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Donate and de-clutter

All that stuff you never use can benefit others. You get a tax write-off and more room in your life.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 8, 2010 11:24AM

Following my divorce I received dozens of paintings, prints and posters as part of my share of the community property. Some I've been able to sell. Some of it I probably never will.

I've decided to give away some of it, starting with one framed photo of Mount McKinley and three examples of the Alaska art genre known as "moose and goose in the spruce."

So who'd want it?

A charity thrift shop, of course. And if you were thinking of donating goods for 2010 tax deductions, now is the time to start looking through your own belongings.

Waiting until late December will put additional pressure on you during a traditionally busy time. And how would you like to be on an intake crew at a thrift shop and nonprofit on the last few days of the year?

There's an additional bonus: The more you donate, the less clutter in your household. You may find you like the scaled-down look.

Of course, you might also get a bunch of stuff for Christmas that clutters it all back up again. A bunch of folks swear by this rule: For every new thing, at least one old thing has to go. Some people take it even further by wondering if they could live with just 100 things.

Please, no more skis

In a post called "How to maximize charitable giving," SmartMoney's Kelli B. Grant suggested half a dozen ways to make a difference, including giving your time, or shopping online through sites that make donations based on how much you spend.

"Smart donating does take a little work," Grant wrote.

Whether you're offering your old kitchen table or your old Buick, call first to make sure the charity can use it. Certain items are a glut on the market (a thrift shop near me has a back fence made entirely of donated skis) and other items may not be accepted at all (the same charity won't take mattresses or box springs).

Note: I'm not dumping unsaleable art on a nonprofit. It might be ugly to me but someone else is going to love it. I've seen what I consider some pretty horrific artwork going back out the doors at Goodwill and Value Village in the arms of happy customers.

Surely there are buyers for the painting of the moose standing knee-deep in a pond that reflects a nearby mountain, or the snowbound cabin with the aurora borealis wavering overhead.

They'll be happy, and I'll be happier: That's four fewer objets d'art stacked up in my apartment. Now, if I could just find a home for that painting of a buckskin-clad mountain man with a dead animal on his head.

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