Donation Dos and Don'ts

Contributor: Erika Nowlin, Executive Director

Donation Do’s & Don’ts 


If you’re anything like me, you occasionally get the bug to clean out all your drawers, closets, cabinets, etc. and pare down the ridiculous amount of items that clutter our homes. Once you come to terms with “how do we have so many things?”, the next question is always “Now what do I do with it all?”  

Many items can be donated or recycled, but some should really be thrown away; just do it - no one wants your stained Spuds Mckenzie shirt. We’ve compiled a handy little list of donating dos and don’ts to help you decide the best way to clean out your space and help others in the process.


  • No used underwear. Seriously. Just don’t do it.

  • No stained/torn/excessively worn/questionably themed (it happens, I have stories) clothing or shoes.

  • No used hair accessories (especially if hair is still attached!).

  • No chewed on pacifiers or teethers, stained cloth diapers, or toys that were recalled in the 80’s.

  • No toys or puzzles that are missing pieces - that’s disappointing no matter what age you are.

  • Torn bags or boxes that are falling apart should not be used to hold your items.  You know those commercials where the bag of groceries breaks and people stand there with their head in their hands in disbelief while their stuff rolls everywhere?  That has been me loading up my car more times than I can count. Please save me (and others) from this humiliation by packing your items in sturdy bags and boxes.


  • Offer to bring furniture items to the organization rather than expecting them to come and get them (and always call first to make sure they need it!).  Bring a six-pack or some cookies to your neighbor with the giant truck that’s always blocking half your driveway and ask to borrow it to make the delivery.

  • When donating kitchen appliances, take the time to clean out the crumbs and stuck on food because . . . gross.

  • When donating toiletries (lotions, shampoos, etc.) they should be *new* and *full*.  Go ahead and toss that half full bottle of Drakkar or Electric Youth.

  • Clean/dust the item.

  • Sort items into “like” piles if possible (ex. kid’s clothing, men’s shoes, toys, kitchen, Star Trek memorabilia, etc.)

Do’s… somewhere else

  • Books that are water stained or torn are a bummer for everyone, especially kids.  Same goes for coloring books that have been colored in, regardless of your “artistic skills”, and sticker books with missing stickers or stickers already on the pages. These items can be donated to Recycled Reads and turned into cool things like traffic cones (really!)

  • Giant pieces of Grandma’s furniture are difficult for small organizations to store and use for their clients. Salvation Army and ARC will usually pick these items up from your house with a simple phone call.

  • Items that are personalized (embroidered, sharpied, etc.) should probably be given to the next Johnny or Susie if possible (ask on your neighborhood FB page - that stuff goes like hotcakes)

Remember that after you donate, someone has to go through your items and sort, clean, throw away (see: used underwear), etc.  If you can do this ahead of time, it’s extremely helpful! Please take a moment to think about the person and organization who may be receiving your items. It’s important for the individuals to retain their dignity and receiving items that are in poor condition does just the opposite. It also creates more work for the organization collecting your goods, so make it easy for them!

Bottom line: If you wouldn’t give it to your neighbor (or to your mom if you’re not a fan of your neighbor; or to your best friend if you’re not a fan of your mom), you probably shouldn’t donate it. 

Check out our Donations Database for info on where to take all of those goodies you no longer need.  Let us know if you have a favorite place to donate your items and we’ll add it!

Austin Resource Recovery and the City of Austin has a Reuse Directory that should come in handy when cleaning out your clutter.

Happy Donating!