make it worth your while too. We’ve only actually taken the itemized vs standard deduction once in all our time using turbotax (and even then it only got us around $100 more).
          If you use software like TurboTax it should provide you with a breakdown near the end of your itemized deductions vs standard deductions, and you can see if the information you have entered like mortgage interest brings you close to itemizing being worth it, or if it is far off. After a few years of gathering up tons of receipts to see if it is worth itemizing, we now do the bulk of our taxes first, then look at that “standard vs itemized” screen to see if it’s worth bothering to put in all our Goodwill receipts, charitable deduction receipts (they are always small), medical expenses, etc or not.

      • I think it depends on whether your itemized expenses > the standard deduction. But I don’t do my own taxes and leave it to the accountant to decide whether it’s worth it.

      • If you’re married filing jointly with your spouse, you have to have more than $12,400 in itemized deductions (mortgage interest, certain medical expenses, and charitable donations) for it to be worth it. Unless you have a large mortgage, it usually doesn’t make sense to itemize. I live in a LCOL area, and will probably never itemize.

        That said, I agree with whoever said that the way to halt this whole crazy cycle is to not accumulate so much. That is why I liked the Marie Kondo book so much– because it was partly about giving yourself permission to forgive yourself for your past missteps, realize that accumulating all that junk really did serve a purpose, even if the purpose was to learn a lesson about what not to do. Since I’ve read the book, I’ve become a lot more careful about what I buy.

      • Anonymous :

        Just chiming in to add that state and local income taxes and property taxes are another itemized deduction.

        So, if you’re a homeowner and/or live in a state with taxes like NY or CA, you are more likely to get a benefit out of itemzing (and certainly if the “and” applies to you). If you rent and live in Texas or Washington, you’re most likely taking the standard. It always makes sense to do the math though–just put the numbers into your filing program of choice (or hand all of your tax forms over to your CPA) and let them figure out which one is better.

        • Yup. Our mortage isn’t that big, but when you throw in $6,000/year in property taxes and roughly 6% effective state income tax, it doesn’t take long to add up to more than the standard deduction. Our combined state/federal marginal rate is upwards of 30%, so the deductions on charity donations are significant. We’d make a bit more selling on ebay or Craigslist, but not nearly enough to justify the time.

  12. Sydney Bristow :

    I’ve found it much harder to do in NYC than when I lived in the suburbs and owned a car. We recently moved and ended up recycling a ton of stuff like books because they were all worth about 1 cent on Amazon and too heavy to lug to the donation place.

    I included more clothes, shoes, and bags in my ThredUP bag than I figured I’d get money for because I knew they would either give me money or donate them.

    Our local Staples took old electronics for recycling.

  13. I donate everything that has value. I learned long ago that it is not worth my time to try to sell it.

  14. Sydney Bristow :


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  16. In House Lobbyist :

    I sell a lot of kids stuff at consignment sales and Craigslist and Facebook groups but it is a pain to haul everything to the consignment sales. I also routinely donate things to my church, Goodwill or my housekeeper. For nicer clothes, I have discovered PoshMark which is an online consignment sale. You set the price and PoshMark emails you a printed label when your item is sold. So easy and I think much better than ThreadUp which I never been successful with gettting more than a few dollars out of a bag. Of course, having the PoshMark app on my phone is not good for my de-cluttering becasue I keep finding great deals on there. Clutter is something I constantly struggle with and even donating a box makes me feel so much happier. The clutter with children in the house can be staggering if you don’t stay on top of it.

  17. Like my grandmother, I call the local Vietnam Veterans of America. They pickup from your doorstep and leave a receipt. They have it now where you can set up a pickup time online as well.

  18. Would love the link to your ThredUp, Kat!

  19. Green Skittles :

    I’m having the same issue as Kat.

    I donate most things – usable clothing, small household items. But I’m currently on a major decluttering binge (inspired by impending baby) and getting rid of a lot of old hobby related stuff that just doesn’t “spark joy” anymore. None of it is stuff that would find an audience at any thrift store or charitable org that I’ve been able to find, so I’m selling it on ebay. Not really for the money – I just want it to go to someone who will actually appreciate it, rather than the trash/recycling. So far everything has sold well, but it is a hassle. It’s taken me months to get around to doing it, but I know it’ll never happen once I actually have said impending baby. There’s just something grating to me when a perfectly usable item makes that “clunk” sound in the trash can. I’ve finally been able to get rid of opened but largely unused cosmetics but it took a while.

