Things you probably have duplicates of that you can donate

Having multiples of certain items in your home (plates) or office (reams of paper) can be very helpful. If we use those items often, we simply need to find a way to store them for easy access. But, sometimes, multiples can double and begin to take up valuable space in our homes and offices. Don’t let those “every day” items get out of control. Consider donating these five items that you probably have duplicates of:

  • Paper shopping bags. How many shopping bags do you own? The bags we get from shopping at certain stores can be very sturdy and attractive. And, they’re useful, right? You can use them to take your lunch to work or to hold something you wish to give to a friend. Their value seems unending and it’s easy to accumulate them since you get one each time you make a purchase. Now that reusable grocery bags are being encouraged, you might find yourself with an influx of old paper shopping bags. If you have several that you no longer need, consider giving them to charities that could benefit from their use. (Some charities bag up meals, clothes, supplies, or purchases and are always looking for bag donations.)
  • Hotel toiletries. If you’re a frequent traveler, chances are you’ve returned home with these travel-size toiletry bottles and packets. If you don’t use them when you get home (offer them to guests, pour shampoos, conditioners, lotions, and liquid soaps into your larger bottles, use shower caps as food container covers), they can override and clutter your space. When your collection has become too large, donate them to a local shelter or reduce clutter altogether by leaving them at the hotel.
  • Pens, pencils, and markers. How many times have you made it back home with a pen that you borrowed and forgot to return? That happens to me all the time, especially with Sharpies. If you take a look around your home, you probably have a few pens and markers (or even highlighters and markers, particularly if someone in your family is in school) hanging about in more than one room. It’s impossible to use them all, so donating them is a great option.

    First, check your stash and remove the ones that no longer work. Then, select a handful (or two) that write well and consider giving them to schools and community centers in your neighborhood or to the Pencil Project. Store the ones that you’re keeping in the places that you tend to use them the most (nightstand, home office, by telephones). Of course, if you’ve discovered too many pens in your office, simply return them to the supply room or share with your officemate.

  • Sheets. The number of linens you need can depend on how often you do laundry. If you change your sheets every week (or every two weeks), you likely won’t need more than two or three sets. Sometimes we still have sheets of varying sizes that used to fit beds we no longer have. Or, perhaps they need repairing and you haven’t gotten around to fixing them yet? Whether they’re the wrong size or need mending, consider giving them to an animal shelter, but if they’re still in good shape, many local charities will accept them.
  • Mugs. When I was in college, I collected mugs and I’d get them as gifts, too. When I moved into my first apartment, I still kept all my mugs and then I realized that I often reached for the same one, leaving the others untouched for long stretches of time. Even if I had coffee several times during the day, I wouldn’t be able to use every mug I had. If you find yourself in a similar position, pass them on to a charity like Goodwill (or to the student in your life who’s away at college or in a new apartment).

You may not realize that you have duplicates unless you’re actively uncluttering. Take a look inside your storage areas and start putting like items together so that you can get a better sense of the volume and multiples of things you have. And, using the suggestions above, pinpoint items that are great candidates for donation. You’ll gain more space for your important items and help others in the process.

32 Comments for “Things you probably have duplicates of that you can donate”

  1. posted by Linda on

    Donated 2 bags of extra bed sheets on the weekend. I like the idea of donating shopping bags too, that’s one I haven’t done before.

  2. posted by Anita on

    Depending on the size, shape and sturdiness of your paper shopping bags, you can also use them to hold paper to be recycled or compost. We have a small plastic compost bin in our kitchen, which we empty into a large compost bin outside whenever it fills up. We buy paper compost bin liners to make the task of cleaning the bin less gross, but the cost of the liners adds up, so if we had a surplus of paper shopping bags, I would be happy to save myself an expense.

  3. posted by Susan in Florida on

    The grocery store I shop at still bags my groceries in plastic. Every few weeks I take a bag of bags to my local public library. They tell me they can use all that they can get, especially in the summer to protect books from the rain.

