Decluttering during self-quarantine: what, how and where to donate properly
Now that warm weather has arrived – and with it, the desire to clean and declutter – this is a great time to get serious about donating usable goods that are taking up space in your overcrowded home.
We’re here to help, given that it isn’t exactly business as usual when it comes to donating. To make things easier, both for you and for the organizations that will receive your donated goods, we’ll walk you through:
How and where to get started with donation
- What to donate
- How to prep and store items for donation
- Where to donate or sell items properly
Where to Get Started
Decluttering might sound easy enough in theory until it comes time to actually get started. Then you may find that there’s a reason you’ve been putting it off for this long. Maybe you’re just not sure where to begin or how to channel your inner Marie Kondo and get organized.
Uncertainty about where to start and what to do might tempt you just to toss unwanted goods in the trash. Don’t do it! Donating and buying usable everyday items (along with sharing and renting them, etc.) are some of the smartest, most effective ways to reduce pollution and preserve the scarce resources that go into manufacturing, transporting, marketing and ultimately disposing of new goods. Recycling is good. Reuse is way better!
So, if you find yourself getting frustrated, let us make things easier by helping you approach the process of organizing and preparing your donations methodically!
We suggest taking it one room at a time.
Room 1: Bedrooms
Bedroom closets are a great place to start when it comes to decluttering, since unwanted shoes and clothes can quickly fill them to capacity. Clothing especially takes up a lot of room you may or may not have. Here are some good questions to ask yourself when debating whether or not to part with shoes, jewelry, purses, clothes or other accessories:
- Do I love it?
- Do I wear it?
- Does it project the image I want to project?
- Does it itch or scratch?
- Does it pinch my toes? Are the heels too high to walk in?
- Is it torn? Stained?
- Does it fit? And if not, is it likely ever to fit me in the future?
Be honest with yourself when answering these questions and think about how much use and joy you really get out of some of those items. There are also benefits to owning fewer clothes, especially if you’re trying to live a more minimalist lifestyle. Plus, you’ll be providing someone else the opportunity to love these items. It’s a win-win.
Tip: Keep a box or bag in your closet or laundry room specifically for donations. It’ll make decluttering even easier by providing a place for items you no longer want or use whenever you happen upon them.
Room 2: Kitchen
Start with food. If you have unwanted, non-perishable items nearing expiration, donate them to a local food pantry.
Next, let’s move onto kitchen gadgets. Ask yourself, how much use is that waffle iron really getting? And what about those old pots and pans that are still in good shape but have long since been replaced? Those are items that someone else would probably love to take off your hands.
Lastly, dishware and silverware. Maybe you have a cupboard overflowing with coffee mugs or you got a new silverware set and aren’t sure what to do with the old set. Donate it!
Room 3: Family Room
We recommend donating things like games and puzzles (mark if missing pieces), DVD/Blu-Ray movies, video games and consoles. Check your bookshelves for books you likely won’t read ever again. If they’re in good shape, you can donate. If not, you can recycle paperback books (hardcover books you would have to toss due to their binding) along with other items from your home office that you no longer use.
If you have kids, be sure to go through their toys or stuffed animals and see which ones are still in good condition. Donate what your kids have outgrown or don’t play with anymore. Also, don’t forget about that coat closet where things like shoes, coats, hats, gloves, and umbrellas usually end up.
Room 4: Garage
The garage can sometimes be a “catchall” for things we don’t want but aren’t ready to get rid of quite yet. You’ll likely find lots of donatable goodies out there. Take a look at usable items that make sense to donate for the season we’re in – like bikes, holiday décor, tools, sports equipment, or plant containers.
Maybe you have pet supplies stored out here that you’re no longer using. Things like usable food dishes, crates, kennels, toys and leashes. Many donation centers take these items along with animal rescues.
To get the full room-by-room guide, visit here
Still not sure which items you should consider donating? Here’s a bit more inspiration.
