Ways to Donate Clothes to Charity

To make room in your closet, do a good deed and have a perfect excuse to go shopping, donate your old clothing to a local charity. When you donate clothes to charity, you get rid of space-hogging garments you no longer wear, and you give a stranger some new, needed outfits.

What to Donate
Most charities are grateful for anything you feel like donating. But when it comes to clothing, there are a few general guidelines. They basically boil down to two rules. One, always wash what you donate first. Two, if the garment is so damaged that you wouldn't wear it, then nobody else will want to wear it, either.

Clothing that is obviously stained or ripped is best left at home to be used as cleaning rags. Damaged clothes that are missing buttons, zippers or embellishments are also best left out of the donation pile.

Personal effects like underwear and boxers are better left as potential cleaning cloths. Personal delicates, like panty hose, should be donated only if they're almost new and no stretching has occurred.

Try to donate business clothes, quality children's clothes and sturdy pants if you're concerned about giving garments that people really need. Charities are also looking for warm coats of any size.

Denim jeans, suits, wedding dresses and designer labels are the best clothes you can donate. They'll sell for a higher price, they'll fly off the rack and they'll count as a bigger tax deduction for you.

Accessories are helpful and can almost always be found a home. Necklaces, matching earrings, shoes and even neckties can be used by somebody somewhere. As with clothes, avoid giving broken or damaged items.

Finding the Right Charity
Do a little investigating before you donate clothes to charity. For both your state of mind and your tax receipts, make sure the charity is a registered non-profit organization or relevant equivalent. Otherwise the organization might be making a profit off your donations.

Another question to ask any charity is how they deal with overstock or out-of-season clothes. Most charities will either store the goods, or pass them along to another organization. But some charities will simply chuck the goods into the trash, even when they're in perfect condition, and let them rot in a landfill.

Many religious groups sponsor charity thrift stores. These usually accept donations, then give buying vouchers to people who have formally applied for aid. This helps screen out scams and allows someone in need to pick their own clothing for free, instead of being given ill-fitting items.

If you work all the time, or are always busy, it will be difficult to donate to a charity that is open from only 9:00 to 5:00. Look for charities that close late. However, many stay open past normal business hours.

Some charities even have pick-up services that will just come to your house, get the stuff and even give you a receipt. You can also mail old clothing to a registered charity if it's not local, but keep the receipts from shipping, since they're tax deductible.

Other Outlets for Clothes
If you want to donate clothes to a more grassroots group, try giving to things like school rummage sales, sports fundraisers and garage sales for youth groups. Many homeless shelters are also grateful for some extra outfits.

A bag full of adult dress shirts or T-shirts can make great painting smocks for a class full of second graders. Skirts, dresses, neckties and scarves are adorable dress-up items for low-income day care centers. You can also take beads from old or broken jewelry and use them for children's crafts at a community workshop.

Local religious organizations can be much more involved with charity drives than just having a store. Look for clothing drives that send garments to places such as overseas orphanages.

Taxes and Donations
Whenever you donate an item to a registered non-profit charity, you have the option to use this donation as a write-off on your taxes. The most important part of writing off donations is remembering to get a receipt. These can simply be collected and filed with your other financial information until tax time.

However, the receipt won't always have the item or number of items printed out. So, with every receipt, be sure to create and store a list of items donated. Make it a simple reminder, such as "2 nice blue jeans, 1 pair worn leather boots and 1 fancy cocktail dress in mint condition."

To be considered tax-deductible, non-profit organizations have to be registered in most countries. In the US they must register with the IRS. In Canada they must register with the Canada Revenue Agency. In the UK, they register with the Charity Commission.

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