How to Give Away the ‘Give Away’ Pile: Selling and Donating Old Items
Coping with Grief : Litsa Williams/
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In our last post, we discussed the overwhelming task of going through your loved ones’ belongings. Once you have determined the items to keep, knowing what to do with the remaining ‘Give Away’ pile can be difficult. If you are donating things that belonged to your loved one you want them to go to a good cause. If you are selling them, you want to get as much value as possible. But where do you even begin?! Here are a couple of suggestions to get you started.
There are two logical options in trying to sell items that belonged to your loved one: do it yourself or pay someone to do it for you. Though there will be an expense with the latter, the ease of it may be worthwhile. As discussed in our last post, this can be an emotional and overwhelming process, so hiring a company may relieve some stress. There are several options if you chose to hire someone.
Estate Sale Companies
If you are looking for ease, this is a great way to go. These companies don’t want you to throw anything away so there is no pressure. They know what is valuable, what isn’t, and will come into the home and go through everything and make a plan to sell or auction all the items of value. These companies don’t even want you to try to clean up your old items, as that can actually hurt the value. They will organize, take care of the sale or auction, and (in some cases) assist with the removal of the trash. They charge a fee, which is a percentage of the amount made in selling the items and can range from 10%-30%.
You may be wondering why to not just have a garage sale/yard sale, where you get to keep all the profits. This is certainly another option, but this can be labor-intensive and if you don’t know the value of the items you may end up selling things of value for far less than they are worth. Though you do need to find an estate sale company you trust, one major advantage is that they know how much things are worth and are invested in selling them at a good price. Try to get a reference or check online reviews to ensure you are working with a reputable company.
With the wonders of the internet, there are now many companies out there that will sell your belonging on eBay for you, for a fee of course. Many of these companies require you to drop off items, but some will come and pick items up. Like an estate sale, these companies can take a lot of stress off you by taking care of the sale. You will want to make sure you are using a reputable company.
It may be the case that going through, sorting, and selling items has been a great way to channel your energy. In other cases financially you may need to sell items yourself to make a greater profit. If selling items yourself seems appealing there are plenty of options. A good old-fashioned yard sale or garage sale is a good option, though you may get less than your items are worth. Make sure to do some research in advance so you can as a fair price. You can also sell items yourself online – eBay is the go-to for online auctions and has a low fee. Craigslist is a great, free option to find local buyers so you don’t have to worry about shipping. You also may be able to take higher-end clothing, jewelry, shoes, and furniture to a consignment shop to sell.
If your loved one had a unique collection, specialty tools, or other unusual items it will likely make sense to bring in an expert. My dad, for example, was a rare coin dealer who owned his own business. When he died we were left with many coins and had no idea what they were worth. We asked a trusted colleague of my dad’s to help us gauge the value and sell the items. This can be a good idea for any specialty item you don’t know the value of. If a friend who is an expert in that area is able to offer support this is an important place to ask for help. Otherwise, pay an expert – it will be worth it to know the accurate value.
Donating Items: Clothes
Once you have determined which items you will keep and sell there may be a number of items that will be appropriate to donate. If you are looking for places to donate specific items consider some of the following organizations:
Clothing: Home Pick-Up
There are so many places that accept clothing donations, and in times of grief, convenience is a big factor. Goodwill, Salvation Army, Purple Heart, and AmVets all will schedule a home pick-up. One factor to consider with all these charities is that the clothing goes to fund the good work they do by selling the clothing in either their own stores or to other thrift stores. The clothing is not given directly to those in need. They still do wonderful work with the funds raised, but it is a consideration.
Clothing to Those Directly in Need
If you are looking for a place to donate clothing items where the clothing will go directly to those in need consider a local homeless shelter or domestic violence shelter. Some Department of Social Services offices also accept clothing donations which are given directly to those in need – call your local DSS to see if they accept donations. Consider looking for a local House of Ruth, YWCA shelter, YMCA shelter, Salvation Army Shelter, or other private shelters to drop of donations. Finally, some churches operate clothing closets for those in need and may accept donations tha will go directly to those in need.
