Sprng may be over, but let’s make summer cleaning a thing. Being home for a long period of time, the first time since I left for college, I’ve been on a cleaning binge. I’m going through my childhood bedroom and our cupboards and finding things we definitely don’t need anymore. The best part is that I get to donate it and see it go to people and organizations who will actually put it to good use. Most people acknowledge that donating still usable items instead of just tossing them is the right thing to do, but sometimes it’s difficult to know where exactly to donate. People initially think of homeless shelters and libraries or school, all of which likely receive more donations than they can reasonably sort through every year.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t donate to them, but if you’re looking for really specific recommendations about where to make your donations where they will make a big difference, this is the list for you.

Toiletries: battered women’s shelters

Women who live in or pass through battered women’s shelters are doing so because they had no other choice and likely had to flee their previous situation as soon as they felt it was possible. This often means in the middle of the night, from a public place, or without taking anything with them. Therefore, they need the basics, down to soap, shampoo, and the like. If you, like my family, somehow find yourselves hoarding several bottles of hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol and bars of soap, donate them to a local battered women’s shelter. You’ll need to call ahead to arrange the drop off, but the women, and likely children, there will be eternally grateful for your help in starting their lives again from the shower up.

School supplies: after school programs

After graduating from college, I discovered that I owned approximately ninety-seven binders, tons of extra notebooks, a million and six unsharpened pencils, and five clipboards, all of which I absolutely did not need. Instead of tossing it into the trash, I organized it and boxed it up and donated it to an after school program in the area that caters to underprivileged youth, many of whom rely on this place as a safe area to do their homework uninterrupted or use a computer. I know that my unwanted school supplies will help another child stay ahead in school and be able to participate in the classroom without worrying about where the money for a new binder or markers will come from. They’ll also help the program organizer’s stay organized and keep things running smoothly.

Paperback books: prisons

First things first, stop donating your old books to public libraries. Thy don’t have the infrastructure to take them and many times they just can’t. Instead, consider donating your books, especially paperback fiction books, to prisons.  One of the few things prisoners are allowed to do freely is read. If there isn’t a prison accepting donations in your area, look into national programs that coordinate pick-ups to take to prisons that are currently looking for donations. Your donation can help make time behind bars perhaps a little more productive. You can be sure that they will be read and not just left out by a dumpster.

Old blankets and towels: animal shelters

Why does my family own so many old throw blankets? They’re not bad enough to throw away, but I don’t want to display it on my sofa. So, we donate them to a local animal shelter that uses old blankets and towels as bedding for the animals they take care of. This is a quick and easy way to make your household linen closet more manageable and make life for some sweet animals easier and more comfortable.

Furniture: Habitat for Humanity

Get a new couch but your old one still has some life left in it? Upgrade beds? Consider donating your old, but still useable, furniture to Habitat for Humanity or another group that helps house families in need. Your bed could help house someone who hasn’t slept on a real bed in years. Your dining room table could become the centerpiece of a house newly formed. Most of the time, you can also coordinate pick-up from your house so you don’t even have to move the donated furniture yourself.

Toys: Church nursery

This mostly applies to families with children, but since my 8-year-old sister is a hoarder, it’s perfect advice for my family. Used toys, unfortunately, usually cannot be donated to hospitals due to health concerns, though lots of shelters with children will accept them. Another option though, if you’re feeling generous, is to donate them to church nurseries. Of course, you should make sure the church is accepting donations, but if your brother, cousin, or child has out grown a perfectly good toy, I’m sure the church nursery would love to add it to their collection and let other children play with it while their parents or guardians worship.

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member