Having a Garage Sale vs. Donating it All – A Declutterer’s Dilemma

Having a Garage Sale vs. Donating it All – A Declutterer’s Dilemma at

For me, garage sales have always been the answer when it comes to decluttering.  They give me a goal/deadline to work toward.  The thought of getting a nice chunk of change also motivates me.

But a few months ago, a thrift store sent out notices that they would be picking up donations in our area on a certain date.  Just put your stuff outside your front door with the bright orange card attached, and they would haul it off for you.

I was thrilled, because although I remember my mother often donating things to organizations that did pick-ups, in my small town, we’d never had that opportunity.  I knew that you could call and schedule a pick-up, but I never did.  Somehow, though, having someone say “we’re coming” motivated me to get it out there on the date they gave.

I didn’t know if it would be a one time thing, but then we received another orange card a few weeks ago.

Today was the day.  I put out my boxes of stuff with a spring in my step.  I was giddy at the thought.

Put piles of junk outside the door, and in a few hours, it’s all gone.

I even tried to keep an eye out for the picker-upper, but I never saw him/her/it.   

It’s like magic.

There are definite benefits to having a garage sale, and I’m sure I’ll continue to have more garage sales than normal people do.  If money is the motivation you need, go for it.   But even though I actually enjoy having a garage sale, I think I could learn to enjoy this too.

I won’t make any money, but I also won’t have to work for weeks (or months) to get ready, park in the driveway for all of that time, get up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning, convince my kids (over and over all day long) that they really do want to get rid of that toy, and then haul off the extra things that don’t sell.

Just letting go, little by little, on a regular basis  . . . . that fits with this deslobification process I’m going through.  Anything to make this excruciating, never-ending process easier . . .

Donating to the mysterious clutter-eater eliminates so many steps.  I can donate anything.  I used to try to separate out what was given to me from what I had purchased.  If it was given to me, I donated it.  If I bought it, I put it in my garage sale.  I also knew, because I was a garage sale expert, that I needed to keep things sorted within my garage sale piles.  Girls from boys clothes, toys from dishes, etc.  But when I let someone take it away for me, I don’t have to sort.

A box of stuff is a box of stuff . . . . is a box of stuff.

While I considered this change in my thought processes this morning, I remembered some advice I was given a few years ago.  I was working on a labor-intensive computer project, and got help from an expert friend.  There wasn’t much she could do to make it easier, because there were just so many steps involved in the process.  But she got excited when she found one little trick that removed a small step.  She said, “Any time you can remove a step, even a small one, you should do it, because ultimately, it will save you a lot of time.”

That’s what I’m doing.  I’m removing several steps of the get-it-out-of-the-cabinet-then-out-of-the-house-and-out-of-my-life decluttering process.

I’m linking this up to Works for Me Wednesday over at . . . because giving myself the freedom to make it as easy as possible for unnecessary stuff to leave this house . . . definitely works for me.

Having a Garage Sale vs. Donating it All – A Declutterer’s Dilemma pin at





  1. 1

    Great post. I'm also a big garage sale holder person. The last few months I've just been holding select nicer things to garage sale and donating the rest. I've limited myself to a tote or so. We are always getting calls for pick ups, but I prefer dropping it off. I like the satisfaction of seeing it go in. AND..I can get a tax that's a double plus.

  2. 2
    SQUIRREL! says:

    I started to drop off this last year instead of saving for a yard sale that kept being put off. And I too can always use the tax right off. I find the longer things "wait" for what ever I have planned the more likely it will be reclaimed. ^.^

  3. 3

    We always say we want to have a yard sale then the stuff just sits and sits, so we just end up chunking it on the side of the road. In our neighborhood, it's just like donating it as it's always picked up within 48 hours and requires no effort for us to haul it somewhere.

    Another option is FreeCycle, I've listed lots of things on our local FreeCycle site and found good homes for those items, if it's something I don't want to just put on the street.

    • 4

      But putting it along the side of the road usually means it ends up in a land fill. Not exactly like donating. Unless your county does it different. If I only could get all the stuff from my garage into my car and to Goodwill I’ll feel better.

      • 5

        Christina, I believe Julie means someone picks up her stuff; but not the garbage truck.
        In my parents neighborhood, anything we put on the curb other than bags of garbage is gone the next morning before the garbage truck arrives. And we never see it happen…

  4. 6
    Karen@Candid Diversions says:

    My method is: if the item is "good", then I list it on Craigslist or Ebay. If it doesn't sell = donate.

    If an item isn't good enough for Craigslist or Ebay = donate. (Most of my stuff falls into this category)

    Yard sales have never really worked for me – too much work for too little profit.

  5. 7

    Deslobification = best word ever!

