The Great Purge: How to decide what to Sell, Donate, or Keep?

April 19, 2021

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The time has come for the great “purge before you move” purge. We’re figuring out what things we plan to sell, donate, and keep. We sold our last home with nearly all the furnishings and I had some minor regrets about that. You can read more about here. Our furnishings weren’t going to transfer well into the new home or the modern cottage style, so we just figured we would sell it all (the buyer was on board) and start fresh. Nothing like a clean slate, right?

Not always. We had every intention to take our time curating and collecting pieces that complimented our home’s style and provided comfort and solace for our little family, but it was pretty jarring moving to a big echoey home with no place to sit and relax. We felt unsettled for quite a while, and we want to make this an easier transition for us and the girls. We’re already going to be adjusting to moving to a new state, in a new house, on the other side of the country, so selling everything is just not appealing this go around.

Plus, shipping lead times on furniture are SO far out right now, we could be living without furniture for several months. No thank you. I think a lot of our current furnishings will translate nicely into our North Carolina home as well, which I’m thrilled about. Even if it’s just for a little while while we get settled.

So then how do you decide what to keep, and what to sell and donate? It’s been on my mind a lot, and I don’t have all the answers, but I have some thoughts, starting with “what to keep.”

Keep what is beautiful to you

I think William Morris had it right when he said…

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

After all, who wouldn’t want to be surrounded only by the things they love the very most? Such a good thought, and I really try to keep this in mind when I’m making decisions. But in all honesty, I’ve been guilty of hanging onto things I don’t love. A lamp that’s not quite right for an end table. Curtains that are just meh. Even art that feels “just okay.” It’s time to be a bit ruthless though. If it doesn’t make me swoon, then it’s not coming across the country with us.

Say goodbye to the place holders

I used to hold onto things as place holders (okay, I still do this sometimes haha) — almost-there substitutions to hold me over while I hunt for the PERFECT frame/vase/plant/chair. Off the top of my head, are these golden cube vases sitting on the shelving in the office right now. They’re taking up space, collecting dust, and I feel like moving is giving me the permission to let them go since they don’t make my heart sing. Think of the space in your home as precious real estate. You’re going to be leasing out space in your home to rugs, furniture, lighting, art, not to mention all the non-decor items, and you should think of that space as precious. If I wouldn’t buy it again right now, then it’s not coming with us!

What to sell

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” or as I like to say, “one woman’s ‘trash’ is another woman’s Facebook Marketplace treasure hunt!”

Keeping things because you don’t want the money you spent to go to waste, shouldn’t be a reason to keep them around. Especially these days where selling things has never been easier, but for as long as we’ve been married, I’ve been selling things we no longer love, want or need to help fund our next purchase.

Did you know that on FB Marketplace you can of course shop for things locally, but you can also ship as well? This feature is so neat, and I actually found the vintage mirror in our water closet from Marketplace, paid a little extra for shipping, and I couldn’t be more pleased with that find. There’s so many other platforms and apps to sell your used, no-longer-treasured items, and I think this is such a great way reduce waste, free up that surface real estate in your home we talked about earlier, and of course, make money selling things that are ready for a new home. There’s of course eBay, but I’ve also heard good things about selling on Mercari, Letgo, and for clothes, check out Poshmark and Thredup.

You could always go the traditional route and have a yard sale. This is the route we plan to take for items that we don’t plan on bringing with us, are in good condition, and still have value. We’ll give our buyers first dibs on things. For example, we don’t plan on taking the dining room table and chairs with us since they’re so custom to this house and our new dining room is… much smaller in scale. (I’ll be sure to share when we’re doing a yard sale if any locals want to come!)

Donate the rest

Before you take off to your nearest Goodwill or Salvation Army, be sure to check out this Business Insider piece on “Things You Should Never Donate.” But honestly, whatever is left after the yard sale, we’re just planning on loading into the truck and dropping off at our local Thrift store.

Even if you’re not approaching a big move, it could be helpful to adopt the mindset of “if I were to be moving tomorrow, what would I want to bring with me, and what would I leave behind?” Let go of the placeholders to make room for things that are serving you or bringing pleasure to your life. Do you have any good purging hacks to keep you on track?

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What do you think?

  1. Neha Khattri says:

    In the spirit of one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, try finding your local buy nothing group on Facebook. If you like the concept of gifting, and giving back, this group is a wonderful way to give away things you no longer need but somebody else can give it a home. It is absolutely wonderful! Search for Buy Nothing followed by your neighbourhood or county.

  2. Cheryl says:

    We sold our house and traveled for a year before buying a new house. So our rule of thumb was “will it cost less to replace than to store it” when packing and purging. Sentimental or exceptionally nice items often circumvented that rule but it was a good starting point. An air bed (now used when we have extra company) meant we didn’t have to race out to buy a new mattress & box spring.

    Good luck with the packing/moving!

  3. Jenny says:

    Great post and it’s so nice to read about stressful things in the thoughtful manner you have. I’m curious, when you and Chris disagree, what’s your process to come to resolution? E.g. My husband has some art (it’s literally from the Big Lebowski) in our living room which I couldn’t hate more. Perhaps the house rule of thumb needs to be it makes one person’s heart sing but if the other truly hates it, it’s relegated to their private spot.

  4. Jillian says:

    We constantly purge. It is so freeing! When tidying or cleaning up the house, we always ask ourselves “do we need this?” Generally if there is any ounce of hesitancy (assuming it’s not an heirloom), we add it to our sell pile.

