Decluttering? Items You Shouldn’t Put in the Donate Pile

Donation Spring Cleaning

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Spring cleaning season is here – and everything in your house is fair game. If you are like many people, your purges fall into two piles – trash/recycle or donate. While you might have the best of intentions with you decluttering donations, your local thrift store may not actually want everything that you are eager to get rid of.

Thrift stores aren’t legally able to take some items.  It’s always best to check with them ahead of time before dragging your treasures to the store. If they aren’t able to resell your previously loved items, they may be able to suggest a place to get rid of them. Here’s a quick list of some unwanted items that may surprise you.

  1. Mattresses and box springs – Barely used guest bed or outgrown twin set, it doesn’t matter what shape your mattress and box springs are in, secondhand stores are not allowed to resell beds. The beds could be home to bed bugs, mold, mites, or something else that shouldn’t be passed on.
  2. Children’s safety seats and furniture – This includes highchairs, cribs, car seats, strollers, etc. Recalls happen every day on these items and it would be impossible for thrift stores to keep up with the list. Anything that is made to hold the weight of a child is off limits.
  3. Old technology – This can be hit or miss based on the thrift store. Some places are happy to take Atari or old Nintendo games if they have a market for them, but most stores won’t take old tube-style televisions, cassette players, or obsolete VCR’s. This goes for out-of-date textbooks, encyclopedias, and magazines too. They are just to big and bulky and take up valuable space in the store.
  4. Large appliances – Thrift stores are not used appliance stores and are unable to properly test stoves, dishwashers, refrigerators, etc. to make sure they work. Not only are they heavy and not easy for staff to move, but they can take up a lot of space. Most big box stores will haul away your unwanted large appliances when they deliver new ones. You may be able to make a few bucks finding them a new home by listing them online or even taking them to the scrap yard.
  5. Anything that’s broken, stained, worn out, or missing pieces – Thrift shops are not able to clean, fix, or repair items. So if it’s clearly unusable, then toss it.
  6. Free swag – If you got the item for free by participating in a 5k or opening up a new bank account, odds are your thrift store won’t be able to sell it. Consider turning that old t-shirt into a rag instead – find ways to reuse the items before tossing them in the trash.
  7. Items that could be moldy – This seems like common sense, but there are items that can grow mold that you might not realize. Thrift stores aren’t able to clean and sanitize items like kettles, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, and other items that may have water stored in them which makes them susceptible to mold growth.
  8. Oversized or unwanted tag sale leftovers – With limited space, many thrift stores don’t have the ability to take large items like pool tables, china cabinets, or entertainment centers that you couldn’t find a new home for. Items that didn’t sell at your own tag sale are most likely not going to sell at a thrift store either – they can only take so many tea and coffee cups.

Just because an item isn’t able to be donated to your local thrift store, doesn’t mean it needs to end up in the garbage bin or at the dump. Try posting items for free online – websites like Facebook, Craigslist and freecycle often work well for connecting your unwanted goods with people who want them.

The goal with Spring cleaning is to keep items out of a landfill and put them in the hands of people in need. If you’re ever in doubt about an item, just give your local donation center a call. If they can’t accept it, they may be able to direct you to an organization who can.


Mickie-Ann Budny
Litchfield Branch Manager, Vice President