Professional Attire: Dress for Success
Dress for Success is an outstanding program that gives women in need professional clothing to wear for job interviews and if they obtain a job that requires professional attire they cannot afford. Dress for success is an international organization that is a great place to donate any professional clothing in good condition. Find your local Dress for Success here.
Clothing Donation Box Warning
Beware of clothing donation boxes that are popping up in many store parking lots and other areas. Though they are an easy way to get rid of clothing, some are for-profit or practice questionable business ethics. Some have been found to sell the clothing and only give a very small percentage to charity. Do your research and make sure you are comfortable with the organization before donating. That being said, when you are grieving, sometimes convenience comes above all else. If you just need to get rid of those items and dumping them in the closest donation box is all you are up for, it is certainly a quick and easy way to get those items out of your home and also out of a landfill.
Donating Items: Books
It is getting harder and harder to find places to donate books, but programs are definitely out there. Goodwill and Salvation Army (websites above in clothing section) both accept books to be sold in their stores, the proceeds of which support their programming.
Books through Bars
Books through Bars is a non-profit that provides books to prisoners. If you don’t live in Philadelphia, where they are based, you can ship your books to them (You pay shipping. Media Mail is typically the cheapest way to send books). They request that you call them to ensure they can use your books before you ship them. Find information here.
Books to Prisoners
As its name suggests, Books to Prisoners also provides books to prisoners. They have been in operation since 1973. They provide information on their site about shipping books to them (Again, you pay for shipping. Media Mail is the way to go).
Books for Africa
This non-profit ships books to Africa from the US to promote literacy in African countries. Their mission is, “to end the book famine in Africa. With your help, we will help create a culture of literacy and provide the tools of empowerment to the next generation of parents, teachers, and leaders in Africa.” Information on shipping can be found on their site. There is also the option to make donations to specific programs running in different African countries. Check out donation details on their website.
Discover Books is a “for-profit organization with a social mission”. They took over the services formerly provided by the non-profit Reading Tree. This organization donates books to literacy and community organizations, libraries, and non-profit organizations. Books that are unable to be used are recycled, to ensure they do not end up in a landfill. They have donation drop boxes with a locator on their website.
Your Local Library
Many local libraries have book sales that raise funds for the library. They sell both old library books and often accept donations of books to be sold. This is a great way to know the books will go to use, while also supporting your local library. Call your library to see if they accept donations. They also may be aware of local literacy organizations that accept donations in your area. Find your local library using this public library locator.
Donating Items: Furniture
Furniture donations can be made through Goodwill, AmVets and the Salvation Army (websites above under clothing donations). The furniture will be sold in their stores to fund their many outreach programs. Keep in mind they have restrictions on the types of furniture they’ll accept. Check their website or call before scheduling a pick-up. If you would like to donate your furniture directly to someone in need, check with your area Department of Social Services office or homeless shelter. These places often help those in need of furniture to be connected with individuals who are donating furniture.
Donating Items: Electronics
Before donating your loved one’s electronics, make sure all information has been cleared from the hard drives. A quick google search will provide information on how to clear the hard drive. This is also a good place to reach out to a friend with some computer know-how for support. The EPA has information about where you can donate or recycle your electronics. This locator can be found here.
Ensuring Ethical Charities
Though we would love it if all charities were reputable, that simply isn’t the case. Thankfully there is a great website to verify that charities are ethical organizations. Charity Navigator’s goal “is to help people give to charity with confidence. At the same time, we aim to help charities by shining lights on truly effective organizations.” Check out their website here.
Disposing of Household Items: Cleaning Products, Chemicals, and Medication
When overwhelmed with so many items it is often tempting to just throw these items in the trash. Keep in mind that all these items have an impact on our environment if they are not disposed of properly. Visit https://earth911.org to get more information about disposing of these items and locating drop off locations in your area. For more information on disposing of medications visit the FDA website for details here.
There are many great organizations out there that will give your loved one’s belongings a good new home. Take things one day at a time. If you have any company or organization suggestions please leave a comment below to let us know.
