Not all charities want your stuff

Imagine for a moment that you’re a 20-something female who lives in downtown Chicago. You live in an apartment that was big enough for you when you moved into it, but over the last year you’ve accumulated so much stuff that it’s starting to feel too small. You decide to get rid of clutter and you head to your closet to see what can be purged there.

You end up collecting two garbage bags full of clothes that are in good condition and can be worn again by women in need of casual and business clothing. You decide that a women’s shelter would be a great place to take your clothes.

You visit one women’s shelter and they don’t want your things. Then you go to a second and they won’t accept them either. You decide to pick up the phone and see if a third shelter will take your clothes, but no luck. Finally, on your fourth attempt, you reach a women’s shelter that is interested in your clothing. As you drive to the fourth shelter, you think about how you never imagined giving away nice clothes was going to be such a difficult task.

The above scenario is exactly what happened when one of our readers tried to donate clothes to Chicago-based women’s shelters. What was it that was wrong with her clothes? Why didn’t the women’s shelters want her things? The shelters didn’t want her clothes because they were sizes 4 and 6, and the shelters needed clothes in sizes 12 and larger. They appreciated her offer, but couldn’t accommodate the donation.

Right product, wrong size.

My community is currently holding a book drive for the area prisons. I planned on donating a bunch of fiction books to it until I realized that the book drive was for specific types of books: atlases, textbooks, and travel guides. I haven’t owned any of these types of books in years, so my fiction books are still on my shelves waiting to be donated to the next library book sale.

Many charity shop locations don’t accept electronics or exercise equipment. Unless a public library runs an annual book sale to raise money, they may not want your book donations. Many food pantries are only interested in specific types of dried and canned goods.

The lesson in all of this is that you should pick up the phone and call your local charities or research them online before making donations. Investing the time up front to learn what your community needs will save you from driving around town and giving yourself a headache. Also, the needs of charities change over time, so don’t assume that just because they accepted or didn’t accept one kind of good in the past means that they will continue to need or not need it in the future.

Finally, if you can’t find an organization in your community that needs your donations, jump online and research national organizations. As is the case with electronics, there are numerous national groups that will accept what your local charities may not be able to accommodate.

On a sort of related note … this cartoon makes me smile.



This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

66 Comments for “Not all charities want your stuff”

  1. posted by CJ Burgan on

    This happens often in the metro Detroit area as well. Research is a great thing. After looking around, I found a fantastic charity or two to donate my items to. Some are 501(c)(3) and some are not yet IRS-recognized charities, but they all do good things. Keep in mind clothing swaps with friends, Freecyle-type organizations, and garage sales. I know it can be viewed as passing the clutter, but sometimes it’s just passing the needed to those who actually need. I prefer to look at it from this angle.

  2. posted by Melissa A. on

    We have a number of organizations in Canada that will pick up clothes and sell them to local thrift stores (Such as Value Village or Frenchies). They will also take books, CDs, housewares, etc. You put everything in a clear bag and leave it in your lobby or on your front step on a designated day. Other stuff I generally use Freecycle or Craigslist to get rid of. I tried to donate a bed to Salvation Army, but they could only pick it up when I was at work.

  3. posted by Dave Bullock on

    Salvation Army will always take your clothing no matter what size.

    Also about your books, no need to wait for the library book sale, just take them down to the library now. They have plenty of storage space to keep your books until it is sale time.

    I will say though, that my wife recently tried to donate books and magazines to one of our local branches. It being a smaller branch with perhaps less-than-well-trained staff manning the counter they whined about taking the books. She simply took them to another local branch and they were happy to take our 3 boxes of books and magazines.


  4. posted by Chad B on

    Once a month, my Sunday School class handles this problem for our church. We have several different charitable organizations that our church works with, as well as several programs our church runs ourselves to help the less fortunate. They all have different needs and requirements for donations. Some want formal clothes only, some want only women’s and children’s clothes, some won’t take any logos, and so on.

