Downsizing: Getting rid of unwanted items

Jan 28, 2023

This part of downsizing is never an easy task. But there are ways around this with a little bit of planning and accepting that it may take a bit longer for everything to fall into place.

Once my clients have made the hard decisions on what will fit in their new home and what they are taking, the next decision of what to do with unwanted items can at times become another obstacle to overcome. I always suggest starting as early as possible. Think about what you no longer want and even though it might be up to a year or more before you are moving, start making some decisions. Start those lists!

Are you happy to give away items or would you prefer to try and sell some things first?  Are the items you are selling or donating in reasonable condition – would you buy them or use them yourself? That is one question charities are asking and I feel that it is a reasonable question.

Make a list and make four columns with the headings ‘selling’, giving away or donating’, disposal’ and unsure’, and put the items applicable to each column

If you want to see what you can sell, where are the best places to do so? Some of the options available are Gumtree, local buy swap and sell sites, garage sales and auction. All options have pros and cons and all of these things need to be considered before deciding on the option of your choice. We have seen the best and the worst of all the options available and everything really needs to be considered carefully.

Take the time to really think about these items and as long as you can accept that you may not get what you believe them to be worth, then start the process of working out the best place to sell the items. Here are some examples of how to sell your unwanted goods.

Garage sales

Garage sales can be fun if you have help and the room to set things up, but they can turn into a nightmare with people turning up hours, even days before the advertised start time.  You need to have people there watching all the time, especially early morning when you may get 10 – 20 people arriving at once. If you have everything out and it rains, do you have enough people to help put it all away

Online portals

There are plenty of options available to sell your unwanted goods online. You need to put photos and clear descriptions of everything and one thing we have found helping clients do this is to make sure you have sizes of the item in the description. It can be much easier than setting everything up for a garage sale. Some clients also have fun with their grandchildren and get them to do the photos and advertising with them and give them a percentage of what the items sell for.

However, one of the downfalls I’ve learned in the years helping clients or hearing about their experiences is that it is sometimes very overwhelming and time-consuming. People say they will take the item and never turning up, or haggling over the price back and forth via email or message.


The upside of an auction is that everything goes at once, they do all the work and you get the money for all items sold put directly into your account. But if goods do not sell and need to be taken to the tip you are responsible for all carrier and tip fees.  If you do not have a truck and have a lot to take, you have the expense of paying for a carrier to do this for you. At times this may actually be more expensive than the goods are worth.

Take the time to go online to see what sort of things different auction houses will take. We have dealt with many over the years for our clients and they vary greatly with what they will and won’t take and what you get for your items.

Most have around a 20 per cent plus fee on the fall of the hammer, plus so much per lot. Also, ask questions about how long they will try and sell your items for and what happens if they do not sell. Perhaps even go online for a few months to view their sales results to see what you may get for the particular piece that you are sending to be auctioned. Again, it can be hit and miss and you have to have a number of people interested in your item otherwise the bids do not go up and stay low

Giving away or donating goods

If you are lucky, children or grandchildren may take your unwanted goods, however, we have found that many younger people would rather go to some of the larger stores and get a package of all brand new furniture. They just don’t seem to see the value of a good piece of furniture built to last. If you would like to give away your goods to family and or friends – ask them early on in the piece and mark the items off your list as they agree to take them.

People feel charities may be getting fussy, but these days, between an aging population and younger people not always wanting the items that are being donated, the charities are overrun,  add to that the problems they have with people just dumping unwanted goods that are both dirty and broken which cant be sold or even given to the needy, they have to spend thousands of dollars on taking goods to the tip,  Also as they are offered so much there is also a problem of storage space for many charities.

So I always suggest to my clients that they call a number of charities to see what they will accept, let them know exactly what you have to donate and book a time with them.  Sometimes they are so booked out, it may take up to a month for them to find a slot for you.  Ensure that your pick up is booked at least a week before your removal day, you don’t want this overlapping.


Your options here are council clean up, tip, rubbish removal companies or your removal team. Council clean-ups are obviously the most cost-effective way to get rid of your unwanted items. Just check to see how many you have per year allocated to you and also how much you can put out each time as each council varies. Some councils are wonderful and you get six a year and can add them all together, others have a strict 2-meter square limit. Some are limited to what you can put out, others again will allow a lot more. Get all details of what you are allowed and all the council rules as there are strict penalties for not adhering to the rules. If you are unable to take the goods from the house to the kerb, you may need to consider bringing in people to help you. Ask your removalist if they offer that service.

We have clients who would rather not have the mess of a council clean up or they are very private and would rather not let people see their items, and they have their goods taken to the tip by their removal team who is doing their move. I always try and organise for this, where possible, to be done on the day of the move. It just saves the extra expense of a second move.  While this is not always possible, it’s definitely worth asking the question.

Skips are another option and this can be great if you have a lot to dispose of and all the other options are not possible. One big hint – to get the most out of the space, don’t just throw everything in, break things up where possible and pack into the skip and use every bit of available space. Also, always check how long you can have the skip for. Some companies are great and you can have them for a number of weeks, others have very limited time.

The negative about skips as there are some places a skip can’t be left, so always ensure you give the people you are booking with the exact access of where the bin needs to go at your home. They usually will lookup on Google to check what the access is like but other times they will just turn up and if there is nowhere to leave the bin you may still be liable for a delivery fee.

Regardless of the option you are taking to dispose of your unwanted goods, remember, start early, even before you put your home on the market. Make those lists so you can visually see what you are not taking with you and cross items off once they are gone. Watching that list get smaller, seems to give a real sense of accomplishment that things are smoothly moving along.

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