Raising kids creates clutter. Most families do regular sweeps to get rid of outgrown clothes and toys. But sometimes there are those things that are hard to give away. Perhaps they were expensive—think cellphones and carseats. Or perhaps they are sentimental—think trophies, stuffed animals, books and puzzles. Either way, you feel a twinge when you think about letting them go, so they get stuck in drawers and closets.
The best solution is to find the right destination for these items. This summer, donate to someone who will appreciate them. Get them to a company or organization that can recycle them safely and perhaps creatively. With the options listed below, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you made a responsible choice that clears the clutter for you and does something good for others.
Athletic and other shoes: Soles4Souls.com has distributed more than 30 million pairs of shoes since they were founded after Hurricane Katrina. You can purchase a mailing label or find a drop off site on their website. OneWorldRunning.com sends still-wearable shoes to runners in developing countries. Anything that can’t be worn goes to the Nike-Reuse-A-Shoe program to be recycled into running tracks and playgrounds.
Binders: At the end of the school year, most families have a stack of ragged binders. If you turn them in at Staples or Office Max, you’ll get a $2 credit toward a same day purchase of a new binder. Then they’ll recycle the binders with the help of Terracycle, a company that has partnered with major manufacturers to create innovative recycling programs for everything from toothbrushes and guitar strings to juice pouches and the blister packs from contact lenses.
Books: Better World books has drop off boxes where they accept books of all kinds. Some are sold on their website and some go to literacy programs overseas. (betterworldbooks.com)
Carseats: A few organizations are trying to get used carseats into the hands of families that need them. A state-by-state list is available at recycleyourcarseat.org.
Crayons: Crazy Crayons collects broken, worn or loose crayons. They will melt them down and turn them into new Eco Star crayons or multi-colored crayons shaped like worms.
Cellphones: Even after you’ve disconnected your phone service, the phone can be used to make 911 calls. Secure the Call takes advantage of this fact, collecting phones and then distributing them to senior citizen organizations, domestic violence shelters, police departments and other agencies that can get them into the hands of people who need them. Their website includes a free mailing label as well as a list of community partners in every state. (securethecall.org)
Eyeglasses: Lions International collects used eyeglasses as part of their effort to improve vision for people around the world.
Legos: The plastic in Legos is a kind that can’t usually be recycled, so don’t mix them into the bin. Instead, ship them to Brick Recycler. No need to sort the bricks. They will repackage and get them to hospitals, schools, orphanages and other places where kids will be very happy to have them. (www.brickrecycler.com)
Stuffed animals: Stuffed Animals for Emergencies gets gently used stuffed animals into the hands of children and even service members who need a little comfort. Their website lists chapters in many parts of the country, and they also have advice about how to clean stuffed animals in preparation for donation. (stuffedanimalsforemergencies.org)
All of these programs do three important things: Keep useable stuff out of the local landfill. Get things into the hands of people who can use them. And get all that clutter out of your house! That’s a win-win-win!