Deborah Neyens is an attorney, educator, and freelance writer. She shares a home with two cats, two dogs, five chickens, and one husband.
How to Clear Your Clutter and Organize Your Life
Is it time to clear the clutter? Do you want to sort through your stuff and determine what you don't need and don't use, then donate your unwanted items to charity? Not only will you reclaim your space, but your discarded items will go where they are needed and not to the landfill. Are you unsure of where to take your surplus stuff? Then use this room-by-room guide to clear your whole house while helping others.
There are a few guidelines to keep in mind as you sort through and box up your stuff. First, make sure anything you donate is clean, in good condition, and usable. Don't burden a charity with your trash. You won't be helping anyone, and the organization will have to spend time and money to dispose of it. It's also a good idea to check with the organization first to make sure they will accept your used items before you load up your car and make the trip. Finally, keep an itemized list of your donations for tax purposes—most donations will be tax-deductible—and you may want to snap a few digital photos of the items you give away as an additional record.
Usually, the average wears only 20% of their clothes, so a great place to start killing clutter is the closet. If you haven't worn something in over a year, it's time to get rid of it. If it's one size too small and you have a realistic weight loss plan, keep it, but if it's two sizes too small, it must go. If it's not stained, torn, or smelly, donate it to the local Goodwill or Salvation Army thrift store or consider a donation to one of these charities:
- Dress for Success: This organization promotes the economic independence of low-income women by providing clients with attire for job interviews, a support network, and career development tools. Donate women's business suits and other professional attire, shoes, and accessories.
- Career Gear: Similar to Dress for Success, this organization provides suits for job interviews and career coaching to underprivileged men. They accept donations of new or gently worn professional and business casual men’s clothing, shoes, and accessories appropriate for a job interview.
- Soles4Souls: This organization distributes shoes to people in need around the world. They accept all types of new and gently worn footwear, including athletic shoes, dress shoes, sandals, work boots, flip flops, etc. They also partner with shoe retailers to serve as drop-off locations.
Donate your old towels and wash clothes to a local animal shelter. The animals won't mind if they're frayed or discolored. The shelter also may accept old bath mats, rugs, and toilet seat covers to use as bedding.
Cosmetic companies often provide sample sizes and small make-up bags free with the purchase of other items. Fill those unwanted cosmetic bags with unopened samples and other toiletries and donate them to a local women's shelter.
The Kids' Rooms
Teach your kids the importance of giving back by including them in Operation Declutter. Clear out the toy box and pass along unwanted toys to your local thrift store, children's hospital, or women’s shelter. Consider donating gently used children's items to one of these organizations:
- Stuffed Animals for Emergencies: SAFE collects stuffed animals, toys, books and baby blankets to benefit children during emergency situations such as fires, illness, accidents, neglect, abuse, homelessness, and weather emergencies.
- Project Smile: Donate stuffed animals, coloring books/crayons, small toys, and children's reading books in good condition to police and fire departments for emergency responders to give to children involved in traumatic situations.
Did you go overboard at the warehouse store? Donate canned goods and other non-perishable items that have not yet reached their expiration date to a local food bank. Kitchenware and appliances in working order are accepted at Goodwill and the Salvation Army. Local churches and homeless shelters also may have a need for these items. If you need to get rid of a larger appliance that's in working order, check GE's online Donation Center for a list of national charities that will come to pick it up.
The Home Office
Check with local schools and libraries to see if they have a need for your old computer equipment. If not, the World Computer Exchange accepts old computers, laptops, printers, and other equipment to be refurbished and distributed to schools, libraries, and community centers in developing countries. The National Cristina Foundation matches donated computer equipment and software with disabled persons and others in need in your geographic area.
Send used printer cartridges, digital cameras, iPods, cell phones and smartphones to CURE Recycling to be recycled. Proceeds benefit CURE Childhood Cancer.
Read More From Dengarden
The Living Room
Is your collection of books, magazines, DVDs, and CDs so big that it no longer fits on your shelves? Purge one from every four or five you keep and see if your local library or hospital has a need for them.
- International Book Project: If you have quality-used textbooks, dictionaries, encyclopedias, vocational books, and children’s books to get rid of, this organization will send them overseas to promote education and literacy.
