Spring Cleaning Tips: How to Decide Between Hidden Treasures and 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 their journey should end with you. 

Here are some tips for deciding if you should sell it at a garage sale or throw it in the garbage.

What to Consider When Parting with Your Possessions

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 back you spent on them in the first place. 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 on 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 getting 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.

A Quick Guide to Common Items to Declutter and Discard

Physical media (Books, CDs, DVDs, etc.)

If you’re looking for somewhere to start when it comes to decluttering, your shelves filled with books, DVDs/Blurays, and maybe even some CDs might be a good choice. With the advent of streaming and digital services, the need to have physical copies of movies, music, and books is lessening. Even if you are a “physical media forever” person, there’s a good chance that you can make a few cuts, getting rid of albums, movies, and titles you haven’t revisited for a while and don’t care to now. As for whether you should try to sell these items or just trash them, you’ll want to refer to the guidelines above — but, with the markets for CDs and DVDs dwindling, I’d personally lean toward the latter option.


During the pandemic, I think we all learned a bit about just how few different outfits we really need in our closets. While I jest, the truth is that most of us have a few go-to pieces, some seasonal selections, and a few others that we wear with some frequency — joined by plenty of other items that have sat dormant for years. Thus, chances are you will find plenty of clothes to get rid of by going through your closets, dressers, etc. In this case, donating items that are in decent enough shape is super easy, while any “higher end” pieces might be worth taking to stores such as Buffalo Exchange, Uptown Cheapskate, or others.

Sporting goods and equipment

Whether we’re talking exercise equipment you’ve long since stopped using or items associated with sports your children no longer play, chances are you have plenty of items of various sizes that fit these descriptions. Maybe it’s finally time to say “goodbye” to these items of the past. Donating might make sense for some items while others might make surprisingly good garage sale fodder — until the person that ultimately buys your stuff realizes they’re never going to use it either. Ah, the circle of clutter.

Toys and collectibles

With the rise in nerd culture, more and more people now have homes filled with what are basically toys. My 36-year-old self is no exception to this as we have plenty of vinyl figures, statuettes, and random themed trinkets we acquired through years of Loot Crate subscriptions and convention visits. Of course, those with kids might also have a home filled with toys that are no longer played with. Both categories are ripe for decluttering, with my money guessing that a garage sale might be the best bet for these items. That said, on the off chance that your super rare limited edition chase variant figure is worth something, then perhaps eBay is worth a shot.

Old tech

Lastly, I hope I’m not the only one who’s been known to hold on to the past three generations of iPhones I’ve owned and have at least my past two laptop models in my possession. I’m not quite sure why we keep these old tech items as “backups” but, alas, we do all too often. Even worse, I used to keep the boxes these items came in “just in case.” Please, don’t be like me and discard these old items! Plus, in this case, you may want to look into tech recycling services that could score you a discount on an upgrade, earn you a few bucks, or just save you some hassle.

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 them all away. While there are certain 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.

Also published on Medium.


Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site LaughingPlace.com and has recently starting publsihing his own personal finance blog at https://moneyat30.com/

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