Some Out of the Box Ideas – Where to Take Your Household Donations

Family GeekMom

It’s time to clean up, folks! I have a double excuse to purge extra stuff that’s been accumulating for the past few years. Just a few weeks ago a very large moving truck showed up in my driveway and, within the day, left behind a house full of boxes and furniture. It’s great to have “our stuff” back, but once again I find myself trying to figure out where it all should go.

Maybe you haven’t recently moved, but I’d guess a lot of you made New Year’s resolutions, to get more organized and streamlined. It truly does bring peace to a busy household, when things are in order and everything has a place. Part of the purging process involves knowing where to take the items you want to donate.

The more I unpack, the more the 'give away' stack grows. Photo: Judy Berna

A few months ago there was a bit of a rumble in the chatter among our GeekMom writers. Someone had heard a disturbing rumor that major charity organizations were no longer accepting toy donations, for fear of lead paint poisoning. Where in the world where we supposed to donate those cardboard boxes of goodies? How could we make room for all the fun geek gadgets and toys we got for the holidays, if we didn’t have a place to take them?

I took it upon myself to do some research. As far as the ban on donating toys, the Salvation Army had a brief ban on toy donations, back in 2009, and not because of lead paint scares. There had been a massive amount of toy recalls and instead of trying to sort out the offending donations, they just stopped selling all toys. I spoke to a Salvation Army representative today, and he said they now accept all toy donations, but are very picky about which actually show up on their shelves. The bulk of the toys they receive actually get sold at auction.

There are many thrift stores that would gladly take your donations, whether they be toys, clothes, or other household items. For a list of stores nationwide,  you can visit The Thrift Shopper website or

When I lived in Utah we often visited, and donated to, the huge Desert Industry Stores. Many of the treasures in our home can be traced back to their purchase at a “D.I. store”. Now that we live in Colorado, the ARC stores are our go to spot. Their stores are large, clean, and most have convenient drop off doors in the back. There’s always the national organizations, like the Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries, but I found another treasure too. It’s more efficient, which is a good thing, because you’ll be using all your time sorting through broken RC cars and outgrown light sabers (is that possible?).

It’s called Donation Town. They’ve consolidated the list of charities that accept donations and all you have to do is punch in your zip code and they’ll give you a local list. You can even schedule a donation pick up through their site.

The Vietnam Veterans of America have a similar service. You tell them your email address and phone number, and they contact you about picking up your donations. They accept most of the most common thrift store items, and will usually make the pick up within 24 hours. You even have the option to leave your donation on the curb, so you’re not waiting around all day for their truck.

Now, if you’re wanting a more creative donation solution, and want to spread the love around a bit, here’s a Top Ten (plus a bonus) list of other organizations that will generally be thrilled to have someone show up on the doorstep with “new” toys.

1. Hospitals/Doctors’ offices. This can mean the pediatric ward/office or even the regular waiting rooms, where children might be forced to wait for long periods of time. When I was in my prosthetist’s office three times a week, the first year I had my artificial leg, my then three year old thought the tub of toys in the waiting room was his private stash. It saved me a lot of impatient meltdowns.

2. Gym nurseries. A kid who’s happy at the gym nursery has a mama who gets to do her cardio, weight training, and maybe even a long hot shower in the locker room.

3.  Church nurseries/preschools. Any facility that caters to kids will inevitably go through toys at a fast pace. Wear and tear is hard on a little trucks and tea sets. Most nurseries and preschools will be happy to see some new loot.

4. Large families. This might seem odd, but I grew up in an extra large family and we would have welcomed any cast offs from someone else’s toy room. The beauty of having lots of kids means lots of hand-me-downs, but it also means worn out toys, once they trickle down to the youngest in the crowd.

5. Foster families. My family also fell under this umbrella and because we had a revolving variety of kids, our toys didn’t necessarily stay with us. It was not uncommon for my mother to let foster siblings take some toys with them, back to their natural homes, knowing there might not be a full toy chest there. We loved boxes of toys that others had outgrown or become tired of.

6. Shelters. Whether they be homeless shelters or places for battered women to get help, there are almost always kids involved. Fresh toys are more than welcome.

7. Day Care. See “church nurseries/preschools”.

8. Ronald McDonald House. We’ve had good friends who’ve been blessed by this amazing organization. Most houses have big playrooms, for patients and their siblings. If your donations are very clean, consider calling your local branch and dropping off your box.

9. Fire Stations/Police Stations. Some emergency service departments stock their officer’s trunks with small stuffed animals or toys. Getting a toy from the authorities, in the middle of a stressful situation, sometimes helps a young child cope.

Just some of the hundreds of items that the ReStore sells. Photo: Habitat for Humanity

10. Habitat for Humanity sponsors many stores that sell to the public. My husband and I often wander around in our local store, on our rare date nights. They accept furniture  and household donations, and also sell construction supplies that were not needed in their building projects. We stocked much of our temporary condo last year, with inexpensive items from our local ReStore store.

11. And then, if you don’t like any of the other ideas, there’s always FreeCycle and the free section on Craig’s List. Take some good pictures, put up your post, and wait for the phone to ring.

So no more excuses. It’s time to get that clutter under control and pass on that extra stuff, to someone else who might consider it a treasure. Now you know who to call, so get busy!



Liked it? Take a second to support GeekMom and GeekDad on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!

4 thoughts on “Some Out of the Box Ideas – Where to Take Your Household Donations

  1. If you are in Boston or Philadelphia, I highly recommend Cradles to Crayons for kid stuff you plan to donate.

    “Cradles to Crayons collects new and like-new children’s items through grassroots community drives and corporate donations. Donations are then processed and packaged by volunteers, and are distributed to disadvantaged children across the state through a collaborative network of social service agencies and school partners.”

  2. Libraries are usually grateful to receive used books, either to sell as part of a periodic book sale, or to put on the shelves. These days, libraries need all the help they can get!

  3. It was not a great of lead paint, but of the government. CPSIA is a relatively new law (2008, I think) that forbids selling anything for kids that hasn’t been tested for lead content, including used items, including secondhand stores and even garage sales. The CPSC has since passed rules that ease the burden on secondhand sales, but sellers are still responsible for taking reasonable steps to ensure they sell only compliant items. Interestingly, until they passed a rule specifically for libraries, libraries would have had to pull most of their childrens books from the shelves to be in compliance.

  4. I had a good experience donating to I had some collectible toys that were handed down to me and I just didn’t have the room to store them. Giving Center is an IRS 501(c)3 certified organization and can accept many different kinds of items. So if it’s toys, antiques, electronics or anything that holds value that you don’t want to just get “rid” of I would recommend Giving Center. Their organization helps others with the donations and you will also receive a tax deduction.

Comments are closed.