    We list on our local buy & sell (we live rural), and if it doesn’t sell there, we list on FB Marketplace “in the city.” We also donate odds & ends to our local thrift store and post all my the clothes I’m done with or no longer fit on Poshmark.

    A few things that have worked for us:
    – When listing on buy & sell sites, we are very clear and descriptive about what the item is, condition, colour, how to use it, etc — and since the pandemic began… “e-transfer only” and “no contact, porch pickup.” It’s made for quicker and smoother sales, and ultimately, next to no confusion. Buyers know what to expect.
    – We keep a large ikea bag in a closet to hold odds & ends that needs to be listed. It’s been helpful to have a central spot and then once every week or two, we list everything.
    – Poshmark can be pretty overwhelming if you don’t have a system. We use our guest room closet to store all the clothes they haven’t sold yet, and also packing supplies (extra boxes, tape, etc).

    Lastly, we’ve found purging to be much more rewarding since we decided that all $$ we make off of it goes into a “vacation” savings account. (And for Poshmark, it goes to new clothes budget). Similar to how Kelsey lets herself order takeout if she sells something first lol.

    Our Maui travel fund is now at $8k! All from purging!

  5. Lindsey says:

    My mother in law holds two yardsales every year and I’ve used facebook marketplace a lot. It is SO nice to have a way to let go of stuff that we no longer want. Plus it’s a lot easier to let it go when you get cash in return!

    • I just sold a ton of the furnishings from my home when moving in January, and I definitely feel the pain of not having things in the home right now that feel like “me,” while having to wait a long time for things I’ve bought to arrive.

      When you get to Raleigh and decide some of your things don’t work, please consider donating them to The Green Chair Project, where I volunteer. We help furnish homes for people transitioning from homelessness, and provide beds for schoolchildren who don’t have them. Anything that isn’t right for those families is sold, with proceeds supporting the mission. Everything from silverware to shower curtains to dining sets to art! They have sales open the public, where you may find a treasure or two yourself!

  6. Mary says:

    We’ve recently discovered that there are groups who collect household items -including furniture- for incoming refugees who arrive with nothing. We’ve donated tables and chairs previously.

    I did a little google-searching and found this for Idaho:

    In general, googling “donate furniture for refugees -city-” will help you find something local to you. Here in Seattle they will come and pick up the items from your house but that may differ by locale.

  7. Kinga says:

    When we moved from Poland to France, we had a lot of boxes, but the items inside were carefully selected, because I love to purge on regular basis ha. We took with us 4 big things – our bed, my daughter’s bed, sofa and table with chairs. We still have our Polish apartment, we’re renting it and we have a basement over there, but only a few things stayed there. Good luck with move.

  8. Faith says:

    As a military family relocating every 2-4 years, knowing that we have to pack everything up and then unpack and find a place for it in the new house has definitely helped me keep only things I love and that can be easily transitioned to different house styles/room layouts/etc. I am so excited to see how you take your modern cottage pieces and translate them to a more traditional setting – it’s gonna be a great tutorial for me, I think! 🚚

  9. Kerstin says:

    One other excellent way to give nice things a new home is to join your community’s Buy Nothing Group! These hyper-local groups create community, and are a wonderful way to give your things that might not sell at a yard sale a second life, or even better to help a neighbor who might be experiencing some hardships to furnish their home.

    • Kerstin says:

      Oh and also, the Veterans of Foreign Wars will pick up donations from your driveway – easy way to donate, and great way to support veterans and their families!

  10. patricia says:

    I did do a big move; mostly downsizing from four bedroom two story with full basement to a condo with a large living room but petite bedrooms. I took the approach “what do we want in our new place” rather than concentrating on downsizing 32 years of accumulation. I cherry picked our house for all the best stuff for the new home and only bought a few items … I found a round oak table at a thrift store and sanded and stained it. It replaced our antique mahogany table that sat twelve +. I also bought a small sectional to fit in a windowed alcove for my very own window bench. With shelves of books on two sides; I’m truly in my happy place.

    Since we were moving into a senior residence, this wasn’t just a downsizing but a lifestyle change. With weekly housekeeping, most of our cleaning supplies didn’t make the cut. Nor most of our shop tools. And with a gourmet restaurant downstairs, I seriously thinned out my cooking supplies.

    I’m really going to enjoy seeing your new home and watching you make it reflect your family. But please, don’t remodel the primary bathroom. We all know the moving trucks are just around the corner when that happens!

  11. I love this post! I do a big purge about twice a year, usually in the summer when my boys are outgrowing their clothes and then again right before Christmas to make way for the new things that will inevitably come and I’m so extreme that I have actually gotten rid of things I still need and have had to repurchase- haha! But I would rather that than have closets and bins overflowing with things we don’t need!

  12. Marisol says:

    For clothes, my rule of thumb is if I asked someone to pack me a bag and they packed “X”, would I be upset that “X” is what I had to wear.

    • Lindsey says:

      Haha! That is a great rule! I definitely have a lot of clothes that don’t hit the mark. Yikes!

      • Elizabeth says:

        That’s a great rule! What about the sentimental clothes – you know, the onesie that you wore on a fun weekend in Paris but that you have no need for now – ? I would not want to wear that if someone packed it for me 🤣

  13. Victoria says:

    I purged everything and started over during a cross-country move two years ago. With our pending move, we’re going to take what we have even if it’s not quite right for our new house. I found that it was really frustrating, in our last move, to buy a bed, a table, a couch all in the first week. Like, “We jut HAD a bed! Why are we buying one??” All of this to say, I’m anticipating ANOTHER purge post-move. But it will be slower, and just as intentional.

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