Lucky you—you’ve got a garage. But can you park your car in it, or is it so chock full of stuff that you’re embarrassed to open the door?
Face it: You’ve already decided you don’t want that stuff inside your home. Maybe you walked it out to the garage and that’s as far as it got. Or maybe it’s been sitting there since you moved in. What if you could turn some of that clutter into cash?
According to a market research study by NPD Group, the average American home contains $7,000 worth of unused items that could be sold for cash or donated as a tax write-off. That’s money you can put toward a summer vacation, bills or your savings account.
What’s in Your Garage?
Start by taking inventory. Move everything out to the driveway so you can see what you’ve got. Throw away or recycle items that have little or no value, including unfixable tools and old magazines. Sort the rest into categories such as lawn and garden tools, sporting gear, automotive care, home maintenance items and bulk goods.
Going through one category at a time, remove the keepers—items you use and need—and put them away. Setting up zones for each category will help keep your garage organized. This is also a good time to assess if you need additional shelving or garage cabinets to keep the floor clear.
What’s left in the driveway is stuff you can sell or donate. This may include household items, duplicates of tools or other supplies, sports equipment you no longer use, playthings your children have outgrown or computers or printers that have been replaced.
Turn That Clutter into Cash
Get paid to spring clean your garage by selling or donating that “perfectly good stuff” you’re hanging on to because you paid “perfectly good money” for it. Selling takes a little more effort than donating, but you may be surprised at how quickly some items sell, especially the following:
- Relatively current cell phones and electronics
- Brand-name items, such as designer handbags
- Popular books, movies and video games
- Necessities like baby gear and housewares
- Musical instruments
- Collectibles, such as art and antiques
- Home decor items
- Jewelry, coins and other valuables
- New and like-new items in many categories
If you want to make money fast, look for local buyers. One way is to find a resale store that will pay cash for things like electronics, gold jewelry or sports equipment. If you’re willing to wait for the item to sell before getting paid, leave it there on consignment.
You can also harness the power of the internet for a quick sale. Get a free quote on cell phones, tablets, DVDs, CDs and video games at Decluttr. List larger items such as lawn mowers and furniture on Craigslist. You can also search for “[insert your city] yard sale group” on Facebook. Join the group and list items there.
Another option is to download a buying and selling app, such as OfferUp. Take a photo of whatever you’re selling, write a description and enter an asking price. When you post your “ad,” it shows up in the feed of local OfferUp buyers.
If You Decide to Donate
Donating some or all of your unwanted stuff may net more than selling. Plus, donating it all to one charity is the quickest and easiest way to get clutter out of your garage. Simply drop off your donations at the charity of your choice or go to DonationTown.org to find a charity in your area that will pick up donations for free.
If your goal is to save on taxes, be sure to check with your tax advisor to find out if you can deduct your non-cash donations. If you itemize on your tax return and donate to a 501c3 charitable organization like Goodwill, you can often deduct up to 50 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI). For example, if you’re in a 15 percent tax bracket and you donate $600 worth of goods, you can take a tax write-off of $90.
It’s up to you, the tax payer, to estimate the value of your donations—not what you paid for them, but what the items would sell for in a secondhand store. Be sure to get a receipt and document your donations with a list and/or photos to file with your tax documents. Visit the IRS’s website for additional tips and guidance on tax returns for donations.
No matter which route you take, you’ll have a few extra dollars in your pocket to help you start the season off on a clean, organized note.
Organizing and cleaning expert, Donna Smallin Kuper is the author of a dozen best-selling books on uncluttering, organizing, cleaning and simplifying life. Currently writing for Home Depot, Donna is often quoted by the media and has appeared inn Better Homes & Gardens, Real Simple and Woman’s Day. You can find storage options to help you organize your garage at Home Depot online.