If you’ve been putting off decluttering your house, here’s a good reason to finally move the project to the top of your to-do list: Your unwanted goods that are currently collecting dust can make a big impact on your community if placed in the right hands. Here are seven items you may already have at home and what to do with them to make a difference.
1. GARBAGE BAGS
Next time you have a free afternoon, grab an empty trash bag from your house and go for a stroll around your neighborhood. Using a trash-picking stick, gloves, or another bag to protect your hand, pick up any litter you see on the side of the road along the way. An impromptu trash-collecting mission is a great opportunity to get out and see your community while beautifying it at the same time. Bonus idea: During the fall, take extra trash bags with you and ask your neighbors if they need help collecting dead leaves off their lawns.
There are likely plenty of places in your community that accept donations of gently used books, like your local school, library, or thrift store. If you want to give your old books to an even more local cause, consider constructing a little free library on your street and registering it to the worldwide network of lending libraries. That way anyone who’s interested can take whichever book they like and contribute volumes of their own.
Has your old prom dress been hanging undisturbed in your closet since you were 17? There’s probably a student at your local high school who’d be thrilled to wear it to the big dance. If there’s an organization in your community that accepts clothing donations, contact them and ask if there’s a need for formal wear.
You may suspect that your local thrift store or community closet has no use for your ratty towels and blankets. But don’t be so quick to throw them out: Animal shelters are usually desperate for extra fabrics to use as beds for cats and dogs. Reach out to your local shelter and confirm that your tattered, stained blankets would be put to good use there.
5. SNOW SHOVEL
When you break out your shovel after the next heavy snowstorm, don’t stop with your own driveway. Knock on the doors of your elderly neighbors and ask if they need help clearing paths to their homes. Taking an extra hour or two out of your schedule is a guaranteed way to make their days a little brighter.
Bags—whether they’re tote bags, hand bags, or reusable grocery bags—have a tendency to pile up in our homes. They’re also items people may not think to bring to their local donation centers. For anyone who doesn’t have a car to transport supplies and groceries, owning a stash of sturdy bags is essential. Round up the totes and purses you own that rarely see daylight and deliver them to a secondhand goods drop-off location in your community.
7. CANNED GOODS
Maybe you went overboard on a canned goods sale at the supermarket, or you tested out an all-bean diet that was short-lived. Whatever the reason, chances are you have some canned food in your pantry that you’ve been avoiding ever since you bought it. Donating those cans to your neighborhood food pantry takes care of two problems at once: It makes your kitchen look a little more organized while providing a meal to someone in your community. Just make sure to check the expiration dates first because, yes, canned food does go bad.