EXPERTS SAY THAT donating is often the right move for people who find decluttering especially daunting or are short on time. “If you’re overwhelmed by your clutter, you don’t want to spend a lot of time figuring out how to get rid of it,” Tokos says. “That’s when you should consider taking it all to a charitable organization and be done with it.”
Donating can also earn you a charitable tax deduction, which may lower your tax bill. Search “Tax exempt organizations” at IRS.gov to find those that qualify, and remember to get receipts.
The items should be clean, safe, and in good working order. “We average about 2 million dollars in trash-removal costs every year for items people dump at our stores that we cannot resell,” says Marla Eby, a spokeswoman for Goodwill Southern California, whose stores—like all of Goodwill’s 3,000 outlets in the U.S. and Canada—collect and sell donated items to support education and job-placement programs. “If something’s in really bad shape, it’s better to recycle it or throw it away.” Note that some organizations won’t accept donations of child car seats, cribs, and other infant equipment that could have been recalled.
Policies vary, so make sure you find an organization that meets your needs. For instance, the Salvation Army will pick up large donations and items such as furniture. You can schedule a pickup at satruck.org, but note that this service has been suspended in some areas due to COVID-19.
Some charitable groups focus on particular items or needs. Habitat for Humanity ReStore —nonprofit stores that support the mission of providing housing—accepts appliances, furniture, bathtubs, building materials, and other home goods. Cellphonesforsoldiers.com sells secondhand cell phones and tablets to refurbishers and recyclers; proceeds go to provide international calling cards and emergency funding to troops.
Lions Clubs collect old eyeglasses at participating Walmart stores to give away or recycle, while The Hearing Aid Project (hearingaiddonations.org) refurbishes hearing aids for low-income people nationwide. Dressforsuccess.org and careergear.org accept professional attire to distribute to women and men, respectively, who can make good use of it.
If you’d like to share with people in your local community, consider groups like the Freecycle Network (freecycle.org) and BuyNothing (search Facebook Groups for one nearby). Freecycle, for instance, has more than 5,000 local groups worldwide, where members give and get free items.
“The window air conditioner you’re replacing with a new one is basically trash to you but could change someone else’s life,“ says Freecycle’s founder, Deron Beal. (These donations don’t qualify as charitable deductions.)