You look around the house and realize you have a lot of stuff. You really are blessed…maybe a little excessively blessed. Your kids have gobs and gobs of toys. You have enough clothing to dress an army. Where are some places to donate your used items? How can you use this to teach kids charity?
In the season of giving, we try to make a point to go through what we have to find items to donate (on top of other items we give). We also did this recently when we were moving and had to cut back on what we have. Spring cleaning time is also a great opportunity for donating used items.
Every year around birthdays or Christmas or Easter we know the kids will be receiving a ton of stuff, so we encourage them to go through items they may not need anymore. We make sure we involve the kids in deciding what stays and what goes and encourage them to give some sacrificially (and not just give all the kid’s meal toys). This helps with clutter and can be a blessing to others. You may think it’s junk, but to them this really is sacrificial giving. It’s hard for kids to give up their things.
You can donate used items, even some that you may consider worthy of the garbage can, and they will be appreciated, free to those in need, and actually used.
This is one thing I always strive to teach my kids–to give. I want my boys to have a desire to share with others and to instill a sense of charity. I want them to realize how blessed they are and that we should share our blessings with others so they too can be blessed. We have truly been given so much, and I believe that we have been given that much so we can share with those who don’t have as much.
We recently moved to another state and had the perfect opportunity to be a blessing to others beyond when we usually go through our things. Boy does moving make you realize just how much “stuff” has been accumulated over the years! The kids needed to reduce the incredible amount of stuffed animals, toys, and blankets they had while we had to reduce the amount of clothing and other items. (We did have a yard sale first, since there was so much and we knew we would need to replace a lot of large items after the move, but anything that was left we decided to donate.)
Once you’ve decided you’re going to donate used items, where can you share them? Many places have lists and lists of things they don’t need…that they only need money. Others are very specific on the quality of the products while other places re-sell things for a profit.
Here’s the thing…
I want to take a moment to explain something. When I say you can donate even junk items, I don’t mean the whole “if they don’t have anything, they should appreciate anything you give them.” In fact, I am a firm believer that when we give it should be with a heart of sacrificial giving and we should give the best we can. You’ll see what I actually mean by this below.
On donating clothing:
A lot of places really do not want clothing. It is amazing to me how much clothing is out there–it seems like everyone who is blessed with clothing is blessed with an incredibly ridiculous amount. This is pretty well apparent in the fact that we donated a total of at least 15 boxes of clothing in the last year or so…
So if most places won’t take it, where can you donate them to? There are several places you can still donate clothing, both good condition clothing and clothing that may not quite be wearable. (This list includes places we’ve personally donated as well as some ideas for places to ask if they may be able to use the clothing or part of it.)
If you clothing is partially-stained but has some good fabric left, maybe try to contact local seamstresses, home economics class at a local middle school/high school/college, homeschool co-op that does home economics classes, or women who sew for charity to see if they can use any parts from it…scrap fabric to make clothing to donate, buttons or zippers they can cut off, or perhaps they can even mend it so it is usable again!
On donating toys…
Don’t get me started on the amount of toys my children accumulate each year. Yes, I do realize that I am much to blame for this. We like to change some of the toys out and, once or twice a year, go through our stash of toys and see what others may enjoy so we can donate them. I actually give my boys the lead on this most times, so they decide what toys to get rid of (I find this more respectful as it is their toys–they get a chance to be involved in giving rather than me just taking from them.).
Some places will take new toy items, and there is also a home for many of those toys that may be in pretty rough shape.
On donating household items…
This one is iffy, because there is such a wide variety of items it may include. I will give a few recommendations that hopefully will help guide you with various items around your house. Some items you may be better off recycling (such as electronics that may not be in top working condition)…recycling is a great way to give back and keep certain potentially-dangerous items out of landfills.
On donating furniture…
Yes, you can always find places to take furniture! Do make sure, however, that this furniture is clean and in good condition since most people receiving these donations will not have the means or time to refurbish it.
On making giving educational
Before I go into my list, I want to share how we made giving educational for kids. When we recently went through our items to give away, we decided we would not only teach the boys about giving, but also about each of the different programs and centers and what they do.
When we donated to the police station, fire department, and EMT (more below), each had someone who was able to talk to the boys about what they do, take them for a tour, let them try things like turning on the fire engine lights or calling in an “emergency” when things weren’t so busy, and they even gave the boys fun goodies to remember all they learned (pencils, erasers, snap bracelets). This was a great hands-on career learning opportunity and they found out how their donated items really helped out.
When we donated to the pet rescue, the boys were able to meet some of the rescued pets. I wish we could have adopted some, but we were moving and could not, but they were able to give the pets some love and learn about what rescues do.
When we donated to the soup kitchen and other locations, the boys were able to talk to them about what goes on there…who they help, how they help, and how we can also be involved. Had we had more time, we would have done even more too.
In all of this, we taught our boys the purpose of giving (not to receive blessing and joy, but to give blessing and joy to others, to honor God, and help others), we taught them why it is important to give, and we taught them about different organizations that seek to help others in the community, and we taught them to love our neighbors any way we can.
