Good for you — you’re ready to say, “¡Adiós!” to some household items once and for all. It can be tough to part with some physical possessions. But maybe you know you need to start fresh for the new year or take care of someone’s estate after their death.
Here’s a good question. How or where should you donate these unneeded household items?
Jump ahead to these sections:
Finding the right place to donate your own or a loved one’s personal possessions isn’t always just about logistics — it can be emotionally cathartic as well. Pick an organization so your donated possessions can do the most good for people in need. Here are a few ways you can help.
Post-planning tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, it's tough to handle both the emotional and technical aspects of their unfinished business without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.
How to Donate Household Items
Even if you’ve donated items to a charitable organization before, you may not have done it on a large scale. Here are some great tips to get started.
Step 1: Take your time
Choosing which items to donate and to keep isn’t an easy decision. It may take a lot of time. You may need to wait until your feelings settle a bit — and that’s okay. It can be a monumental undertaking, so if you can, wait until you’ve processed things better.
Tackle these donations a little bit at a time.
Step 2: Figure out logistics
You may want to choose a charity (we’ll list a few options later) that may be able to pick up items or drop them off.
Let’s say you have large furniture items — it’s helpful to find an organization that will take them off your hands. You can also choose different charities to give smaller items to.
Step 3: Ask for help
Emotional and physical support are both crucial during this process. Have trusted friends or family members help you go through your loved one’s possessions.
Have friends with able bodies and/or trucks help you physically move donated items. Don’t be afraid to enlist people to help in their specific areas of expertise.
Step 4: Don’t feel bad about letting things go
It can be so hard to let go of items that a loved one treasured. But you can’t keep everything. Channel your inner Marie Kondo and only choose items that bring you real joy or a positive emotional connection.
Don’t keep things out of obligation — your loved one wouldn’t want his or her belongings to become your burden.
Step 5: Get organized
Keep similar items grouped together. If possible, move large furniture into one area. Keep clothes together in piles. Box children’s toys together.
You may end up donating things to different charities, so organize donations so they’re easy to distribute later.
Where to Donate Household Items
You’ve probably heard of big charities like Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity ReStore. But there are plenty of other local nonprofits that service your community.
These organizations may help homeless people, veterans, and victims of natural disasters or domestic violence. Donating to these groups helps your loved one serve his or her community one last time in a meaningful way.
Domestic violence shelters
When people exit a situation where domestic violence is present, they often leave with only the clothes on their backs. Many victims of domestic violence aren’t even able to grab small necessities. Shelters provide everything from bedding to toiletries to clothing.
Most shelters warmly welcome donations like women’s and children’s clothing in good condition. They also appreciate children's toys, books, and educational tools for kids of all ages.
The exact locations of domestic violence shelters are often guarded so abusers can't find their victims. However, there is a tool available to help look up shelters in your area and see their wish lists. Once you find a shelter near you, you can let them know what kinds of items you have to donate. They can direct you to a good dropoff point.
Disaster relief organizations
Hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires can devastate entire towns. Many people end up living in shelters without any of their possessions. Mutual aid organizations can help bring comfort by taking the possessions you don’t need to people who have nothing. Larger organizations like the American Red Cross tend to prefer cash donations to achieve their work.
Smaller grassroots groups take clothing, toys, and more to people affected by natural disasters.
You can visit the webpage for Mutual Aid Disaster Relief if you live in an area near a national disaster. It can help you find local organizations that can help you with your items. You don’t have to wait to contribute, either. If there’s a natural disaster near you, use it as an opportunity to clean out your elderly parents’ house. Getting rid of things they don’t need can help them lead a less stressful life.
Organizations that provide clothing for job opportunities
Many people who transition out of poverty, homelessness, or prison time have a difficult time landing a new job because they don’t have access to professional clothes in good condition. Have you inherited a house full of stuff? If so, look for professional clothes with no wear and tear. You can reach out to a number of organizations to help them get to the right people.
Here are some organizations that will take your clothes:
Dress for Success
Dress for Success is an international nonprofit organization serving women who seek economic independence. Dress for Success welcomes gently-used workplace-appropriate women’s clothing. It also accepts shoes, purses, undergarments, cosmetics, and toiletries and can offer a total head-to-toe makeover for women in need.
Jails to Jobs
Jails to Jobs is dedicated to providing recently incarcerated men and women the tools to find employment.
Unfortunately, even after people have paid their debt to society, it becomes difficult for them to re-enter the real world. A lot of companies won’t hire felons at all, no matter what crime they committed. This kind of intolerance leads to a high recidivism rate. Former felons often end up being forced to return to a life of crime to support themselves and their families.
There’s a directory for formerly incarcerated people to find free interview clothes all over the country. You can use this same directory to find places near you to donate the clothing you have.
Alliance of Career Development Nonprofits
The Alliance of Career Development Nonprofits (ACDN) is a group of grassroots organizations that helps anyone who desires to re-enter the workforce.
ACDN is located in 16 states plus Washington, D.C. Check out the list of ACDN members to find out if you can donate clothing accessories to a location near you.
You don’t have to wait until you’re going through the house of a deceased loved one to make donations. If you’re looking for New Year’s resolution ideas, consider going through your own house to find things you don’t need anymore.
You may want to donate large furniture items and simultaneously benefit veterans. Unlike our other categories, it’s actually a bit difficult to find local grassroots organizations that help veterans. Search Charity Navigator to find the best fit for your items’ needs.
A bigger organization can turn your furniture donation into funding to help veterans — the AMVETS National Service Foundation. AMVETS runs a series of programs that serve veterans and provides scholarships to vets and their dependents.
It also guides veterans through the process of obtaining compensation and benefits from the VA. The funding for these programs comes in large part from AMVETS thrift stores. These are located in 19 states and Washington, D.C. and most offer furniture pickups.
Give Your Household Items a New Purpose
Your possessions can do a lot of good in the world. Take the time to research organizations that take belongings and help others in need. Don’t have anything to donate now? Look into local organizations when you start end-of-life planning.
Compile a list of organizations in your own area where your loved ones can donate items when you die. You can even include information about which organizations pick things up and where items will need to be dropped off. You can continue to help people in need even after you die. The next time you clean out your closet, you’ll have some great options for helping your community.
- “Find Shelters with Wishlists.” Domesticshelters.org, domesticshelters.org, 17 August 2014, www.domesticshelters.org/fundraisers/wish-lists.