    We have a garage near the church that serves as the central collection point for donations from everyone in the church, and once a month we sort through the garbage bags full of old clothes and make sure they get somewhere they can be used. Granted, it adds a level of bureaucracy, but we’re volunteers, so it’s free! πŸ™‚

  5. posted by Lora on

    A friend of mine had a similar situation with donating his used car. It was in good repair and running fine. However, when he made phone calls about donating it he found that numerous organizations, including several that frequently advertise asking for car donations, wouldn’t take it because it was over a certain number of years old. (The age limits varied.) The Salvation Army accepted it and picked it up at my friend’s home.

  6. posted by PsychMamma on

    Just thought I’d mention that Freecycle is another great organization for finding new homes for unwanted clutter. Through their website you can find a local “chapter.”

  7. posted by Karyn on

    About libraries having enough storage space to store books all year round–it depends on the library. I worked at a county library, but it was a small county library, and we just didn’t have the storage space to store the collection of National Geographics (from 1950’s–2000) that were donated after the nice gentleman who had collected them brought them in. We accepted them, of course, but they cluttered up the library director’s office until book sale time.

    It’s really best to call libraries, especially if you know it’s a smallish library, if you want to unload your decades of National Geographics or old encyclopedias. It’s considerate, and most of the time they’ll say “sure, bring them down.”

  8. posted by Jessica on

    Freecycle can help you get rid of just about anything! Even if it’s broken. There are lots of people out there who are handy with repairing stuff or just want to take things apart for parts. As long as you make it clear that the item doesn’t work it’s an excellent way to get rid of those weird old gadgets that Goodwill doesn’t want.

  9. posted by Layton on

    After the recent scare over lead-based paint on some toys from China, our local Salvation Army refused to accept any toy donations. Not even board games.

  10. posted by Karen on

    A few years ago, I took some things to a Goodwill drop box and saw that it was filled with someone’s yard waste. No wonder they’re limiting what they will accept!

  11. posted by Cecily T on

    Sigh…we have this problem a lot here too. And we are fairly rural, the Freecycling doesn’t seem to work well here b/c people are too dispersed and don’t want to drive so far for things. I try really hard not to chuck things in the garbage, but sometimes I’ve just had it with trying to figure it out. Not exactly reuseable clutter, but our recycling facility wants to charge us $8 for an ENTRANCE fee, when all we want to do it recycle our used batteries since our township doesn’t have its act together to do it as part of their recycling program. I got tired of keeping a giant bucket of used batteries around for our yearly trip to the center, so now they go in the trash, even though I find it frustrating. We just bought a charger for rechargeables.

    I guess my point is this stuff shouldn’t be so darn hard that you have to make it your hobby to get rid of stuff responsibly.

  12. posted by Sandy on

    My experiences with cars, clothes, etc. have been like this as well….this is what I’ve found:

    Make-A-Wish seems to be the best for cars. They will take one, even if it’s not running, and take care of the title transfer, etc. We’ve now donated 3 cars (all not running and DEFINITELY “over a certain age”!) and my clients have donated another dozen or so — all good.

    Hospice — Here in our area, Hospice is the best place to donate books. They distribute them throughout to their patients, and sell extras through a local bookstore. Not sure if this is national, but it’s so wonderful. Also, another thing you might want to think about re fiction books is go to your local non-chain coffee store, and offer to set up a “trading library” there. All it needs is a bookshelf, and tons of fiction books, etc. Sure, maybe folks will “steal” the books but never fear — they will be replaced. Love this – we have one at our local coffee shop. Magazines, etc. can go here as well, tho books are best.

    Clothes – Image for Success is wonderful, as is Princess Project. IFS takes clothing for homeless, Princess Project is for girls who can’t afford prom dresses (eg “black tie”). Sure, they’re usually looking for size 10 up (that’s why they love me (laugh!)) But I went to an IFS silent auction the other day, and they had taken all their size 2-4s and had made HUGE “dress up trunks” for girls and auctioned them off — OMG, such bidding! It was really really fun to see. is of course wonderful — Erin and I discussed this on her podcast we did last week. We both LOVE IT.

