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10 Special Ways to Help Others When You Declutter

If you want your unused things to go to a good cause, these organizations can help.

A few months ago, I vowed to undertake a major decluttering campaign to rid my life and my house of things I no longer use. The problem was, that resolution got stuck in line behind my earlier resolution, the one about overcoming my tendency to procrastinate. So, you know what happened.

But when I finally got around to really thinking about why I was putting off my decluttering crusade, I realized something important: Like most people's stuff, my spare stuff is really special. There's no way I could throw any of it away, and giving it to just anyone didn't seem, well, special enough for my special stuff.

couch on the sidewalk

— Ocean/Corbis

That's when I started to do some research into organizations that could help me pass along my precious possessions to someone who will really appreciate them, or maybe recycle them into something brand new. Of course thrift stores operated by charities like the Salvation Army, Goodwill and other local groups deserve your support and donated items, too. But if, like me, you have a few things that are truly near and dear to you, here are some special ways to part with them:

Musical instruments. I feel good about donating the used saxophone I bought during my short-lived Kenny G phase to The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation. It's a nonprofit organization that refurbishes used instruments and gives them to underfunded school music programs.

Running shoes. Sadly, the pair I bought five years ago are almost as good as new … another resolution that bit the dust. There are many charitable organizations that provide used athletic shoes to those less fortunate, and even worn-out shoes can be recycled into building materials. Check out the website for shoe recycling facilities and nonprofit organizations near you.

Children's books. My duplicate copy of Stuart Little, one of my all-time favorite books, will find a good home and delight some young reader when I donate it to Project Night Night, a nonprofit organization that provides homeless children with "Night Night" tote bags filled with books and other items.

Mattresses. Old mattresses are difficult to give away or even throw away. Did you know that many mattress retailers now accept used mattresses for recycling? That's good news for the environment, because about 90 percent of an old mattress can be recycled into fiber for clothing, wood chips, foam products and scrap metal. Check with your local mattress sellers to see if they offer recycling.

Business clothing. Thankfully, I no longer need to wear a suit and tie every day, so I'm only hanging on to a couple of suits in the collection of business attire I amassed during my career. The others I plan to donate to Career Gear, a nonprofit organization that distributes business clothing to disadvantaged men who are trying to re-enter the work force. (I'm happy to help, but just don't hold my taste in ties against me.) Ladies can donate their professional clothing to Dress for Success, which has affiliates in more than 110 cities worldwide.

Learn where to donate your bikes and other sporting goods. >>

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