Marcy: To Sell or Not to Sell While Decluttering?

Dear Jes,

I am working through decluttering my home. I seem to have no problem figuring out what to let go of, but I get stuck deciding if I should sell or donate my stuff. Many of my items are brand new with tags, and many were expensive items when I purchased them. I want to recoup some of this money, but my "sell" pile is snowballing. Do you have any advice about selling versus donating?


Piles to Sell in Slingerlands

Dear Piles to Sell,

You are experiencing a common problem faced by many decluttering: to sell or not to sell. Once we purchase something, we continue to place a monetary value on the item. It helps to remember keeping an item that you have already purchased will not make you richer or poorer (the notable exception here is when you are paying to store an item offsite, like in a storage unit). In weighing the value of the item when deciding whether to sell or donate it, you must consider the time and space it takes from your life.

A simple calculation can help you determine if it makes sense to sell an item. To use this calculation, you will need to estimate three numbers:

1. How much is one hour of your free time worth?

2. How many hours will it take to sell the item?

3. How much money can you realistically expect to get from the sale of this item?

Once you have these numbers, multiple the value of one hour of your time by the number of hours it will take to sell the item. If this number is less than the amount that you can realistically expect to earn from the item's sale, it makes sense to sell it. Let's take a closer look at the parts in this equation.

How much is one hour of your free time worth?

Estimating the valuing our own time can be tricky. Some questions you can ask to help determine this number:

· If you have a job, how much do you get paid hourly? Does this employment make your time outside of work more or less valuable?

· If you have a non-paying obligation (such as caring for someone else), does this make your free time more or less valuable?

· If there were an hour-long task that you didn't want to do, how much money would make that task worth your time?

How many hours will it take to sell the item?

We tend to underestimate this number. Don't forget to take into consideration:

· Time you will spend sorting and storing the item in anticipation of selling it in the future.

· Time spent researching the resale value of the item.

· Time to photograph and input the information to advertise the item.

· Time you will spend communicating with potential buyers.

· Time and expense of meeting the buyer to exchange the item or shipping the item.

How much money can you realistically expect to get from the sale of this item?

While we tend to underestimate the value of our time and the time it will take to sell an item, we equally tend to overestimate the resale value of our stuff. (I hear stories on a daily basis about clients bringing items to consignment stores and getting practically nothing in for designer items that are new with tags.)

You can spend a lot of time researching the resale value of an item, but I have found that even large amounts of research often don't yield accurate results. Instead, try asking this much simpler question: if my neighbor were selling this item, how much would I pay for it? We tend to place a lot of extra value on something just because it belongs to us. You can get a better sense of an item's worth when you ignore that the item belongs to you.

The "Should I Sell This?" equation will be different for each person and each item you think about selling. It will even change based on evolving events in your life. No matter the circumstances, thinking through these three questions can give you data to make a better decision about the stuff in your home. Piles to Sell, I wish you success getting through all the collections in your home.

Jes Marcy, of Poestenkill, is a professional organizer, clutter coach, and space consultant. Send her your home organization questions to

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