    Also, I’m a huge Marie Kondo fangirl. I don’t agree with her approach 100% (I like keeping my spare buttons) but I love the confidence she has in it. And even after many years of reading about organizing and decluttering, she still had something new to teach me.

  20. LondonLeisureYear :

    Freecycle, Nextdoor, Craigslist Free. You will find someone that wants all of your stuff. As a teacher who had a classroom with many students that were homeless. I would use these services to find things both for my classroom and for them. When I moved I even listed a bunch of half empty shampoo bottles on Craigslist free and people came to get them (i just put them out on my stoop). It drives me crazy when people throw out things that could really help someone.

    I use the apartment therapy approach where I always have a donate bin by my door and tons of stuff goes into it – even things like cardboard part of a paper towel roll – because I know a teacher who uses them during crafts all the time.

    • I used to be an avid Freecycler, but ran into the same issue as Kat – too much admin time spent on getting rid of stuff.

      I’m lucky, my current town has a “take it or leave it” attached to our local recycle facility. I can just bring everything from kitchen ware to books and leave it there.

  21. My husband has been very successful selling things on Craiglist, Amazon, and eBay. Like, he has probably made at least a few thousand dollars on stuff. Key is to only sell reasonably high priced items (say at least $100). He mostly sells electronics like our old computers, TV, etc. But he has also sold kid stuff (our old stroller), furniture ( our Ikea bed and dresser). Key is to include a lot of pictures and make a very detailed posting, and weed out the weirdos (which are mostly on CL).

    I have been pretty successful selling my nicer work clothes through consignment stores like Found and Second Time Around (I’m in Boston). I also like Buffalo Exchange for selling. I have probably made a few hundred dollars this way.

  22. when I lived in the city I used to declutter my apartment at least every two years. I would put stuff on the curb in a box with a sign that said free and it didn’t last there an hour even. I figured someone needed/wanted it and giving it away was better than throwing it away. No hassle too.

  23. pamplemousse :

    I am going through this exact thing right now with moving out of state. I have bags of clothes I know I can easily donate (and will), but it is all of the other stuff that is causing so much trouble. Luckily I was able to sell most of my furniture in one fell swoop on Craigslist to someone who wanted it all, but I have lots of small items like my old desk, Christmas tree, filing cabinet, and miscellaneous kitchen items that just aren’t worth spending the time and effort to put on Craigslist for 5 dollars each. Since I’m in a time crunch with moving, they are all just going out on the curb with a free sign, and I will be posting it in the free section on Craigslist.

  24. I tried it for the first time recently and just got my “results” today. I’m pretty disappointed with the payout. $13 for brand new, never worn Paige jeans? I think I would rather have the tax deduction.

  25. I try to declutter 4 times a year, but also always have a bag of outgrown kids clothes hanging in the closet. We take the kids clothes to our local resale shop and get credit which is where I get many of my kids’ clothing from. I also used credit to purchase our double jogging stroller and hiking backpacks. We donate most of our old toys to Goodwill and we have had good luck selling larger furniture items and baby gear on craigslist. If something doesn’t sell after a week or so, then it gets donated.

  26. Whenever I think about giving away old clothes, I always think about the poor poster here whose husband donated *all* her clothes, instead of taking them to the drycleaner as she had intended.

  27. Little Red :

    I use a combination of donation to Goodwill, Freecycle, Craigslist, and consignment stores. Just recently, I bought a new television to replace a dying old one. The email traffic generated by the Freecycle and Craigslist postings is annoying but so far it hasn’t been too bad. This past winter, I unloaded a snowboard and snowboarding pants quite easily. Thanks to Freecycle, I’ve unloaded an old laptop and corresponding laptop bag, analog-to-digital converter, various unopened food products, and for the most part it works great. I only give out my cell number after there is an agreement for item pickup or purchase meetup. For designer quality clothing that still has a lot of wear left, I go to a local consignment store.