Donate Used Items (and Some Newer Items)
Domestic Violence/Women and Children Shelters
Shelters are a great place to bring items. Keep in mind that women’s and children’s shelters don’t just need women’s clothing or women’s and small children’s clothing. Many have older/larger sons who could use more adult-size men’s clothing or men’s personal care items as well. Suits and business clothing are great to give for those who may be looking for work.
Pregnancy Care Centers
These centers are in place to offer support for women with unexpected pregnancies and is a great way to encourage women to keep their babies, giving them hope that they will be well taken care of during and post pregnancy. Make sure items are in good, clean condition as babies need to be well-taken care of–no broken furniture, pet hair-covered clothing, or smoke-stained clothing.
Homeless shelters take a wide variety of items both to give to their residents and to upkeep facilities. Everything given should be in good condition and working.
Missions Trip Teams
Many missions teams collect items before heading out. Some need new items while others accept gently-used items. We’ve donated to several and it’s nice to see who everything goes to, especially if the team shares pictures and stories on social media. Here are some items we’ve been asked for before. Ask the teams what specific items are needed (many will already have a specific list to provide you with.).
So often we see stories posted on social media or in the news of families going through trials in life, whether they’ve lost everything due to a fire or natural disaster, lost a loved one (especially in a horrific manner), have incredible medical costs and debt, or recently lost a job. There are ways you can love your neighbor and give them hope in hardship. Besides reaching out personally to comfort them and ask what specific items are needed, here are some ideas of items they may need:
Donate My Dress or a local Cinderella’s Closet
Many cities and towns have programs set up to offer formal outfits for lower-income families who are sending children to prom or other formal events and need nice outfits. Look online or ask around to see if there is one near you. Can’t find one? Maybe you’ll be the one to set one up!
Many areas have clothing closets set up. On base we have something called the “Airman’s Attic” where lower-ranking military families can get clothing and other household items and toys for free. A lot of churches (like ours) also offer clothing closets to support members and those in the community.
Not every school does this (though I think they should), but I know I have seen and heard of more and more having options available for children in lower-income families such as clothing closets, free breakfast, food pantries, and extra school supplies. Ask your local schools if they have programs like this. If they don’t, see how you can set one up or directly help families in need.
Community Outreach Programs
Many communities have centers to help out those in the community. These centers come in many different shapes and sizes. Back in North Carolina, there was the Partnership for Women and Children. We were able to attend some classes for parents of toddlers and young moms where we were able to attend classes with free childcare and receive resources and help with various aspects of parenting, from diapers for the kids to Walmart and gas station gift cards. Being a lower-income family, these were a huge help to us as were the resources. They even have a “toy closet” where you can get free toys, books, and games to keep or “rent.” Many of these centers thrive on donations, so contact various community programs to see what they can use to help support others in need in the community.
We are big on helping no-kill shelters and animal rescues. Even if you don’t have a pet with excess treats and food you’re not using, there are plenty items you can still donate. Here is the one where you can donate things in all conditions! After donating the good blankets and stuffed animals to other programs, we took the dingy ones to the shelter. The animals don’t mind them and they are often used to clean up messes, line puppy cages, or as items for dogs to chew up. These items are welcomed with big smiles and wagging tails.
Police stations, EMT, Fire Departments
Something we didn’t realize until recently is that most emergency first responders accept stuffed animals in great condition because they give them to children they come in contact with when they are called out to various emergencies. These stuffed animals can be very comforting to children who have witnessed something traumatic and my boys were more than excited to help other kids in this way.
Due to the nature of hospitals, germs can be spread easily. Many will still allow donations, but please make sure they are in great condition and you ask first so you are not putting any patients in danger.
Many libraries collect gently-used books either to include in their collection or to offer free certain times of the year. We’ve had a lot of libraries offer books to our boys at children’s events in the community as a way to get the word out and offer reading material to children who may not otherwise have access to it.
Something we did not realize about soup kitchens is that they will take meats and vegetables and things. When we were moving, we had a refrigerator and freezer full of foods that were still perfectly good, but we didn’t have time to prepare and eat them before the move and we couldn’t take them with. The soup kitchen took them happily off our hands and were so excited to have more items to offer for meals.
They only ask that donations are kept healthier (non-sugary juices, low-sodium canned goods, no candies, etc) because those getting these items often do not have access to good dental care and health care and unhealthy foods often only make things worse.
Apparently food banks and food pantries are different, but they often take the same items. You’ll want to contact your local food bank or pantry to see if these items are things they need, but most of these items below are universally-accepted.
Some doctor’s offices can take used items off your hands to keep kids busy while they are in the waiting room.
You can also donate to programs like the American Red Cross or Operation Christmas Child, donate blood, or volunteer at nursing homes. You can sometimes also find resale shops that invest earnings back into the community.
These are just a handful of suggestions for items you can donate. Of course you can always donate money (maybe that’s one way you’d like to spend that money you find when you’re doing the laundry or cleaning the house). You can always give of your time as well. Stay at the soup kitchen and help prepare a meal. Spend time talking to those in the homeless shelter getting to know their stories. Read a book to the pets at the pet rescue/shelter.
Most importantly, make sure you are donating in love, not just to rid yourself of things. If something is garbage-worthy and can’t get good use out of it, just throw it away (or post to local “free” or sale pages on social media in case someone has a use for it, because sometimes “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”).