    Lately I’ve also been saving the very thin plastic bags from the produce department of my market. One of these bags and a couple of rubber bands for each hand make a good substitute for a pair of rubber gloves. I discovered this when I injured the extensor tendon of a finger and had to keep my splinted hand dry for eight weeks. Rubber gloves did not fit over my splinted finger. I prepped meatloaf and chicken quarters for the freezer without incident, then threw the bags away.

  4. posted by Leslie on

    For paper bags, check with local scout/church groups, they often use them for crafts. Or if a neighbor is having a garage sale, offer up your bags. I use smaller ones for pooper scoopers, not as clean as plastic, but less offensive to the environment.

    I grew up in a family with a parent who has 10+ sets of sheets. Many she doesn’t use and may have forgotten they are there. We’ve spoken many times about her downsizing many of the things she has many many duplicates of, but her fear is the empty shelves. Given that she is growing increasingly mobility impaired, I suggested she leave the bottom shelves empty since she can’t access them anyway. That didn’t go over so well. I suspect they’ll stay there until such time she is unable to live on her own and then they will become SEP (someone elses problem).

  5. posted by infmom on

    We just cleaned out and repainted our breakfast nook this past weekend, and that included emptying out a triangular cabinet that has been a catch-all for coffee mugs and travel mugs for years. We always use the same coffee mugs and travel mugs and the rest have just been gathering dust. I’m boxing them up to take to Out of the Closet.

    We also have drawers full of single-bed sheets. We do not have a bed that size in the house. I am saving one set of flannel sheets to use on the air mattress and the rest are going out along with the mugs.

  6. posted by Morada on

    Lots of mugs in my cupboard, too. I thinned the cupboard group by using some of them as desk organizers at home and at work. It was an easy way to personalize my workspace and clear some cupboard space.

  7. posted by [email protected] on

    Good reminder about the sheets. I have two sets that I alternate but there’s a bunch of other sheets that have no partners or don’t fit or whatever. I do need to go through and get those out of the way and find them homes.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  8. posted by Jane on

    I use the paper bags to recycle the shavings from my paper shredder. That way they don’t spill in the street when the recycle bin is emptied. I just staple the bag shut figuring that if they recyle magazines with staples, a few more in a paper bag won’t matter and then the shreddings won’t blow around the neighborhood.

  9. posted by Jude2004 on

    I can’t stand hunting for pens, so I subscribed to my favorite pen via Amazon for about a year. Now I have a lifetime supply, located in strategic places throughout the house, and I will probably never run out. The other thing I like to have a lot of is Kleenex, so I subscribed to it via Amazon as well. Everyone in my family gets several boxes, so no one ever has to hunt for Kleenex. My daughter, in her 30s, explained how strange it was to live briefly with her dad, where they had only one box of Kleenex in the entire house. Weird.

  10. posted by susan on

    I volunteer at a no kill dog shelter. We love old blankets, sheets, towels and throws. All of our dogs get something soft to sleep on and they get a fresh one everyday. We also use plastic bags for picking up poop. The dogs get walked twice a day and there is a lot of poop. We also can use copy/fax paper, pens and gently used dog toys/leashes and collars.
    I do reuse plastic bags for my own garbage bags. I haven’t bought a Hefty in years. I also reuse the paper bags for my recycle paper as it collects before the weekly pick up.
    I’m pretty minimal but am always looking for more solutions to streamline and simplify.
    Love this site.

  11. posted by Sarah Luna on

    Great article! There were some really helpful suggestions.

    I find that many people want to simplify their lives but feel guilty about “wasting” things by just throwing them away. Now they know they have the option to give.

    When I moved out of my apartment, I put all my duplicates in a corner. Once I had moved everything that I wanted to keep, I took inventory of the duplicates and listed them on FreeCycle.

    I got to meet some really friendly people who appreciated (and had plans for) my stuff that I would have otherwise thrown away.

    (tried to comment before…apologies if this shows up multiple times)

  12. posted by Geralin Thomas on

    I love this article Deb!

    In addition, I’d suggest hangers, cosmetic bags (the kind you get free with a purchase) and stadium cups (from concerts or ball games).

