Donate items you no longer need/want.

It may not feel like it in your neck of the woods, but today is the first day of spring!  It’s time for spring cleaning.  But let’s start by getting some things out of our homes first!  Some people declutter but never actually get their items out the door.  We’re going to work on this very task this week.  Then next week, we’ll do a little spring cleaning!

Having donations boxes sitting in your garage for extended periods of time is a bad idea because you may ultimately decide you want to keep something you had already decided to donate.

So today, I urge you to donate those items that you decided to donate.  Get them out of the house.

We typically take the standard deductions on our taxes, but just in case we have a year in which itemizing is a good idea, I take pictures of everything donated, and I get receipts.  So the first thing I do when I finally donate items is to take pictures of everything I’m donating.  I don’t do anything fancy.  I just put the item on my dark walnut dining room table in natural light, and I take a picture with my iPhone or iPad.

Then I upload the pictures to my Dropbox account into a file named “Donations.”  I create a subfolder giving more details about the donation:  “Disabled American Veterans, donated 2017.02.21,” for example.  After I’ve uploaded the pictures to this subfolder, I delete them from my phone, and I delete the deleted pictures.  (I need all the space on my phone I can get!)  Why do I take pictures of the items?  First, I like to have a record just in case we ever get audited.  I really don’t know that the pictures help, but I feel better about having the pictures, especially if I’m donating a lot of stuff in a particular year (as I did the year we downsized from a three-bedroom house to a small two-bedroom apartment).  Second, I feel as though I am more easily able to part with items with sentimental value as long as I have a picture of the items.

If I donate something that could harm the person inventorying the donations, I make a note on the outside of the bag.  For example, I recently donated steak knives.  I placed them in Hefty freezer bags, then wrapped them in a reusable shopping bag, then put this note on the outside.

Finally, take your items to be donated, and get a donation receipt.  I scan the receipt when I return home, then put it with my current-year tax paperwork.

One more thing:  Talk to the person taking donations and ask about items that the thrift store doesn’t want.  For example, one of the thrift stores closest to my home does not accept more than five books at a time because they have so many.  (I broke up my John Grisham collection into several donations a couple of years ago for this reason.)  At least in my area, even ragged clothes can be used; Goodwill shreds them, and the Navy buys them for use as rags on the ships here.  So I donate items liberally.  But do keep in mind that items such as irreparably broken toys and puzzles with missing pieces are best sent to the trash.

Time required:  Less than an hour including driving time, but the time required depends on how many items you are taking to be donated and where the donation center is in relation to your home.