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Summertime (and the Givin’ Ain’t Easy)

When did it become so difficult to give things away? Most people I encounter believe that their possessions have much more value than they actually do. In fact, oftentimes not only is it nearly impossible to sell our stuff, it’s often difficult to donate and, in some cases, we end up paying someone to take it off our hands.

Unfortunately the trouble it is to get rid of stuff prevents a lot of people from doing the decluttering and downsizing they know they need to do. The inconvenience, even costliness, in donating and disposing of our extraneous possessions is discouraging, but the only way out is through. Most times the money saved by emptying a storage unit or the opportunities created by freeing up a garage or a guest room is well-worth the cost of hiring help, haulers and dump fees.

Donation sites seem to have become particularly strict in the last several months. Goodwill in Napa has stopped taking electronics, small appliances, furniture and children’s toys. (Note: call to confirm; what the Goodwill on Imola accepts tends to change depending on who is on duty or what their inventory is on any particular day.) The Napa Goodwill has changed its hours too, from receiving donations at a somewhat convenient 9am to a less convenient, mid-morning 10am.

I’ve been turned away with heavy cartons of books at the Napa Library before, but I recently learned they are now welcoming books for their book sale fundraiser. Be sure to call about drop off times and other rules that might impede your giving.

The Act Two donation center (La Boheme) in St Helena does accept furniture but requires a photo sent in advance, which takes a bit of set up and planning on the part of the donor. Even then, they are quite particular, so don’t be offended if they cannot accept something like a perfectly good sofa.

Recently I contacted the Salvation Army to do a pickup for a client that was cleaning out a large storage unit and had a lot of furniture to donate. They told us that they do not send trucks to storage units but that we could haul it to their donation center in Woodland, north of Sacramento. Since the cost of doing so was more than the client wanted to spend, we had to look for other options.

Although the Salvation Army did not work out for that specific situation, I have had excellent luck at private residences with Salvation Army pick-ups. Call them to make an appointment in advance and discuss what they will and won’t take and other considerations. For example, they will not pick up anything if stairs are involved, so you will need to navigate the stairs and bring things to a ground level access point.

Another difficulty in donating is mixed messages. One of my clients called Goodwill and was told they accept furniture. When she showed up with her truck load of stuff, she was told that they do not accept furniture after all and was turned away. So sometimes even when you call ahead you may be in for disappointment and it is very frustrating. Having a Plan B is a necessity.

A very good Plan B is the Reuse Center at Napa Recycling & Waste, 899 Devlin Road. They will accept furniture that is in very good condition. Furniture that is not donation-worthy can be conveniently left at the landfill. The minimum landfill charge is $39. Another fantastic option for furniture donations is Habitat for Humanity. Call the Fairfield store to discuss your donation and potential pick-up options.

When assessing the worth of your donation for tax purposes, be careful. Obtain a receipt and use a guide like the Salvation Army Donation Valuation Guide on their website, www.satruck.org, to fill in the deduction allowed.

These recommendations are based on my experience in the Napa area over the last couple of months. Things are constantly changing, which is why I haven’t listed a lot of addresses and phone numbers which can easily be found on the internet. Do your due diligence so that all your donations will be appreciated.