  13. posted by Another Deb on

    Last spring I helped my folks close out their winter Arizona quarters for the last time. They had lot of kitchen items such as spices that were duplicates of mine and still within the expiration dates. I donated the spices to my home ec teacher at school who was thrilled to have a basketload of expensive cooking supplies she didn’t have to spend her budget on.

  14. posted by Deb Lee on

    @Jane: I know a few people who do the same thing. If I had a compost pile, I would probably add the shredded paper to it.

    @Geralin & @Another Deb: You took my ideas for my follow up post! 😉 Seriously though, I just donated several hangers that I don’t use (I usually leave them at the store when I make a purchase), and I’m about to attack the spice cabinet. You’re both in my head. =)

  15. posted by Anna on

    Sheets and towels — homeless shelters?

    After Hurricane Irene last year I donated my extra sheets and towels to my state’s relief effort. So glad to know someone unknown to me is using them, and my shelves and drawers are now more roomy.

    As for writing implements: my younger son went through middle school and most of high school using pencils and pens that he found outside on the school grounds.

    Paper bags: I always get plastic at the supermarket because they make the best liners for wet garbage. First I test them for holes, and those with leaks get thrown away. Good idea to take them to the library — I’ll try that!

  16. posted by Barbara Stern on

    Plastic bags are being discouraged and may be banned in parts of Boulder County, Co.
    Instead of getting paper bags, it’s time to carry your own cloth and other re-useable bags with you when shopping.

  17. posted by Mary I. on

    I give my toiletries to Colby’s Army, a charity that helps the homeless nationwide. They load backpacks with those items and give them out — a real help for people who have nothing.

    Most other things I recycle to other groups, but had not thought about animal shelters for towels and the like.

    I happen to be an office supply addict, so this article is good incentive for me to go through my mountains of pens and pencils and give away lots of them. It’s just getting started that’s hard, isn’t it?

  18. posted by Layla on

    SO many mugs, but they’re not mine. Or any of my roommate’s. And the old roommates don’t want them back. Unfortunately we don’t have cars to take stuff to goodwill, and we’re busy with school, so we just threw them in the basement. The landlord can deal with them – I think some may even be his old cast-offs that he dumped on us.

  19. posted by Virginia Allain, retired librarian on

    Another place to donate pens and pencils is the public library. Library visitors are always asking to borrow a pen but it seldom gets returned.

  20. posted by laura m. on

    Plastic bags can be taken back to the store for recycling, can also be used for wet swim suits and towels on weekend trips. Kitchen items, toiletries, cleaning products, pens, and linen items can go to group homes/shelters in my area. These places need everything.

  21. posted by WilliamB on

    Before I go food shopping I ask myself if I need paper bags for recycling, or plastic bags for trash can liners. If the answer is no, then I take my reusables with me.

    My trash-can-sized paper shredded kept thinking it was full, so I cut the bottom out and keep the bottomless shredder in a large paper bag with handles. (The size of Container Store’s large bags, not a grocery paper bag.) I lift up the shredder to loosen the shreds, and no longer suffer a shower of paper dust when I empty the shredder. The paper bag of paper gets put in a Rubbermaid next to the compost pile; I just add a handful whenever I dump something into the pile. I defy anyone to reconstruct my personal info from a pile of compost!

  22. posted by Laetitia in Australia on

    Another place to ‘donate’ pens and pencils that have ‘made their way home with you’ is back to the person / organisation from which you obtained them in the first place. That way they won’t be wasting their budgets on more supplies that they should already have.

  23. posted by Laetitia in Australia on

    WilliamB – “I defy anyone to reconstruct my personal info from a pile of compost!” – love it.

  24. posted by Grammie Linda on

    Great ideas! I had not thought about bags for the pet shelters, but it makes perfect sense! We have been using cloth for groceries, and I am trying to train my husband, who does the majority of the shopping (because he is our cook) to use the mesh bags I got for produce. We are drowning in these, so I will call some shelters about bags before we recycle them.

