Donating unwanted items: going beyond the usual suspects

While there are many organizations, such as Goodwill, that accept donations of all sorts, there are also specialized organizations you might wish to support that collect very specific items for the programs they sponsor. As you’re clearing the clutter from your home, consider the following donation alternatives:

Art and craft supplies: In San Francisco, we have SCRAP, which “collects donations of quality, clean, reusable materials such as fabric, paper, arts and crafts supplies, wood, beads, buttons, and so much more and makes these materials available as supplies for teachers, non-profits, parents, artists, and students.” RAFT in San Jose does something similar, with an emphasis on serving teachers. In New York, there’s Materials for the Arts. In Chicago, there’s Creative Pitch. There’s a second SCRAP in Portland, Oregon. There’s also the Pittsburg Center for Creative Reuse and the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse (in Oakland, California). A Google search can help you find if there is a similar program in your area.

Binoculars, birding field guides, digital cameras and more: Birders’ Exchange collects these supplies and sends them to “researchers, educators, and conservationists in Latin America and the Caribbean working to protect birds and their habitats” who lack these basic supplies.

Furniture: The Furniture Bank Association of North America has a list of furniture banks that accept donations. “Furniture banks are not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organizations whose mission is to provide free furniture to families struggling with poverty and other severe life challenges. … Furniture banks collect donations of gently used furniture, and provide the furniture for free to families in need via referrals from other social service agencies, churches, schools, employers, etc.”

Fur coats: Each year, Buffalo Exchange runs a Coats for Cubs fur drive; the coats are disassembled and shipped to animal rehabilitation centers to serve as bedding. The 2014 drive has ended, but the Humane Society of the United States suggests you contact wildlife rehabilitators in your area to see if they can use the coats. There is also Born Free USA’s “Fur for the Animals” drive, which runs until June 30 this year. However, there are only a couple drop-off points for this program.

Gloves: Glove Love is “a matchmaking service for single gloves who have become separated from their partners.” Sadly, it’s in the U.K., or I would have a lot of donations to send in!

Musical instruments: Various organizations around the country collect instruments for those who can’t afford them. The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation accepts donations of gently used band and orchestral instruments in playable and good cosmetic condition; they need to be shipped to the foundation, in California. The instruments get refurbished, and sent to programs throughout the U.S. The LINKS program — Lonely Instruments for Needy Kids — does something similar specifically for those in the greater Cincinnati area. The Carroll County Arts Council in Maryland has a Musical Instrument Bank. There are other local programs, too, so you can look for one near you.

Pet care supplies: From blankets and towels to pet toys to litter boxes, your local humane society or other animal shelter can probably use it all.

Yoga mats: Various yoga charities — groups that run after-school programs, work with children on the autism spectrum, etc. — can use the yoga mats you no longer need.

11 Comments for “Donating unwanted items: going beyond the usual suspects”

  1. posted by Mackenzie on

    There’s a Scrap DC, as well. I was just over there this weekend.

  2. posted by Pat Reble on

    I use Freecycle a lot – don’t have to go anywhere, the person who wants the stuff comes and picks it up.

  3. posted by Jacki Hollywood Brown on

    This is a great post Jeri!

    Also, check theatre companies in your local area. Sometimes they will take vintage clothing, costumes and items they can use as props.

  4. posted by Lee Cockrum on

    Good info, I will have to keep SCRAP DC in mind! I also love Freecycle. I have gotten rid of two lawn mowers that people wanted for parts, as well as the pump for our whirlpool bathtub ( was able to be refurbished, hubby just didn’t feel like doing it.) Its great, because things that would not be accepted by donation places can find new homes.

  5. posted by Kathy Vines on

    I just donated a ton of art supplies to an art therapy program at Dana Farber Cancer Center here in Boston. They were thrilled to have them!

  6. posted by Rosanna Brown on

    I recently donated 2 instruments to our local school’s music program.

  7. posted by Alice on

    Thanks so much for the info on donating musical instruments! I have my daughter’s bass clarinet (a BIG instrument) and an oboe that have been sitting unused for 10 years, and wanted somewhere to send them as our local schools have plenty of instruments. Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation is wonderful – nice people, very responsive and helpful, and it’s easy to handle the transfer. I’m so glad to know the instruments will go somewhere really needed – and I have a little less clutter as a result! I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time, but your post gave me the boost I needed to get moving – love the site.

  8. posted by Patrice on

    If you have gently used clothes, fabric, lumber, paint, etc., check out your local kids theater group. They re-purpose many items for costumes and sets and usually have a miniscule budget. If they are non-profits (and most are), they will happily give you a receipt for your donation

  9. posted by Jody Attwood on

    An organization in Arizona that accepts donations of instruments is Desert Sounds. They loan the instruments to low-income students who cannot otherwise afford to participate in school band and orchestra.

  10. posted by CJ Gaus on

    I gave up sewing and crocheting and had many skeins of yarn and yards of fabric. The local Mennonite church took everything including the thread and other notions. They have missions in developing countries and women are given the materials to hand craft items to provide them with an income. Hopefully this helps them leave much less desirable occupations. The congregation in Schaumburg, Illinois also has a fair trade shop so it would be interesting to see if I recognize any of the fabrics. A little networking with you local faith organizations might yield crafting groups as well. (P.S. my new hobbies are writing and painting. Lots less running to a specialty store to stock up on supplies I never get around to using.)

  11. posted by Faith on

    You should add No Nonsense to your list for recycling old hosiery/tights:

    I don’t wear all that much hosiery myself, but enough so that I can store them in a bag to send in occasionally.

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