Damaged pink velvet couch

If we’re being honest with ourselves, most of us have more stuff than we need. Even the most well-intentioned among us often find that we have an excess of clothing, home décor, or even furniture. So, naturally, this prompts us to spend the occasional Saturday afternoon purging our closets and storage areas with the best of motives — donating goods to local thrift shops or donation centers.

Sometimes, however, we get so caught up in our mission that we don’t see the bigger picture. We’re so focused on not throwing things away that we might overstep the boundaries of what is reasonable to repurpose. For example, the phrase aspirational recycling is used to describe the tendency to toss things into the recycling bin without understanding the guidelines. In an interview with Discover Magazine, recycling expert Pete Keller explained that people "think they’re doing more by putting more materials in the recycling bin, but … they’re causing more harm than good" due to the difficult work of sorting the good from the bad.

The same holds true for our well-intentioned donations. It’s important to understand what organizations will and will not accept. Although guidelines vary by location, most prioritize the dignity of the intended recipients and the usability of the items if used for resale. Some things are obvious, and you’ll want to avoid adding to the supply of dirtiest items in thrift stores. But let’s explore a few examples in hopes of making the most of the opportunity.

Tan bra with white beads and seashells
Stacks of paint cans at warehouse door
Filthy black Ugg-style boots
Jane Fonda workout on VHS
Blue bottle of expired medication
Collection of dirty used makeup supplies
Broken and dirty black recliner