Clearing the Clutter: Choosing Where to Donate

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Most families do regular sweeps to get rid of outgrown clothes and toys — and most have favorite places to take donations. Some community organizations pick up things you no longer need or want. (To find one of these agencies, enter your zip code at donationtown.org.) Then there are those hard-to-give-away items. Perhaps they are expensive — think smartphones and car seats — or sentimental things like books and stuffed animals that you want to donate to someone who can appreciate them as much as you. The following options give you the satisfaction of knowing you made a responsible, clutter-clearing choice that happens to do something good for someone else.

Shoes

Soles 4 Souls has distributed more than 30 million pairs of shoes since it was founded after Hurricane Katrina. It also accepts gently used clothing. Purchase a mailing label or find a drop-off site on the organization’s website.

One World Running sends still-wearable shoes to runners in developing countries. Anything that can’t be worn goes to the Nike-Reuse-A-Shoe program to be recycled into running tracks and playgrounds. Drop-off locations are on the website. .

School Supplies

Terracycle has partnered with major manufacturers to recycle everything from toothbrushes and guitar strings to juice pouches and school binders. Turn in binders at Staples or OfficeMax and you’ll get a $2 credit toward a same-day purchase of a new binder. Binders are then recycled with the help of Terracycle.

Better World Books donates books and generates funding for literacy initiatives around the world, and offers drop-off boxes for depositing books of all kinds. Find a drop-off site near you by checking the website.

Crazy Crayons collects broken, worn or loose crayons, then melts them down and turns them into new Eco Star crayons or multicolored crayons shaped like worms.

Crayola collects markers of all kinds and turns them into clean liquid fuel for vehicles. The company pays for shipping via FedEx, but your local school has to set up the collection system.

Toys

BrickRecycler accepts and repackages used Lego bricks, then sends them to hospitals, schools, orphanages and other places where kids are very happy to have them.

Puzzle Warehouse recycles old puzzles by donating them to schools, homeless shelters, churches and jails. If you’re pitching a puzzle because it’s missing a piece or two, this organization also offers a list of piece replacement policies for major puzzle manufacturers.

Stuffed Animals for Emergencies puts gently used stuffed animals into the hands of children and service members who need a little comfort. The organization’s website lists chapters in many parts of the country, and it also offers advice for how to clean stuffed animals in preparation for donation.

Misc. Items

Recycle Your Car Seat offers a state-by-state list of organizations that put used car seats into the vehicles of families who need them.

Secure the Call takes advantage of the fact that even after you’ve disconnected your phone service, your smartphone or cellphone can still be used to make 911 calls. The organization distributes used smartphones and cellphones to senior citizen organizations, domestic violence shelters, police departments and other agencies that can get them into the hands of people who need them.

Lions International collects used eyeglasses as part of its effort to improve vision for people around the world. A list of recycling centers is available on the website.

For everything else, Freecycle offers free membership and locally moderated groups. Once you sign up, you can list almost anything. .


Carolyn Jabs is the author of “Cooperative Wisdom: Bringing People Together When Things Fall Apart,” a book that describes a way to address conflict in families, schools and communities. Visit cooperativewisdom.org for more information.