One Man’s Trash… The Best Ways to Give Back with Your Junk
This year I’m getting around to the intense purging portion of my spring cleaning regimen a little later than I’d like to openly admit. Between the crazy (yet amazingly wonderful) amount of traveling the hubby and I have been doing and the post-tax season hangover, we finally just got around to making a major dent in our joint honey-do list this past weekend. And although I’m fairly certain that at this point most would call it a pre-fall cleaning, it’s still better late than never!
Now that I’ve admitted my total procrastination on this one, I also should own up to the fact that I didn’t even know where to start this whole cleaning endeavor. Our list included everything from cleaning out the garage to purging the laundry room (who knows what in the world in is even buried in there) to general decluttering and getting rid of all the random clothes/shoes/paperwork/boxes/knickknacks that we hold onto for years on end for reasons yet to be determined. We made a huge dent this weekend, and while we didn’t even get to 30% of the things we wanted to, the progress we did make came with a HUGE sense of accomplishment. The one (and really only) downside to all this cleaning/purging is that we ended up with pile upon pile of crap. Or what we define as crap. The responsible adult in me feels too guilty to throw it all away and have it rot in a landfill, so I started trying to figure out what we could reasonably do with everything we deemed to be trash. And I found some pretty cool, philanthropic solutions… hey, they always say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Here are my strategies for getting rid of all your excess “stuff” without feeling like you just slapped Mother Nature in the face and at the same time making a difference for someone in your community.
Towels, Sheets, Blankets, and Miscellaneous Linens
Too far gone to donate to most thrift stores in good conscience? Wash them and drop them off at your local animal shelter. As someone who has previously volunteered in shelters, I saw firsthand how many linens a shelter goes through on a weekly basis. The more they have, the less the volunteers have to do laundry. Worried about the fact that there are some small holes in the towels? The dogs are pretty good at putting holes in anything, so pre-holed (within reason) is totally fine. Trust me, they’ll love ya for it!
Storage Boxes, Cardboard Boxes, and Really Any Kind of Box
I had a few ideas that worked out well for these. Fill up the nicer storage boxes with the above-mentioned linens or with items you’re planning to donate to a local thrift store, etc. It’s a home run because not only is it a super easy way to transport your donation but many organizations can put those storage containers to good use. My local shelter uses lidded, plastic storage boxes to store dog and cat food in bulk. For the cardboard boxes, reach out to your local school as often times the teachers can use them for moving between classrooms or for art projects. If that doesn’t work out, ask around if anyone is moving anytime soon. We’ve all moved and we all know that sturdy cardboard boxes are like gold. If all else fails, you can easily break down the cardboard boxes and toss them in your recycle bin.
Home Décor, Knickknacks, Children’s Toys, Household Goods
You can donate these items to a local thrift shop for resale purposes, but if they’re in decent condition I’d highly recommend reaching out to a local family or women’s shelter. Goodwill, Savers, and Salvation Army get the most publicity as they’re some of the largest thrift stores, however a lot of local organizations go underserved. As an active volunteer with an abused women’s shelter, I know how hard it can be for families that come in with nothing to their names. We work hard to transition them out of shelter life and into their own places, but it can be so discouraging to do so with so few possessions. The organization that I work with stocks the apartments from top to bottom to help make the transition easier, and your “garbage” could truly be that one thing that completes the home. Your old frying pan could be what a mother cooks dinner for her children in and that mismatched set of plates could be what she proudly serves the meal on. Those throw-aways could be the things that give her a sense of ownership and pride!
Again, you can always go the easy and traditional thrift store route, but if you’re looking for something outside the box, I stumbled upon a really unique way to donate my old work clothes. Each year the local PADS shelter holds a career fair for the clients who are served by their shelters. They’re always in need of professional looking clothing to give to the clients for the career fairs as well as for interviews that the clients go on. Knowing that my old clothes could help someone gain the confidence they need to land a job and which could turn their whole life around is a pretty remarkable feeling. Any other adult clothing is usually welcomed with open arms as well as children’s clothing. If you’re interested in spreading out your donations, many adoption agencies/orphanages are in the market for gently used children’s clothing.
If you couldn’t tell, I’m all about sharing the wealth with as many organizations as possible. Through my various volunteer endeavors, my eyes have been opened to so many groups in my local community that can use anything and everything they can get. How can you go wrong? The clutter and unused items that have been filling up my closets are being repurposed to help those that are in situations that I pray no one ever has to go through. The next time you’re in the midst of a pre-fall (or spring, summer, winter) cleaning think twice about what your trash might mean to someone else. And if you need one more little incentive… your donations are tax deductible. As The CPA’s Wife, I’ve learned to look for those win-win situations.