Spring Cleaning: Garage Sale or Garbage?

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Spring Cleaning: Garage Sale or Garbage?

Everyone knows that completing a spring cleaning project and freeing your home of clutter is a great feeling. However that doesn’t make the actual work of going through your home and organizing your belongings any easier. One of the hardest parts about getting rid of items you no longer need is deciding whether they could go on to have another life elsewhere or whether its journey should end with you. Here are some tips for deciding if you should sell at a garage sale or throw in the garbage:

Put a value on your time

No one wants to be wasteful and it seems that throwing away your old items would fall into that category especially if you could somehow get a small portion of the money you spent on them in the first place back. The problem is that organizing, pricing, advertising, and running your garage or yard sale takes a considerable amount of work and time. Especially considering the low prices typically charged at such sales, you have to ask yourself if it’s truly worth it.

One way to assess this is to temporarily set aside the items you think might have a chance of selling. Once you’re done with this just take a quick look at everything and think up a rough estimate of how much you think you could sell it all for (don’t think too hard about it). Is that number high enough to justify your time when broken down into an hourly wage? If not, maybe you just skip the garage sale and find a better option for your goods.

Check the resale market

Have an old set of baseball cards or LP records you assume have to be worth a small fortune by now? Sadly that’s probably not the case. Web searches and quick visits to sites like eBay can help you figure this out before you go through the effort of trying to peddle your worthless “collectibles.”

Also keep in mind that on eBay the listing prices are not valuations or appraisal figures. This means they may only be what the seller is asking for and not what someone is actually willing to pay. Be sure to look closely at items that have real bids on them in order to give you a better idea of what items are worth, but pay little mind to those that only have a list price and no actual bids.

Is one man’s trash really another man’s treasure?

It’s a cliche that’s mostly true but who’s to say that “one man” lives in your neighborhood and will find his treasure at your garage sale? Most people will just think it’s junk too. Take this into account when deciding your sale inventory. If it’s broken, obsolete, or overused it’s probably not something that anyone wants. That being said well-built furniture or memorabilia kept in good condition  could definitely find a new home via a yard sale.

Don’t forget about donating

There is actually another option when it comes to get rid of your old items: donations. In fact, if you have bigger items you no longer need and don’t feel like hauling, your local Goodwill or other charitable retailers will usually arrange to have it picked up for you, provided that it’s in good shape and will be sellable in their stores. Alternatively you can drop off a number of items and they’ll go through and decide what’s worth keeping. They’ll even give you a receipt that you can use to deduct your donations on your taxes. This can be a great compromise as it allows you to not be wasteful while also preserving your precious time.


When it comes to your old belongings we all hope that maybe there’s still a bit of value we can get out of them instead of throwing it all away. While there are certainly items that can still net you something, others really aren’t worth the effort of trying to sell. Keep this in mind during your next spring cleaning project.

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Author

Jonathan Dyer

I'm a small town guy living in Los Angeles looking to make solid financial decisions. I write for a number of finance websites, including HuffingtonPost and Business2Community. I founded DyerNews.com in 2015 to focus on personal finance and the emerging FinTech markets.

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