‘Tis the seasons for a little spring cleaning. For some of you the prospect of tidying your house might be similar to watching a hoarding programme. Piles and piles of clothes, bin bags of stuff that you haven’t worn for ten years, and maybe even a rat hidden in there somewhere (visions of Joey’s untidy date in Friends springs to mind). I mean, do you really need those fur-lined Birkenstock sandals that you thought were cool in 2013? Or that incredibly unflattering velour Juicy Couture tracksuit?

The answer is of course no. And it’s not just our wardrobes that need the Mari Kondo treatment. Take a long hard look at your furniture, kids toys, books and soft furnishings, and see if they deserve a better home. Particular that Idaho dreamcatcher and tie-dye sarong that you’re using as wall hangings. Yes, they can definitely go.

But where to put it all? We certainly don’t need any more things in landfill and it turns out that charity shops are in dire need of all our belongings so they can pass them on to people who really need them, or sell them on to raise money for good causes. According to The Guardian, closed stores have cost charities more than £28m a month. So whether it’s bras or books, start donating.

Drop off your wardrobe or have your clothes collected

As shops start to re-open on 12 April, prep your wardrobe by dividing it into bin bags. Charity Retail has a handy little search function where you can find charity shops near you under several different categories, including bridal and vintage. Remember to check that all your items are clean and functional – the whole point is that these items need to be sold on. And whatever you do, don’t just leave bags outside the stores as they might not be able to use the items and the bags could get stolen.

If, however, you don’t want to clutter up your house with piles of rubbish, lots of charities do collections. Traid, a charity dedicated to lowering carbon emissions and transforming the textile industry, do home collections. There are lots of others that do it too, including: Heart UK, which is focused on cutting down heart disease as well as the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, and Marie Curie.

Donate Coats 4 Calais

In Northern France over 3,000 refugees are currently sleeping rough. Some are as young as 13 and have no access to clean clothes, water or shelter. And in the UK there are over 3,500 people living in hotels, hostels and military barracks. They arrive in just the clothes they are wearing, and with nothing else they can’t take these off to wash them.

To do your bit you can donate your old coats to Care 4 Calais. Simply find a collection point, grab your coats, put on your mask and drop it off. Every little helps to keep people safe and warm.

Pick up litter for the Great British Spring Clean

If you don’t have any stuff to clear out at home, you can focus your efforts instead on clearing the areas around you. Keep Britain Tidy organises litter picking events throughout the year. The Great British Spring Clean was in March last year, but it’s been moved to 28 May to 13 June this time.

You can pledge just half an hour of your time or spend a couple of days on your local streets, parks and beaches to keep them clean. The stories from across the country are truly inspiring, and it all helps in looking after the environment. You can pledge your support now in the run up to the event.

Bin your bras for breast cancer

The Against Breast Cancer bra recycling scheme takes your unwanted or unloved bras and, through a network of bra banks, raises vital funds for pioneering breast cancer research.

Together with their recycling partners, their textile recovery project prevents bras going into landfill by giving them a new lease of life in developing countries such as Togo, Ghana and Kenya, where bras remain too expensive to produce locally.

Successful ventures like this keep many families in developing countries out of poverty whilst providing employment for people at home in the UK. Any bras that are genuinely beyond redemption are dismantled and disposed of properly. For every tonne of bras collected, Against Breast Cancer receives £700 to fund their research.

Toys: play or give away

If your children are home more than ever before, you’re probably finding that there’s only so many toys or games they play with. With new and creative ways to keep them occupied, many toys can be given to charity through donation banks.

The Air Ambulance Service encourages people to donate toys to their stores to raise much needed funds. The charity operates the national Children’s Air Ambulance and the local air ambulance services for Warwickshire, Northamptonshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland. Their services work tirelessly to save lives and alleviate sickness, wherever and whenever possible.

Re-cycle your bike

Re-Cycle works in partnership with four organisations across four different African countries, to take bikes from the UK and give them to people without transport in Africa. Each partner owns and runs bike social enterprises, which ensure that the bikes provided can be repaired, distributed and maintained for a long time to come.

The charity works with Halfords to offer convenient drop-off locations around London and the UK. Just use their search tool to find out which store is near you.

They take donations from individuals and companies who no longer need their IT equipment, and they also do secure and safe data wipes, so you know you won’t be cat-fished a couple of weeks later.  Your laptop or computer will then be reused by one of their beneficiary organisations, including schools, community centres and other non-profit organisations. You can find all the details and shipping info here. 

Hand over your tools

The charity Tools For Self Reliance works in partnership with local organisations across Africa in Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Zambia to support local communities through education and tools to help establish long-lasting change.

The partners deliver training programmes which include not only technical trade skills, but also business and financial management, health awareness, and life skills. On completion, trainees receive a start-up kit of tools, and are supported in forming their own businesses. Any tools to support carpenters, builders, metalworkers, shoe repairers, mechanics, plumbers, electricians and tailors are most welcome. Due to Covid, they are not accepting donations during lockdown, but keep an eye on their website for when this lifts. 

Say goodbye to your sofas

According to the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce (RSA), each year the UK throws away approximately 672,000 tonnes of furniture. The society advises that over half of this waste could be re-used. Only 17% of unwanted sofas are re-purposed, with the remainder going to landfill.

Sofas by Saxon has a handy list of all the places in the UK that take unwanted sofas with many doing house collections. Simply click on your area and find your nearest pick-up point.

Clear out the kitchen for the homeless

The Trussell Trust is dedicated to stopping hunger in the UK, and has some handy tips on how you can donate food. You can go directly to your local food bank, by finding your nearest one here, and you can also donate in most supermarkets at their collection points.

Take a look at what’s in a food parcel to see what items to donate, and don’t forget that food banks also accept essential non-food items such as toiletries and hygiene products.

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