We invite you to share your experiences, questions, and resource suggestions with the WYG community in the discussion section below.
16 Comments on "How to Give Away the ‘Give Away’ Pile: Selling and Donating Old Items"Click here to leave a Comment
Susan October 25, 2020 at 2:50 pm
We discovered Freecycle by accident and have given away several items or groups of items successfully including old china, and old computer books. One person’s junk is truly another person’s treasure! You can’t sell any items there, you need to give them away, and the best place to meet is in your local Police Department’s parking lot.
pick up donations June 11, 2020 at 3:36 am
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Caroline August 13, 2019 at 6:26 am
Thanks for this valuable information. When I buy new items then I prefer to donate my old furniture item to other people. I always hired junk removal company to do this work because they donate all your reusable junk items to other needy persons. No need to waste your time, money or health just call to Lansing Junk Removal on 517-643-0940
Lara June 11, 2019 at 1:10 pm
Wow, thank you for this post and the previous post. I am 27 and am the executor and trustee of my grandpa’s estate and trust, respectively, since he passed away late November. He has a massive home that he and my grandma lived in for several decades. I love it here, and it’s basically completely on my shoulders to handle the sale of his house, distribution of his belongings, etc. It’s an honor to do this, but it is also one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I really appreciate the details you included about where to donate items—especially household cleaning items. I am a freak about recycling and feel really weird about these products. Thank you for the guidance and support.
Lorna Selby August 19, 2021 at 8:11 pm
God bless you for sharing your feelings/comments. My condolences on your loss.
Everybody has to go through this at one point or another and my heart goes out to you all.
Mine loss is quite different to yours. I first lost my father, then a year later my mother, uncle and 2 cousins, all within 3 years.
I have only one sibling (younger sister), who was very cruel to our parents and myself, by lying, stealing etc, both before and after their passing. I found this very hard to understand because I had good hearted parents.
My sibling did not tell myself or our family about our fathers passing, I was told later that our contact information had been erased, in fact this is when most of what my sister had been up to came to light.
It was a part of a plan she had for years before my father passed and I gather after my return home.
I visited my father as often as possible. I’m severely disabled & at that particular time was going through a very traumatic time & had been unable to visit my father for about 3 weeks. He has never been a phone person, my mother used to do everything for him. They were divorced years, before my return home.
Which meant my sibling had complete control over my father, until I returned home 18 months before he passed.
By the time my mother & I, found out my father had died, he had been in hospital, alone.
My sibling had my fathers funeral, just her & no family, emptied his bank accounts and sold home & everything.
I didn’t even get a keepsake of my father and I had to fight her for my fathers ashes. The Crematorium told me she had no plans on picking them up and asked them to scatter them for her. You see, because of her lies, no one knew there was another sibling. She told Lawyers, Banks, Crematorium etc. that she was an only child. Which meant that I had no rights to even get my fathers ashes, no matter how many birth certificates I showed them all.
To go through the loss of someone so close to you is devastating but under these circumstances a nightmare.
Not only did I have to tell my mother & his brothers etc that my dad had passed away but I also had to explain what she had done.
Then I lost my mother & uncle (my fathers brother) a year later, my cousins, friends within the space of 3 years.
Now, I’m 60, severely disabled, completely alone and have lost everything.
I know money is no compensation for the loss of a loved one but it would have made what’s left of my future more comfortable, if my sibling hadn’t been so greedy, cruel etc.
You see, I have a daughter in the USA whom I haven’t seen in over 10 years and 2 grandsons 6 & 2 yrs old whom I’ve never held, kissed, hugged and doubt I ever will now.
I came back home to be with my parents, now that my daughter was of age but I never thought that I would loose my parents in such a short time, I miss them so much.
I pray no one goes through what I did. Or ever spend their remaining years alone with no loved ones around them. My sibling took away so much from me, I never thought her capable of such things.
She took my last days away from me with my father, my future with my daughter & my grandsons I will never see because she robbed us in so more ways.
PLEASE BEWARE because families aren’t always the people you think they are.
