Spring is here! Time clear a path for summer and get rid of some clutter.
Let's face it: Year after year, we look at the same things in our closets, around our homes, and realize that most of it never gets used. Especially in today’s time, when the economy is horrible, when we are trying to conserve nearly everything in our lives, we need to know what and how we can get rid of the excess. Also, in a time of uber eco-consciousness, this is the perfect way to reduce, reuse and recycle.
In most cases, you can donate items to people who need them much more than you do. Here are some tips on which items to donate — and where to do it.
In your closet
A general rule is if you haven’t worn something in a year, you likely will not wear it in another year. Also, it feels great to donate — so here are some ways to start cleaning the closet.
Prom/bridesmaid dresses There are places in nearly every state that will take donations of gently used prom dresses for girls who can’t afford their own. One of the biggest is the Chicago-based Glass Slipper Project (glassslipperproject.org). You can simply mail your dress to their headquarters.
Also, you can check out local camps for children with cancer and donate dresses for their socials.
It's fair to say that we all likely have a suit that was purchased years ago and either no longer fits or hasn’t been worn in years. Dress for Success (dressforsuccess.com) is a massive international organization that assists low-income women looking for jobs. You can donate items like suits, briefcases and nice shoes. Plus, they have annual suit drives (Send One Suit, S.O.S.) that are nationwide.
Denim/shirts/general The most obvious charities here — and the largest in scope and give-back — are Goodwill (goodwill.org) and the Salvation Army (salvationarmyusa.org). Collectively, these two charities have more than 3,500 retail stores around the country. They provide job training for people with special needs and run social-service programs. You can donate nearly anything from jeans to T-shirts and dresses.
Sweaters/blankets/socks Homeless shelters nationwide are always looking for immediate donations of sweaters, blankets, socks and more. The best way to find how to donate to a homeless shelter is to just go online and find some closest to you. Some have drop-off/pickup services, or you can likely send items by mail.
You may not believe it, but PETA (PETA.org) actually takes old fur coats for their annual Fur Kitchens at homeless shelters.
Pretty much every charity will accept and hopes for winter coats — women’s shelters, Salvation Army, homeless shelters, etc. — just check some local listings to find out how and where to donate.
Lions Club International (lionsclub.org) donates eyeglasses to those in need all over the world. You can drop old glasses at nearly all eye-care chains (LensCrafters, etc.) or ask at your eye doctor's office.
Baby items (stroller, toys, clothing) Baby items are always needed in women’s shelters. Most battered women’s shelters are in secret locations, but you can certainly hook up with organizations that feed these items to them. There are also charities like Baby Buggy (babybuggy.org) in New York and Room to Grow in Boston (roomtogrow.org) that provide donated items to low-income and homeless families.
Books Your kids probably have tons of old school books, old children’s books they learned to read from, etc. Local public libraries accept donations of books, which helps support literacy.
Computers There is an amazing resource at TechSoup.com — the site provides an ever-evolving list of literally hundreds of outlets nationwide at which to donate used computers. The list includes tons of NPOs that will refurbish the computers and donate to local underprivileged students, school systems, or even overseas to promote communication technologies for young children in Africa.
TVs/stereos These types of electronics can go to Goodwill and the Salvation Army along with clothing, but there is also a cool Web site called Excess Access (excessaccess.com) that does all of the work for you. You pay about $5 for a listing fee and the company will match your items with the wish-lists of charities and nonprofits in your area.
Cell phones Americans will replace an estimated 130 million cell phones this year. A 12-year-old and 13-year-old brother-and-sister pair from Massachusetts started an organization called Cell Phones For Soldiers (cellphonesforsoldiers.com) for troops who were incurring huge cell phone charges to communicate with their families overseas. The organization has teamed up with AT&T, which gives free minutes to soldiers and also sends them cell phones and calling cards so that they can talk for free. You can mail in your phones from anywhere in the country.