How to Give Away the ‘Give Away’ Pile: Selling and Donating Old Items

In our last post we discussed the overwhelming task of going through your loved ones belongings.  If you missed it you can check it out here.  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 suggestions to get you started.

Selling Items

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 Selling and Donating
If you are looking for ease this is 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.  They 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 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.

Ebay Companies
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 of items, but some will come and pick items up.  Like an estates 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.  Ebay helps with this by keeping a locator of companies that are experienced.  You can also search for online reviews of companies.  Check out ebay’s “trading assistant” locator here:

http://pages.ebay.com/help/sell/know-seller-trading-assistant.html

DIY Selling
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.

Specialty Items
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 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 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.

www.goodwill.org/
www.salvationarmyusa.org/

www.purpleheart.org/

www.amvets.org/

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 accepts 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:

http://www.dressforsuccess.org/dfs_affiliates.aspx

  Clothing Donation Box Warning
clothing drop box

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 I will be the first to give you a pass – 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 the all you are up for, it is certainly a quick and easy way to get those items out of your home and it will keep them out of a landfill.

Donating Cell Phones

Once the decision is made to cancel your loved one’s cell phone (which can be a big decision that we will talk about another day) you may want to donate the phone.  There are a couple of good programs out there.

Cell Phones for Soldiers
As described on their site, “since its inception in 2004, Cell Phones for Soldiers has worked to keep military families connected by providing FREE communication tools to those serving overseas in the United States military. In seven years, the registered 501(c)(3) has provided troops with more than 2.5 million prepaid calling cards, equating to 181 million minutes of FREE talk time. Cell Phones for Soldiers hopes to continue its mission to provide troops with FREE calls home through generous monetary contributions and the recycling of used mobile phones. Used mobile phones from all service providers are accepted. Each $5 contribution, or donated device valued at $5, will provide troops with 2.5 hours of FREE talk time.” Get more information about making a donation here:

http://www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com/

Hopeline: phones for domestic violence victims
Hopeline has been operating since 2001 and is run by Verizon Wireless.  Hopeline accepts deactivated cell phones from any provider and works with domestic violence organizations to provide these phones with free emergency minutes to victims of domestic violence.  Through this program Verizon started #HOPE which allows anyone from a Verizon phone to call this number and access a domestic violence hotline.   Phones can be donated at any Verizon store or find details to mail in your phone with a free shipping label here:

https://aboutus.vzw.com/communityservice/Hopeline_PressKit.pdf

Donating Books
I am not going to lie, I am a book hoarder.  When I die whoever goes through my belongings is going be overwhelmed by cases and cases of books and I do worry they could end up in a landfill.  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.  They are out of Philadelphia, but if you do not live in that area you can ship your books to them (You pay shipping.  Media Mail is typically the cheapest way to send books).   They have a list of books wanted on their website and request that you call them to ensure they can use your books before you ship them.  Find information here:

http://booksthroughbars.org/get-involved/donate-books/

Books to Prisoners
As its name suggests, Books to Prisoners also provides books to prisoners.  They have been in operation since 1973.  Located in the Seattle area, they provide information on their site about shipping books to them (Again, you pay for shipping.  Media Mail is the way to go).  Please consider making an additional contribution to their organization, if you can swing it, to cover their costs for shipping the books out to the prisons they work with.  Check out their website here:

http://www.bookstoprisoners.net/send-books/

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.” They receive donations by drop off in St. Paul, MN and in Smyrna, GA.   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.  Please consider the cost of shipping these books to Africa and consider a financial contribution along with your books, if possible, to assist with their freighter fees.  Check out donation details on their website:

https://www.booksforafrica.org/donate/donate-books.html

Discover Books
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 they 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:

 http://www.discoverbooks.com/

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 you 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:

http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/libraries/librarysearch/

Donating 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.  Please keep in mind that they do have some restrictions on types of furniture that they will accept, so 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 you area DSS office or homeless shelter.  These places often help those in need of furniture to be connected with individuals who are donating furniture. 

Donating Electronics
If you are planning to donation your loved ones computer, laptop, or cell phone please make sure that 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 on their website to locate organizations where you can donate your electronics or that will recycle them.  This locator can be found here:

http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/materials/ecycling/donate.htm

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 help people ensure the charity they plan to be there is an ethical organization.  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 there website here:

http://www.charitynavigator.org/

Disposing of Household items: cleaning production, chemicals, and medication
When overwhelmed with so many items it is often tempting to just thrown 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 http://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:  http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/EnsuringSafeUseofMedicine/SafeDisposalofMedicines/ucm186187.htm

There are many great organizations out there who will give your loved one’s belongings a good new home.  Take things one day at a time and, if all else fails, listing your items in the “free” section on craigslist and opening up the home during a set time is a quick, easy way to get people to pick up items.  If you have any suggestions of other companies or organizations for selling and donating items please leave a comment below to let us know.

May 31, 2017

11 responses on "How to Give Away the 'Give Away' Pile: Selling and Donating Old Items"

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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: http://www.jrccfurnituredepot.org/ which picks up the used furniture for donation from your place.

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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: http://www.betterworldbooks.com/custom.aspx?f=donate .

  8. 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.

    https://musicandmemory.org/donate-my-ipod/

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