You may think you have nothing extra to give this time of year. But what about that clutter you've been wanting to clear? What about the clothes it seems the kids are outgrowing every day? What about those extra old pots and pans you stashed in the back of the cabinet after your latest upgrade?
- Daycares - they'll take almost anything! They don't want tons of clothes but they do need a few spare outfits in different sizes for kids who soil their spares or big kids who have unexpected crisis. Ride-ons, plastic grocery bags (for sending home papers, projects & soiled clothes), books, sports equipment, sandbox toys, dolls, clothes for dress up, Hot Wheels, stickers and small trinkets like those Happy Meal toy duplicates (for good behavior rewards), diapers and pull-ups (do you have just a few in outgrown sizes laying around?), LEGOs and good condition board games and card games for older kids, art supplies, clean gallon milk/water jugs and toilet paper/paper towel rolls for art projects.
- Shelters - coats, hats, mittens, scarves, sheets, blankets, pillows, clothing, shoes, pots and pans, mismatched dishes. Some also have wish lists for families that are starting over and need furniture donations and other household items.
- Animal shelters and rescues - blankets, pillows, pet crates, collars, leashes, clean toys, stuffed animals, animal brushes and supplies, lumber, fencing supplies, that half-use bag of gerbil bedding shavings before the little critter met an unfortunate end.
- Food banks - that can of cranberry sauce or beans in the back of your cabinet that is not expired but you know you will never eat, unused hygiene care products like those millions of tiny bars of soap you took from every hotel you ever stayed at and the extra manual toothbrushes and floss your dentist sends home.
- Troops - do you have 1,000 artwork projects your kids have made that they just can't bear to part with? Or the pretty fronts of greeting cards you saved to do a project that never happened. Why not have them write a little message (or just send as-is) and send them to soldiers oversees? There are a ton of charities and community groups like the one at MarineParents.com that will make sure they get to troops. There are also groups that accept old cell phones and recondition them for troops.
- Senior centers - board games, card games, books, movies, and puzzles for their recreation rooms. Many nursing homes, senior centers and retirement communities would also love to see artwork and letters from children.
- Community resale shops - besides the obvious groups like Goodwill, many communities also have resale shops that accept donated household items and furniture and resell it to the public. The profits go toward community betterment programs and the items are offered at low prices so those who are in need can obtain good condition furniture and household items for very cheap.
- Habitat for Humanity - here is another place to donate leftover building materials, tools, vehicles, and appliances like that perfectly good stove you replaced and couldn't get to sell on craigslist.
- Community gardens - flower pots, lumber, garden tools, seed packets, leftover flat trays, stepping stones, bags of sand/rock/mulch/potting soil, that stack of plastic flowerpots left from your haul of annuals.