What to Donate
Items you should consider donating:
- Antiques and home décor
- Baby gear and diapers
- Clothing–men, women, children
- Crafts and sewing supplies
- Fitness equipment
- Formalwear, gowns and wedding dresses
- Games and toys
- Home improvement and repair items
- Household items
- Jewelry and watches
- Lawn, garden and tools
- Medical equipment
- Movies and music
- Musical instruments
- Office, storage and school supplies
- Pet supplies
- Sports and outdoor recreation gear
- Shoes and leather
- Vehicles and boats
You may have some items that you’re unsure if you should or can donate. Different organizations and stores will have different criteria or items they don’t accept, so we recommend checking with them first. We also recommend checking the cpsc.gov website to make sure that none of your items has been recalled and could be defective or dangerous.
Find information on the best way to recycle, reuse or dispose of items from your home by viewing the Green Disposal Guide. You can find a list of items as well as search particular items you may be questioning. You can also find drop-off facilities near you that are open and what items they’re accepting.
How to Donate
How to prepare donations
Before donating any items, it’s a good idea to give them a good cleaning. Clothing and linens, even if they haven’t been worn or used in a while, could benefit from a quick wash, for example. You should wipe down things like toys and games and give pots and pans a good scrub. While some organizations may accept unwashed items, it’s best to clean them before you donate.
Check your items
Check to make sure your items are in working order and complete before boxing them up for donation. Check pockets, book pages, and drawers as well, to make sure you’re not leaving something behind.
Once you’ve cleaned and checked your items, if you can, separate them into useful categories (e.g. shoes, decorations, clothing, linens, housewares, games, toys, etc.). Secondhand stores will sort and organize items as part of their intake process but doing this part upfront will help save them time. It’s also best to keep matching items together.
Label your items
Your donations have been decided, cleaned, checked, are in working order, and organized. The last step in prepping your items is to label your bags or boxes, marking what category or items are inside them, and maybe even noting the donation location. This way you know right where you stored your donations and where they’re going.
How to store donations
While some businesses remain closed due to COVID-19, others are beginning to reopen and will start accepting donations again. We recommend contacting your local store for information on store hours and their ability to accept donations. If the location you were considering isn’t accepting donations quite yet, don’t let that tempt you into ditching your donations instead. Here are a few storage ideas in the event you have to hold onto your items a little while longer:
- Your basement
- The garage
- A spare bedroom
- In the corner of a room
- At a friend or family member’s home if you don’t have extra space
Again, make sure you’re placing items in easy-to-carry and easy-to-store bags and boxes. That way, when the time comes to donate them, it’s not too much of a hassle to load them. Also, no matter where you decide to store your items, try to make sure it is someplace safe from the elements and critters. Oh, and don’t tuck them away so completely that you forget about them!
How to donate your items
If you don’t have space or can’t stand to look at your items for a minute longer, you can search for locations that are open and accepting donations. While this may be limited right now, there are some.
Tip: Once stores reopen and resume their at-home pickup options, make sure your items are pickup ready. Learn how here.
Where to Donate
We implore you not to drop off your items outside these locations or bins, as they are either not open or aren't accepting or picking up donated goods. Again, we recommend contacting your local store for information on store hours and their ability to accept donations.
When it comes to deciding where to donate or sell your decluttered items, there are a variety of options, from thrift shops, to consignment stores, resale retailers, vintage shops, and even online stores. You can use Choose to Reuse Shopping Tool for suggestions on where to donate.
If you have items that aren’t accepted for donation by an organization or that are too heavy to move and you’re comfortable giving away your items, online might be a good option for you. Sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and/or the Nextdoor app are all options you could use to list your items for free and see if someone could use them or knows of someone who could. You could also post something on one of your social media pages to let people know you have items available, and to ask if they know of anyone who could use them.
Regardless of what you decide to donate, how you choose to prep and store your items, or even ultimately where you end up donating, we just ask that you think twice before ditching your items. Donating, selling, and/or buying used goods helps keep items out of the trash and reduces our impact on the planet. We encourage you to buy used whenever possible and donate or sell unneeded usable goods.