While many of us associate spring as the season for deep cleaning and decluttering, ridding your closet of long-forgotten knick-knacks, clothing, and appliances can save space — and maybe even cash at tax time.*

Rather than ditching your unwanted goods in the trash, consider donating. Not only will you have the satisfaction of knowing your stuff’s going to people who need it, but the federal government offers a sweet incentive by making your donations tax deductible.

Read on to learn how to clean out, donate, and get your deduction.

Be sure to consult a tax professional for any advice pertaining to your taxes and the application of your tax-deductible donation receipts.

How to know when to let go while spring cleaning

Don’t make parting with a 20-year-old pantsuit, ditching a dusty workout DVD, or passing up a one-time novelty fondue set any more difficult than it has to be.

Begin by making 3 piles: keep, donate, and maybe. (Your maybe pile should be 5 items maximum for things you might want to hang onto after all.)

Make spring cleaning a breeze by adopting this rule of thumb for every piece you pluck from your closet: if you haven’t worn or used it during the last year, donate it!

How to make the most of your spring cleaning donations

For added comfort that the goods you’re giving up will end up in great hands, think about what causes matter to you. Do some research in your local community. Here are a few ideas to get your started.

Give girls a little sparkle

Those fluffy prom gowns stuffed in the unseen corner of your closet since senior year of high school could see the light of day in a big way thanks to the Princess Project.

This organization encourages confidence in San Francisco Bay Area teens by providing free prom dresses at yearly shopping events. Without the Princess Project, many of these girls wouldn’t be able to afford a prom gown.

Don’t live by the Bay? Don’t worry! You can mail your dress or accessories to one of several locations.

Additionally, you can benefit teens in your community by dropping off gowns at your local Salvation Army.

Give those in need the reading adventure of a lifetime

Scan the bookshelf in your bedroom, piles of books in your hall closet, or boxes of books in your attic. You probably have more than you realize!

Those textbooks you’ve stored away, the beach reads you bought years ago, and the classics you adore so much (that you somehow have duplicates) could help educate and inspire students and others in need. There are countless organizations that accept book donations for a wide variety of causes. Search for your local spot online.

Another option is Books for Africa, a nonprofit that works to stop poverty by providing books to students who strive to learn as much as possible with very limited resources. According to the charity, 10 to 20 students are sometimes forced to share one textbook in Africa. Find out how your books can make a difference.

Give local shelter pets a little lift

Do you keep that clunky plastic pet gate from when your dog was a pup or that cat carrier your old roommate left behind? There’s a good chance your local shelter can put it to good use!

To find out where your lightly used pet gear can get better use, check out this comprehensive list of U.S. animal shelters.

Give aspiring professionals the goods for a great first impression

Do you have smart sheath dresses or sharply tailored jackets collecting dust in your closet? Or maybe you landed a job at a laid-back start-up and you don’t need to suit-up for your workday. Your clothing donation could elevate someone’s look (and spirits) when heading to a big interview.

Dress for Success (serving women) and Career Gear (for men) are charitable organizations that provide a supportive network and professional attire to those seeking to kick-start their careers.

Find out how to send your gently used office threads to help  women and men have a fresh and fashionable start to their careers.

How to cash in on your spring cleaning when filing taxes

Each charity has its own way of providing donation receipts. To make claiming your tax-deductible donation easier, check with your organization. If you’re interested in charities mentioned here, check out these site-specific instructions.

The Princess Project: Provide your name and address along with your dress and accessories donation, and they’ll send you a tax donation receipt by mail.

Books for Africa: While you can mail in books, you can also drop them at 2 warehouses, in Atlanta, Georgia, or St. Paul, Minnesota. Once you’ve passed those books on, email bfa@booksforafrica.org with your name, address, and the number of books donated. You’ll receive a thank you letter to keep on file.

Local animal shelters: Call your local shelter and ask about their guidelines for collecting a donation receipt.

Dress for Success: Collecting a tax receipt for your women’s professional clothing donations varies by Dress for Success affiliate. Contact your local affiliate for info.

Career Gear: Be sure to submit a note along with your men’s professional clothing donations that includes your name, email address, and number of items you donated. Career Gear will email you a tax receipt.

Because all donations made in 2015 won’t be eligible for a tax deduction until next year, consider saving a file folder in a designated spot for your tax donation receipts you’ll collect throughout the year.

This way, when tax season approaches next year, you’ll have your stack of deductible receipts all set — not to mention that extra closet space and warm, fuzzy feeling that you’ve done something good.

*As a reminder, consult a tax professional for any advice pertaining to your taxes and the application of your tax-deductible donation receipts.

Related links

Once you’ve cleaned out in the name of spring, you’ll be more than ready to clean up.

Your seasonal refresh doesn’t have to stop inside your home. Get your tires ready for your upcoming warm weather road trips.

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about Emily Rose

During her time at Esurance, when Emily was not giving the nitty gritty details of insurance a much needed makeover, she enjoyed scouring thrift shops for cool vintage finds and taking her role as a proud Pom mom much too seriously.