Right now is a great time of year to declutter and donate. You might be digging into closets for holiday décor only to be shocked--disgusted--by how much stuff you've accumulated over the years. I always recommend decluttering and donating for a less stressful move, but any time of year is a good one to simplify your life and help those less fortunate with the goods you no longer use. Not only does donating feel satisfying during the holiday season, but if you want to take advantage of charitable-giving tax deductions when filing your 2012 taxes, you'll need to make your donations by December 31st.
Here are some of my favorite charities that help turn your clutter into cache for someone in need.
Where to Donate Non-Perishable Food
It's easy to let non-perishable items like canned vegetables, tuna and pasta accumulate and crowd your cupboards or pantry. But for the 48 million Americans (including 16.2 million children) who have trouble finding a regular meal, this food could be the difference between a substantial meal and going to bed with hunger pangs.
If you're just decluttering, find a local food bank using the FeedingAmerica.org search tool and donate today.
If you're decluttering for a move, hire a mover in the Move for Hunger network of movers. Move for Hunger partners with moving companies across the nation to collect non-perishable food items from those who are moving and deliver it to local food banks. All you have to do is set aside your unwanted, non-perishable food items and your mover will pack up and deliver your donation for you. A significant perk about hiring a mover in the Move for Hunger network is that the organization screens all its members. Therefore the Move for Hunger logo is a seal of approval that you're dealing with an upstanding moving company.
Where to Donate Clothing
I like to seek out lesser-known charities whose missions resonate with my values. In the case of clothing donation, two such charities come to mind.
1. Dress for Success helps disadvantaged women find appropriate attire to wear to job interviews. For some women, access to this one outfit could be the difference between supporting herself and her family and homelessness. Your donation of gently worn, office-appropriate blazers, skirts, blouses, pants and shoes go to women who are rebounding from domestic violence, life on the streets and immigration from impoverished countries. The organization has helped more than 650,000 women around the world since 1997. Visit their website to make a clothing or monetary donation.
2. Whether you have fond memories or vivid nightmares of your prom, this coming-of-age event is one that all teenage girls should have the opportunity to attend. But for some working-class families, the cost of a prom dress is too much to bear. The Cinderella Project works to supply teens from these families with dresses and accessories that truly make them feel like princesses. There are local affiliates all over the country; donation recipients must be in grades 10 through 12 and enrolled in school. If your daughter's old prom dress is taking up closet space, or if either of you have formal wear, shoes, costume jewelry or gloves that are no longer of use, go to DonateMyDress.org to help make a young woman's prom dream come true.
If you don't have time to drop off your clothing donation, contact a charity that offers curb-side pickup at your home. Examples include Vietnam Veterans of America, Goodwill, The Salvation Army, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Purple Heart. Visit their websites to see if they serve your area and to schedule a pickup.
Where to Donate Books
If you're like me and love to read, you have books stacked up on bedside tables, crowding book shelves and packed away in boxes. Maybe your teenage or adult children have long outgrown the Berenstain Bears, Babar and Dr. Seuss. Why let these gems gather dust and clutter space? Share your love of reading with others who don't have access to literature by donating your books to your local library or Books for International Goodwill (B.I.G.). B.I.G. donates 450,000 recycled or discarded books from people like us to U.S. service personnel, Peace Corps volunteers, Indian reservations and schools, as well as those with limited resources in Africa, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia.
Although B.I.G. is always looking for quality books, some books are in higher demand: textbooks, children's books and most non-fiction. There is less of a demand for certain books, such as steamy romance novels. (I guess my books are out!) Genres that are not shipped overseas can be sold at official book sales to raise money to cover shipping and other organizational costs.
Track Your Charitable Giving
All of these charities have 501 (c) (3) charitable status, which means you can deduct the value of your donations from your taxes. Use a free, pre-defined charitable giving Excel spreadsheet to make tracking the quantity and value of your items easy.
What steps do you plan to take for a clutter-free, stress-free New Year?