    Battered Women’s Shelters are almost always looking for UNOPENED makeup. So if you have stuff hanging out in your bathroom cabinets, give your local one a call. MUST BE unopened. If it’s opened – hey, has taken all of mine (that “use once” brand-name base that makes you look like a vampire?)

    Towels/washclothes/etc.: Veterinarians use these and throw them away — call around — I unfortunately used to take this sort of stuff to Goodwill and Salvation Army then made the “mistake” of sending something I didnt’ mean to and going to their “sort” — OMG, what an eye-opener. They bag up perfectly good stuff and send it off to “rag merchants.” That’s probably fine, but I’d rather that my perfectly good stuff was used less generally.

    OK, that’s enough πŸ™‚ S

  13. posted by Peter on

    When my father died I donated all of his clothes to the Salvation Army. I brought the clothes on hangars and was told the clothes would be taken off the hangars and put on different hangars and the hangars I had brought would be thrown away.

    I was somewhat taken aback. Here is a charity that seeks donations and then discards usable resources…hangars!!!

  14. posted by Briana on

    Donations are great, but I’ve found that sometimes putting a price on something helps move it along if you’re having trouble getting rid of it. A few weeks ago I tried to give away a mattress to a charity, but they didn’t want it because they had too many already. A couple days later it sold it on Craigslist for $50. Then earlier this year I had a papasan chair that I was trying to sell for $10, but no takers. So I decided to experiment and I rose the price to $35–bam, it sold! The moral of the story–when something costs money, it becomes more desirable.

  15. posted by ClickerTrainer on

    The best way I have found to get rid of things the thrift shops and shelters will not/can not take is to put it out on the curb. Last night, three bags of garbage clothes (to be honest), one broken vacuum, one broken television, my ex’s Nordic Trak, his weight bench, and some wood disappeared within ten minutes. It is faster than waving my magic wand over the pile.

    Kind of like Freecycle, just less organized and much faster.

  16. posted by Eden on

    I used to donate all of my old clothes to a women’s shelter in Erie PA (sizes 16 & 18 at that). All of a sudden, they stopped accepting used clothing donations. I would never donate clothing I wouldn’t wear myself but I’m betting that people dumped off junk instead of usable clothing and so they stopped taking cast-offs.

    I think it varies from place to place and charity to charity. Could be that different directors ant different things for the charities. Best bet is to sell the clothing on eBay and donate the money to charity instead.

  17. posted by jocelyn on

    What I would like is a website/search engine devoted to charity wish lists. I could enter what I have and find someone who wants it with google-speed. As it is now, I have to know a charity exists to look them up and they may or may not post a wish list on line.

    The other thing I would enjoy about finding wish lists so easily is that then I could go shopping for charity. This would let me buy things at stores like I so sadly love to do and then let me bypass even bringing it into my house in the first place.

  18. posted by Michele on

    It may seem like a pain to adhere to donation guidelines, but it is really important to the organization or they wouldn’t do it. I worked at a small non-profit, and well meaning people would donate all sorts of things we couldn’t use, had no space for and didn’t have the staff to dispose of properly. We had to put guidelines in place and adhere to them. It made a lot of donors mad, but it was really important to a well-functioning agency. It actually became a safety issue – piles of junk can draw bugs and other critters and a person could get hurt climbing over piles to get to their desk. Having your office space filled with junk sets a poor example for the people you are trying to serve. Our staff was stretched thin trying to help people and we would have had to sacrifice time that could be spent serving clients for time to handle donations we couldn’t use.

  19. posted by ClickerTrainer on

    @Sandy and others:

    Your local animal shelter will be happy to take old towels, rugs, tennis balls, and newspapers.

  20. posted by Lizzy on

    Bottomless Closet in Chicago always needs sizes 0-4 (as well as 14 and above). They take everything, however, and sort it out later themselves.