    Previous posts on this site helped me to whittle down sheets and towels, and I have worked on our kitchen ever since we gave up on our old one and added a new one to the back of the house. We have so much storage space that we tend to keep things past their useful time–because we can!

    Now that we use cloth grocery bags we have too many…..cloth grocery bags! I just realized yesterday that the area where they hang is totally out of control–we must have two dozen of them. After I give my daughters first pick, I think I will call a food shelter to see if they would like them–most are that gray size that is close to a paper grocery bag, with a good, flat bottom and a gray handle. We have received them at the state fair, Eco-friendly events, and all kinds of places, plus the really nice ones that we purchased. Thanks for the reminders!

  25. posted by Grammie Linda on

    “great size”–typo plus spell-check does it again!

  26. posted by L on

    If you have mugs with chips in them that are not donatable, you can break them into pieces and use them as drainage-improving pot filler for your house plants.

  27. posted by Katie on

    I definitely have a bit of a mug clutter problem, but I really *like* all of them and don’t want to get rid of them (they’re not just the mugs that came with a set of dishes, a lot of them are from vacations, sentimental, etc.). So I took some of them and use them as pencil cups now on my desks at work and home, as well as our little “office nook” in the living room so that I still have them around, but they’re not cluttering my cabinet.

  28. posted by s on

    I second the vote for taking pens to the library (if not back to their owners or you work supply cabinet). Also, take wire hangars to the dry cleaner. I rarely take a hangar from a retail store. I’ve gotten good at remembering reusable bags for groceries, but haven’t gotten to reusable bags for the produce itself. I use those thin bags for scooping cat litter since they’re just going inside another trash bag. Also, I haven’t bought a ziploc bag in ages. I try to use reusable containers most of the time, but if I do use a plastic bag, I just bring it home and wash it out (put it on my hand inside out and wash “my hands” with a bit of soapy water; then hang them on the faucet handle, or something else, like a fork, that will hold them open enough to drain out, to let them drain and dry). For makeup remover pads, I cut up a thin, but sturdy, towel into 2″x3″, or so, pieces. I use different corners to swipe on the makeup remover until I’ve used all the corners. Then I place the dirty towels into a lingerie bag, since they’re so small, and just put them in with the wash. They come out clean and ready to reuse! Saves lots on cotton balls/pads. When my kitchen sink sponge/rag gets a bit too icky to use in the sink, I save it and use it for cleaning up dirty spot messes (spills on the floor, outsides of cabinets, other places that don’t have to be food-ready). I store it under the sink, propped so it can dry between uses without making the cabinet damp or causing metal spray cants to rust. If I have an extra bag, I start collecting things for Goodwill–amazing how quickly it always fills up!

  29. posted by SarahN on

    s – like your makeup remover suggestion

    I suggest pens back to schools! I went to a boarding school, and the office NEVER had enough pens. I have kept my ‘least favourite’ pens in a case for when I was a club secretary (secretly willing they’d walk away) – weird thing is, they seldom did 🙁 I’ll have to start trying harder!

    Only have 6 mugs – never needed more – despite needing more than 6 settings for plates/cutlery etc etc. Weird, but true. All match too (I’m a bit of a freak about that too!)

  30. posted by Seema on

    Schools can use paper bags. We hand them out to students to make covers for their textbooks.

  31. posted by s on

    By the way, I use towels like the sham-wow or the kitchen towels from Trader Joe’s for the makeup removers…they’re very durable, but soft.

  32. posted by John Oboyo Njoni on

    Greetings from Kenya,Africa.Our school is Fresh Start Academy.We have Pre-school, Nursery and primary school. Its about two years old with an average population of 300 children. Its situated in Eldoret,Kenya,Africa.

    We are in dire need of the following educational aids for use by the children in our village community school in Kenya Africa: PENCILS and ERASERS.

    We would be very grateful if our requests are favorably considered as it will expose our children to a greater level.Your help no matter how little would go a long way in helping these poor children who are really hungry for education. Thanks in anticipation.

    John Oboyo Njoni
    Fresh Start Academy,
    P.O. BOX 9727
    Eldoret 30112,

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