Donating to Charities before a Move
How to donate household items
You’ve finally done it! You’ve cleaned out the closet, basement, attic and garage and gathered every item you no longer have use for. Whether your inspiration was an upcoming move or the desire to get the clutter out, you’re now tasked with deciding what to do with everything you’ve collected. While having a moving sale is always an option, donating household items is an alternative solution that also lets you help someone in need. To make donating goods as easy as possible, we’ve developed a guide to walk you through the process.
Deciding where to donate
Many charities across the country will gladly accept donations of gently-used household items. But because they’ll use them in different ways, it’s important to consider which charity is best for your specific donations before taking anything to them. Here are a few of the top-ranked charities with locations across the country and the types of items they accept.
Note: If you prefer to give to a local organization, shelters, thrift stores and churches are good places to consider.
Ranked by Forbes as the largest U.S. Charity in 2016, United Way Worldwide is a popular non-profit that’s often viewed as one of the best charities to donate to. Most resale shops are run by unpaid volunteers and the funds go directly to organizations that benefit those in need. United Way is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia and has more than 1,000 legally independent local units. Each location determines its own community’s priorities and how to handle the donations it receives. To donate, simply box up your items and drop them off at a local United Way affiliate store. United Way typically accepts clothing, furniture, household appliances and baby supplies.
The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army is a social-service agency that also serves as a Christian Protestant Church. They accept clothing, furniture, automobiles and appliances. You can visit their website to schedule a pick-up time or you can drop them off at a nearby location. Donations are sold at the Salvation Army’s Family Stores and the profits go to their rehabilitation centers.
The Goodwill organization was founded in 1902 by Reverend Edgar J. Helms, a Methodist minister. They accept a wide variety of gently-used items including clothes, shoes, jewelry, books, games, toys, blankets, housewares, furniture and other large items — these will be sold through their retail and outlet stores. Goodwill also accepts vehicles, personal computers and flat-panel monitor HDTVs. Household items can be dropped off at any Goodwill Store and Donation Center, but you’ll need to arrange for vehicles to get picked up.
Big Brothers, Big Sisters
Big Brothers, Big Sisters is the largest youth mentoring organization in the United States. Their motto is “making a difference, one child at a time” and contributions go directly to their centers across the country to help at-risk children. Workers can schedule a free home pick up for you or you can drop items off at one of their locations. Since everything goes directly to kids, the organization asks for items such as clothing, accessories, housewares and toys. Large appliances, furniture, electronics and food are not accepted. View the complete list of accepted items here.
Tips for preparing belongings
Once you’ve determined which organization to take items to, it’s time to get them ready. Taking the time to properly prepare them will make it easier on the charity and may help more items get accepted.
Clothing and household fabrics
Many organizations are in great need of clothing (especially denim and work clothes), towels, and bedding. If you’re donating these, it’s good practice to:
- Check all pockets for trash or forgotten items
- Wash everything (preferably in fragrance-free detergent)
- Neatly put the clothing and fabrics in bags or containers so they’re easy to sort through
Couches, tables and entertainment centers typically do well in any charity with a resale store. Before donating furniture, be sure to:
- Clean it (either by vacuuming or wiping it down with furniture polish)
- Tighten any loose screws
- Make sure you have all pieces (extra shelves, table leaves, etc.)
Have an old computer or cell phone to get rid of? Goodwill, the Salvation Army and programs like Hope Phones will take them and put them to good use. Follow these tips before dropping them off:
- Remove any personal information from the device and reset to factory settings if possible
- Include all charging chords, information booklets and other documentation or components
- Double check that the particular item is accepted (older televisions and other devices aren’t always taken)
Toys, strollers, diaper bags and baby-proofing items are needed at most charities to help parents in need. To ensure the safety of the recipient, follow these guidelines:
- Check about specific items before donating — used cribs, bottles, formula, car seats and diapers may not be accepted at some charities
- Clean everything with safe unscented cleansers
- Don’t donate stained or heavily-worn clothing
Many organizations will take seasonal items like heavy coats and holiday decorations as long as you’re aware of the requirements. Keep these things in mind before boxing them up:
- There is most likely a specific time of year these items are accepted, so ask the specific charity about the months they take them (usually starts in October or November)
- If items are electrical, make sure there are no loose or fraying wires
- Don’t donate anything that’s personal (i.e. photo ornaments)
Keep in mind that there are some things charities can’t take for personal safety reasons. Items that don’t work or could put someone in danger in terms of health or safety won’t be accepted. Examples include chemical products, personal care items, mattresses, box springs, carpet, plumbing fixtures, weapons and explosives. A rule of thumb is to consider if you would give the item to someone you know. If so, you can probably donate it. If not, hold off or ask the specific organization.
Charity tax deduction guidelines
Did you know you can deduct most charitable donations from your taxes? In order to do so, you’ll need to have a receipt. It will serve as proof of the charitable contribution and help the non-profit keep their financial records accurate. The documentation is fairly simple for donations valued at less than $250 — it just needs to include the names of the donor and organization, the date, and a description of the items donated. If the value is more than $250, you’ll also need an itemized list that includes the cash value associated with each belonging. Contributions more than $5,000 in value (such as cars) require an appraisal.
If you’re not sure how to determine the fair market value of your goods, visit the IRS website for help.
Schedule a household donations pick up
Contributing to a non-profit is an ideal way to downsize your home while giving back to the community. If you have additional questions about how the process works, let us know in the comments!