  21. posted by Celeste on

    Last year some lady wrote in to Ann Landers and said that she donated a bunch of books. She had lent books out to friends and just used an address label on the inside of them to get her books back. She ended up getting a lot of mail from prisoners who wrote to her at her home address that they said they got in the books DONATED TO THEIR PRISON.

    Your stuff could end up anywhere so don’t leave personal info in donations.

  22. posted by Ms. Superiority on

    I think that my heart might actually stop. My brain is pounding away right now after reading this post and all the assorted comments. Where to begin?

    Let’s start with one word. FLEAS. These are the nasty little bugs that many people leave on their clothes, the same clothes they “donate” to the Salvation Army.

    Another word is HOLES. You know, that stained t-shirt with moth holes all over it. Poor people need clothes so badly that they don’t care if they are stained and disgusting.

    And your water-damages, chewed, read so often the print is faded books? Yeah. Libraries don’t want this. Please please please stop trying to leave your books at the library. Trust me.

    Here’s the thing. There are, as would be sure to agree with, the proper places for your used goods to go to. But often, people (no, not you, obviously, but others) tend to give away, or “donate” as people like to say, trash. Plain and simple. Right, no, not you. Others.

    Libraries need quality materials that patrons will want to actually touch with bare hands. And you have to trust that a librarian with a Master’s degree knows what quality materials are.

    Shelters need clothes that are clean and in one piece. Not stained, holey or flea ridden. Electronics are beneficial if you know, they are modern. A shelter does not need Atari.

    Most places, libraries in fact, should have a list of shelters and locations where you can donate. Usually this list includes what specifications each location has for items they will take.

    Sorry for the rant. Can you tell I deal with this a lot?

  23. posted by echinacea on

    Does anyone else think it’s a little cruel to only be allowed to donate ATLASES, TEXTBOOKS, and TRAVEL guides to people in prison?

  24. posted by Erin Doland on

    @echinacea — The representative from the prison said that these are the types of books prisoners request most often. It was based on need/want, not cruelty πŸ™‚

  25. posted by Nora Rocket on

    On donating books to prisons:
    If you are in the Chicago area and are of a mind, contact Chicago Books to Women in Prison, an organization started by a handful of my friends about 3 1/2 years ago. See them online at and contact to donate.

    And yes, as Erin just points out, there are specific kinds of books requested by prisoners and other types that don’t move well. ChiBWP is always in need of craft books, books by African American authors, learn-a-language books, and dictionaries. ChiBPW accepts only paperbacks, as prisons do not accept other bindings.

  26. posted by christa on

    I’ve never had a problem with the Salvation Army, Goodwill or Freecycle and their ilk. They take just about anything (although Freecycle has specific rules – they tell you what they are up front)

    I agree with calling first, however I don’t think that it’s a reason to not try to donate good but unusable items.

    In response to your comment about shelters not accepting the clothes in sizes 4 and 6 – there are plenty of other ways to make good use of those clothes. As a size 4 person, I can tell you how extremely difficult it is to find clothes in regular stores, much less resale shops. I’m sure an upscale resale would take them and they would even pay you for them! – they cater to a more hip – younger and size consious crowd. After all – it’s the fact that it is being reused at all that matters, not where they are donated. I know she had intentions of donating to a shelter, but she should have included other types of establishments other than shelters in her search.

    Church thrift stores also take just about anything – including fiction books.

  27. posted by christa on

    PS- when I say “just about anything”, I mean in good condition and reusable of course.

    But there is even a place for things that aren’t. Freecycle is a good place for broken things or things with missing parts. Like a previous poster said – you get fixer uppers or people interested in parts, or people interested in using it for something wholly unrelated to it’s intended purpose – like an art project or something. I don’t care – it’s being reused and not going to the landfill.

  28. posted by empty on

    We don’t have much trouble giving stuff away when the time comes (our local Goodwill has no problem with our donations, which center around things our son has outgrown). But these stories remind me how much easier it is to acquire stuff than to get rid of it. Much better not to buy it in the first place.

  29. posted by Ann - One Bag Nation on

    This is such a great discussion!

