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Tis the Season of Giving

Learning to let go and give back this holiday season

Article by Jen Larsen Fortner

Photography by Janie Jones Photography @uncommon.jane

Originally published in Lake Minnetonka Lifestyle

Twelve years ago, I bought Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” I was inspired to pare down and rid my home of all superfluous things. The magic did not happen. Several things worked against me, including sentimentality, hanging on to things ‘just in case,' and three young children who loved their things and made wish lists for future things. I couldn’t even part with the book, so now I have that on the shelf as well.

Over time things just accumulate. The throw pillows, train sets, Littlest Pet Shop figures, baskets (who bought all these baskets?) Polly Pockets, books, bins filled with cords, glassware, so many stuffed animals, holiday decorations, Legos, VHS tapes, etc. Note: We no longer own a VHS player, yet we do still have some VHS tapes. I have no explanation for this.

I wish the sensible method of “one thing in and one thing out” applied here, but we likely need to go bigger. Maybe a one-to-ten ratio to start. My children have long outgrown many of their clothes, toys, sports equipment, and furniture, and it’s been easier for them to part with all of it than it has been for me. And while I am horribly nostalgic, I have become more nostalgic for a less cluttered life. So instead of setting a good example for my kids, I will take my cue from them. Time is marching on, and letting it go is the right thing to do.

December is the season of giving and receiving, and I hope our family can focus primarily on the giving part this year. Donating things that others can use, donating things we no longer use/need, donating money to the causes we care about most. I enjoy giving to organizations that support the needs of children most since my own kids have been so incredibly fortunate, and it really is the luck of the draw.

CPA Steve Heintz from Heintz + Clark, Ltd, offers some things to consider during this season for donating goods or money and recommends speaking with your tax professional for your specific circumstances.

Generally, regarding donations of clothing or household goods, he says, “Everyone has seen the slips you receive when you drop something off at Goodwill. Those slips alone are not substantial documentation of what was given. We recommend people take a picture of the items prior to donating them.”

He also recommends writing a check versus cash for monetary donations to have a paper trail for documentation.  

There are many opportunities presented to all of us to donate to an alma mater, a charity, athletic event or even a local family who is facing a health challenge. While all donations are appreciated, not all of them have tax implications.

Steve gives me this helpful advice, “People often think all donations made via Go Fund Me are deductible. Only donations made to Charity Fundraisers are. Donations to personal fundraisers are not deductible. This said, don’t let the tax tail wag the dog!  If you donate to a cause you feel worthy, you should still feel good about it, even if you aren’t receiving any tax benefit.”

Let us give joyfully and generously this season. But I’m still hanging on to the trains. Just in case I need them in 15 years for grandchildren I’m envisioning. I sure hope they like trains because the ones I’m storing appear to be multiplying.