How to donate to thrift stores

How to Donate to Thrift Stores: The Complete Guide With Essential Tips

Last Updated: October 25, 2023By

Donating to thrift stores is a great way to declutter your home while also giving back to your community. However, knowing how to donate to thrift stores and the process of preparing and dropping off donations can seem daunting if you’ve never done it before. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know to make successful thrift store donations.

Key Takeaways

When preparing donations for drop-off at thrift stores, keep these top tips front of mind:

  • Inspect all items for any flaws, stains, or damage – thrift stores can only accept goods in clean, working condition.
  • Organize your donations into categories like clothes, shoes, media, housewares, and toys – sort and label boxes/bags.
  • Transport donations in sturdy containers that are neatly packed – prevent rips and spills en route.
  • Schedule pickups of large/heavy furniture at least 2 weeks in advance – provide name, number, and address.
  • Itemize your donations for tax write-offs – get receipts from the store and take photos for records.
  • Volunteer your time to support thrift store operations if able – community service always helps.

Following these donation best practices supports thrift stores’ community missions while reducing waste.


1. How to Donate to Thrift Stores

Assuming that you know the items that can be donated to thrift shops, when you’re ready to drop off your donations, you have a few convenient options when it comes to how to donate to thrift stores:

1. In-Store Donations

Most thrift stores gladly accept donations right at the shop during normal business hours. This works well for small loads of a few bags/boxes. Steps for in-store:

  • Sort and pack items at home before arriving.
  • Pull up to the designated donations area or ask staff for assistance.
  • Provide your name/number if you need a tax receipt.
  • Help unload items from your vehicle.
  • Make sure to get any receipts before leaving.

2. Drop-Off Locations

Many thrift stores have unattended donation bins in parking lots or public locations to drop items off after hours. Look for these large collection containers near store entrances, churches, schools, office parks, gas stations, or grocery stores. Steps for using drop bins:

  • Sort and pack items at home first for easy transfer.
  • Lift and load bags/boxes into bin openings.
  • Make sure nothing is sticking out and bins close properly.
  • Clearly label or mark any high value items for receipts.
  • Take photos of your donation being dropped for records.

This no-contact method offers 24/7 access. However, bins fill up quick and have limited capacity.

3. Donation Pick-Up

For large loads including furniture, some thrift organizations can schedule a truck pickup from your home. A team will come and remove items from inside your house for transportation to the thrift store. Steps for arrange pickup:

  • Call or go online 2-4 weeks ahead to schedule day and time frame.
  • Discuss what types of items will be donated.
  • Request tax receipts if needed.
  • Gather everything in central area like garage, driveway, living room.
  • Provide name, phone, address and directions for drivers.
  • Help load if able but team will transport items.

This premium service handles difficult items like couches or appliances that require heavy lifting. Some pickup fees may apply for certain organizations.

4. Factors for Successful Donation

To ensure the thrift store readily accepts your used goods:

  • Check accepted donation categories and item condition.
  • Transport securely packed and sorted items.
  • Bring helpers for heavy lifting if needed.
  • Be prepared with receipts and paperwork.
  • Ask questions ahead of time.
  • Show gratitude to staff and donors for community support.

With the proper preparation and delivery, your donated items can go on to benefit other community members in need.



2. Four Things to Consider Before Donating to Thrift Stores

Before you gather up bags of clothes and boxes of household items, there are a few key factors to keep in mind for a smooth donation process:

1. Condition of Items

Thrift stores can only accept items that are clean, undamaged, and in good working order. Carefully go through everything you plan to donate and check for:

  • Stains, holes, tears, or other damage on clothing and textiles
  • Missing pieces or non-working parts for electronics and appliances
  • Rips, marks, or scratches on furniture or home decor
  • Mold, mildew odors, or water damage on any items

If an item is broken, overly worn, or smells bad, it unfortunately can’t be accepted for donation.

2. Accepted Items

Not all thrift stores accept the same categories of used goods. Some specialize in certain areas like clothing, books, or furniture. Before dropping off a donation, call or check the thrift store’s website to see what types of items they take.

