Two-thirds feel guilty for throwing away sentimental items

Most of the items within the average American household arrived there secondhand, new research suggests.

In a recent survey of 2,000 respondents, 66% admitted that more than half of the items in their home were previously owned by someone else.

Seventy-five percent also said they’re comfortable with the idea of buying a gently-used second-hand product in the future.

Maybe that’s why over two-thirds (63%) feel guilty tossing an item that “still has a little bit of life left in it,” or that could be passed on to another household.

One in five (20%) even experience significant guilt every time they declutter, which for half of respondents happens once every six to twelve months.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of resale company Winmark, the survey also indicates that three-fourths of people (77%) reported forming emotional connections with the items in their home, regardless of whether or not those items have been used.

Meanwhile, 39% will part with one of their belongings if they believe “someone else will enjoy it more” than they currently do.

When it comes time to declutter, respondents are most likely to relinquish clothing (46%) and papers or other files (44%) above other items like books (29%), toys (25%) or appliances (24%).

But they’re also just as likely to throw unwanted items in the garbage or recycling (36%) as they are to donate the items to charity (36%) or simply give them away (35%).

“Donation services often end up throwing out a lot of goods they receive due to problems with item quality or quantity,” said Renae Gaudette, the chief operating officer at Winmark. “Resale shops, on the other hand,  are purchasing the items from you with the intent to resell them, which increases the likelihood that your still-usable items will go to someone else rather than a landfill.”

A whopping 92% of respondents have shopped at second-hand, thrift or resale shops – which a third (33%) believe are among the “most fun” stores to shop at – at least once in their lives.

Four in ten purported to be frequent secondhand shoppers, with almost one in ten (11%) claiming they “exclusively” purchase pre-owned items.

Among those polled, secondhand stores are also thought to offer the most value (37%), just ahead of dollar stores (36%) and outlets (34%)

And although 33% consider an item’s value to be of top importance, sustainability can also play a meaningful role in consumers’ choices – both of the item itself (22%) and of the store it’s being bought from (18%).

“Shopping at your local resale store is a great way to keep money circulating in your home community, and is a much more sustainable practice than even buying used items online, which we know that 61% of our panel cares about,” Winmark Chief Executive Officer Brett Heffes said. “In particular, it cuts down on shipping-related fuel and packaging consumption, which can be just as wasteful as the product manufacturing process itself.”


  1. Clothing - 46%

  2. Papers/files - 44%

  3. Books - 29%

  4. Toys - 25%

  5. Hobby equipment or supplies - 25%

  6. Appliances - 24%

  7. Kids’ items - 24%

  8. Furniture - 22%

  9. Sports/exercise equipment - 20%

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,004 general population Americans was commissioned by Winmark between November 7 and November 10, 2022. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).