Should you donate or sell your decluttered items? Professional organizers weigh in

Professional organizers help you make this difficult decision

A box of toys on a bed with 'donation' written on it
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When decluttering, it is logical that the items we get rid of either go in the trash, get donated, or we try to sell them. But how do you decide if you should donate or sell something? 

While it is more obvious which items should go in the trash, working out which items are worthy of trying to make money from and which should go to the thrift store can be difficult and tiring – and can even make cluttering our home worse if we get it wrong. 

We talked to professional home organizers to learn the tricks for deciding what to donate and what to sell when decluttering a home – and it is easier to work out than you might think.  

How to decide if you should donate or sell something

When trying to decide what to do with the items you are decluttering there are several factors to take into consideration, experts say.  

1. Work out the value

A West Elm Grand Antique Silver Lacquer Jewelry Box

(Image credit: West Elm)

Most items you are decluttering will have depreciated in value since you bought them – be it through heavy use, such as with a clothing item, or because more modern versions have been released, as in the case of appliances and tech. As such, it can help to work out if the item will earn you much money nowadays and weigh that up against the effort of listing and selling an item, suggests Meaghan Kessman, professional home organizer. 

‘Items of high value and in good condition are best sold, taking advantage of online marketplaces or local selling apps,’ she says. 

You can often work out the approximate value of an item by looking at similar listings online or having it appraised by an expert in the case of finer items such as designer clothing, art, or jewelry. 

2. Evaluate the condition

Clothes hanging neatly on a clothing rail

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The next important consideration is to evaluate the condition, continues Meaghan Keesman, professional organizer. ‘Items that are gently used but no longer needed are perfect for donation. This not only clears space but also supports a good cause – and offers a potential tax write-off.’ 

When donating items, make sure they are not in bad condition, and they are resellable or usable by the charity you are giving them to, reminds Lauren Saltman, professional home organizer and Founder of Living. Simplified. ‘When you do decide to donate items, do so with a thoughtful eye. Consider if you were in need, would you pay your hard-earned money to buy the item? Essentially, if an item is broken, stained, or doesn’t work properly, then you should be throwing that item away and not donating it.’

Think – if you wouldn’t sell it yourself, don’t expect them to either. 

3. Work out how much time you have to declutter

moving boxes in an open plan kitchen

(Image credit: Alamy)

If you are decluttering to make more space in your home, then you likely have a lot more time to sell something than someone who is decluttering to downsize. This could impact your options for clearing out old belongings, points out Linda Chu, professional organizer and public speaker at Order of Chaos

If you are moving within the next few months, it is often easier to donate or give the items away to family than it is to risk letting them sit on a marketplace up until your moving date. Remember, if you are moving with the item, it might increase your moving costs meaning you lose money. 

4. Will the payout be equal to the effort

A brown parcel on a door step in front of a black door

(Image credit: RoschetzkyIstockPhoto via Getty Images)

Selling your old items online takes time. Not only do you have to take proper photographs of the item, but you also need to create detailed listings and ship the item if you are using a larger online marketplace or app. Whether or not the money you earn is worth the effort could be a big deciding factor, says Lauren Saltman, professional home organizer. This will add to your mental load and can be tiring if you are trying to sell lots of different items.  

‘I don’t recommend selling items online with a low price, mainly because it isn’t worth your time,’ she says. ‘For those $1 to $20 items, I would suggest donating them. For bigger ticket items, you may want to take them to an expert, such as an antique dealer or art appraiser, to see if an item has a higher value than you think. Again, this all takes time and can definitely be a financial gain for you. Please keep in mind that professional appraisers will charge a fee for their expertise.

‘I also suggest to my clients that if the item hasn’t sold in four days to lower the price and if the item hasn’t sold in seven days then it’s time to donate,’ Lauren adds.

5. What is the purpose of decluttering

green living room with white storage cabinet and gallery wall of art

(Image credit: TROVE by Studio Duggan)

People declutter their storage ideas for several reasons. You might be looking to make more room for better home organization, or you might want to make a little extra money to put toward a home renovation. This can impact your decision, says Missy Feldman, professional organizer and founder of No Mess with Missy:

‘As I have seen, most of the time I have personal or sentimental value attached to an item, making it difficult to sell. In such cases, I would rather donate it and make someone else happy than try to get some money out of it. In this case, think about the purpose of decluttering – is it to make some extra cash or to simplify and organize your space? This can help in making the decision between selling or donating.’ 

All-in-One Declutter Planner | View at Etsy

All-in-One Declutter Planner | View at Etsy
This printable decluttering planner is all you need to help tackle your home's mess without missing a step. It is perfect for both keeping track of your belongings and starting your first big clearout.

6. Would you purchase the item again

home office laptop on table with freestanding light in front of patio doors

(Image credit: Future/Joanna Henderson)

This might seem like a silly thing to consider given that you are decluttering the item, but if you would not buy this item if you saw it listed online, consider donating it, says Star Hansen, the clutter whisperer and certified professional organizer:

‘When deciding what can be sold, you always want to ask yourself if you would purchase it from someone else. Is the item in as good shape as you would like it to be if you purchased it? To see if there is a market for items you’re thinking of selling, take a little time to research if other people are selling similar items in your local area. This will also give you insight into how to price them and decide if the sales price would be worth your energy.’

Comparing your items to those online can help you overcome decision fatigue when decluttering too by making decisions for you.  


What clothing items should not be donated? 

When looking to sell or donate old clothes, you should never donate garments that are dirty or broken in any way, or intimate clothing items such as underwear, socks, or swimwear. Shoes should only be donated if they are in good, working condition without permanent marks, fraying fabric or laces, and no bad odors. 

Is it easy to resell your clutter?

Reselling your clutter when you clear out a house is not easy. Unless the item is highly coveted, you can sometimes end up waiting weeks if not months for a buyer to take interest. At that time, the items are still sitting in your house taking up space. This also does not take into consideration the time it takes to properly photograph everything and create detailed listings or the time to package and ship the items if you are not using a local marketplace.

Setting up a strategy to deal with the items you are decluttering before you start is one of the best ways to set yourself up for a successful decluttering session. Use baskets to break up items you are selling from those you are donating so they are easy to move to the right locations as soon as you have finished to help tidy up and declutter without making a mess.  

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.