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Decluttering and Organizing- A Guide to Use Goods Donations

Now that we’re into February, you must be well on your way to achieving success on your 2020 resolutions. If getting organized or decluttering were on your “new year, new you” list of goals, then let’s assume that there’s a pile of old clothes, abandoned toys, and unused housewares stacked in the corner, waiting to be donated. If you aren’t there yet, spring is around the corner. 

Before loading unwanted goods into your trunk, BBB Northwest + Pacific has a few tips to make sure that your donation of used items provides more benefit than burden:  

  • Verify the need. Most charities that accept donations offer guidelines on what they can and cannot accept.  

Most cannot accept recalled items, hazardous materials, firearms and ammunition, large appliances, or old mattresses and box springs.  

Check to see the restrictions on when to drop off your donation. Some charities have posted dates and times for accepting donations and may not be able to use items left when attendants are not present.  

  • Examine the condition. You might not want the item anymore but would anyone else? Most charities accept only new or gently used items that they will be able to sell or that their programs can use. Tattered, rusty, and broken or incomplete items won’t be of any use and cost charities millions of dollars each year. If you have questions about whether your items will be acceptable, contact the charity before assuming they’ll collect all second-hand items. 
  • Do your research. If donating to a thrift store, request information on how their sales will contribute to charity. Not all thrift stores are non-profit or the benefit they pass on to partner charities may be a small fraction of the item’s sale price. If a thrift shop is affiliated with a charity, you can ask the charity about the arrangements they have with the thrift stores. If dropping items off at a donation bin or collection truck, pay attention to posted details. Look for the name of the benefitting organization, a clear mission statement, a description of how the sale of donations will fund the mission and what percentage of sales are contributed, as well as contact information for questions and a tax receipt. 
  • Itemize before dropping off. If itemizing your donations on your taxes, note that the IRS requires goods be in good used condition. Charities will not assign value to the goods you donate – that is your responsibility. Before dropping off your donation, take inventory of your haul and record it on the donation receipt the organization provides. When non-cash contributions total over $500, you will need to submit the IRS Form 8283 with your tax return. For more deductibility information, consult an accountant or visit https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc506.  

A wide variety of charities rely on donations of used goods – not only charitable thrift stores. Here are some ideas for types of charities to consider for your used goods donations:  

  • Homeless or domestic violence shelters – often accept clothing, furniture, household items, and food, 
  • Animal shelters – may be accepting towels or blankets,  
  • Senior centers and retirement homes – may collect books, games, or puzzles, 
  • Furniture banks or re-use stores – accept working household appliances, furniture, and building supplies, 
  • Libraries and schools – may accept like-new books, 
  • Employment training programs – often accept professional or business-casual attire, and  
  • Foster care or adoption agencies – may accept suitcases, used clothing, and like-new toys.  

These are just ideas to get you started. Think outside of the box and there may be plenty more opportunities for repurposing or recycling your old belongings. When in doubt, check with the organization before stopping by, to ensure that your donation can be accepted and will be usable. Otherwise, you may end up leaving them with the cost of disposing of junk. 

As always, BBB suggests doing your research into the charities you support by searching our charity reviews at bbb.org or give.org.  

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Written by Kelsey Gardipee

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