Every year around this time, I come to the same conclusion: My kids have too much stuff. It makes me feel like the walls are closing in on my (not especially large) house. They have barely worn clothes, games, puzzles, toys, shoes, balls, tunnels, forts, video game controllers … and all the attendant wires, flattened boxes, and cords to nowhere that they entail. None of it was bought frivolously. It’s just that they seem to use the same two or three things all the time. Everything else hulks along the edges of the playroom, mocking me. We could create an entire condo village out of cardboard Amazon boxes.
Then the guilt spiral starts: My kids are spoiled, and we live in a disgustingly consumerist society. So I storm down to the playroom with a trash bag and yell: “Put this stuff in bags! We’re giving it to charity!”
That bugs me, too, because I want my kids to donate stuff out of pure, genuine goodness — not because their mom twisted her ankle on a mountain of jagged Legos and began yelling. That’s just it: Giving to charity shouldn’t be part of your frantic Marie Kondo routine.
When I set out to compile a list of places accepting new or gently used items for the holidays, a volunteer for one of the charities messaged me: “It’s important to actually look at each thing you plan to donate and ask: ‘Would I offer this to my sister-in-law, neighbor, friend?’”
In other words, please don’t donate junk. It’s disrespectful and really not helpful. (She told me that someone once donated a G-string!).
With that in mind, here are several worthwhile charities in need of donations, both new and gently used. If donating used items: Please, look your stuff over first. Donate things that are in top condition, and be sure to reach out to each organization in advance to confirm their actual needs.
Oh, and another thing. Try to make this part of your routine year-round. Charities are inundated during the holidays, but families need help no matter what the season. That being said, check out the list below — and please let me know those I missed so I might add them to a future dispatch.
Catie’s Closet. This Dracut-based organization supports students living in poverty. They turn unused areas inside schools into discreet spaces where kids can shop for free clothing, toiletries, and other basics. They need new and gently used clothing, with drop-off spots in Boston and Dracut. If you have more than 10 bags, they’ll do a pick-up. www.catiescloset.org
Cradles to Crayons. Cradles to Crayons distributes customized essentials to kids in need. Volunteers at their Giving Factory create “KidPacks” that are tailored to a specific child’s needs and requests. Donate new and like-new items for infants all the way up to age 12 at bins throughout the region. They especially need winter coats, new pajamas, and new and reusable face masks, as well as shoes, board books, and kids’ clothing. www.cradlestocrayons.org
The Give Warmth Project at MarketStreet Lynnfield. Developed by recent North Reading High School graduate Grace Gorman, Give Warmth accepts new winter clothes (coats, hats, mittens) and donates them to the Boys & Girls Club of Stoneham & Wakefield. Pick up something extra during your holiday shopping and drop it in a Give Warmth bin next to the MarketStreet green. marketstreetlynnfield.com/the-give-warmth-project
HopeWell. This Dedham-based organization supports nearly 1,000 kids in foster care each year, as well as young adults transitioning out of care without the safety net of a permanent family. Their My First Place program provides housing, life-skills training, financial literacy classes, and more. They need Charlie cards and gift cards to spots like Amazon and Target to get these young adults off on the right foot, as well as other donations. www.hopewellinc.org
Keeping Pace With Multiple Miracles. This boutique and support group for parents with multiple children accepts gently used clothing, toys, and baby equipment at their West Bridgewater headquarters. www.keepingpace.org
NuDay Syria. Donations of basic items support displaced families in Syria, as well as vulnerable families and refugees in Lebanon and Turkey. They really need bedding, non-perishable food, new and like-new clothing, shoes, winter apparel, stuffed toys, and more. There are several collection points across New England. Make sure to pre-sort and label your items. www.nudaysyria.org
Room to Grow. Room to Grow distributes customized baby bundles to low-income families who also work with clinicians for parenting support and strategies. They really need new or good-condition items for newborns and toddlers: exer-saucers, toys, tubs, potties, play mats, and room décor. Schedule a contactless drop-off at their Hyde Park warehouse. www.roomtogrow.org
Savers. This thrift retailer, with locations throughout Massachusetts, has a motto: “Declutter responsibly.” They accept donations of secondhand clothing, household goods, and toys on behalf of the Epilepsy Foundation New England. Note: They’re also one of the few spots that accept previously loved (but good-condition) stuffed animals. www.savers.com
The Wish Project. Based in North Chelmsford, The Wish Project provides immediate assistance to homeless families and victims of fires or other disasters. They have a lengthy and precise list of needed items. Donate working game systems and DVD players, furniture, mattresses, baby clothes and gear, toys, toiletries, and more. www.thewishproject.org