When you donate good used home furnishings to homeless shelters or other charities, you are helping (1) yourself, (2) your community, (3) the environment, (4) the charity and (5) its clients. When you throw usable items away, you help push landfills toward capacity and deprive all those entities of an easily obtainable benefit.
You benefit by qualifying for a tax deduction, cleaning out your home, and knowing that you have helped others. The charity may even pick up your items, saving you the hassle of carrying them out. Remember, the used furnishings must be in very good or like new condition. The charity is not a trash pickup service and it does not wish to provide furnishings in poor condition to its clients.
The proper tax deduction amount is based on the current fair market value of the donated item. Refer to IRS Publications 526 and 561 for guidance. Always obtain a receipt for your donation and don’t overvalue your gift. Unless the item is new or rare, the proper deduction value is probably a fraction of the purchase price.
The donation benefits the charity by supporting its mission and helping it grow. It benefits the charity’s clients (e.g., unemployed, low-income, abused or homeless people) by helping them establish comfortable and cheerful living spaces. Since most such donations are local, helping these people get a fresh start can raise the standard of living in your community.
Giving your used home furnishings to charity creates a chain of environmental benefits. Many furnishings contain toxic substances that can pollute your air or water supply when they are incinerated or placed in landfills. The U.S. EPA reports that in 2009, we as a nation discarded 9.8 million tons of furniture and furnishings, more than double the 4.8 million tons discarded in 1980. The 2009 amount comprised 4.1% of the nation’s municipal solid waste for the year.
Keeping usable items in use minimizes unnecessary production of new items. Product manufacturing consumes natural resources and creates waste byproducts. Shipping burns fossil fuels and pollutes the air. Donating good used furnishings delays this cycle as we develop cleaner, more efficient technologies for manufacturing, shipping, and disposal.
Don’t throw furnishings away when they are in very good condition. Donate them to a local charity and create a chain of benefits for yourself, your community, the charity, and the environment.
- Written by Alan Biehn of ab.editing, a member of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia
To see a list of donation items Deserving Decor is accepting, please visit the Donate page.