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Make your spring cleaning a donation bonanza!

As the weather warms and the promise of sunny days lies ahead, it’s a good opportunity to clear things out, declutter, and spruce up the house. And as you sort through the sweaters and thin out your collection of kitchen gadgets, you may also be able to help others who need or want those very items you seek to give away. Here are some items to think about donating as you do your own spring cleanup.

Gently used clothing and shoes: If you are looking at donating clothing, shoes, coats, and other wearable items that are in good shape, there are many nonprofits that will take them. Look for those that help people experiencing homelessness or other organizations that distribute clothing to people in need. If you’ve got attire suitable for the office or formal wear that might make a young woman’s prom dreams come true, try organizations like Dress for Success or the Cinderella Project.

Household items. Find yourself with an extra set of plates, linens, pots and pans, or other household items? Consider giving them to area nonprofits that work with low-income people or organizations that build or provide housing. Your unwanted items could give someone else a fresh start. Animal shelters may also need used sheets, towels, and other items for pet bedding and other purposes.

Food. As you clear out your pantry, if you find unexpired nonperishable items, they may be welcomed by your local food bank. (After all, who hasn’t bought too much peanut butter or a few too many cans of soup every once in a while.) Be sure the cans or boxes are in good shape.

Books. Even the most ardent book lover may become overwhelmed by too many tomes. When you’re ready to thin out your personal collection, contact your local library about taking your extras. You can also look to nonprofit thrift stores, which may resell them to benefit their organizations. Local senior and community centers may also be interested in books for their members.

Vehicles. Old cars, sport utility vehicles, trucks, and other vehicles still have value. Some nonprofits have the resources to sell vehicle donations, and others—such as Kars for Kids and Wheels for Wishes (part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation)—will pick up your car. You may even get a tax write-off.

Sports equipment. Outfitting your children or yourself with sports gear can be expensive. And whether the kids have outgrown their cleats, or you’re interested in a new pair of skis, if your old gear still has life in it, you can do good for someone else. Consider donating it to local youth sports programs or community centers. You could even organize a sports gear swap in your community or for a local nonprofit.

Unusual items. From medical equipment to stuffed animals, it may not be clear whether an unwanted item is appropriate to donate. In many cases, as long as it’s in good shape, there may be someone who wants it. Search online or make a few calls to see if you can find a home for such treasures.

Here’s another thought: While you’ve got the “cleaning bug,” consider helping an older neighbor or someone with a disability who might want a nice, tidy house, but not have the energy or ability to do it themselves.

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Learn Before You Give

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 Navigator are 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.