Donate unwanted furniture, lamps, rugs, and other home décor to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Also, local homeless shelters, senior centers, churches, and synagogues often have a need for such items; just make sure to call first. If there is a furniture bank in your area, the Furniture Bank Association of North America provides crucial home furnishings to the previously homeless, victims of fires and natural disasters, and others in need.
The Garage and Basement
Do you have surplus building materials, like lumber, tile, roofing material, plumbing supplies, or paint cluttering up your storage areas? If there is a Habitat for Humanity ReStore in your area, donate your reusable building materials to be resold at the store. The proceeds will be used to fund Habitat for Humanity's home construction and rehabilitation projects locally and around the world. While every ReStore is different, many also accept furniture, appliances, and fixtures.
Find a new home for unused sporting equipment. First check with the local YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, or community center to see if they have a need for it. If not, donate it to an organization like the International Alliance for Youth Sports or Sports Gift, which will redistribute it to needy children around the world.
Do you have unused arts and crafts supplies from all those projects you never got around to completing? Check with local schools, churches, or youth centers to see if they can use it. Children's Healing Art Project accepts art supplies for classes for hospitalized children. Knots of Love accepts yarn to make crocheted and knitted caps for chemo patients.
Goodwill and Salvation Army
You may know that the thrift stores run by Goodwill and Salvation Army accept all sorts of clothing and household goods for resale, but do you know how the money is used?
At Goodwill, the sales of your donations help fund job training programs so that persons with disabilities or other barriers to employment are able to find jobs.
The Salvation Army uses the sales of donated goods to fund adult rehabilitation centers so persons dealing with issues like substance abuse or homelessness can become productive members of society.
Note: Do you have other suggestions for organizations that will accept unwanted household items? If so, share them in the comments section below.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2011 Deborah Neyens
Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on June 26, 2013:
You are welcome, Peg Cole. Thanks for the comment. I try to go through my stuff at least once a year. I just took six shopping bags of clothes to Goodwill last week. I lost some weight a couple of years ago and decided since I've managed to keep it off this long, it finally was time to get rid of all those clothes that were two sizes too big!
Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on June 25, 2013:
These are such great ideas and going through the house, room by room, is a useful way to clear the house for easier cleaning. We just went through our closets but the rest of the house is in need of a thorough review. Thanks for the great ideas and resources that accept these useful items which are no longer needed.
Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on March 26, 2013:
Linda, Jen, Nell, Mary, and Pinto, thanks for reading and commenting. I hope you are able to use these tips in your spring cleaning and maybe come up with some new ideas of your own.
Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on March 19, 2013:
Thank you so much, Audra. I hope you start publishing more here again. I love your poems.
Subhas from New Delhi, India on March 16, 2013:
A not very novice but a novel idea. A thought is always more powerful and if turned into deeds can be certainly helpful like your hub to help both sides of humanity. Great writing with a novel cause.
Mary Hyatt from Florida on March 16, 2013:
I have bookmarked this Hub since you included so many organizations that accept used items. This Hub comes to me at a good time as I plan to move out of my house of 35 years, and I have accumulated so much clutter!
We have a local Habitat for Humanity that builds homes for low income families. They have a store to sell donated items, too.
Voted UP, and shared.
Nell Rose from England on March 14, 2013:
This is such a great idea, I definitely need a good clearout of all my stuff, and some of it is nearly new, especially in the kitchen where people have bought me two toasters, one extra mixer and so on, should have thought of this myself! lol! great idea, and voted up!
jenbeach21 from Orlando, FL on March 14, 2013:
I love going through my things and getting rid of old items. Thanks for the list of charities!
Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on March 14, 2013:
It's Spring Cleaning time for me. I've been having a blast with out with the old and donating to Goodwill. We have a small donation center less than a mile from our house. Very convenient. Thanks for the extra tips!!
AudraLeigh on March 14, 2013:
Hi Deb! It has been a while where I have read a significant amout of works of my friends at HP. I am checking in from time to time to see where all of you are.
I think this hub a lot I want to look at! There are so many organizations I have never heard of here. I would like some time to look at the different ones and get back to chat/leave more comments. You are a good writer...and so organized...great job!!!
Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on January 20, 2013:
Thanks for commenting, Deborah-Diane. I usually end up at Goodwill, too, so it was interesting to research this hub and learn of the many alternatives.
Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on January 20, 2013:
Yes, Rebecca, it can be tempting to include things that may be better off in the trash bin, so it's good to keep it in mind that the things we do not must be in decent shape. Thanks for the comment.
Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on January 20, 2013:
Much better to give it away than to have to pack it and unpack it. Good luck with the move and thanks for the comment, vespawoolf.
Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on January 20, 2013:
Thanks, Peggy. It really is a win-win: a more organized home plus the satisfaction of helping those in need. We had a big flood here almost 5 years ago and thousands of homes were destroyed. We used that as an opportunity to clear out old furniture and surplus items like dishes and pans, which we donated to those who lost their homes. One feels so helpless when a natural disaster strikes until you realize that you can help in many small, meaningful ways.
Deborah-Diane from Orange County, California on January 15, 2013:
Whenever I move or clean closets, I always donate our old things to Goodwill and the Salvation Army. It is good for those charities and good for the environment, since it keeps those things out of landfills! Thanks for the additional suggestions.
Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on January 15, 2013:
thanks for sharing the donation sites. I give stuff to Goodwill every once in a while. And you are right, we must be careful not to turn a bunch of trash over to them!
Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on January 15, 2013:
This article is timely since we're packing our things in preparation for a move. Organizing and cleaning can be fun but also exhausting. These are good reminders that others can benefit from the things we no longer use. Thank you!
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 15, 2013:
This hub is jam packed with great ideas beyond the usual of places to donate our useable items. We have been on a mission for several years now to truly go through each closet and cabinet to completely empty them, clean them and then only put back the truly used and needed items. Doing pretty good with that mission and I feel really good about it. We still have some to go however. This is a truly useful hub. Voted that, up and will also share so that more people get the message.
Remember the old saying...Cleanliness is next to Godliness? Sharing our unneeded items with others really does make one feel good and ends up with the side benefit of having a cleaner and neater home. As a former volunteer counselor in an assistance ministry, I have seen the good it does to help others in need. It is almost selfish to have too many things...especially unused things...if one really thinks about it.
Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on September 28, 2012:
Great advice, Poetic Fool! It's always good to research the charities before you donate. Thanks for the comment.
Poetic Fool on September 28, 2012:
Great hub, Deborah! With a wife, three kids, a dog and a cat we've accumulated more than you can believe. We make a regular habit of going through all our stuff with a critical eye to what we really use and need. Then we donate or give away whatever we can. Even doing so, the clutter seems to keep growing. This is an interesting and useful hub which many will find helpful, I'm sure. Thanks for writing it!
Oh, don't forget to check the driveway too! You may have an older car or truck you no longer need. Running or not there are charities that will take them off your hands. You do need to ask some questions though. When we donated our car, we found that some charities have incredibly high overhead costs when processing donations and very , very little of the proceeds ended up going to help people in the end.
Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on February 20, 2012:
Thanks sunbun! I call myself a recovering lawyer these days because after 21 years of hard work, I decided I needed to take some time off to focus on my first and true love, writing. Best of luck to you on your own writing and legal career. Thanks for the follow. I will be checking out your work, too.
sunbun143 from Los Angeles, CA on February 20, 2012:
Wow great resources...there is always more clutter one could clear out, and donating is the way to go (if you can't find a way to "upcycle" or reuse in a different way, which is trendy these days). Thanks for writing! Btw, I am also a lawyer, but mostly a SAHM since I got pregnant before I even found out I passed the bar. It's been a whirlwind ever since! Just started to blog and write recently. Following you now!
Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on January 08, 2012:
Clutter does seem to have a way of creeping in, no matter what our best intentions may be. Thanks for reading, Suki.
Pollyannalana, that's a great idea! Thanks for stopping by.
Barbara C from Andalucia, Spain on January 07, 2012:
Over the years I have tried and tried - but clutter always creeps back into my life.
Once, while waiting to move home, a garage, where I was storing stuff, was broken into and I was almost relieved!
Great article though with many great ideas for re-homing unwanted stuff :)
Pollyannalana from US on December 29, 2011:
I am a real pack rat but it has come time for me too. For clothes I want to get more personal and go to some assisted living or nursing homes and see who might be freezing, I am sure that will lose my fingers. Great hub.
Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on December 29, 2011:
Thanks for reading, Eddy. I will check out your hubs, also.
Ktrapp, hope you found homes for all those stuffed animals. Otherwise, I'm sure the puppy has them chewed to pieces by now. : )
Stephaniedas, hope you found the motiviation you needed to get your projects done!
Arlene, isn't it funny how we tend to spend extra money to get those freebies? But I'm a sucker for it every time.