Some common accepted categories are:

  • Clothing and accessories in good condition
  • Household items like cookware, decor, lamps, etc.
  • Gently used furniture like tables, chairs, dressers, sofas
  • Media including books, DVDs, video games, and CDs
  • Small electronics in working order like alarm clocks and speakers

3. Properly Packaging Items

To keep your donations organized and protected, it helps to properly sort and package items before transporting them. Some essential tips:

  • Separate by category – clothes, shoes, books, housewares, etc.
  • Place delicate items like glassware or picture frames in bubble wrap or foam
  • Use sturdy boxes or bags that won’t rip easily
  • Label boxes with the contents to keep categories clear

This little bit of prep makes the donation process smoother.

4. Ways to Donate

There are a few options for getting your used goods to the thrift store:

  • In-store drop off – You can bring donations directly to the shop during open hours. Good for small loads.
  • Drop-off bins – Many thrift stores have unattended bins in parking lots to drop bags and boxes. Provides after hours access.
  • Pick-up service – Some organizations offer free pick-up of donations from your home for large loads or heavy furniture.

Choose the most convenient method for the amount and types of items you’re donating.

3. What to Donate to Thrift Stores – 6 Things

Thrift stores rely on the generosity of public donations to stock their shelves and racks for shoppers. Certain categories of gently used items are particularly appreciated.

1. Clothing in Wearable Condition

Used clothing makes up a significant portion of thrift store inventory. Prior to donating, check your clothes for:

  • Stains or fading
  • Missing buttons, broken zippers, and damaged fasteners
  • Holes, tears, and threadbare spots
  • Pilling, embroidery unraveling, or distressed fabric

Wash clothes thoroughly to remove odors. Mending small flaws like missing buttons helps items sell. Only donate clean clothes free of defects in order to be accepted.

Consider the season when donating clothes as well. Thrift stores have more need for coats and sweaters in winter months, and light tops and shorts in summer.

2. Furniture in Good Shape

Gently used furniture is welcomed at many thrift locations. Make sure items are structurally sound, free of odors, and not overly worn. When evaluating, look for:

  • Rips or stains on upholstery
  • Scratches or gouges on wood and laminate
  • Loose or wobbly legs
  • Damage to frames and joints

Measure furniture before transporting to ensure it fits through store doorways. Disassemble modular bookcases and entertainment centers if possible.

3. Books in Good Condition

Donate gently read books with intact spines and covers. Mass market paperbacks tend to sell particularly well, especially current bestsellers and novels by well-known authors. Textbooks should be current editions to hold value.

Check for:

  • Loose or detached pages
  • Mildew odors and water damage
  • Cracked spines
  • Significant highlighting and underlining

Books with mild wear are still acceptable. Excess writing can make books harder to resell.

4. Kitchenware

Pots and pans, small appliances, dinnerware, and utensils are frequently sought-after thrift store offerings. Prevent breakage by wrapping fragile items when packing.

Ensure items are clean without baked-on food or grease residue which can attract insects. Highly desired kitchenware donations include:

  • Frying pans, sauce pots, baking sheets in good condition
  • Microwaves, coffee makers, and toasters – check working order
  • Full sets of plates and glassware
  • Silverware
  • Mixing bowls

Avoid donating old blenders or food processors without safety features and controls.

5. Electronics in Working Order

Small, portable electronics like clock radios, speakers, and DVD players can potentially be donated if fully functional. Call the thrift store first to ask about their electronics policy.

Before donating, test electronics thoroughly to verify they are in good working condition. Check:

  • All functions, buttons, and knobs operate correctly
  • Screens are clear without cracks or dead pixels
  • Sound quality is good on audio devices
  • Disc drives open, close, and read properly

Include batteries, chargers, and any other related accessories if possible. Make sure to securely wipe personal data off devices before passing them along.

6. Vehicles

Some charitable organizations accept used car donations which they can then resell or auction off. This generates significant funding to support their community programs.

When considering donating a vehicle, it should be in fair to good working order. Contact the organization first to discuss required paperwork and prepare the title transfer. This ensures the process goes smoothly.

4. The Impact of Donated Items on the Community

Donating gently used goods to thrift stores provides wide-ranging benefits both locally and globally:

Creating Jobs

Thrift stores operate through a combination of paid employees and volunteers. By patronizing these businesses, your donations help provide employment and support community members in need of flexible work. Stores can offer job training programs too.

Strengthening the Local Community

Money raised through thrift store sales typically stays local to fund programs assisting disadvantaged groups like veterans, children, homeless populations, and individuals with disabilities. Shopping and donating to thrift stores directly gives back to your own community.

