Should You Toss, Sell, or Donate?

For most people, cleaning out their closets ranks right up there with cleaning out the attic, basement, or garage.  They know it’s going to take some time, so they keep putting it off until something major stirs them to action, like a move, death, divorce, or other life-changing event.  They equate the task with drudgery, and simply assume that because THEY no longer use the items, that the objects must be of little worth.

But what if I told you that you could be sitting on assets of which you’re unaware?  That you could, in fact, have sequestered in your closet right now a way to pay off some debts, buy some new season clothes, or even send your kid to summer camp?  Or at the very least, that you have a way to reduce your 2007 tax bill?  What would you think of the task now?

In truth, the best time to go through your unwanted items is when you’re NOT being pushed to do so by dire circumstances.  When you’re under pressure, you tend to turn a blind eye to the possibilities in order to “just get it done.”  Calm, cool, and collected is always a better approach, because it allows you to think things through in a rational manner. 

That said, let’s look at how to assess your unwanted belongings with a rational, profitable eye:

1.    What To Toss

You should toss anything in your closet that has permanent stains, irreparable damage, or that is worn, threadbare, or falling apart.  If you don’t wear them to garden, paint, or strip furniture, they need to go.  Fast. 

Yes, you should keep a few ratty-tatty things around for those household grunge jobs, but unless you do that type of work all the time, you don’t need an endless supply.  Two pairs of shorts and two t-shirts for warm weather, two sweatshirts and two pairs of long pants for cold weather should see you through.

 2.   What To Sell

Clothing and accessories that are in good condition and that are either less than three years old or more than twenty-five years old are the most sought-after items.  Jewelry and furs from all periods tend to sell quickly as well.  All prices ranges except discount tend to fare nicely on the resale market, with designer brands the most desirable.  Vintage designer apparel is also particularly popular.

To best ways to fetch the highest price include:


Consignment is where a retailer offers your items for sale in their establishment for a percentage of the sale price, typically starting around 50%. Since their goal is to turn over merchandise quickly, they’ll only accept items that they know their clientele is likely to want, so don’t expect them to take everything you offer (although they might, depending on what you bring in).  The longer it takes to sell, the higher their commission goes.  If an item doesn’t sell in a specific time frame, typically eight weeks, you can either take back the item or direct the store to donate it.

Some consignment shops pay out all commissions at a specific time each month; others hang on to them until you come to claim them.  If they’re unclaimed for a long period, like six months, you forfeit your money.  Check out several stores to see what kind of merchandise they have and whether your stuff would be a good fit.  If you find one you like, ask the necessary details, like the commission split, what days and times they accept new consignments, and how they pay out.  Allow roughly 30 minutes when you go in for them to look over your stuff.

To find local and/or online consignment shops, try these resources:

Consignment Shops

The Frugal Shopper

The Ritz Boutique


Some stores – though not many – will pay you cash on the barrelhead for your stuff.  They then turn around and resell it and keep all the profits for themselves.  You can expect to make approximately the same amount you would by consigning, but without having to wait for a commission or lose money if it takes time to sell.  The buyer assumes all responsibility.

Since this is the fastest, easiest, most profitable way to dispose of your items, try to find a “We buy clothes” dealer in your area.  Or, if you have current brand name designer apparel or accessories you’d like to sell, check out these sites:

Designer Exposure

Jill’s Consignment

The Snob


What’s the #1 site for clothing on the web?  Ebay!  Millions have discovered the fun and ease of disposing of their unwanted items through eBay (and similar sites), and if you have any inclination to learn the auction system, you could as well.  High-end brand name designer apparel and accessories fetch the best price here, as elsewhere, but you’ll find plenty of other quality goods as well.

To learn how to set up a profitable eBay auction, check out this nifty FREEE resource,

Make Your Net Auction Sell!  

 3.   What To Donate

Once you’ve tossed your old, unwearable clothes and have set aside the best pieces to sell, you’re probably left with a lot of items that aren’t current or pristine enough to sell, but that are still in good shape.  These are the items you want to donate.

Now before you stuff everything in a plastic bag and drop it off at a donation center, take a few minutes to inventory what you’re giving away.

Not only will you be able to arrive at a fair market value of these items for tax purposes, you’ll also have an accurate record of what you donated should you ever find yourself face-to-face with an auditor. 

Here’s a handy resource for U.S. Residents (International readers please check your country’s current valuation, if applicable):

So who should get your stuff?  Goodwill, Catholic Charities, and The Salvation Army rank among the most popular recipients.  Depending on where you live, they may even offer pick up service.

Other good choices include:

Christian Woman’s Job Corps

Disabled Vets

Dress For Success

St. Vincent De Paul 

Your Local YMCA

Also, your local shelters for abused women are always looking for clothes for women and children.  Check your phone book or ask someone in the office of your parish, temple, or church group for names and groups in your area. 

You can also check other viable charities in your community by doing a Google search on “Charities + (your town)” to see who’s in need where you live.

Going through your closet DOES take time, particularly if you haven’t done it in a while.  But once you get a system down, you can whip through your closets during the season change twice a year to rid yourself of unwanted items AND make money or secure a tax deduction at the same time.  All it takes is a little action to get the ball rolling.

So why wait?  Get cleaning!

Diana Pemberton-Sikes is a wardrobe and image consultant and author of “Wardrobe Magic,” an ebook that shows women how to transform their unruly closets into workable, wearable wardrobes. Visit her online at .

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