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The Dos and Don’ts of Donations

By Jennifer Snyder
I have covered clutter from almost every angle but the fact remains: less clutter means more space.  More unoccupied space means less time spent maintaining items.  Less time spent maintaining items means more free time to do whatever it is we want to do.  Let's face it, there are hundreds, if not thousands of things we would rather be doing than chores.  One of the most rewarding ways to reduce the volume of stuff is donating to a worthwhile charity.  Here are some guidelines to help you do it right.  There is also a list of charities on the Resources page of my web site: www.neatasapin.net.

Donating our unwanted items not only reduces clutter, it also has the added bonus of earning us tax write-offs.  I can easily tell you what you can donate but it is more efficient to tell you what you cannot. 

Please do not donate:

  • Any item that has been recalled by the Consumer Safety Commission (not sure? Check at www.cpsc.gov)

  • Large appliances – especially refrigerators and freezers

  • Automobile parts

  • Items which are broken or inoperable (think: remote control car without the remote)

  • Building supplies (lumber, paint, brick)

  • Consumables that expire (food, vitamins) Note: Some charities specifically ask for food so check with them in advance before dropping off.

  • Furniture that has been contaminated or in disrepair

  • Any gas powered tool (lawnmower, gas grill)

  • Mattress and box springs

  • Junk mail

  • Newspapers & magazines – some especially desire these items, check in advance

  • Toxic items (batteries, paint)


If you are unsure whether or not something is acceptable, it is always best practice to contact the donation center in advance.

According to the TurboTax blog (September 12, 2012) there are limits for how much you can donate (read: write off) to charity yet doesn't affect many of us.  The deduction is limited to 50% of your income.  If you aren't sure or have specific questions, check with your tax accountant.

When it comes to determining how much value we can assign each item, the glorious age of technology is definitely in our favor.  How I recommend this be done is to put a (cardboard) box in a convenient, yet out of the way place (think: garage) and hang a clipboard on the wall over the box.  Whenever something is added to the box, make a note on the clipboard.  When the box is full, make the donation and add your list to a donation value calculator.

This is where the fun part comes in.  Here is a list of reliable and user-friendly applications to use to calculate your donations.  Most will export a list to your email that you can print and attach to your donation receipt.

  • TurboTax – Its Deductible

  • Bankrate – Tax Valuation for Donated Goods

  • The Salvation Army has a comprehensive valuation guide

  • IRS Publication 561, if you enjoy reading IRS verbiage


Apps available:

  • iDonatedIt app for iPhone ($2.99)

  • Drop-Off Donation Log (free)

  • Donation App (free)

  • Donation Tracking (free)


Please remember when making donations that the donation is intended to go to someone in need so donate items that could realistically contribute to the esteem of the receiver.  Worn out shoes and molded blankets won't do.  Also, find a charity about which you can feel passionate about helping.  My personal favorites are our local Family Abuse Center and The Salvation Army.

Have a Neat day!

Jennifer Snyder, Certified Professional Organizer
Neat as a Pin Organizing Experts, Owner
Web: Neatasapin.net
Facebook & Pinterest: Neat as a Pin Organizing Experts
Twitter: @neatasapin Back To Top

Categories:  Organizing Tips

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