What you see pictured here is a recent trip to Goodwill.
Eight bags of clothes, one bag of shoes, and a bag of cups/water bottles.
(I literally called an impromptu family meeting about the water bottles, which were spilling out of our cabinets. Everyone picked one or two favorites and out went the rest.)
Like so many of you, I am decluttering. Big time.
The method I am using is one that I have used for years and years, and it has served me well.
Here’s what it looks like:
The Staging Area
If you’re committed to decluttering – either as a one-time proposition or an ongoing endeavor – it helps to have a staging area, a place where you can put the things that are on their way out.
It can be as simple as a box by the back door or a spot in the garage. For us, it’s part of a spare closet that is off our master bedroom.
The whole family knows about this staging area and uses it.
Before I make a run to drop off donations, I take everything from the staging area and make a quick list of the items. It’s a very simple list with the name of the item and tally marks of how many there are.
I do this for tax purposes because we write off our donations (more on that in a minute).
The Drop Off
There are several places near me where you can literally drive up, drop off your donations, and get a receipt without ever turning off your car. That’s important, because if donating is too time consuming it’s easy to put if off and the stuff piles up.
We also have some charities that drive through our neighborhood on a regular basis and pick up things that have been left out. I use that option occasionally, but many of my neighbors take advantage of that regularly.
(Check out Charity Navigator if you want to check out the organizations you plan to donate to.)
The Write Off
The biggest challenge with writing off charitable donations for tax purposes is knowing how to value them. That’s where It’s Deductible comes in. It’s Deductible gives you the resale value of your non-cash donations based on the style and condition of the item.
I started using It’s Deductible back when it was a book that you bought. Eventually it became a software program, also available for a price. I happily paid to use It’s Deductible back in those days. It was that valuable.
Eventually Intuit (the company behind Quicken and Mint) bought the program and the good news is that it’s now completely free to use.
It’s easy to use too. It took me about fifteen minutes to input all ten bags of stuff from our donation (and I even took a call from a friend during that time).
It’s Deductible even valued those water bottles for me. They were listed right there under Kitchen>On the Go>Water/Sports Bottle.
If you’re wondering whether valuing your items for a write-off is worth your time, consider this: It’s Deductible valued my eight bags of clothing, one bag of shoes, and one bag of water bottles at $497.
That was for one trip to Goodwill and I should note that I always choose the ‘medium value’ condition for my items instead of the ‘high value’ option.
Work in Stages
One of the reason this system works so well for me, is that I don’t have to do everything at once. I usually handle donations in three stages:
- The rest of the family and I collect items on an ongoing basis since we know where to put them.
- When the pile is big enough (i.e. we can’t get to our luggage or other items in that spare closet) I make a list of the times and drive them to the donation site.
- At tax time, I take the lists and the receipts from the year and put everything into It’s Deductible at once.
(Note: I’ve added It’s Deductible to the Resources page here at The Family CEO for future reference.)
Do you have a system for donating items that works for you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.