Ask Unclutterer: Specific donation locations

Reader Kristin submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

Loved your response to Miriam [last week] and how you focused on keeping things in perspective. Now, you mentioned taking old towels and linens to an animal shelter. Great idea! Do you have any other ideas for where to donate hard to place clutter items that still have some use left in them? Thanks a bunch!

A great question, and one that many people posed to me this week. Below are types of organizations I’ve had luck with in the past for very specific donations. As with all donations, be sure to call ahead to make sure that the group actually needs what you wish to give. Also, beware of getting caught up in getting specific items to specific agencies as a procrastination tactic. Follow your instincts, but get the items out of your home.

  • As I wrote last week, animal shelters very often need lightly used linens (towels, sheets). They use them for soft sleeping surfaces, bathing, and general mess cleanup.
  • Women’s shelters often need children’s toys and books, diapers, and female business attire. Shelters here also accept half-used bottles of shampoo and conditioner you became bored with half-way through the large container.
  • Hospitals and doctors offices may want your old (but from the past year) magazines for their waiting rooms.
  • Our local prison constantly requests academic books (great for those books the university didn’t buy back at the end of the semester and you lugged with you on many moves) and reference books.
  • Half-way houses and men’s homeless shelters are usually in need of men’s business attire and winter coats in cooler climates.
  • Groups that build homes (like Habitat for Humanity) need power and hand tools and unused supplies (still-in-their-original-package screws, nails, etc.).
  • Kitchen storage containers (like good condition Tupperware and Rubbermaid containers, not old margarine tubs) are often accepted by groups that provide meals to the needy (like Meals on Wheels).

By no means is this list complete. I hope that readers continue to add ideas in the comments. I’m sure we can create quite a wonderful collection of suggestions.

Thank you, Kristin, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.

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37 Comments for “Ask Unclutterer: Specific donation locations”

  1. posted by chrisck on

    Donate unused or leftover yarn to senior centers. Many older women would love to knit or crochet, but maybe can’t afford the yarn. Even different leftovers can be combined into an afgan.

    I drop off magazines at local laundromats for people to read while they wait.

  2. posted by aebhlin on

    I used to work at a human services non-profit and here are some more tips for donating “clutter:”
    travel sized anything (shampoo, toothpaste, deoderant, etc.) are given to homeless folks; office supplies/extra supplies from all the conferences/meetings you attend can be very useful to a non-profit to use for office supplies; plastic bags are always usefule to a non-profit for handing out food/clothing; seasonal decorations you’ve grown tired of can be used at a non-profit, or given to those who may not have holiday decor; gently used ANYthing can be used or sold – look for a non-profit that has its own thrift shop associated with it – they can take almost anything and if they can’t use it or give it away, they can sell it, raising unrestricted funds for use across their programs.

  3. posted by Beth on

    Our local also ReStore accepts donations of furniture and household goods, in addition to any usable building materials and renovation/salvage. I love that place.

    And of course, find out if your local library sells books to raise money, as ours does. I love to donate my books there.

  4. posted by Jeri Dansky on

    Freecycle is an amazing way to find new homes for all sorts of things.

    Groups that do food (rather than meal) giveaways can often use paper or plastic grocery bags.

    I wrote a blog post on 9 ways to find news homes for your magazines.

  5. posted by Suzanne on

    Here are a few things unmentioned so far (from “I want it out of here…but where do I put it?”):

    Book decluttering is easy for me. I buy books that were donated to the “Friends of the Library” organization for the price of anywhere from 25 cents to $1 apiece. When I’m done, I donate the book back to them. 🙂

    1) Pass on Magazines/Catalogues:
    – Contact a day care center, preschool or elementary school. They often need magazines and cataloges for the kids to cut up for collages.
    – Donate them to places with waiting rooms, breakrooms, etc.
    * * * * * 365 Days of Decluttering Challenger Suggestion * * * * *
    Pamela Watson says: My library has a bin for magazine give-away and people donate their old mags to us. They are free for the taking.

    5) Donate Unused/Unwanted Art Supplies
    – Contact day care centers/preschools/elementary schools/churches with children’s rooms/your city’s Parks & Recreation office….or any other places in your community that offer children’s crafts

  6. posted by Rebecca on

    My veterinarian’s office accepts old magazines for the waiting room, even up to three years old. Others might, too.

    I’ve heard that college studio art departments accept old dull knives (for working with clay), but I haven’t ever tried that out myself.

  7. posted by SandyO on

    I gave a bunch of discolored but still good towels to a couple who run a homeless shelter through Freecycle.

  8. posted by Betsy on

    Our local women’s shelter and YWCA also take housewares that someone might need to set up house when they get back on their feet. In addition to that, the shelter/center took some nice silver-type/glassware/hostess sets to use in their lobby and for their small parties/dinners. It’s a great use for wedding presents you don’t want and have hardly (or never) used!