  6. 8

    My husband and I have had this conversation many, many times… we never made enough at a garage sale to justify all the time (and money) that goes into it. If you donate, you get the tax write-off and in our case that is BETTER than a couple of bucks in our pocket! Loving your blog, it motivates me to get rid of "STUFF"… I am up to 113 things DONATED since Jan. 8. only 617 left to go…

    • 9

      What a wonderful idea, donate 1,000 things! I have four months left until the end of the tax year and I am totally going to do this. I am counting the 48 books we took to Goodwill after our garage sale as part of my 1,000. 😀

  7. 10
    Handy Man, Crafty Woman says:

    We just gave up doing yard sales. TOO MUCH WORK!! I recently found a donation place that will come and pick up in our remote part of the woods (yaaaaaay!!!) they also came & went and I didn't see them (I was home, too, go figure!) it was like magic, I agree. It was awesome!

    Keep up the great work.

  8. 11
    Kimberly @ Intentional Mom says:

    Peace of mind is much more important than a few extra bucks! And, you may be tempted to buy more storage boxes to "save" the potential garage sale stuff… defeating the whole purpose!

  9. 12
    Shannon L says:

    I usually donate unwanted stuff but recently a lady has opened a twice a year consignment store near my house. Last year, we made $200. This was a wonderful surprise! I'm hoping to make that much again this coming season, but… I'm decluttering. Its so frustrating to hold onto this stuff, but I remind myself of the money we will make!

  10. 13

    Love this post! I donate everything and unaccepted items are FreeCycled. This includes things that are still new and have tags on them and electronics. I feel like I’ve hit a jackpot when I find something new at the GoodWill store so nothing wrong with giving someone else a jackpot! After all, if it were that important or valuable, I’d have used it already. As for electronics, once they’re a few years old they’re only worth a few bucks anyway so no loss. If someone happens to have a garage sale and I can drop off a few items, cool, but otherwise there’s just no time!

  11. 14

    with the two older kids… ages 18 and 15 I had many garage sales. Now I donate everything for my 16 mo or give away or hand me down…. so much easier and lesss stuff in my house. She is every spoiled 🙂

  12. 15

    First, this blog is so what I need. I have no “keep things organized” skills. I can’t wait to read through more of your tips and tricks. Second, is my favorite website. After you register it shows all the dates in your area for pick ups. I am getting rid of some furniture and I just kept clicking dates until large furniture showed up in the “what are you donating” section. Garage sales are to overwhelming for me so I donate everything when I get rid of it.

  13. 16

    LOL i wish we had a pick up service for donations! I have to load up my SUV. Every summer i keep a look out in the paper for when the MOST garage sales will be, load up my front yard with all the stuff i don’t need (yeah i do a binge declutter the day before), and usually just give stuff away to whoever stops by. I live in an area with tons of yard sale junkies, so i usually get rid of 70% of it in one day. the rest goes into my SUV and is dropped off at the donation point. once it leaves, its not going back in.

  14. 17

    oh i am so at this cross roads right now!! i have always made about $400 a yardsale…not chunk change. however i don’t feel like having one again this year for various reasons. but oh the stuff. oh the stuff, stuff stuff i have to get rid of! again. I’m thinking of donating a ton of it….but then it makes me feel lazy because i know i could make enough for a new computer:) or i could look at it as truely giving and be done with it:) hmm..thanks for the post!

  15. 18

    I am an expert donator, I know every trift store and what they take and what they don’t take.
    I have never gotten myself to do a garage sale.
    What I get is a lot of hard time from all my friends because I should be selling things on garage sales or craiglist.
    Thank you for the post, I an giving myself permission AGAIN to just donate. I’ll happily take the tax deductible receipt.
    I have been decluterring for about 4 years and last week I moved to a 350sq ft studio and I couldn’t be happier. I just need to turbo declutter now. My friends also say that I need to keep the “stuff” for when I buy again and move to a bigger place…I say when I move to a bigger place, I’ll go and buy everything at thrift stores and it all comes full circle.

  16. 21

    I’ve had very successful yard sales and some that totally bombed. I stopped having them unless I have some big ticket items to sell that I can get at least $20 for. The reason for that is the last one I had without some higher priced items I worked myself to death pricing those bajillion 50 cent and dollar items. Then I only made made $50 total. I had started the day $15 in the hole because I bought donuts for the family and friends who were nice enough to roll out of bed at the crack of dawn to help me set up then I spent $40 on take out chinese for dinner because I was to exhausted to cook. So I technically paid $5 for some of my stuff to go away and I still had to figure out what to do with all the stuff that didn’t sell.
    Now, we get at least one call a month from organizations looking for household donations. I don’t like to tell them no even if I don’t have something ready to go out the door at the time of the call. Like you, having that scheduled pick up day on the calendar motivates me to find stuff. Even if I don’t remember to do it until I get the reminder call the night before pick up. As soon as I hang up the phone I’ll get my bag or box and fill it!

  17. 22
    Stopping@4 says:

    Such a timely post – three years later:) You have (again) helped me make up my mind about the potential upcoming garage sale. All that “stuff” is taking up valuable space in my sewing/storage room. Time for it to go (without all the work of the garage sales that rarely make me any money!). Thank you again:) I’m slow reading the blog, but savoring every post as I find time to read them.

