Repurposing With Purpose

Moving boxes

Give new life to old items by donating them to a worthy cause

Finding the right home for unwanted but still-good household and personal items can add value both to your gifts and to the overall experience. Here are some basic guidelines for repurposing with purpose:

Donate do’s and don’ts

  • Do wash or dry-clean clothing.
  • Do test items that plug in or run on batteries.
  • Don’t give things that don’t meet safety standards or have been recalled.
  • Don’t give things that are broken or soiled.

Connecting with charities

Food items

  • Find local food pantries at
  • Dana Hartenstein, communications manager at the Hunger Task Force, a food bank serving Milwaukee, shared that they accept many shelf-stable food items, except those that are open or expired. “If it’s something that you would choose to eat, it’s good to donate,” she says. “We do take refrigerated and frozen items, but we don’t encourage it.“ Calling ahead is a good idea.


Donate usable items to homeless shelters and thrift stores that operate on behalf of local charities.

Athletic shoes

Nike recycles used athletic shoes and turns them into court surfaces for children. Take your worn-out shoes to Nike and Converse retail stores.


Donate good-condition books to homeless shelters and local libraries or charities that support them.


Donate good-condition toys to homeless shelters. 

Soaps, shampoos and other cosmetics 

Donate unopened items to homeless shelters. 

Baby supplies

Baby Buggy,, will take new and gently used items (purchased less than three years ago) for babies, including baby monitors, bassinets, bibs, blankets, books, clothing, crib bedding, unopened diapers, diaper bags, toys and swings.


Find donation locations at, and learn how to donate at

  • Donate as soon as possible, as values drop sharply with age.
  • Delete personal information securely with software designed to permanently erase files.
  • Dell Reconnect is a partnership with Goodwill—donate computer equipment at Goodwill collection points, and it is either refurbished or recycled. See for collection points.
  • Old TVs that require converters to get digital channels are difficult to repurpose. The best solution may be to find a local recycling option.

Furniture and appliances

  • The Salvation Army will come pick it up. Schedule at
  • Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores generally accept donations of furniture, appliances and building materials. Find your local ReStore at
    Note: Some state laws forbid donation of used mattresses.

Blankets, Towels

Local animal shelters typically need these items. Animal shelters also may need pet carriers and crates, stainless steel or ceramic pet bowls, and clean gerbil or guinea pig habitats.

Medical supplies 

Look for local medical relief organizations such as Medical Teams International in Portland, Ore.,, and World Medical Relief in Detroit, 

Craft supplies

Look for local charities that accept yarn, needles or fabrics, such as Knit with Love in Dana Point, Calif.,

Musical instruments

Check with local schools and churches and look for charities, such as Minnesota Public Radio, that collect instruments for schools.

For the full story on decluttering your home, see the April 2014 issue of Live Happy magazine.

From the April 2014 issue of Live Happy magazine.


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