  28. My local Friends of the Library takes donations of books, CDs, DVDs, and magazines to resell at their fundraisers. In my neighborhood, it is also culturally ok to freecycle stuff — just stick it on the curb at the corner, and someone will pick up that old set of shelves, or whatever. That is a good way to get rid of the bulky stuff with little intrinsic value.

  29. I used to obsess about ensuring that I could sell the things I could, donate things to the “right” charity, etc. And then it piled up and I realized this is ridiculous.

    Now when I switch over our closets from Fall/Winter to Spring/Summer, I “delete” things unworn from my wardrobe and put them in a giant trash bag. As they go in, I keep a quick list. The bag gets labeled “fall donations” and put up in the attic. Then as I unpack items from my new seasonal close, I also delete and add them to the spring donations bag. I take the whole thing – toys, clothes, kids’ stuff, my stuff, whatever – and drop it off at Goodwill, Salvation Army, or another charity I like. 1 charity. If they can’t use it, they’ll pitch it (although the local charity takes items they can’t use to Salvation Army). Anything that’s in poor shape gets tossed.

    Simplify, simplify! I’ve calculated the yield from selling on eBay or consignment and it’s just not worth it. Taking a reasonable tax deduction for tag sale value is FAR easier and cost effective. Think about it. An Anthro sweater that cost you $150 two years ago is probably going to sell at consignment for $20 and you’ll get maybe $8. eBay you might get $30 but have shipping & handling and the hassle of taking pictures, packing it up, etc. You can deduct the item at $30 (FMV) and if you’re at the 28% marginal bracket plus state tax of typically 5%, you’re looking at a tax break of $9.50 or so.

    Just keep it simple & easy. It’s not worth the time.

  30. SteelCityMagnolia :

    Anyone know what to do with plastic CD cases? Will Best Buy or anywhere else take them? I am in the process of moving a massive CD collection into a more manageable set of binders and don’t know where to take the cases for recycling as our curbside recycling does not accept them.

  31. FreeCycle :


    All my baby stuff went up on freecycle. I just put up one listing for free baby items and then listed them all in the add, saying it was first come, first serve. Other people list the stuff they need, so you can just look in your area and respond to someone who says they need something.

    I got a request after a few weeks, threw it all in a trunk, and I met an expecting mother at a cafe with it all. She was going to be a single mother of twins and she was so happy to have a mattress, mirena bottles, and all those other ‘recommended’ things that she started crying. It was a really wonderful experience and I’m so glad I did it as opposed to throwing it all (which I would have done if a friend had not told me about freecycle). Goodwill won’t take some of the baby items that this mom needed, and I was just going to chuck it. So glad I didn’t!

  32. enbcfsobe :

    I live this dilemma all the time. We sometimes do car share just to schlep stuff to the thrift store in large batches. Luckily the thrift shop by us takes almost everything — clothes, shoes, accessories, books, videos, small furniture, kitchen items — I think mattresses are one of the few items the don’t take (and I don’t chuck those very often). Large furniture I have found it worthwile to craigslist — we have made enough that the hassle was worth it in most cases. Items that don’t sell in a reasonable time or that I just don’t have the time or energy to list go out on the curb on a nice trash pickup night and magically disappear before the trash truck comes. The only things we have schlepped to the dump are broken appliances, broken furniture, and paint cans.
    Clothes I’m worse about, but usually once or twice a year I pile up a ton of stuff in the granny cart (or now in the stroller) and take it to Green Street (consignment) which is only 2 blocks away. They aren’t my favorite, but it is convenient. Whatever they don’t take, I typically just push right on over to the thrift shop to donate. Sometimes if they reject a much loved or recyclable item I will reclaim it, but I try to limit that to one or two pieces.
    My big dilemma is what to do with silver jewelry that I don’t wear. It isn’t likely to sell on ebay or a recycle site, and some of it is very dated. I waited too long for it to be worth much in scrap. So it sits…

  33. I volunteer for St Vincent de Paul (at my church) but donate nearly everything to them as well. You get a tax write-off, get rid of the items, and the poor can get these things for free. If someone buys something, after the small amount of money taken for admin (paying cashiers, rent, utilities, etc), the money is then distributed to the various parishes to use in paying rent or utilities, buying food/clothing, etc directly for the poor.