Spring has sprung, and all over, people are opening up their windows to let the fresh, warm air in. This year, why not also open up your pantry, closets and drawers—and donate. From canned food to seldom-used clothing and household goods, it’s easy to turn a spring-cleaning ritual into a donating tradition.
No matter the items you find on pantry shelves or closet bins, chances are they can be put to good use for others. Try our ideas for destinations beyond the trashcan:
An extra bag of rice
One of the easiest ways to clean out your pantry and help those in need is to donate your nonperishable foods—typically canned or packaged goods—to a food bank. The items most in-demand: canned vegetables and fruits, coffee, rice, baby food and formula, powdered milk, canned meats, peanut butter and sugar.
Check out Feeding America and The Global FoodBanking Network to find a food bank near you or to learn more about participating in a food drive. And don’t forget to tap Create the Good’s guides to organizing a food driveand starting a food box program.
Books you’ve read
Have extra books, clothing or other household items lying around? You can clean house and support our troops at the same time: There are many programs that allow you to directly donate to service members.
Donate books through Operation Paperback, where you can ship your books directly to troops overseas or make a monetary donation to help fund the delivery of high-demand genres.
Old toys in the attic You can also donate a number of household goods (and clothing too!) through Pick Up Please, which collects donations of shoes, jewelry, glassware, toys, bikes, stereos, radios, portable TVs, small electronics, tools and more for veterans of all ages.
Too many Lego sets to count? With Pick Up Please, you can schedule a home pickup online, and they’ll come right to your door. Check their list of acceptable donations to see what you have that’s needed.
That sweater you never wear
Whether it’s formal wear, jeans or a hoodie you haven’t worn in a while, donate your seldom (or never) used clothing to those in need—and clean out some closet space in the process! Create the Good’s guide to holding a coat drive can get you started with those bulky winter coats, and you can get further tips from One Warm Coat.
For all other items, reach out to your local shelter, community outreach center, school, church or thrift store to see if, when and how they organize clothing drives. You can locate shelters through Helping the Needy or Network of Care’s mobile apps or Shelter Listings. Or check in with the Big Brother Big Sister Foundation to schedule a pickup or find a drop box near you.
Spare pots and pans Household goods and personal care items don’t last forever—so they’re always in need. Have extra toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, dishes, baby wipes or cookware taking up space in the house? The Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity and Goodwill all accept household goods—but be sure to check in with their donation guidelines first. You can also check in with Donation Town for tips on donating, lists of commonly accepted items or to schedule a pickup.
For your donations to do the most good, it helps to do some research before you choose a charity. And Create the Good’s Guide to Smart(er) Giving can help get you started. CharityWatch and Charity Navigatorare two nonprofits that evaluate charities based on financial health, accountability and transparency. Consult their top charity lists to help you pick a worthy home for your clothing, food and household goods.