Chalk it up to Marie Kondo or just the January purge, but plenty of people are decluttering up a storm. And charities are benefiting big-time, with many noting a sizable uptick in donations. (As you surely know, donations can add up to a sweet tax break!)
But is your donation pile as big as it should be, or are you trashing perfectly good items that some charity might want or use?
You might be surprised to find that many of the items you could have sworn were destined for the garbage or giveaway tables can actually enjoy a useful second life—if you know where to donate it. As proof, we’ve asked the experts to share some of the more surprising items around the house that can be donated rather than tossed in the trash.
Strange but true, used bras still have life left in them! Support the Girls takes donations of bras that are still in good shape and ships them out to women in domestic violence and homeless shelters.
Prescriptions change, but glasses don’t have to be trashed! The Lion’s Club has recycling centers for eyeglasses across the United States. The nonprofit will take those specs and donate them to people who can’t afford costly prescriptions.
3. Old towels and blankets
Who could possibly want those old, ripped towels stained from that disastrous time you dyed your hair, or the top sheet that no longer has matching pillowcases? It turns out animals shelters such as the Animal Humane Society regularly list these home goods on their donation wish lists. The shelters use towels and blankets in pet bedding to keep the critters comfortable while they’re waiting for their forever home.
Watch: Let It Go: 5 Things to Toss From Your Home Before You Move
4. Cellphones, tablets, and other electronics
Your gadgets may be outdated, but that doesn’t mean they’re not useful. If you’ve upgraded and don’t know what to do with that functional but older cellphone, tablet, or iPod, consider these options:
- Troops overseas: Cell Phones for Soldiers will take that gadget and send it overseas to a member of the United States armed forces who could use a lifeline back home.
- Birders: The American Birding Association has its eyes out for iPods and other types of MP3 players as part of its Birders’ Exchange program.
- Domestic violence victims: The folks at Secure the Call will turn your smartphone over to a domestic violence shelter so folks in need can contact 911.
5. Sports equipment
Maybe you tried a sport that just wasn’t for you, or you’ve got kids who outgrew their gear. Pass it along to someone who needs it! You can check with local youth sports leagues in your area to see if they’ll redistribute to local families, or try one of these charities:
- Bicycles: Nonprofit Bicycle Angels will take old bikes, tools, parts, and maintenance equipment. Among its many good works, the charity lends bikes to people to ride in charity bike events!
- Soccer equipment: The U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Passback program welcomes donations of soccer balls, cleats, shin guards, and other soccer-related items.
- Baseball and softball equipment: Pitch in for Baseball and Softball accepts used bats, balls, and more at its Harleysville, PA, or Los Angeles warehouses. Items can also be mailed to the nonprofit.
6. Plastic children’s toys
When kids outgrow their old sandbox or that toy kitchen, many folks drag them out to the curb. People assume the plastic is recyclable, says Elizabeth Schussler, senior director of program design at The Recycling Partnership in Asheville, NC. But the rigid plastic can’t be broken down in the same way that a plastic bottle or even those grocery bags might be. Instead, try Second Chance Toys. It’ll not only take plastic toys off your hands, but also give them to other kids who will enjoy playing with them.
Books seem like they’d be perfect for the recycling bin, but Randy Hartmann, senior director of affiliate operations for Keep America Beautiful, says you’ll want to bypass the curb with your hardbacks. Instead, call your local library.
“Many will take used books and sell them at book sales to make money for the library,” Hartmann says.
If the library can’t use them, you can check around your neighborhood for a “give a book, take a book” collection site, or call up your local school.
Operation Paperback will also scoop those books up. It sends them to military members who are serving far away from home.