Those "new" tennis shoes that just fit her last month? That train set he desperately wanted that's now sitting idle in the living room?
As your children grow, they will definitely outgrow clothes, shoes and toys alike. And let's be honest, all that stuff takes up space.
But, unlike adults, who tend to love the idea of eliminating clutter (especially come spring), kids form bonds with almost everything that touches their little fingers—and often don't have the experience needed to help them let things go.
To help you, we talked with Michele Felker, Ph.D., clinical and educational psychologist. Use these steps the next time you're making a family donation to have a smoother experience all around.
You might even find yourself some extra tax savings in the process. Read on.
Start by going through your child's room yourself to find some of the most obvious items that could be donated. A good rule of thumb: If it barely fits, she refuses to ever put the item on or hasn't worn it/played with it in a full season, it's ripe for the giveaway pile. This applies to clothes, books and toys alike that may no longer be age appropriate.
Have You Deducted Charity Donations in Taxes?
Have you ever itemized your charity donations for a tax deducation? Which charity did you donate to? How do you get your child to happily donate her things?
Do a Nostalgia Check
While an organizer's first instinct is usually to put all of the donations in a pile, your child may not react well to finding her belongings already in a bag or box. By working the room and making a list, you can keep track of everything that came to mind to donate, then check in with yourself (and maybe your child) to see how much you'd miss it: For example, even if that Joey the Giraffe you gave him on his first night home is tattered and torn, does it still tug at your heartstrings? If it does, consider crossing that item off the list. While you don't want sentiment to hold you back, you also don't want to get rid of the types of things that are sure to be treasured reminders of their childhoods someday.
Research Donation Locations
If you are hoping to use your donations to get a tax deduction, research which non-profits offer tax receipts, and make sure the organization is a 501(3)c charity. The Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries are both 501(3)c charities, and Charity Navigator can help you find others. In most of these cases, the organization will ask you to fill in the blank with the items you're donating and an estimated number based on the fair market value of the goods you're donating. You should take photos of the items you're donating so you have a record in case you ever need it during an audit. You can also keep track of non-cash donations that you make throughout the year with the iDonatedIt app. This makes it easy to tally up the costs of the items donated, and you can email it to yourself before doing your taxes.
In order to receive a tax deduction for donated goods, the sum of all your deductions (or how much you donated, along with any other deductions you might have, like mortgage interest, state or property taxes), would have to be greater than the standard amount you qualify for (meaning you'd be itemizing your deductions, rather than taking the standard one). Click here to find out more about your filing status, and how much you would need to deduct to receive a tax break, based on your family situation.
Have the Talk
At this point in the process you should explain to your child why donating items is important, and that it may be time to give up a few of her own. "You can do that by telling her that she could be helping another family with little children who aren't as lucky as she is and who can't afford to have toys," says Dr. Felker.
If you already know which organization you'll be donating to, show your child the site and read the mission statement together so she understands where her beloved items will be going. Or, if your child is old enough, give her a few options of places to donate to and allow her to pick one.
If she's still resistant after you explain that she hasn't used these things in months, and that she could be helping out a family in need, try asking her what some of her favorite items from the list are, and why. This will help you with the next idea.
Give It Time
"If a child is very resistant, then I would suggest separating some things out by putting them in a box or on a shelf for donating when she's ready," says Dr. Felker. Ask your child to tell you when she doesn't need the objects anymore, or when she thinks she is too old for them. If she doesn't come around in a few months, check back in with her and point out whether or not she has been actually playing with the toys. Then, when she decides she's able to part with them, reward her with acknowledgment and praise for being strong enough to give up something she liked for someone else who might need it more.
By involving your child in the process of donating old items from start to finish, you will give her a positive experience to remember. One she may even want to repeat with you next spring.
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