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The team from Charity Navigator, the nation's largest independent charity evaluator and leading donor advocate, shares their thoughts on emerging nonprofit-sector issues and offers tips to better inform your intelligent giving decisions.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Spring Cleaning? Give Your Clothes, Books, and Toys a Second Life


Do you have the spring cleaning itch? You know, the one you get as spring begins to break through with blossoms and sunshine? The one that makes you want to put on some music, open the windows, rip open the closet doors, and start throwing things away. The one that promises a fresh start after a long winter.

Perhaps, like me, you’ve already started your spring cleaning in hopes that it would usher in spring a little quicker. If you have, you’re probably familiar with the large pile of clothes and things in the corner that you’re finally willing to admit you will never wear, use, or look at again. 

My pile, which is shamefully big and greets me every morning, is the reason for this post. It’s full of clothes and things that have life left in them but are ready for a new home. If your pile is like mine, keep reading!



It’s taken me awhile to get to the point of saying goodbye to my favorite grey cardigan. The one I wore almost daily two years ago and still love the look of, but has barely left my closet in recent months. It seems too good to part with but, if I’m being honest, stands a much better chance of being worn if it finds a new home in someone else’s closet.

Before donating my used clothes or goods I ask myself the following questions:

Are the items in my pile useful?

Can they go on to have a second life with someone else?

For clothes, this means they are in good condition without holes or stains. Books should not be missing their covers or pages. Toys should be safe for kids to play with and include all of their pieces. And, other household items should be clean and functional.

When donating your used goods, it’s always best to remember the Golden Rule, a favorite of mothers and teachers everywhere: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”

If it’s not a condition that you would wear it, read it, play with it, or use it, why would someone else? Your used goods may go on to be given to people in need or sold to generate revenue for your local nonprofit. Keep this in mind while you’re packing up your donation boxes.

Are the items in my pile valuable?

Sometimes the things we’re ready to part with have real monetary value, like a car or boat. In these cases, you may consider selling the item and donating the money to charity. This eliminates any barriers the organization may have to accept your donation.

Some charities are set up to receive cars and boats and turn them into cash. Many small, local organizations, however, do not have the same ability. Call the organization and ask if they could use your car (provided it’s in good, working order). If they can’t, try selling it!

(Check out these extra tips before donating your vehicle.)

Give local.

You don’t need to ship your used goods across the country to give them a second life. Chances are there’s a great, local organization serving your community that would be happy to accept your donation.

You can use Charity Navigator’s Advanced Search Tool to find an organization nearby. Give them a call before you drop off your donation boxes. Ask what they’re accepting and if they have any special needs.

Your local food bank or soup kitchen may be looking for extra pots and pans. Animals shelters often accept old sheets and towels. And human services organizations can usually use clothes, books, and toys for their clients.

Perhaps it was tough to finally say goodbye to that favorite sweater, book, or toy. It doesn’t have to be tough to give it a second life with a person or family that will love it the way you did. Just remember to ask yourself if your donations are useful and valuable, and remember to give local first.

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