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The Spring Clean-Out!

Donate your unwanted stuff to these great causes

Spring Clean Your Mind

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Looking to declutter? Plenty of charities and organizations make great use of items you no longer use.

It's that time of year again. Time to shift into spring cleaning mode, shine things up a bit, and get rid of all the trash and treasures collecting dust in your house.

Decluttering your house can be a huge project. Once you finally go through your stuff and decide what you aren't keeping, then you need to figure out how and where to give it away.

Most people head straight to traditional charities like Goodwill, the Salvation Army and local nonprofit thrift stores.

But did you know there are organizations that target specific items for certain causes? If any of the following items are gathering dust in your garage, closet or basement, there are some groups that will gladly take them off your hands and put them to good use.

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Baby and children's items Newborns In Need provides your donations of clothing, toys and other items to agencies and hospitals serving premature, ill or impoverished newborns. The Toy Movement distributes toys and school supplies to children in troubled areas around the world.

Bicycles Bikes for the World and Bicycles for Humanity provide used bicycles to people in developing countries who rely on bikes for daily transportation, not just recreation.

Boats As the old saying goes, "The two happiest days in a boat owner's life is the day he buys a boat and the day he sells it." Boat Angel and Boats With Causes use proceeds from selling unwanted boats to fund various causes, including feeding the hungry and medical operations.

Books Books for Soldiers sends books to deployed military personnel. Books Through Bars provides books to prisons.

If you have children's books, consider donating to the Bridge of Books Foundation, BookEnds.org or Project Night Night, a nonprofit organization that provides homeless children with Night Night tote bags filled with books and other items.

Cellphones By donating your old phone to Cell Phones for Soldiers you can help provide cost-free communication services to active-duty military members and veterans. Hope Phones recycles your old phone to fund health care programs worldwide, and HopeLine collects old wireless phones to help victims of domestic violence.

Clothing Men, if you no longer need your business garb, Career Gear, a nonprofit organization that distributes business clothing to disadvantaged men who are trying to re-enter the workforce, will take it. Men's Wearhouse holds a National Suit Drive each year to help at-risk men transition into the workforce.  

Women can donate their professional clothing to Dress for Success, which has affiliates in more than 110 cities worldwide, or Career Wardrobe.

Donate your wedding dress to Brides Against Breast Cancer and they'll use revenue generated from their bridal events to contribute to wellness and educational services to those affected by cancer. The Glass Slipper Project uses donated prom dresses to help Chicago-area young women attend proms in style.

Casual clothing can be donated to Sew Much Comfort, which benefits U.S. troops, or Planet Aid, which benefits people in some of the poorest parts of the world.

One Warm Coat holds fall and winter coat drives to provide coats to people in need. Burlington Coat Factory stores hold Warm Coats & Warm Hearts Coat Drives each year to provide gently worn coats to needy people.

Shoes 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. RecycledRunners.com lists shoe recycling facilities and nonprofit organizations locally and internationally. Soles4Souls accepts both running shoes and other footwear to distribute to people in need. One World Running takes shoe donations and sends them to developing countries.

Collectibles Whether it's comic books, sports memorabilia or antiques, Collectibles With Causes wants to use your stuff to help those in crisis.

See also: Should You Invest in Collectibles?

Computers With everyone constantly upgrading their computers, there are plenty of machines sitting around that can be donated to a good cause. Computers With Causes has a zero-waste recycling program and will attempt to repair or refurbish your old computer to give to needy individuals throughout the U.S. World Computer Exchange also accepts old computers.

DVDs and CDs Musicians On Call accepts CD donations to help deliver the healing power of music to patients in health care facilities.

DVDs4Vets accepts DVD donations to help provide entertainment to veterans. KidFlicks.org uses DVD donations to create movie libraries in children's hospitals and pediatric wards across the U.S.

Video games The Get-Well Gamers Foundation distributes donated video games and systems to children's hospitals worldwide.

Medical supplies Med Eq accepts donations of unused or lightly used medical supplies and equipment. Advocates for World Health uses medical equipment donations to help relief agencies in developing countries.

Prosthetic limbs The Bowman Limb Bank Foundation and Standing With Hope collect and distribute prosthetics to those in need.

Musical instruments The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation refurbishes used instruments and gives them to underfunded school music programs. Marching Mountains collects instruments for band programs in Appalachia. Hungry for Music provides musical instruments to underserved children.

Office supplies Clean out your desk and help those in need at the same time. Develop Africa accepts school and office supplies to help schools in Africa, and Pens For Kids International accepts pens to help increase the availability of writing utensils to needy children. Check with your local school system, too, as many could take advantage of gently used office supplies.

Sports equipment SportsGift.org is a nonprofit organization that uses donated sports equipment to create community-based sports programs for underprivileged kids around the world. Other charities focus on a particular sport such as:

  • Baseball: Pitch In for Baseball accepts new and gently used baseball gear to help underprivileged kids play the sport.
  • Soccer: Peace Passers accepts soccer equipment donations to help communities that have limited access to proper gear.
  • Golf: Bunkers in Baghdad collects and sends golf equipment to our troops. The First Tee uses your old golf equipment to introduce the game to young people.
  • Tennis: Kids Serving Kids recycles new and used tennis rackets for those in need.

Sporting event tickets Gameday for Heroes uses ticket donations to provide football, basketball and baseball tickets to soldiers.

Building materials. Habitat ReStore is a nationwide chain operated by the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity. It offers a wide selection of building materials at low prices.

Greeting cards St. Jude's Ranch accepts used all-occasion greeting cards year round. They recycle them to create new greeting cards that are then sold to support their programs for abused, neglected and homeless children and families.

Coupons The Overseas Coupon Program collects manufacturerer's coupons and sends them to overseas military bases, where they are handed out to families on base to help them stretch their income.

Mattresses Old mattresses are difficult to give away or even throw away, but DonationTown.org says they will help you find a local charity that will accept your mattress donation. It could be worth a try before recycling.

Jeff Yeager is the author of The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches and The Cheapskate Next Door. His website is www.UltimateCheapskate.com and you can friend him on Facebook at JeffYeagerUltimateCheapskate or follow him on Twitter.

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