Eiddwen from Wales on December 29, 2011:
A great hub and thank you for sharing; I now look forward to reading many more by you.
Kristin Trapp from Illinois on December 05, 2011:
This is a terrific de-cluttering resource. I have a bunch of my daughter's clothing going to Purple Heart tomorrow. I have never heard of SAFE for stuffed animals before but I am going to look into that for sure. We have so many stuffed animals that are like new that need a loving home. In the meantime our puppy seems to keep trying to snatch them out of the closet, so it is time to let them go. Thanks for the information and inspiration. ~voted up and useful~
Stephanie Das from Miami, US on December 03, 2011:
Just reading about all of this de-cluttering has made me feel relieved. It has also given me some strength for some long overdo projects I need to take care of!
Arlene V. Poma on December 01, 2011:
Deborah, it was great for you and your sister to give the Clinique and Lancome "gifts" (plus other items) to the shelter. I remember working in a downtown area which was only a few steps from some high end department stores. You could find me in the cosmetics department during breaks and my lunch hours. Clinique and Lancome have some nice "free" products which come with their products. All the expensive stuff came with "freebies," so you think you are getting something extra.
Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on December 01, 2011:
Thanks for reading and commenting, everyone. I found so many great organizations out there when researching this but I couldn't list them all or this hub would have been way too long. Donna, what I really like about Discs for Dogs is that they will send you a check to reimburse your for your shipping or you can tell them you don't want to be reimbursed and they will send the check to the SPCA instead. How awesome is that? Kris, I agree with Business Time - what an excellent tip. Thanks for sharing.
Sarah Kolb-Williams from Twin Cities on December 01, 2011:
This is great! I recently cleared out my closet and felt amazing -- my fiancé and I are moving in a few months, and I think I'm going to feel even more amazing if I take more of your suggestions here and attack the entire apartment. (Uh, any tips for a gal with more back issues of Science Magazine and Popular Mechanics than she knows what to do with? I'd love them to go somewhere other than my recycling bin, but I don't think my bottom two bookshelves is that place.)
And awesome tip by Kris Heeter -- what a great mental trick for "keeping the weight off" after a downsize!
Kris Heeter from Indiana on December 01, 2011:
I think I need to print this out and stick it on mirror to get me motivated!
I also read a great tip from somebody who adopted the motto of "If I buy something, I have to get rid of something" - so that there would be no net gain of stuff. I try to keep that in mind when I'm out shopping....do I really need it and if so, what will I get rid of in return:)
Donna Cosmato from USA on December 01, 2011:
Hi Deborah! Thanks for opening my eyes to all the other ways I can declutter my house and feel good about it. I knew about some of these traditional standbys, but I'm so glad to find out about others like the Discs for Dogs. Great job on researching this and I love the neat, concise presentation. Voted up.
Marissa from United States on December 01, 2011:
What a great hub with a great list of how to donate gently used or new items. Well done!
Most of my donations go to the Salvation Army which is right down the street, but I'll have to check out some of the other charities you mentioned. Thanks for sharing!
SanneL from Sweden on November 30, 2011:
Great Hub. Clutter has always been a problem for me. I guess that is the way of many creative people. However, I noticed the older I got, my values changed. The less the better!
I like to recycle what I have on hand and I have actually given away most of my stuff to Goodwill and to the needy. My life doesn't get any better or richer because of all the extra stuff in my home.
Voted up! Well done!
Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on November 30, 2011:
Oh, Arlene, I do wish I practiced more of what I preach, although I always manage to take a couple boxes of stuff to Goodwill every few months. And my sister and I once took all those make-up bags you get with the Clinique and Lancome "gifts" and filled them up with travel size shampoos, lotions, etc., to donate to the women's shelter. We even got crafty and made beaded bracelets to put in each one. I got a lot of other good ideas researching this hub.
Arlene V. Poma on November 30, 2011:
Deborah, I read this Hub, and I feel TIRED. If I got organized and followed your suggestions, I would be putting most of my valuable time into my writing. When one cleans house, the aim is to keep things out of the landfill and give these items a new life. Which is why I paint my kitchen cabinets and don't replace them. They are not wood, but the cheap stuff. But I don't like the thought of seeing it in some landfill or being replaced by IKEA cabinets. Ugh! Those aren't wood, either. At least, not the quality stuff. Voted up (as usual).