Where to Donate the Tricky Stuff


It’s not rocket science. You’ve done a clear out and have a pile of things you don’t need. It isn’t worth your while selling them on eBay and no one you know wants them. So it’s a charity shop run. Or so you thought. But it turns out that while lots of charity shops will take clothes, shoes and an endless stream of retro floral crockery, may don’t take other stuff you’re looking to donate. Like accessories and electrical items. Curtains and blankets. Tools and furniture. But it feels so wrong to chuck this stuff into the tip. It seems such a waste.

And you know what? Often it IS such a waste. Turns out there are charities which will take your less-mainstream second-hand items. You just need to hunt around a bit. Which we have. So here are a few you can try next time you have a clear out. Or better still perhaps this will inspire you to declutter now!

Surplus Tools

Many a downsize has turned up an amazing collection of tools. Do you really need all 4 hammers (especially when the nearest you come to DIY is putting up an Ikea bookcase once a year)? But well-made tools go on and on. As Tools with A Mission know. So send your stuff to them.

Or closer to home there’s Men’s Sheds a brilliant UK-wide charity helping to combat loneliness and get older people involved in the community through projects like woodwork. Find your nearest one at www.menssheds.org.uk/find-a-shed/

Furniture and Electrics 

More than 10 million household items are sent to landfill every year but at least three million of these could be used by people who desperately need them. The Furniture Re-use Network supports over 200 re-use charities helping vulnerable people in crisis while reducing waste too. So next time you need to get rid of a bed (must have the fire safety label), cooker or fridge (even a non-working one will do), give them a call before you cart it all to the tip.

Smart Clothes, Shoes and Accessories 

Smart Works helps women into work by providing them with smart clothes, interview advice and support so they have the confidence and self-belief to get that job. It’s always after high quality clothing, accessories and shoes in all sizes (particularly size 16 and upwards clothes). A great solution for the smart clothes you have in your wardrobe that you’ll never wear but can’t bear to throw away. And Suited and Booted does the same thing, but for men.

Educational Books 

Books Abroad supports education in developing countries worldwide by sending good quality second hand books mainly to schools. Ideal donations include primary school, secondary school and tertiary level text books, dictionaries, atlases, children’s teenage fiction and non-fiction. They should be in good condition and if history, geography or atlas no older than 10 years. Anything from Ladybird books to National Geographic to nursing and agricultural text books. If you’re not near one of the drop off points (see website), you pay postage as they need all their funds to pay for posting overseas, which is only fair.

Unwanted Sofas 

Each year the UK throws away around 672,000 tonnes of furniture. Over half this could be re-used. Only 17% of unwanted sofas are re-used, the rest go to landfill. Sure, you can pay the council to collect it but if you donate it you’ll be helping someone who can’t afford to furnish their place. Sofas by Saxon’s website has a great list of UK charities which take them, though only if they have a fire safety label on them.

Old Towels and Bedding 

Animal charities are often in desperate need of towels, bedding and blankets particularly in the colder months for animal beds, drying off dogs after walks and so on. They don’t need to be new, though obviously they don’t want totally scrappy, manky duvets. The Dogs Trust often launches appeals or call your local animal shelter.

www.dogstrust.org.uk or www.scottishspce.org

Used Curtains 

Whether charity shops accept curtains and other soft furnishings or not usually depends on how much storage space they have. But if they’ll take them it’s definitely worth it, as the charity will make some good money and as curtains are so expensive to buy, you’re helping someone out. And reducing waste. It’s worth calling before you pitch up with your stuff but both the Salvation Army and British Red Cross usually take them.

Computers, Tablets and Smartphones 

You may be about to upgrade your tech but that doesn’t mean it’s worthless. It could be used by Computers for Charities which refurbs and supplies computes to charities, and schools across the UK and worldwide. It’s always desperate for donations. It can be worth it too. One NHS primary care trust saved £100,000 by donating (it was going to cost that much to have 100 computers wiped and disposed of during an upgrade). Or IT Schools for Africa sends refurbished IT equipment including laptops, computers, key boards, cables, tablets and even smartphones (not older than 6 years). So next time you find the box under the stairs with the mass of cables you’ve never used…

Unused Underwear 

No, we’re not talking about the greying knickers with the unravelling elastic. But underwear is a luxury for many and this Scottish charity sends donations to women and children in slums, orphanages, camps, hospitals and schools in Africa. The idea is that you buy a packet of pants to send but also good for the clear-out when you find the underwear you never wore because it was the wrong size, fit or an unwanted gift. They accept ‘gently worn’ bras too. Also Charity Against Breast Cancer has bra banks around the country where you can donate new or used bras to be sent which help support small business in Africa. For every tonne collected it gets £700 towards research.

Redundant Glasses 

Nearly every home in the land has at least one pair of glasses lying around, no longer used. Meanwhile 10 per cent of the world’s population is disabled because they don’t have glasses. There are charities which you can send them to and they’ll sort, clean and grade the glasses before sending them off to developing countries. Those which can’t be reused they’ll recycle. Lions Club International will take them either by post or in one of its local headquarters. Vision Aid Overseas has just stopped sending glasses overseas but still recycles them.

Unused Toiletries and Make-up 

You know it’s there, skulking in the drawer or bathroom cabinet. The unused lip gloss. The eyeshadow palette from the well-meaning aunt in colours you’ll never use. Rescue it and send it to Give and Make Up, a charity set up by beauty and skincare expert Caroline Hirons. It supports Refuge and Women’s Aid in London and Cardiff by sending everyday essentials to women who need it. Unused hair products, toiletries like tampons and toothpaste, clothing, make up, you name it they’ll take it so long as it’s in good condition or new.

Foreign Coins

We have, apparently, £1.8 billion of foreign currency squirrelled away in our homes. That’s an average of £65 per household in the UK. The good news is that there are a lot of charities who will take the cash, notes of coins. Most major charities with a High Street presence (including Age UK, Help the Aged and Age Concern) take foreign money or you can donate to Barnardos via the post office. Also try Marks & Spencer Bureau de Change. Or keep it in a bag in your passport and drop them into an Oxfam collection box at most international airports when you next fly.  And if you forget, BA’s Flying Start charity will take them from you onboard all BA flights.

One-Stop-Shop Recyclers

Finally, if you’re willing to pay someone for a one-stop-shop recycling solution, there’s Just Clear. They specialize in no-landfill waste removals and recycle almost everything within the UK. Whether you’re after a smaller load or a massive house clearance they can sort and recycle your stuff in the most eco-friendly way possible. A great service.

For more creative solutions to recycling your belongings, contact sarah@right-size.co.uk.  I am here to help get it sorted.  All of it!