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A Guide to Donating Almost Anything Lying Around Your House

Unsure what to do with your old cell phone, pots, and canned goods? We've got you covered.

<p>Carol Yepes/Getty Images</p>

Carol Yepes/Getty Images

Donating items you no longer need is an excellent way to declutter, reduce waste, and help others. But it’s not always simple to figure out how or where to donate pre-loved items that fall into the miscellaneous category. So, here’s a quick guide to donating almost anything in your house—from gently used shoes to old electronics. Plus, we've got you covered with recommendations for charitable organizations that are most likely to accept certain categories of items—and to offer tax receipts for the value of your donation.

Related: Throw Out, Donate, Or Keep? Here's How To Evaluate Your Wardrobe

Clothing and Accessories

Clothing for all ages and sizes can be reused or repurposed. The same is true for accessories, such as shoes, bags, and hats. Local shelters, religious sites, and community outreach centers are good places to start if you want to donate directly to individuals in your area. Non-profit organizations like Goodwill Industries and The Salvation Army will accept clothes and accessories for resale at their thrift stores. They use the proceeds to fulfill their missions, including Goodwill’s training and career programs. Both provide tax receipts if you drop items off with their staff. If you leave items in their overnight bins or donation boxes, you won’t be able to get a tax receipt.

The Vietnam Veterans of America will pick up clothing (as well as appliances, furniture, kitchen items, and more) from your doorstep and leave a tax-deductible receipt behind.

For gently used professional clothes such as suits, blouses, blazers, and skirts, consider donating to organizations such as Dress for Success, which collects them to give to women who may need them for job interviews, and Save A Suit, which does the same for veterans of any gender.

For worn-once or lightly worn formal prom dresses, consider donating to organizations like Becca's Closet, which gifts them to girls who cannot afford them. Charitable organizations like Soles4Souls will take new or gently used shoes and re-distribute them to people in need.

Household Furniture and Appliances

This category encompasses tables, chairs, sofas, beds, dressers, office chairs, desks, and more. Local startups, shelters, and even daycare centers might appreciate furniture donations. Contact them first and see if they’d be open to your delivery. In addition to the organizations previously listed, Habitat for Humanity ReStore, The Arc, and Furniture Bank Network also accept furniture donations. They accept kitchenware and other small appliances, including pots, pans, plates, cups, blenders, and toasters. Habitat for Humanity Restore typically offers tax receipts. Other organizations are hit or miss on tax receipts so, if you need one, inquire in advance before drop off.

Electronics

This category covers many items, including computers, cell phones, tablets, and other small appliances. If your devices are still working, local schools, community centers, or shelters, are likely to accept them. If electronics are slightly broken or outdated, you may need to try a few alternatives.

Consider donating your old cell phone to an organization like Secure the Call, which provides emergency-only cell phones to domestic violence centers, senior citizen centers, and police and sheriff departments. Cell Phones for Soldiers accepts cell phone donations, resells them, and uses the proceeds to purchase calling cards for troops overseas to call home and to provide emergency funding for veterans.

For devices that no longer work but still contain personal data that you don’t want to fall into the wrong hands, try the Apple store for Mac products or Best Buy for all others. Both companies offer to wipe the devices and recycle them to be refurbished later. Of course, if you know someone who is excited about tinkering, consider gifting your old items for them to break down and reconstruct. Many techies start to learn how to build and fix devices by practicing on old ones that are no longer in use.

Kids Toys and Games

Beloved kids' toys come with nostalgia and clutter. It is easy to part ways with toys when you know others will use and treasure them as much as you have. You can donate directly using your local buy-nothing groups or the Next Door App.

Gently used toys, stuffed animals, and baby gear are great contributions for Stuffed Animals for Emergencies, which distributes them to emergency organizations, hospitals, and homeless shelters. Second Chance Toys accepts plastic toys keeping them out of landfills and getting them into the hands of children in need.

Some organizations may not accept car seats and cribs because of changing safety regulations and recalls.

While most people consider old video games, cassettes, CDs, and DVDs clutter, they may be a collector's item to someone else. Instead of throwing these away, consider donating them to thrift stores. Gaming stores may also be willing to offer you trade-in credit.

Related: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Buy Nothing Groups

Books and Magazines

School libraries and community centers accept used books and other reading materials. Public libraries typically cannot accept book donations to place on their shelves for borrowing but many have regular book sales to raise money for their activities. If you have books in different languages, you might consider asking if language schools, cultural centers, and foreign embassies or consulates might be willing to accept your donation. Also, art schools and senior centers tend to welcome old books and magazines for scrapbooking, crafts, and other recreational activities.

Food and Canned Goods

Excessive food items can overcrowd your kitchen cabinets. If you don’t want unexpired items to go to waste, try dropping them off at food pantries or local shelters. Otherwise, try Feeding America, Meals on Wheels, and other USDA recommended sites. If you have excess catered food or you run a home-based food prep business, you may need to take on different methods. Try Food Rescue or GoodR.

Linens, Bedding, Towels, and Rugs

Aside from thrift shops and shelters, these can serve a valuable purpose even after they've outlived their original use. Animal shelters and humane societies often welcome these items to provide comfort to animals. To donate, contact your local ASPCA, Humane Society, or small-animal rescue group to see if your items could be put to good use.

Eyeglasses and Hearing Aids

Donating old prescription glasses or hearing aids can significantly improve the lives of people who don’t have access to eye and ear care. Lions Club International accepts usable eyewear and hearing aids. For old glasses, try ReSpectacle or OneSight to find places to drop off or mail in your old glasses. The Hearing Aid Project not only takes hearing aids, but also their batteries and accessories. Refurbished and updated items can change the quality of life of people who really need them.

Sporting Goods and Gym Equipment

Got bicycles, exercise machines, weights, sports gear, or outdoor equipment that you’ve outgrown? Many local gyms could accept some new-ish items. Also, check with your mayor’s office of sports and recreation. Some willingly accept items for redistribution to community centers and charities in your town or county. Other willing recipients might include local schools, the Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA, after-school and sports programs, and senior centers. Also, try Bikes for the World to see your beloved two wheels reach transportation-needy communities around the world.

Tools and Hardware

Hand tools, power tools, and other odd bits and bobs from your garage could be donated to people who will actually use them. The Men's Shed is a nationwide charity offering creative projects and work opportunities for retired individuals—and they rely on donations to keep the community programs going.

Tool libraries are also emerging across the country. Much like book libraries, these offer free access to tools for entire communities. Check if your town has one that accepts donations. Otherwise, reach out to technical school administrators, local teachers, and even school board members to see if they have makers spaces, car repair, or wood shop courses that could put your tools in the hands of students or budding crafters.

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