Holiday Idea: Donate Your Stuff & Save Some Space

>> Friday, December 18, 2009

Ah, yes. It's the holidays. Time for family. For good food. For giving. And for receiving. All this stuff can mean a clutter disaster in the spaces you love most. If you have ample closet space to neatly stash everything out of sight -- good for you. I'm insanely jealous. I'm thinking most of you, though, will have trouble making it through the festive season without your house taking a hit.

We share your pain.

But if you're like us . . . you probably have a ton of old stuff around that you've been meaning to purge from your home. We have several bags of clothing just waiting for a trip to the Salvation Army. And I'm sure if we really took the time to examine our situation, we'd had far more than that. But what can you donate? Are there guidelines? How can you make sure you don't lose something precious in the process. How does the whole tax return thing work?

So many questions!

What CAN I donate? Think things like used clothing (clean and free of rips and wrinkles -- be respectful, people!). Games, toys, and sporting goods -- but, again, if you're donating a puzzle, try to make sure at least 98% of the pieces are still in the box. Domestic items are also in high demand. So if you have a set of plates you've not used in years, send 'em away. Also furniture in relatively good condition ("good" just means it isn't falling apart -- cosmetic problems don't matter as much). For more information, check out this guide.

What should I NOT donate? This one employs a bit of common sense, at least in my estimation. Anything that's broken, soiled, or generally in disrepair. Goodwill and other donation sites aren't a substitute for the dump or recycling center, it just ends up costing them more money to take care of the dirty work for you. Counterproductive much?

Paint and other chemicals, have their own special disposal methods to which you must pay attention. Check with your local waste agency. Other items you should not donate include broken electronics, gas-powered items, and food (there are other places you can donate canned non-perishables, like your local food bank). For more information, check out this guide.

How do I receive a tax deduction after my donation? Yes! Clothing (and other) donations to qualified charitable organizations are tax deductible. Just make sure you take the extra time to receive a receipt for your efforts (proof). And if you think you've donated items valued in excess of $500, you may need to receive an appraisal. For more information about this topic, visit this Goodwill site.

I donated something I didn't mean to. What can I do? Unfortunately, not much. But you can prevent the situation from occurring again. Make sure you take a look at everything -- everything -- you're schlepping into the donation center. While you're at it, it might be a good idea to check pockets for cash and other items that might still be in there. What may one day seem like a sweater you'd never like to wear again . . . may be your absolute favorite piece of clothing the next. So, you're taking a risk. Evaluate the consequences.

Remember: What is considered your trash could be another guy/gal's treasure. Take our awesome retro console, for example.

Those are just a few tips -- the basics, if you will. Anyone else out there have some tricks to share with the group? We'd love to hear 'em. Just leave a comment or email us at

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