Ah! Springtime – when the trees bloom and the bulbs we planted sprout out of the ground. At around this time we start to think about the long, glorious summer days ahead. However, with spring comes something that most of us in the U.S. don’t look forward to – tax season!
By decluttering our homes of unwanted stuff like clothes, handbags, luggage, furniture, toasters, costume jewelry, or artwork, we are not only tidying up, we are helping those in need. And, less clutter means more space. So, more space means less time spent maintaining items. As a result, we have more free time to do whatever it is we want to do. As a professional organizer, one thing I feel confident saying is that very few of us (the well-organized among us included), want to spend more time doing housework and maintaining our stuff. We want to hang out with our families and friends doing fun activities. Or, doing nothing at all.
I’ve made a list below of items that are good and not so good to donate. You can also check out Donating Do’s and Don’ts to learn a few tips to help you be a responsible and efficient donor.
What to Donate
Donate items that are in good condition – only things we’d feel good about giving to a friend. For instance:
- Accessories, Shoes, Boots (belts, handbags, scarves, etc.)
- Art and Decorative Household Items (clocks, knick-knacks)
- Appliances (small items: blenders, toasters)
- Books, CDs, DVDs, Tapes, Vinyl records
- Camping Equipment and Sporting Goods
- Collectibles (stamps, books, coins)
- Computers and Electronics (check before bringing these in)
- Furniture (smaller items: lamps, decorative tables, ottomans)
- Household Items (dishes, cookware, artificial plants)
- Toys and Bikes (provided they are safe and not under recall)
- Working Small Appliances (toasters, blenders)
What Not to Donate
Never donate items recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Check the CPSC website for a list of recalled items. Other items that should not be donated include:
- Appliances (fridge, stove, washer/dryer, etc.)*
- Automobile Parts
- Broken Items (appliances and/or electronics)
- Building Supplies (lumber, concrete, brick, stones, etc.)*
- Food, Drugs, Vitamins
- Furniture (contaminated or in disrepair)
- Gas Grills
- Mattresses and Box Springs
- Newspapers, Magazines, Junk Mail
- Paint, Toxic Chemicals, Used Batteries
- Weapons (ammunition, guns, knives, swords, pepper spray)
*Charities like Habitat for Humanity may accept donations of gently used appliances and building supplies. Contact your local Habitat for Humanity to see what they will and will not accept.
Limits and Itemization
This information from Turbo Tax (updated for Tax Year 2019) helps clarify exactly how much can be deducted for charitable contributions:
- Contributions to public charities, colleges, and religious groups are limited to 50% of your adjusted gross income, and donations of property to other types of non-profits are limited to 30%.
- For donated items, you can write-off for the item’s fair market value at the time you donated it, which may be considerably less than what you originally paid. Items valued at more than $500 require Form 8283 to be completed and attached to your tax return.
In order to get a tax deduction for donations, you must itemize your deductions. That is to say, your eligible tax deductions must exceed the IRS standard deduction. For more information read the IRS Tax Tip Know these Facts Before Deducting a Charitable Donation.
Assigning a Value to Donations
Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available to help us determine how much our stuff is worth. Here’s a list of a few places that have donation valuation guides.
- Turbo Tax – It’s Deductible
- The Salvation Army
- IRS Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property
- IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions
Donation Tracking Tools
- Goodwill Donation Receipt Builder – FREE
- Donation Tracking Sheet – FREE
- Donation Tracker Printable – FREE
- iDonatedIt app for iPhone – $2.99
This year, as part of your spring-cleaning ritual, make it a priority to declutter and donate – you’ll feel good now and thank yourself next year when tax season rolls around.