Giving Back: Making Your Spring Cleaning Meaningful

Spring is here, and it’s time to start cleaning. This year, get motivated by donating to charity as you clean. Making giving back a part of the process can help convince you to part with things.


Clearing out closets is always a spring cleaning highlight. Set up boxes for sorting, labeling them “Keep,” “Trash” and “Donate.” Make sure that what you keep still fits, and only hold on to things you’ve worn in the past year.

You have a few options for the “Donate” box. You can take everything to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army. Some consignment stores buy clothes outright, and this might be a good option for lightly worn pieces. This way, you’ll have money to donate to the charity of your choice. Many consignment stores look for clothes that were sold within the past five years, so try not to hold on to pieces you never wear until they’re a decade out of style.

Designer clothes, kids’ one-time outfits, that party dress you can’t find another occasion to wear or the suit you wore to your brother’s wedding that you now can’t button can all be sold online or given to specific organizations. Some organizations, such as homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters and Dress for Success give clothes to people in need to wear for work. As nonprofit Planet Aid notes, 85 percent of unwanted clothes in the U.S. end up in landfills — meaning that you can put clothes on someone’s back and help save the planet at the same time.

Toys and Books

Talk with your kids about giving back and encourage them to donate toys and books they no longer use. Children’s hospitals, group homes and battered women’s shelters will take gently used toys and kids’ gear. If you can consign toys, let your kids pick a charity to donate the money to.

Go through your book shelf as well. Textbooks? Novels you’ll never read again? These can be donated or resold. Apps like Bookscouter will give you money for books. Scan the bar code to see what they’re worth. Some hospitals and chemotherapy centers will take stacks of old magazines for patients to read during treatment.


According to Feeding America, 13 percent of U.S. households were food insecure (meaning the occupants didn’t know where their next meal would come from). The good news is that, thanks to food and financial donations, they are able to help 46.5 million people each year. Go through the kitchen and pull out canned goods you don’t use or that are nearing their expiration dates to donate to a local food pantry. Also consider unopened dried beans, peanut butter, sugar and spices. Kitchen goods, including pots, pans and small electronics, can also be donated.


Clean out the linen closet and bathroom cabinets. Basic household items can be used by homeless shelters and groups that serve housebound individuals or people living in poverty. Share unopened toiletries and towels that are still in good shape. Did you buy the wrong deodorant once, and it’s still under the counter? Have you built up a collection of hotel shampoos and soaps? Even a box of tampons you don’t need or diapers the kids have outgrown can make a difference. Have an extra laundry basket or trashcan sitting around? Fill it with the household goods and donate them to your local shelter or check with the United Way for drop-off locations.

Start With a Swap

You can get friends or the community involved and kick off your charitable spring cleaning with a swap. Set a date for having all your goods cleaned out and have everyone bring their stuff to a central location. Shop each other’s items and then bag up the remaining goods for a selection of local charities. Share the load by having different people deliver to different organizations.

As you clean, you may realize how much you have that you don’t need, but others may. This new perspective might just inspire you to keep giving to your favorite charities throughout the year. Just think how tidy your house will be next spring!

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