    I too have worked for a non-profit and been on the receiving end of donated items that should have gone into the trash. Truth be told, I had friends who gave me baby clothes for my daughter that should have gone into the trash – go figure!

    I’ve also run into the problem of trying to donate clothing (and shoes) in small sizes. Sometimes I’ve had better luck consigning my clothes.

    If your library doesn’t take books, you can often sell books to used booksellers, or get a credit at the shop.

    I’m looking forward to exploring!

  30. posted by Nell Speed on

    Women’s shelter worker here, weighing in. Our biggest donation problem is receiving items that are in some way actually unuseable (as MsSuperiority noted).

    I wish people realized how incredibly demoralizing it can be for potential recipients to see damaged or even filthy items donated. Although we know it isn’t the intent, it “sounds” as if the donor is saying “Sure, this mattress smells like pee, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers!”

    I’m pleased to say, though, that our SECOND biggest problem is sorting and storing some of the incredibly generous, sizable donations we receive. God bless the folks who gave us upwards of $200 worth of (brand new) women’s & children’s socks and underwear!

  31. posted by abra on

    The problem is people donate their old clothes from the 70’s and don’t bother to wash/bleach them

  32. posted by tabatha on

    yeah if i have something i think a specific organization might need i search online for a place before driving anywhere. like i had some ferret stuff and i found a ferret shelter online that would take it so i just mailed it from work and it didn’t cost me anything.

  33. posted by Lee on

    Some churches offer smaller informal food bank / clothing donation set-ups for their congregation. They are typically less specific about what they accept than some of the larger, well known charities.

  34. posted by Sandy on

    @ClickerTrainer: It’s interesting, our shelters won’t take towels/etc., but our veterinarians certainly do. The local bird sanctuary also is always looking for baby-food jars.

    @Ms. Superiority: Man, sounds like you have a serious chip on your shoulder. What-ev-uh. The “your” in your post means you’re talking to _me_. The donations that I make, even to freecycle, are NEVER anything I would “throw away.” (I always donate working items to freecycle, except one big-screen TV we donated to see if anyone wanted it, and they sure did, amazing.) In fact, the things that we donate are in _very_ good condition, since I take photographs of them all, to itemize for charity. Sorry if you, or others, face people with pee’d on mattresses, fleas, holes and the like. But the intensity and vitriolic nature of a “rant” aimed at “you” (me) is the sort of thing that would turn someone like _me_ off from donating perfectly good stuff and send it to the dump.

  35. posted by Sandy on

    @Christa: Your post reminded me — in re magazines, often schoolteachers shark (that website again! πŸ™‚ ) for magazines, especially photography/National Geo/etc. for art projects. If you are posting magazines that could be used for this (we had a decade of German photography magazines from my husband), make sure to mention if they could be used for collages, etc.

    @Jocelyn: What a GREAT IDEA re a place where all charities could post their wish lists! Betcha if you started something like that, they would come πŸ™‚ Wonder how to do something like that – and be funded?

  36. posted by Olga on

    @Ms. Superiority:

    Someone I know was collecting used towels to donate to an animal shelter. An acquaintance had originally said they’d donate a bunch, but then balked when they found out it was for an *animal* shelter rather than a homeless shelter or something like that. Sometimes I wonder if some people think being without a permanent address make someone less of a person–people deserve *new* towels!

    @ Sandy

    I think you missed the point. Ms. Superiority said–“no, not you (the readers of this), but others.” The rules exist because many people treat shelters and charities as a place to dump their unwanted (and unusable) stuff without having to pay a dump fee and to feel better about themselves because they “gave to the needy.” Obviously Ms. Superiority has dealt with such people and wanted to explain. So unfortunately we all need to put up with a few hoops to make life easier for the organizations who already have too few resources to serve their target populations in the first place.

  37. posted by Ann on

    Briana, You are so right. Free stuff has no value to people. At our garage sale, I had a table of Free Stuff. It just sat there. Made it the $1 Table and off it went! People love a bargain more than they love free.

