Sunday, April 17, 2011

MAKING MONEY MATTER: Another way to recycle your unwanted items

Spring is a tease -- we can't quite put away the winter clothes, but we are pulling out the lighter-weight clothes and even on some days, shorts, T-shirts and sandals. We are storing our ski equipment and taking out the summer gear. Spring may bring some of us a change of living arrangements, from one apartment to another, downsizing, moving up, or even moving away. Kids are going off to college -- or coming back to live "for a while." Whatever the reason, there's a lot of putting away and bringing to and from storage. We are reminded that we've filled all our available space. We have the urge to purge and get rid of all the excess accumulated "stuff." But can we do it? Volumes have been written about how to organize work environments, with all kinds of systems to help do that. It's hard, but it mostly involves dealing with paper or digital files. Organizing your living space is harder. It's generally more emotional. But when you are really ready to have at it, the first step is to decide what you want to keep. What's essential? What's useful? What's sentimental? What do you just love? What haven't you used in the last year or for that matter, in the last five years? Once you decide you can live without it, the next decision is whether to toss it. If it is obvious, just do it. If it has value because someone else would find it useful or could repair it so that it has another life you have two choices. If you have the time and energy, you might want to sell it. Consignment shops are one option, as are online options such as eBay or Craigslist. Or, you can give it away. Giving it away can mean giving it to someone in your family or a friend because they might need it, like it, or because it has some sentimental value. But if none of the above fits, it becomes their "stuff" which they will have to purge later. So what do you do with what's left? Donate to an organization that can find the right home for the items or that can turn them into cash to support their mission. Charities don't want your rusty appliance or stained couch, but gently used furniture or clean clothing or new but unused purchases are welcome. Other "property" gifts can be made too, like recreational equipment, collections, jewelry, vehicles, boats, art and more. Virtually everyone has items that can be donated. Look for a local charity to drop them off or call for a pick-up. If you intend to take a tax deduction for your donation of personal property, be sure you check the IRS regulations. According to Publication 526 on Charitable Contributions: "If you contribute property to a qualified organization the amount of your charitable contribution is generally the fair market value at the time of the contribution." Determining fair market value isn't always easy and there are "special rules" and limitations that apply to specific kinds of contributions. There are also requirements such as the need, in some cases, for a qualified appraisal if the deduction is more than $500. In any case, get receipts to substantiate the donation if you want to take a tax deduction. You should note that in some cases there are additional forms to file. Make giving a part of your spring purge. Remember, identify what you want to keep, then: TOSS, SELL, GIFT, DONATE AND DEDUCT. Just more ways to recycle, right? Enid Ablowitz, CFRE, CPGS, has been a nonprofit leader and donor advocate for more than 20 years. She serves as the associate director for the University of Colorado's Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities and as vice president for strategic philanthropy for the University of Colorado Foundation. Source

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