I do not live but exist with a broken heart x
Vee November 5, 2018 at 5:22 am
I’ve got lots and lots of pens, pencils and general stationery items. Can I give these away to charities? Or how can I wisely dispose of these? I really don’t want to toss them into landfill.
Rick Reinckens October 7, 2018 at 10:14 pm
With estate sale companies, one thing to be aware of–from a BUYER’S perspective–is that some companies “salt” the estate contents by ADDING things that LOOK valuable but are actually being sold at NEAR RETAIL.
For instance, they’ll include faux-antique swords, Confederate weapons, Chinese vases, etc. So a buyer will tell their friend under their breath …. “This is a MING vase! I don’t think these guys realize that! …” And then they’ll “haggle” down to $400 and think they got a great deal.
Years later they’ll get curious and have someone appraise it and the appraiser will ask how much they paid for it. “$400! That’s good, isn’t it?” “Well, ACTUALLY, this is NOT a Ming vase. It’s a modern knock-off. These RETAIL for around $400. So … you didn’t get RIPPED OFF, but it wasn’t a bargain either.” The same goes for swords, etc., made in places like India for the decorator market.
One way to spot “salted” items is if they are out of place compared to the rest of the items.
Dikla Yogev April 8, 2016 at 3:34 am
Must say it’s a knowledgeable post…
There are a ton of creative people out there who enjoy picking up used furniture in order to transform it into something new and exciting. An old bookshelf may be turned into a changing table for a newborn, or an aged dresser may be re-purposed to serve as a cozy bench with storage. Chairs can easily be reupholstered for a new look, and tables can be sanded down and given new coats of paint.
You can also have a look on the site: https://www.jrccfurnituredepot.org/ which picks up the used furniture for donation from your place.
KP November 10, 2015 at 10:28 pm
Thank you for writing this article. It has brought some comfort to me, while I am dealing with parting with my late husband’s items and my young daughters desire to keep everything from Dad. The hardest for me is his vehicles. The truck was his pride and joy. He had purchased it just before I met him. It is in rough shape and getting in rougher shape by not being used enough and of course age. I feel an emotional struggle and financial struggle at the same time. Part of me wants to keep it for particle use (I was running his snow plow business, but think I am going to pass it along to a friend of his), while part of me wants to part with it because I know it is shrinking in value the longer it is sitting here. Tough decisions and very tiring. Your article has brought me some ideas and comfort knowing that I’m not the only one struggling with “what to do” with items and belongings. As much as we all are trying to move forward into the new life we have been given, we always feel the strings pulling us back. God Bless!
April January 9, 2015 at 2:07 pm
My Mom turned Dad’s old shirts into lap quilts for me and my sister. She also made stuffed animals for my children out of the shirt fabric. Those were the best Christmas presents we could get on our first Christmas without Dad.
Litsa January 12, 2015 at 7:35 pm
Ah, thanks for sharing, April. Those are beautiful ideas!
Eleanor January 13, 2015 at 10:45 am
That is so special and thoughtful! Thanks for sharing.
Stacie August 20, 2014 at 11:38 am
Another great option for books is Better World Books. They have drop boxes (mostly in the Midwest and Eastern states) where you can donate used books. The books are then recycled, donated, or sold to raise money for non-profit literacy organizations. The website has a drop box locator: https://www.betterworldbooks.com/custom.aspx?f=donate .
Lorna Selby August 19, 2021 at 8:16 pm
I agree. I have recently found them and purchased quite a few. They keep the prices reasonable and they believe, as I do,
that books should never be wasted but passed on and on……..
Wendy April 22, 2014 at 7:31 pm
A lot of great resources here! Another favorite of mine is Music & Memory. They refurbish ipods and donate them to nursing homes and retirement communities for use in alzheimer support programs. They have seen wonderful improvements in quality of life and care just by helping patients reconnect with their memories through music.
Litsa April 22, 2014 at 8:06 pm
Thanks for sharing Wendy! I just saw and article about this recently and thought it was a great idea. Thanks for sharing!