Ian Mark Sirota spent months preparing to move out of the Cherry Hill, New Jersey, home where he lived for the past two decades. Sirota, 56, went through each room, picking through closets and cupboards and deciding what to donate.
“I know I need to be practical, not overly sentimental,” he says. “But it’s not an easy process.”
One of the biggest challenges: Figuring out where to take all of the unwanted clothing, books, electronics, furniture and other items he no longer needs.
Sirota has donated clothing in local drop boxes and called AMVETS, a veterans service organization that accepts donations to sell in thrift stores, to pick up boxes filled with books, games and sporting gear, and bulkier pieces of furniture.
In the process of decluttering, Sirota also tossed items that were broken, stained or missing pieces. And while it was tempting to make a single donation pile, Sirota learned many organizations don’t accept items like outdated televisions, computers or exercise equipment.
If decluttering is among your 2022 resolutions, here are some of the best places to donate your unwanted items:
Old textbooks, encyclopedias and outdated travel guides should go straight into the recycling bin, according to Libby Kinkead, organization specialist at Potomac Concierge, which does work in the Washington, D.C., area. For other books in good condition, she suggests calling your local chapter of Friends of the Library.
Amanda Jefferson, founder of Indigo Organizing, also recommends Better World Books, a nonprofit supporting global literacy, which has drop boxes for book donations in several states. You can also donate books to your local thrift store.
If you’re upgrading your computer, tablet or smartphone, Amazon has a trade-in program that offers a gift card in exchange for eligible items. For items that don’t make the cut, companies like Staples and Best Buy have free electronics recycling programs; Goodwill also takes donated electronics. And check with your county, city or town recycling operation to see if it takes electronics – some local recyclers accept them.
Before dropping off your electronic devices, Jefferson advises, “Plug it in, charge it and clear the data.”
Your new or gently used medical supplies, including wheelchairs, crutches, blood pressure cuffs and sharps disposal containers can be donated to an organization like MedShare; even unused medications can be donated.
A total of 38 states have drug donation laws that are designed to collect and distribute prescription drugs to those in need; ask your pharmacist about local options.
It takes a little extra work to separate items and coordinate pickups or drop-offs at multiple sites but the effort is worthwhile.
“A lot of items end up in landfills,” Jefferson says. “You don’t want to create a burden for the nonprofit, so do a little research upfront and donate to organizations that can make the best use of your donations.”
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Jefferson often works with clients who are downsizing and want to donate large bedroom and dining sets. For pieces with value, including in-demand styles like mid-century modern or art deco, Jefferson suggests calling local auction houses or consignment stores.
“You might also be able to sell some pieces on Facebook Marketplace,” she adds.
Before loading your cherry buffet or carved oak headboard into a truck headed for the donation center, check with local nonprofits like Goodwill, Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity to see what items they are accepting. You may also want to donate furniture to local organizations that aid victims of domestic violence or those that help resettle refugees.
The best options for donating clothing depend on the quality. Organizations like Dress for Success and Jails to Jobs will accept gently used business attire (think blazers, ties and briefcases) that are in good condition and still in style.
“Make sure there are no stains or rips,” says Aida Middel, moving specialist with Potomac Concierge. “Ideally, you’d launder the clothes before donating.”
Goodwill, One Warm Coat, Planet Aid and Soles4Souls are among the nonprofits accepting casual clothing, shoes and accessories. Don’t donate clothes that you wouldn’t buy from a thrift shop. The latest data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shows that 11.3 million pounds of donated textiles go to the landfill every year.
Even clothing that is torn or worn out can be donated for textile recycling. Some for-profit textile recyclers, like Simple Recycling will take your rags, ripped towels or underwear, in addition to clothing, for free and then processes unsellable items into raw materials.
For a fee, Retold Recycling will send you a bag with a pre-paid label; send it back filled with unwanted clothes and they’ll be recycled, not sent to the landfill.
Your well-used car, camper, boat or other vehicle could help raise essential funds for nonprofit organizations. United Way, Purple Heart Foundation and American Red Cross accept donated cars and sell them to fund their missions; a car that is still in good condition may be put to use shuttling people to doctors or for training in vocational schools — and it makes a good tax deduction.
Jodi Helmer is a contributing writer who covers gardening, health and the environment. She has also written for Scientific American, National Geographic Traveler and NPR.