  18. 23

    I don’t have time to go to yard sales much less have one. My kids dance on Saturday so I am at dance all most all day. My husband is a band director so if he is home on a Saturday it is amazing and I don’t want to wast that time. If it is a big ticket idem I will sell it online but other then that I donate. In our small town we have a place that I can just drop it off even if the are closed (that is when I do it – faster then talking to people). Donating makes me feel good to and I think it is important to teach to my kids. Love your blog!

  19. 24

    There is one other great thing you get out of donating things instead of a garage sale. And that’s the tax write off at the end of the year! We just did a huge decluttering of our daughters closets and after 9 bags of clothes, we felt a whole lot better. Just remember to save the receipt and your set. Good deed done, decluttering done, and a tax write off at the end of the year.
    Love your blog!

  20. 27

    i love this posting! Thank you so very much.

  21. 28

    Just saw this on Pinterest,
    excellent advice!
    I always don’t. A big family yard sale years ago cured me of EVER wanting to do that again.

  22. 29

    You will probably make more money with less effort expended if you just document what you donate and take it off your taxes. makes it easy. I have used it for years and it makes a HUGE difference in our taxes owed. We always owe…

  23. 30

    Another tip:

    Keep clear 90 gallon trash bags on hand. Load them up and toss them in the trunk of your car. As you drive by a charity, make a quick stop. Goodwill is GREAT about ease of drop off. Some have staffed drive thru places. Some are just a store front in a shopping center. Use clear so you know the difference between the stuff you’re donating and the stuff you’re throwing away!

  24. 31
    melissa c says:

    Great post! I’ve been starting to declutter…because I have to. After reading your blog. ..up to oct 2010 I believe I’m your less talented cousin (but a huge slob) who lives in WI. I’ve tried the fb garage sales but had a bad experience. … and because I live in the country the one garage sale I had made $.75…. think I’m finding donating is the best option, and its my own fault for buying so much

  25. 32

    This totally hit home. I’ve had a big box full of stuff I’ve wanted to put out on a sidewalk sale for the last two summers, but it has yet to take place. In the meantime I tried Craigslist, Ebay and Listia, but not much success there. I think I’m going to take the advice you shared, avoid ALL the steps involved in these options and just donate all of it. Thanks for this post! 🙂

  26. 33

    This has been a constant struggle in our house. I hate to have anything sitting around. While I enjoy shopping garage sales, I absolutely HATE hosting them myself. The payout just isn’t worth the time, in my opinion. My husband would keep and sell everything if he could lol! We’ve come to a bit of an agreement. No yard sales whatsoever. 90% gets donated. If the item can fetch more than $20, hubby is welcome to list it on craigslist, but I don’t ever want to see the item again… bringing it back into the house if it doesn’t sell after a week lol!

  27. 34

    Personally, I’d rather have my Saturday and all the time it takes to organize the sale than the $200 I’ll make. I Freecycled tons of stuff I had been holding onto after my mother died. Yes, I gave away her beloved soup tureen, not because I disliked it, but because I RARELY MAKE SOUP!

  28. 35

    I donate and feel great about it. The clutter is gone when I want it gone. But the best part is my unwanted stuff benefits someone else and you can’t really get that same feeling through sales.
    Thanks for the article, Nony!

  29. 36

    Tax deductions? Wow. No way you can claim giveaways on taxes here in Australia. Only cash donations over $5 can be claimed.

  30. 37
    Catherine says:

    We do not get tax deductions in the UK for giving away to charity.
    We do not have Garage sales,we have Car Boot Sales. You get up at unearthly hour with your car packed drive to where ever it is, sit in a queue, hope you get a pitch and hopefully sell because someone want’s what you have.
    Hopefully the weather is good tomorrow because guess what we are doing a Car Boot Sale. Wish me luck.
    Love your blog

  31. 39

    I REFUSE to donate items to Goodwill or other charities who turn around and sell the donations for profit. I much prefer giving to local churches, homeless shelters, families in need, etc. I’ve even posted on the towns local FB page items that are FREE and will gladly meet the individual in a public setting to give the item. I suppose the only item(s) I will not give away, although I have in the past, are antiques.

  32. 40

    My solution has been to have a garage sale and schedule a pick up for the day after the garage sale. Also, to those who want to drop off for the tax slip: when they pick up, they will leave a slip, as well. 🙂 Best of all possible worlds – make some money, get rid of what’s left, get a tax rebate.
    Thanks for the perspective, Nony!

  33. 41

    These are wonderful helpful hints and ideas. Helped me to make the decision between garage sale and donation. I am moving to a smaller place and need some good advice aboutI people do with the albums and pictures that pile up over the years plus the stuff we take from our parents. Any ideas outside of storing them on a computer?

    • 42

      Judy, that is my problem. I’m the only child and last family member, in my 50s and have a ton of family heirlooms, pictures, etc. I can’t let go of. Too many memories!

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