$728 Worth Of Stuff Out The Door

Easy-Peasy!This weekend we gave our first big clothes donation to Goodwill. We sorted through all the clothes in our closet and pulled out anything we didn’t intend to wear again.

A frilly tie-dyed blouse (with sequins, no less) and a bright Mai-Tai patterned Hawaiian shirt found buried in the back of the closet come to mind.

The majority of the clothes weren’t nearly as horrifying, thank goodness. It’s mainly t-shirts and polos that just never got worn anymore.

We also got rid of most of the clothes that were too small, with only a few exceptions for clothes we really liked and hoped to fit into again someday. We are realists, though, so only a few too-small items got to stay.

We don’t go through our closet very often, and as a result there were clothes that should have been given away a long time ago. There was enough to fill 3 large boxes!

After entering all the items into ItsDeductible, we discovered our donation was worth $728. That’s awesome! Not only will someone else get the benefit of having these clothes but we get a tax deduction. It’s a win-win situation.

Using ItsDeductible is super simple and it works with TurboTax. You simply search for an item and it will give you the value based on condition. Old clothes are sometimes worth more than you would think! We tend to be conservative and value everything as medium quality, even if it has never been worn.

To make the process easier we looked at the categories in the program before we got started and tallied our donations according to those. I highly recommend sorting that way.

For instance, instead of writing “men’s shirt” we broke it down into t-shirt, polo shirt, dress shirt – just like ItsDeductible does. It made inputting the information a breeze. The more specific you are in what the clothing is the better. Best of all, you can transfer the information to TurboTax when you are done.

Even though we reduced the clothing in our closet by about half, we are just at the tip of the iceberg. There are boxes and boxes of old clothing in the garage that we have been carrying with us through the years for some reason.

Maybe it’s laziness. It’s easier to just leave it in the garage than to go through it, I suppose. No more! Every box will be opened and dealt with. I’m on a donation rampage!

Sunday we started going through those long-neglected boxes. Most of the clothes are from “way back when” so almost all of it will be donated. I am in the process of laundering those clothes for the next round of donations. Even though they are clean, they have been sitting in boxes for years and could use a freshening up. I figured that it’s a nice thing to do and helps get them on the racks for sale as quickly as possible.

Donating all this clothing is almost addictive. I can’t wait to see how much our next load adds up to!

Not Good Enough For Goodwill?

A sea of thrifty clothingI’ve been donating a lot of stuff to Goodwill and have discovered they can be pretty picky sometimes.

A few years ago, we brought a U-Haul worth of old furniture (Eric’s old stuff) to Goodwill and the manager came out to sort through it. She took most of the things but the biggest items (two large black couches) got rejected because they had some white cat hair on them.

We laughed about it for days, saying that our couches were so lousy that even Goodwill didn’t want them. I hadn’t considered that something as simple as cat hair would disqualify them from being donated. Unfortunately, those poor hairy (but still useable) couches ended up at the curb on trash day. We figured if Goodwill didn’t want them that no one would.

After another unexpected rejection I started to wonder why these perfectly useable things weren’t good enough. By talking to my friend who used to work at Goodwill, I learned that many people, including myself, have misconceptions about what Goodwill really does. I assumed Goodwill resold donated items at very low prices to help people who need to make their paycheck really stretch. That isn’t their true mission, though.

Goodwill sells the donated items to help raise revenue so they can offer employment opportunities and workforce training. Their focus is on getting people back into the workforce, not necessarily providing low cost goods to lower income families.

If you’ve ever been in a Goodwill store you may have noticed that the prices weren’t at rock bottom levels. The prices are a little higher than what you might think a thrift store would have. My friend said it seemed that middle class shoppers looking for good deals were their primary customers instead of low income families like you might expect.

So, now it makes sense. Goodwill doesn’t want everything you have to donate; only the items that they can resell at decent prices without additional work. The items need to be in good sellable condition when you drop them off. That way they can get the highest price for that item and raise the most funds for their employment programs. I think the work they do is wonderful and now that I know what they are looking for I’ll make sure to screen my donations more carefully.

OK, now I know why Goodwill deemed my hairy couches unworthy but I hate having to throw out useable items I no longer want because they aren’t in top condition. For example, two perfectly good but scratched up end tables or a stained coffee machine. They may be ugly, but they are still functional and could help out someone in need.

They don’t belong in the trash just because I no longer need them and they aren’t in sellable condition. I’m sure that there are plenty of people that would be willing to take in a scratched end table. Maybe someone who doesn’t have the money to spend on end tables might have the time to refinish them. I need to find a way to reach those people.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a place where even slightly damaged (but fully functional) things could be given to people who need them? I’m sure there are lots of families that could have benefited from having those black couches, even if they had some cat hair on them.

My friend suggested that next time, before trashing the rejected items, I try contacting other organizations that could use them, like:

Furniture can be especially helpful in shelters where they provide transitional housing for people getting back on their feet. My friend mentioned that she donated several pieces to our local shelter that provides temporary housing for abused women. What a wonderful way to give that old furniture a second life.

If donation isn’t an option there is always freecycle. Someone is bound to want your extra stuff and this way it doesn’t hit the landfill before it is completely used up. Everybody wins!

What do you do with the things you want to donate or give away but don’t have the time to fix up? Please share your ideas!

Image Source: get directly down

Moving Is Helping Us Simplify

Definitely GoodwillWe’re excited about moving and have been packing in anticipation. It’s a lot of work, but it’s actually been pretty enjoyable. We’re being very critical of what we decide to keep.

Melissa and I have been part “pack rat” in the past. I think some of this is just part of being human. It’s not like humans always had easy access to whatever we needed historically. That’s a much more modern invention. For centuries, we’ve had to make do with what we had and reuse and store literally everything. You never knew when you might need something, and it’s not as though you could go to the convenient 24-hour Walgreens down the street when that time came. Those who were prepared fared better than those that didn’t. It’s just a leftover ancient human survival mechanism.

So now we’ve been going through each item, and talking about it. We have 4 piles we’re using:

We’re definitely leaning more toward the “donate” pile. We do intend to write our donations off, but it’s more about giving than it is about the benefit to us. I’d really like to think that some of the items we’re donating will improve someone’s life.

Each time we talk about an item, we go through a little list :

A big key for us was to not let ourselves get too stuck on the “what ifs” or the “well ifs”. Well, I might need that USB hub. No, I don’t. I have 4 USB ports, and only 2 items that need USB. There will never be a critical need for a USB hub. That goes directly to Goodwill.

Another thing we’ve noticed about ourselves is that we don’t really rewatch many movies now. In the past, when we watched more TV, we might consider rewatching a movie. Now, we hardly ever have the TV on, and the movies sit and collect dust. We’d rather donate, give those away, or sell them. They just take up room.

It’s a great feeling. I think the whole concept of simplifying your life needs more coverage, but maybe in another post. Right now we’re happy to just be reducing what we have, and hopefully helping other people in the process.

Picture by janetmck