Here at Micro-Living, we definitely recommend doing a periodic clutter sweep, but you might be throwing items away that could be going to a good cause and reused by others. Donating your items to charity is a great way to get a tax deduction and also avoid the hassle of trying to sell low-value items.
Where to donate common household items
Clothing and shoesSalvation Army and Goodwill are both major international donation-based non-profits with many donation centers around the world. They accept clothing and shoes in almost any condition and will generally either re-sell it at a low price in their thrift stores to fund their community efforts or donate the items to needy countries.
Household goods and furniture
Salvation Army and Goodwill also accept most common items around your house, excluding consumer electronics like mp3 players and DVD players, though they will gladly take washing machines and air conditioners, among other household appliances. The Salvation Army also has a pickup service that covers most major metropolitan areas in the US, so you don’t even need a truck to donate your old items.
For a complete list of what the SA accepts, along with a useful valuation guide for tax deduction purposes, click here. →
Toys and stuffed animals
While general consumer donation centers like Salvation Army and Goodwill will accept children’s toys, you can find a more specialized home for them at places like daycares, women’s shelters, children’s homes and doctor’s offices. Call ahead of time to make sure they will accept your used toy donation, but they are often in need of more toys for the kids and will be happy to have the toys.
TVs, used computers and other consumer electronics
Best Buy offers electronics donation areas in all of their retail centers. Two items are accepted per household for day free of charge, excluding CRTs, laptops, monitors, and TVs smaller than 32″, which involve a $10 fee that is offset by a $10 Best Buy gift card for each of the excluded items you donate. Hard drives, and appliances containing freon are not accepted. Large TVs and other big electronics can be picked up at your home by the Best Buy pickup service for recycling for $100.
BooksUsed paperback books, especially non-fiction books like autobiographies, how-to guides and educational materials, are gladly accepted at many prison reading programs. Prisons will not accept hardback books, however.
All books, including textbooks, are accepted at Discover Books, a program designed to ensure that no book ever ends up in a landfill. Many books are sent nationally and internationally to stock community shelters, libraries and schools. The books that cannot be donated are recycled appropriately.
Less common items to donate
All batteries that are rechargeable are accepted at Call to Recycle, which only excludes alkaline and wet-cell batteries. Recycling is free, and there are over 30,000 drop-off centers at retailers nationwide (US) for your convenience. All reclaimed metals and materials are re-used and never end up in a landfill.
It is illegal in many states to throw away rechargeable batteries because of the metals that poison the environment, so look around for appropriate batteries in old cell phones, laptops, digital cameras, and cordless phones.
Every year thousands of pills are flushed into the sewer system, and scientists have yet to determine the long-term impacts of medicines in our drinking water. Unexpired anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, pain relievers, and HIV/AIDS medication are desperately needed by the Health Equity Project for shipment to those suffering from disease in Africa. Donation is free, minus shipping costs, though they ask that you make a small donation to cover shipment overseas. Unfortunately, few other charities can accept expired medication due to national and local restrictions, so the most environmentally-friendly approach to medicine disposal is mixing the individual tablets with used coffee grounds or clean cat litter and packing the mix into a disposable container such as a butter carton, and throwing the container away.
Old eyeglassesThe Lion’s Club International runs a major eyeglasses donation program that uses glasses on their international missions and matches your prescription to a person in need all over the world. You can contact your local Lion’s Club and ask them where the closest place to drop off your glasses is, or you can mail them to Lions Clubs International HeadquartersAttention: Receiving Department 300 W. 22nd Street Oak Brook, IL 60523.
If you have broken or unwanted holiday lights lying around, ship them to The Christmas Light Source, who will recycle them and use the proceeds to make a donation to the Toys for Tots charity next Christmas.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence accepts mailed-in donations of used cellphones, which are then either re-sold or melted down for their precious metals and responsibly recycled. NCADV will then use their portion of the proceeds to fund their efforts against domestic violence.
Cellphones for Soldiers receives proceeds from the recycling or resale of used cell phones and uses the money to buy calling cards and other ways for soldier to communicate with their loved ones back home.
General tips for donating items to charity
- Clothing of any sort should always be donated, no matter how bad of shape it is in. Even if the item isn’t in wearable condition, charities can sell the fabric in bulk as rags to generate income for their other charitable endeavors.
- Any consumer electronics that are not in working condition should be recycled or properly disposed of, not donated.
- If you want to use your donation for tax-deductible purposes, keep a running tally of what you’re giving away, and calculate its fair market value when you’re done purging. You may have to ask for a receipt for tax purposes, though you are on the honor system to appropriately report the value of your donations.