    What also works. Box it up and sell a Mystery Box for a few dollars! People are nosy.

  38. posted by Tina Mammoser on

    I just wanted to second the Freecycle suggestion, if you can’t find a charitable cause that will take things. I’ve given office furniture to a lovely man starting up his own new company, a TV to a young lady in her very first flat of her own, and various other bits and pieces to people who were very grateful. Others have given me wonderful things I couldn’t otherwise have afforded. Obviously “need” is relative in these cases but it’s nice to spread the good karma around and at least know my clutter is someone else’s useful item. πŸ™‚

  39. posted by Karolina on

    I’ve had very good luck posting used electronics, especially computer parts, to Craigslist. Unlike others’ experiences, I find stuff gets taken a lot faster if it’s posted in the “free” section.

    Apparently there are a people who rebuild old computers and sell them for a profit; my old keyboard and mouse were taken practically instantly.

  40. posted by Marion the Librarian on

    I work in a library and it is positively disgusting what people “donate”. Dump would be the honest word. We get moldy, smelly, totally outdated trash.
    People have this idea that if it’s a book is is somehow sacred, so it can never be thrown away. What is that about?
    We rarely add anything to our collection and at the end of the book sale a guy comes with a dump truck and hauls it all away to the landfill, like it should have been before you carted it to the library in the first place.

    Not everything has value.

    If it looks like trash it probably is.

  41. posted by KateNonymous on

    My local Goodwill only takes fiction, so now my books go to the county library that has a permanent donation bin.

    When I moved across the country a few years ago, I had a lot of trouble getting rid of my futon couch. It was in great shape, but it was hard to find an organization that would take upholstered items. There was a local charity umbrella organization–kind of like United Way, but not United Way–that put feelers out to various organizations on my behalf. Finally, on the day the movers were coming, got a call from an organization that needed a bed for someone who had just gotten out of prison and had an apartment but no furniture. So it might be worth seeing if there is some similar group (I think this one was county-based, although it may not have been county-run) that can help you find the right organization.

  42. posted by KathyW on

    Another option for used (and still usable) men’s and women’s (all sizes) is inpatient mental health wards in hospitals. I work in a hospital with 3 mental health wards, and we have many patients who have very little…

    It’s good to be able to give them a couple nice new-to-them outfits to wear while in the hospital, and a jacket or other season-appropriate outerwear when they leave.

    Books and magazines may also be welcome donations for various areas in a hospital…

  43. posted by LizKay on

    The size dilemma is a problem for donations to certain charities here in Baltimore, too … a friend tried to donate business wear to Suited to Succeed, which provides interview clothes to women who have completed job training programs. But turns out they only accept clothes sizes 14 and up. In fact, they have collected so many used clothes they even sell it for $5 an item ($10 for designer pieces) on Tuesday afternoons. They still take shoes and accessories like belts and handbags though.

  44. posted by sjwilde on

    I’m downsizing 16 years of stuff fairly quickly in order to do a cross-country move. I’m unfortunately having to sort stuff fairly quickly into Goodwill (close-by drop location where they unload from your car) or garbage can.

    Books I sell what I can to online, who provide a mailing label, and put the rest in recycling. My conscience isn’t thrilled about this, but I have limited time and energy and need to get my house decluttered to get on the market. I’ve had virtually no response to any ads on craigslist, though will list some stuff free later on in the summer. This has really taught me that avoiding clutter in the first place is the key.

  45. posted by Christina on

    My parents got a new bedroom and decided to donate the old furniture (which was in excellent condition: a huge closet, a big bed and two nightstands). Nobody wanted it. They placed an ad saying they would give it away for free. Nobody called. They placed another ad saying they would give it away for 200 Euros: fifteen callers in two days. It’s ridiculous sometimes.

