How to be awesome at donating your stuff

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Years ago, comedian George Carlin wondered if the meaning of life was simply trying to find a place for our stuff. We love it. We surround ourselves with it. We can't live without it.

Sometimes too much gets to be, well, too much. But getting rid of your stuff shouldn't mean throwing it in a landfill, especially as charitable organizations battle increased need during the holiday season. Here's how to give back to the community - and get something for it.

1. Ditch the junk

Someone wants your gently used mp3 player. Your tattered Mondale/Ferraro T-shirt? Probably not. Don't bring broken or unusable things to charities, which spend millions annually throwing away people's trash. After shedding your chaff, group together similar items like household wares, clothing, electronics and furniture.

2. Scout locations

FreeGeek Columbus provides computers and tech training for low-income residents, while Dress for Success outfits disadvantaged women to land and keep jobs. Each organization works toward a different goal - and requires different resources - so choose a worthwhile one you feel you can help.

3. Read the guidelines

Check to see which items are accepted and when and where you can drop them off. If you can't transport larger items, ask about pick-up options offered by groups like the Salvation Army and MAP Furniture Bank.

4. Check if a location's approved

Charitable giving comes with a warm glow of righteousness. It can also come with tax benefits. In order to deduct your donations, an organization must be approved by the Internal Revenue Service. You can find a list at and or by calling 877-829-5500.

5. Get, keep a receipt

Organizations generally give a receipt of items donated - not a dollar amount. Keep detailed descriptions of what you've given, so you can approximate its value around tax time. You'll need to file an itemized return - and a form known as Schedule A - to deduct donations. You'll be surprised how quickly charity adds up.

Ditch the junk

Scout locations

Read the guidelines

Check if a location's approved

Get, keep a receipt