  9. posted by Courtney on

    Here in Buffalo NY we have a local organization that provides housing (furnished apartments) to single, homeless teen parents for 2 years. They’ve told us they always need anything you can imagine would be needed for a household with children – furniture, dishes/glassware/silverware, kitchen implements, appliances, gently used clothing and toys, children’s books, etc. They will even come pick up if you schedule it with them. They try to send furnishings/books/toys off with the parent when they leave the apartment to keep some continuity and help them get started.

  10. posted by Lori Paximadis on

    Habitat’s ReStores will also take gently used (not just new and unused) supplies, like your old but decent kitchen sink or cabinets when you remodel, that extra roll of wallpaper you’ve been saving (for what?). They sell these to DIYers to raise money for their house building efforts.

  11. posted by Martha on

    It’s also true, though, that people trying to declutter can get stuck trying to direct each of 10,000 items to “just the right” place. Sorting out all the things to go to the animal shelter from the things to go to the homeless shelter, the things to do to the battered-women’s shelter, the things to go on FreeCycle, etc. etc… And then they all have to be delivered. If we’re talking about simplifying as well as decluttering, just take them all to Good Will or the Salvation Army. They’ll still find good homes.

  12. posted by Dawn F. on

    Many churches have donation closets/centers for needy people – such as clothing, shoes, linens, etc.

    Perhaps a school, preschool or daycare would love gently used toys and books.

    The Kidney Foundation takes old vehicles – the name of the program is Kidney Cars.

    Local police departments or child services departments might take stuffed animals to offer to children for comfort that are being rescued or removed from a bad family situation.

  13. posted by Cynthia Friedlob, The Thoughtful Consumer on

    I agree with Martha. People who are at the advanced stages of uncluttering may want to donate certain items to specific organizations, but most cluttered homes are like sinking ships: better to unload everything quickly, before you drown!

  14. posted by Dorothy on

    Be aware that some organizations cannot actually use your items in their mission but can sell them and use the money for their mission. An example is books donated to the local library. The library can rarely place your books in their circulating collection, but will often sell them in a Friends of the Library-type sale that Suzanne mentions. The same thing can happen, say, to art donated to an art museum.

    As far as I’m concerned that’s great — however they can use my clutter is fine with me. But I’ve talked to some people who get in a snit if their oh-so-precious item goes into a rummage sale.

    Happy Holidays, and Happy Uncluttering!

  15. posted by Cindy on

    I recently contacted a local senior citizens retirement home and they said they’ll gladly take my old issues of Reminisce magazine as well as any dvds of old sitcoms (from the 50’s and 60’s), so I am going to get my parents to donate those since I doubt they’ll ever watch them again.

  16. posted by Wayfarer scientista on

    Reach Out & Read ( always needs lightly used kids books. Reach Out and Read is an evidence-based nonprofit organization that promotes early literacy and school readiness in pediatric exam rooms nationwide by giving new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud.

  17. posted by maryann on

    I’m guilty of holding onto things until I have found the Perfect Charity for them.

    What works for me is that I have 2 super large containers (30 gallon size) in my basement, one for clothing, one for household things & toys & books.

    When they’re full, I go through them & make the drop- offs to the appropriate charities. Also, if a charity sends out requests I know right where to look for my donations.

    This way, the clutter is more or less out of my house. And I don’t have to waste time deciding where to donate things in the middle of my uncluttering sprees.

  18. posted by Mary on

    I need to find a new charitable outlet. I’m fed up with the rude, greedy people on Freecycle. The last straw was a woman who claimed everything I posted and said she’d pick everything up tomorrow on her day off. When she never showed, I e-mailed and her cocky reply was that she has two jobs and doesn’t have leisure time to run around town at the drop of a hat. (?)

  19. posted by Susan on

    Unfortunately, I’ve seen sorters at our local Salvation Army throwing some of my stuff in their dumpster before I even left the parking lot. And it wasn’t junk, either–kids’ costumes, hanging rods for children’s closets, and other things that were in good shape. I think they sort very quickly and go by the rule “If in doubt, throw it out.” I don’t give them big bags of miscellaneous stuff anymore, only things I’m sure they won’t toss.

  20. posted by deb on

    The Purple Heart calls me on the phone every couple months or so asking if I have any clothing or household discards for them. I always say yes and mark it on the calendar. They give me a reminder call a couple days beforehand in case I forget. Because I keep a crate in the basement specifically for discarded but still useful for someone stuff, I always have something for them. They come pick it up, and leave a receipt for taxes. I don’t care what happens to the stuff once it leaves my house – I’m just happy it’s no longer collecting dust. Everybody wins:)

  21. posted by tabatha on

    when i worked for goodwill we did use the rule “when in doubt throw it out” sometimes. although i made sure not to throw something away in front of the person that donated it. but thrift stores get lots of things they cant sell. we used to get lots of blinds and they are cheap enough to buy new that they hardly ever sold so we just threw them out. sometimes we’d tell people we don’t take certain items but a lot of the time people got pissed off about it.