  46. posted by Mika on

    Here in Ireland, a lot of charities will put big bags through your mail slot to fill up with clothing and leave out at certain times for pick-up. If they can’t handle what size or type it is, they sell it at a small cost to for-profit rag dealers that take it to 3rd world countries and either sell it or make it into something else. However, recently I read that they spend huge amount of money throwing out all the ripped, stained, pilled, shrunken and dirty clothing people give them – because there are garbage charges here, people are using them as a free garbage service and costing the charities money!

  47. posted by Gumnos on

    @Ms. Superiority & @Marion the Librarian, so right you are.

    My dear spouse works in a library where piles of the most useless books come in to be sorted, and many just thrown away, making more work for the library staff.

    Folks, as a basic checklist if

    – there’s stuff growing in the book

    – it’s out of date (because public libraries have a need for 40-year-old medical texts…really, nothing has changed in medicine…)

    – it’s a little spongy from the residual water after you dropped it in some small porcelain body of water

    – your 2-year old colored in it

    – it’s only missing a “few” pages

    – or any of a number of other reasons you don’t want it on your shelf other than “it’s a pristine copy given to me (or purchased in a fit of inconsideration) that I would never have purchased in my right mind.”

    generally the library DOES NOT WANT IT.

    It’s a harsh reality, but please make lives easier for our dear librarians.


  48. posted by Kris on

    Freecycle. Somebody can always use anything you have. Seriously. You can nail two things together that have never been nailed together before, and somebody on freecycle will want it AND have a good use for it.

    And can’t books be recycled rather than going to a landfill?

  49. posted by PrairieGal on

    TEXTBOOKS? Where can I donate my (and my parents’) old textbooks? Most of them are still being used at the university, but in a newer edition, so no one wants my old copies. It makes me sad that I paid a lot of money for them and now they are worthless. Plus, the information is still good in in – “Intro to Statistics”, “Greek Classics”, and the “Norton Anthology of Literature”.

    Charities don’t want you clutter either. I understand why the library doesn’t want outdated text books. And friend of mine at a local shelter says that people donate dirty underwear. Gross! Rule of thumb – only donate items you would use yourself – so they have to been clean and in good condition. Of course, you all know that.

  50. posted by Sandy on

    @PrairieGal – sounds like from this string that a prison might want it…?

    If you’d like some sort of a return and are more entrepreneurial-minded (not sure re textbooks tho), is where I get all my books now – folks reselling CDs, DVDs, books, etc.

  51. posted by Laura on

    In Wichita, Kansas,I heard that the Children’s Home no longer accepts used clothing – they take new only (I haven’t verified this). I think this is part of the larger problem of over-consumption and over-production of goods. Why accept used donations, when you can get new ones (unsold merchandise from retailers, etc.? I’d love to see more about this on the site.


  52. posted by christa on

    I think the problem here is that people are trying to donate things to charitable organizations that those benefitting from those donations can’t use.

    I think the solution is to take those unusable things and put on freecycle – and then you will be able to offer your things that are unusable for their intended purpose – to people who can use them for other purposes.

    Also, in response to outdated or moldy books, dirty clothing…isn’t there always recycling? Books are made of paper – hello? Recycle them. Dirty, torn clothes? Send to rag dealer. Broken appliances or electronics? Offer them for parts or recycle them. My community has an electronics recycling program.

    In my opinion, there is really very little that actually deserves to go to a landfill. And that IS the point, right?

  53. posted by Larisa on

    For books, there’s also Book Thing in Baltimore. They take whatever books you bring them, and give them away for free. It seems like they’ll take pretty much anything that’s still readable. I’ve picked up a few there where I got them home and immediately had to tape them back together, but I was still able to read them, and that’s what’s important.

  54. posted by Heather on

    The reader from Chicago who prompted this post may want to try donating her clothes to a charity resale shop, such as the White Elephant Shop, whose proceeds go to Children’s Memorial Hospital. Many hospitals and charities have such resale shops, and will take a very wide variety of items.

    For more info on the White Elephant Shop, check them out here: http://www.childrensmemorial.o.....e_ele.aspx

  55. posted by Rick on

    I had a similar problem! The ‘poor’ frequently don’t want the stuff I get rid of. Evidently, I wear clothing longer than the poor would! Does that make me poor? I guess so.

