Help others while clearing household clutter (like furniture, books, clothing and more) and donating your old items to charitable organizations.

By Caren Oppenheim

Make this year's spring organizing a family affair by decluttering your home together and donating no-longer-needed items to charity.

The National Furniture Bank Association (

Nearly 90 locations in the U.S. and Canada help struggling families—100,000 people annually—furnish their homes.Most needed: Gently used beds, dressers, tables, chairs, couches and lamps.

Dress for Success (

For 15 years, the nonprofit has provided professional attire to job-seeking disadvantaged women. In addition, its Professional Women's Group offers mentoring programs and meetings.Most needed: Larger skirts, pant suits, blouses, blazers, jackets and shoes. (No men's clothing, accessories, sportswear or casual items.)

Soles4Souls (

Since its creation in 2005, this organization has distributed nearly 17 million pairs of shoes worldwide to people who don't own any.Most needed: New or gently used shoes, even if they're singles.

Books for Africa (

Educational materials are provided to kids who can't attend school.Most needed: Popular fiction and nonfiction; all levels of textbooks, encyclopedias, dictionaries, medical and law books published since 1996; and office supplies like maps, pens, pencils and paper. (No magazines, cookbooks or home decor, music, wedding, American history or foreign-language books except those in French.)

iLoveSchools (

Preschool through high school teachers are matched with resources for their classrooms and can register on the organization's website with specific requests. (Many educators pay for supplies out of their own pockets due to underfunding.)Most needed: New or gently used notebooks, binders, art supplies and backpacks.

Bags4Kids (

The foundation supplies children in foster care or shelters with a piece of luggage. (Most use plastic garbage bags to transport their belongings.) Monetary donations go toward buying toiletries, toys, books and other items to fill the bags.Most needed: Backpacks, duffels and tote bags.

Child's Play (

Since being founded in 2003, the nonprofit has raised over $10 million for purchasing gifts to fulfill the wish lists of kids staying for long periods in hospitals across the country.Most needed: New items only, like video and board games, toys (no stuffed animals) and electronic consoles.

A Worthy Break

Giving to charity helps others—and may score you a tax deduction. Follow these tips from Jackie Perlman, principal tax researcher at H&R Block:

  • Visit for a search tool that lets you verify whether an organization qualifies to receive a tax-deductible gift.
  • File Schedule A (Form 1040) to claim your deduction. Form 8283 is also required for noncash donations over $500. Both can be found at
  • To estimate the cost of an item, list its worth as the fair market value based on its condition.
  • The law requires more-specific documentation as your donated articles increase in value. Treat each donation to a different charity (not the total of your contributions over the year) as a separate item.
  • Less than $250—a receipt from the organization acknowledging what was given
  • $250 to $500—written acknowledgment on charity letterhead with a description of donated articles and proof that you didn't receive payment for them
  • $501 to $5,000—information about when each item was inherited or bought and an estimate of its original cost, with its receipt if possible
  • Over $5,000—a qualified written appraisal from a certified expert

Originally published in the April 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.