The following is a guest post from Julie at The Family CEO.

Melissa and I are kindred spirits when it comes to decluttering. It’s a win/win situation when you can free up some space in your home and give your finances a boost at the same time.

And like Melissa, I often sell things – especially larger things – on Craigslist. But when it comes to smaller things (clothing, household items) I am more like to donate them to a worthy charity and take the deduction on our income taxes.

Here’s the decluttering/donation process I’ve been using for many years. It’s a simple system that works well for me.

Collect It

Collecting items to donate is sometimes a big, whirlwind operation that takes up a whole weekend. Those kind of purges feel good, and I engage in them every once in a while.

More often, however, our family’s decluttering process takes place over time. Outgrown tshirts, books that won’t be re-read, and extra coffee mugs (come on, you know you have too many of those too) all find their way to the pile little by litte.

One thing that helps with this process is to have a collection or staging area that all of the family uses. As our kids have gotten older, they declutter on their own schedule.

Then, when the pile has gotten large enough – meaning I can’t reach the wrapping paper that is in the same closet as our collection area — I move onto the next step.

List It

Before I bag up items to donate, I make a quick list of what’s included. It’s a very simple list done on a legal pad with tally marks to indicate numbers.

Grouping like items together before I start the list helps make the process faster.

The reason for the list is that we value our donations for tax deduction purposes. As a self-employed family, our tax bill is scary and the few minutes it takes to list and value our deductions is worth it at tax time.

I use a free, online service called It’s Deductible to make the valuations.

It’s Deductible has predetermined values for many of the items people donate, and the level of detail is amazing. Is that puzzle you’re donating 10-999 pieces or 1000+ pieces? Is the golf club you have listed an iron, a wedge or a putter? It’s Deductible will value them all differently.

Once I’ve finished entering the items into It’s Deductible, I print a summary report off and staple my handwritten list and the receipt from the charity to it. These are kept with our tax records.

Sometimes I enter and value items as I go, during the year, but more often I do it all when I’m getting tax stuff ready for our CPA. Even then, it only takes a half an hour or so.

Donate It

The last step is to get the items out of our house and into the hands of someone who can better put them to use. I’ve found that these days it’s more convenient than ever to donate items to charity, and I’m guessing that’s the case for you too.

For instance, there are several drive up places in my area that make donating items as easy as ordering a burger and fries. Some are adjacent to the thrift stores the charities operate and some are stand-alone containers.

There are also various organizations that come through my neighborhood and pick items up right from my driveway. It doesn’t get easier than that.

One question I always have is whether or not a charity I’m giving to is reputable. When in doubt, I stick with an organization I’m more familiar with. And a site like Charity Navigator – which rates charities – can be helpful too.

Do you have a system of donating to charity that works for you? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments.

Julie Mayfield is a family finance and lifestyle blogger. You can find her sharing “simple ideas for everyday living” at The Family CEO.

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