  22. posted by Ruth Hansell on

    Old towels or clothing – put a couple old towels in the back of your car, and put at least one set of old clothing into your disaster kit.
    Kitchen utensils: manual can opener and a few plastic knife/spoon sets into the disaster kit.
    Old towels and blankets: horse rescue organizations. Horses are being given up or abandoned in large numbers these days, the horse rescues need all the help they can get.
    Tools and building supplies: search on google for a Tool Lending Library in your area. Tools are checked out for a few days, then returned. Way cool idea.


  23. posted by Susanne on

    Before I moved away for college, I brought a some of my old toys to the local kindergarden. The teacher asked me to bring them directly to class, so the children could see who they came from and I could see the children who would play with them.

  24. posted by Jennifer Lachman on

    I found that my local salvation army is the best place to bring all my donations at once because they sell evry thing from cloths to furniture and dishes and even old electronics.

    I do enter a large amount of blog giveaways so I have a few brand new things that I never get around to using and they usualy go to the local Victims Intervention program where they give the items to women and family’s trying to start over.

  25. posted by Jenn on

    We organized a giveway table at our office. People bring in their lightly used items (no clothes) – everything from decorations, to candles, to unopened makeup to storage tubs, kitchen items and computer equipment. Almost everything finds a new home! Truly one person’s trash/clutter is another person’s treasure!

  26. posted by Sharon on

    Our Habitat for Humanity thrift stores take all kinds of donations (except for clothes). In fact, we shop there often. They take household goods, furniture, outdoor stuff, used and new building supplies, books, etc. When we enclosed our garage to make a great room (with full kitchen) and guest bedroom, we bought new & used supplies there such as a kitchen sink with Delta faucett ($25), closet doors ([email protected]), doorknobs and cabinet handles, light fixtures, etc.

  27. posted by gypsy packer on

    Battered womens’ shelters and addiction treatment centers often will accept furniture and other household items for those starting a new life.
    Also, check with American Red Cross and fire departments for families whose houses have burned and who need replacements for everything they lost.

  28. posted by Sara on

    Does anyone know a place that will accept clean, but used stuffed animals? I hate to throw them out, but so many places will not accept stuffed animals at all – no matter how clean.

  29. posted by Shandos Cleaver on

    Sara – what about swapping toys with other friend’s that have children, or organising a swap meet through your play group?

  30. posted by Beverly D on

    Hospices will use clean stuffed animals. They go to people not just children who need to hold something. You’d be amazed.

  31. posted by CC on

    our local junior high art department is always looking for cleaned cottage cheese & yogurt containers if they have the lids for storing supplies. also magazines & catalogs (no matter how old) for collages & projects. They took all kinds of crayons for a melt down project too …

    our local animal shelter (besides the towels & linens) does take stuffed toys for the dogs & cats (as toys or as a companion for the smaller dogs/cats), office supplies of all kinds (paper, staples, clips, etc.) as keeping their overhead low allows them to spend more money on the dogs (medications, vaccinations & food).

  32. posted by Bee on

    We donate blankets to the local veterinary surgery. The animals can recuperate from their operations on a soft blanket instead of the cold steel or metal bars.

    Magazines can also be taken to local aged care facilities.

  33. posted by Amanda on

    I’m utterly thrilled to see so many great places to pass along items that are no longer being used in my home! I typically rely on Salvation Army for a one-stop drop-off, as it saves me from running around town on my already busy weekends. If it doesn’t become an excuse not to get it to it’s destination, then I may try and customize my donation recipients a bit more…

    I do make every effort to donate my used books to the local libraries for their Friends of the Library book sales – have been doing it since I was a child, and always feel great supporting such an important place of learning and development!

  34. posted by chrisck on

    There are many kinds of things the Salvation Army and Good Will won’t take (in part because they just don’t have room or staff to deal with it). They will reject furniture that comes from homes with pets, and anything not in truly excellent condition. Other organizations will find a place for useable furniture that might be scratched or a bit shabby.
    Same is true for “oddball” items–the Good Will isn’t going to sell balls of yarn or small hygiene products or lots of pads of paper, all of which I’ve donated to places that can use such things. Yes, it takes a little more time and thought, but it’s worth it (to me) to make sure useable items don’t go to waste.

  35. posted by Mels on

    Great list! But I work at a hospital and we’ve recently pulled all our magazines from waiting areas because of the H1N1 virus. It’s a great idea, but you might want to check with your local hospital first, before leaving anything in common areas.

  36. posted by Ginger on

    I know in New Zealand that Op Shops (Thrift Stores) are always looking for plastic supermarket bags.

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