Decluttering Tips + Tools: Donate, Drop off & Make a Difference

January is all about cleaning and organizing and fresh starts. Despite my refusal to participate in realistic New Year’s resolutions, I do feel comfortable committing to better cleaning habits and a renewed devotion to the “less is more” ethos. Along those lines, I thought it would be good to kick off this month with tips for de-cluttering your home and what do to with all the odds, ends and (probably) perfectly good things you may end up letting go.

Tips for Letting It Go

Despite my many faults and weaknesses, I’m fortunate that hoarding is not one of them. I really love cleaning, purging and finding a way to do good with those outcasts. But I’ve always shared my life with people who embrace clutter, so I’ve gotten good at convincing them to let things go. My primary teaching tool has always been to remind people that de-cluttered homes create de-cluttered minds, but when that fails, I focus on these steps:

  • Have a game plan. I like to start with bags (recycling/trash), but boxes (keep/save/donate) work well, too. Place them in each room to get started.
  • Have a friend. Having someone there to help or motivate you is always helpful. Return the favor and promise to help them clean, too.
  • Move to the beat. An upbeat soundtrack is essential. There’s a reason ’80s movie cleaning montages always have dance music playing.
  • Reward good behavior. I train my cat, why not train myself? For every room or space I tackle, I give myself a treat. I find Three Musketeers bars work well. Just sayin.
  • Set a time limit. If you’re working on a small space, give yourself 30 minutes and be brutal. If you haven’t used it or seen it in a year, chances are you can live without it.
  • Invest in storage. If you live in a small space and simply can’t bear to get rid of things you don’t have room for, consider splitting the cost of a rental space with friends.
  • Organize and label. Prevent future mess by labeling and organizing everything in containers. (I’ve got good options for this coming up in future posts!)
  • Prevent backslides. I find that little things like signing up for paperless billing, removing yourself from catalog lists and going electronic whenever possible are always good ideas.
  • No more wire hangers. I hate wire clutter; it’s the bane of my existence. So I try to get good cord organizers and consolidate charging to one area of the apartment.
  • Use good gimmicks and tricks. I don’t normally like to get fancy with de-cluttering, but this guy has some great ideas that may be fun enough to get you hooked on cleaning.


Now that you’ve cleaned and de-cluttered, it’s time to donate and drop off. I’ve rounded up a TON of easy ways to donate your goods, but to get started, nothing’s easier than contacting places that will pick up your gently used goods for you. Here are some great options: Pick Up Please, Veteran Pick Up, The Salvation Army, Donation Town.

More donating ideas continue after the jump . . .

*Please always check with your local charities in addition to these national groups. It’s wonderful to be able to deliver and drop off in person when you can. It also gives you a chance to find additional ways to help people and animals in your area.*

General Categories/Places for Donation

  • Charities
  • Hospitals
  • Animal shelters/Rescues
  • Police/Fire departments
  • Schools + Daycares
  • Military Homes/Centers
  • Churches


Categories for Donation

All-Purpose: Goodwill, Salvation Army, Volunteers of America, Forgotten Soldier Fund

Books & Magazines: Soldiers’ Angels, Global Literacy Project, Books Through Bars, Books for Soldiers, Operation Paperback

Children/Family Goods: Project Smile, Ronald McDonald House

Clothing: Dress for Success, Sew Much Comfort, Career Gear, DonateMyDress

Tech: Cell Phones for Soldiers, World Computer Exchange, Hope Line from Verizon

Art & Craft Supplies: Beads of Courage, Knots of Love

Please note: Design*Sponge does not have affiliations with any of these organizations. As always, please research all organizations before making financial donations or sharing personal financial information. I’ve researched these organizations, but it’s always wise to double check with your local chapter before donating.

  1. Crystal M. says:

    This is definitely in line with one of my resolutions this year. Rather than saying “minimal,” I’ve been using the word “meaningful” to describe my intentions when holding onto things. Thanks for the motivational post!

    Also! In the picture above, is there a large image of the one in the top right with the jars? I’m finding this intriguing…

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Perfectly timed, thank you! May I also add a charity? Women At Risk, International in Michigan also takes formal wear & donates it to a business in the Dominican Republic that teaches women sewing and tailoring so that they will not be vulnerable to human trafficking. Women rent gowns there the way guys rent tuxes in the States. It’s so great and such a better use for all those lovely gowns than sitting in closets!

  3. Angie says:

    I did a huge purge a couple months ago while in the process of moving. It was great, and I don’t even miss the stuff I sold / donated / recycled :)

  4. This is such a timely post for me. Thanks for all the resources Grace!

    I wanted to add that Out of the Closet is a great organization and benefits the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. They have locations in California, Florida and Brooklyn, where you can donate clothing, furniture, books and homegoods. You can also schedule pickups for big donations!

  5. pamela says:

    Some great tips, thanks! Better World Books is another great place to send your gently used books.

  6. Great post! I’m so glad you included the detailed list places/organizations and items you can donate! I’ve been looking for a place to donate my ever mounting magazine collection!

  7. Trevi says:

    This is a fantastic post, and very appropriate for the New Year! I am a cleaning freak and love tossing out/donating old stuff and clothing that I no longer need, but you’re right–it’s often difficult to convince friends to do the same!

    Another fun organization to donate art supplies to is called Free Arts for Abused Children. They have chapters in Los Angeles, New York, and a few other cities around the country.

  8. Sarah says:

    Great ideas! Upbeat music really is a must. Otherwise I can get pulled into whatever book/ magazine/ etc. I picked up, intending to purge!

    And speaking of rewards, chocolate covered pretzels are good, too :)

  9. caroline says:

    keep/save/donate? what happened to “trash”

    a freudian slip from a fellow hoarder, me thinks!

  10. Pardon my French, but I also recommend Great tips for people that have a hard time cleaning. And they post ‘success stories’ everyday. There’s even an app that will give you a small cleaning/decluttering task.

  11. Great post! Where are the center photo and bottom right photo from?

  12. Courtney Sim says:

    these are really good ideas! definitely going to follow them!
    please check out my blog:-) x

  13. Amy Volk says:

    excellent! I am a professional organizer and blogger and I would have suggested all of that. Anyone can take these tips and make a big difference in their home!

  14. Dana says:

    Another thing to donate – old sheets and towels! Animal shelters and your local vet will take even the old stuff as long as it is not too hole-filled. Also, rescue groups in your area look for the same thing.

  15. Tara says:

    Thank you for posting the magazine/books to soldiers links! I have signed up for 2 forums and plan on sending magazines to Soldier’s Angels

  16. sherrie says:

    Move To A Beat suggestion always works for me. I treat myself to music choices I never usually get to listen to. I crank it up. Gets the blood pumping. Playing “beat the clock” seems to work for me. Nice advice begin the New Year.

  17. Rachelskirts says:

    Great tips. :) Another wonderful source of inspiration is! I subscribe to daily email updates and find myself constantly encouraged to “keep on keepin’ on” in the war against clutter.

  18. temple terkildsen says:

    Flylady helped me declutter my life. If you are buried and headed towards being labeled a hoarder, you need her.

  19. Nancy says:

    I would also add “sell” as an option, especially if you’ve been impacted by the slow economy in some way. Sometimes I have a hard time getting rid of things with good value (it’s the money saver in me), so I have a yard sale or sell things on Craig’s List. For some it can be more motivating to know that they’ll be getting a little extra cash for their work as well. Then when I’ve gotten what I can, I donate the rest to locale charities.


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