  56. posted by Bakelite Doorbell on

    This is interesting because I have a garage full of things to get rid of this summer. Any tips for finding a charity to take away large items like furniture? I have a big wooden desk, chairs, bookshelves, etc.

    I think people donate trash because they remember what it was like when it was new and they made a “connection” with it (enough to choose to buy it). Their perception of the item is colored by their memory of it as a brand new thing. Even after the item wears out, the connection remains and they don’t see it as junk.

  57. posted by Chief Family Officer on

    Goodwill won’t accept children’s toys anymore due to safety recall concerns – I’m not sure if this is national or just local (I’m in the Los Angeles area). It’s made passing on toys much harder!

  58. posted by Gary on

    I can heartily recommend Brown Elephant here in Chicago.

    When my wife and I moved in late March from a very spacious apartment to one less than half its size, they were more than happy to take an incredible amount of our things, from dishes to clothes to an entire dining room set. They have reasonable restrictions on what they won’t take, but anything else to them is fair game.

  59. posted by Nora Rocket on

    More on getting rid of books (and CDs, and DVDs!):

    If you are in Bostonland, check out Got Books at

    They pick up (!!!) and then donate to the appropriate school or charity.

  60. posted by jrochest on

    In RE: rag factories.

    Goodwill & Value Village sell the clothes they don’t want to rag dealers for X dollars a pound. Most of that money goes to the charities that they nominally support. Ironically and tragically, half of the time anything that is actually vintage — from the 1930’s-1960’s — is usually tossed, because these stores often don’t recognize its value.

    But rag factories themselves sort & package the stuff they sell — some to make rags with, some to resell overseas. At least in Toronto, local vintage store owners go in and pick in the factories, buying clothing by the pound, meaning that grandma’s Pringle cashmere sweaters won’t get felted after all.

    But if you do have a stash of really outdated clothes in good shape, bear in mind that they’re not trash, even if no-one wants them. Sell them to a vintage dealer or at very least on Ebay.

  61. posted by rose on

    fyi- local catholic charities or churches in my city always take donations for the refugees that they sponsor.

  62. posted by Jessica on The Salvation Army will pick up your donations. You can schedule the pickup on their website!

  63. posted by Aaron Dalton on

    Part of the problem is that we buy too much stuff to be gin with.

    My parents’ house is absolutely overflowing with books, many of which have only been read once.

    There’s a new startup company that has an innovative shared-use model for books that could reduce clutter while eliminating the problem of expending time, effort and gasoline going around trying to find someplace to take your used books.

    The service is called BookSwim ( I’ll be profiling them on my site this coming Friday.

    – Aaron Dalton,

  64. posted by Angie on

    You can sell textbooks and some older software on eBay, to us folks who can’t afford college tuition and/or have older computers or are having to learn older editions of software for a small business with on-the-cheap office equipment.

    Small-sized women’s clothing is eagerly desired by Hispanic social service organizations.

    Take any books on alcohol or drug recovery to your local Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous chapter or to your nearest recovery organization.

    Surplus garden produce that the food bank won’t take can be given to battered women’s shelters, homeless shelters, or to halfway houses or residential programs for educable mentally retarded or other special-needs people.

    Ask about exercise equipment at HUD housing for low-income elderly folks. Many of these places have exercise rooms, as do more than a few senior citizen’s centers in cities.

    If and when all else fails, put an ad in the local shopper paper for a “load of flea market merchandise”. If it’s priced at a quarter or less of its total used value, you should sell it pretty fast.

  65. posted by Sandra on

    Hi, thanks for this post. Exactly for the reason you mention I started a new website: It’s for Mumbai charities and donors only. So far I’ve managed to coordinate a few succesfull donations. I will read the comments on this post and I’m sure we can use a lot of the suggestions for our project. Thanks!

  66. posted by Joe on

    Our local Goodwill takes all clothing, often reducing it to fibers before repurposing it.

Comments are closed.