Preserving the Environment

Keeping used goods circulating through reuse and resale significantly reduces unnecessary waste. Thrift stores give quality items new life rather than sending them to landfills. Their business model promotes sustainability through recycling.

Support thrift stores by donating high-demand items in good condition. This keeps their shelves full of budget-friendly offerings for all.

5. Tips for Making Successful Donations

Follow these handy tips when preparing your used goods for donation to ensure the items get accepted:

Verify Quality of Items

Carefully inspect each item first for flaws, damage, or signs of heavy wear. Check for functionality if electrical. Ask yourself honestly – “Would I purchase this if priced affordably in a thrift store?” If uncertain, it may be better to discard the item or find another reuse option.

Double Check Accepted Items

Call or visit the thrift store website ahead of time to learn their specific accepted donations. For example, some may not have space for large furniture or capacity to test electronics on-site. Ask questions to prevent unexpected rejection of items at drop-off.

Properly Package Items

Transport donations neatly sorted and packed in durable bags or boxes. Fragile items should be well-wrapped for protection. Clearly label boxes with contents. This organization streamlines processing. Try to bring help for unloading bulky furniture pieces.

Following these best practices ensures a smooth drop-off and leads to higher likelihood of items being sold in-store.

6. Specific Items You May Donate to Thrift Stores

Not all used items are right for thrift store donation. Take a look at some commonly accepted categories:


  • All clothing must be clean, odor-free, and in good repair.
  • Think seasonal – winter coats in fall/winter, swimsuits in spring/summer.
  • Check for stains, tears, broken zippers, and missing buttons.
  • Include a variety of sizes, styles, and genres – men’s, women’s, children’s, formalwear, athleisure, etc.

Household Items

  • Dishes, glassware, utensils, pots and pans – bundle sets together
  • Small appliances like mixers, coffee makers, microwaves – test working condition
  • Decor such as vases, candles, picture frames
  • Furniture must have all parts, be structurally sound, and stain/odor free


  • Books – especially popular fiction, recent textbooks, children’s books
  • DVDs and CDs if unscratched
  • Video games and systems that are working and clean


  • Alarm clocks, speakers, radios in good condition with batteries/chargers
  • LCD monitors less than 10 years old
  • Gaming consoles and accessories that function properly

Other Categories

  • Handbags, shoes, accessories in like-new condition
  • Arts and crafts supplies – printable paper, markers, unused kits
  • Pet supplies – leashes, bowls, crates, food dishes
  • Toys and games with all pieces included

Check with individual thrift stores on accepting mattresses, large appliances, auto parts, or hazardous materials like paint and chemicals. Donate safe, usable goods that align with the store’s merchandise focus.

7. Tax Deductions for Donated Items

For large donations, the ability to claim tax deductions on your yearly returns provides extra incentive to declutter households and storage spaces. Here are key factors to legally maximize write-offs:

Itemizing Deductions

You must itemize deductions on Schedule A to claim any charitable contributions. This is beneficial if total deductions exceed the standard deduction amount. Itemizing requires meticulous tracking of receipts, photos, and records for all donated items throughout the tax year.

Eligible Organizations

Items must be donated to an eligible non-profit with tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status like Goodwill or Salvation Army. Garage sales and for-profit consignment stores don’t qualify. Always get receipts from the organization at time of drop-off with their Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Fair Market Value

The deduction equals the fair market value (FMV) of your donated items – meaning the price they could realistically sell for. Obtain professional appraisals from antiques dealers for any individual items valued over $5,000. For all other donations, use IRS FMV guides to estimate value.

Over $500 Deduction

If the total FMV of an individual donation exceeds $500, you must file additional Form 8283 detailing each item. So organize donations from a single day into separate trips if claiming over $500 to simplify paperwork.

With proper documentation, the tax savings from financial contributions and donated goods can add up quickly. Consult a tax advisor to utilize deductions fully.

8. Alternatives to Donating to Thrift Stores

While thrift stores accept quality used goods in clean, working order, they unfortunately can’t take everything. Here are some other environmentally-friendly options if your items don’t meet donation criteria:

Donate to Friends, Family or Neighbors

Your stained college sweatshirt or chipped coffee mugs don’t meet thrift store standards, but friends or family may still appreciate these sentimental items. Offer them first before discarding anything usable.

Sell on Craigslist, Facebook or Garage Sales

Gently used clothes, furniture, or electronics can be sold secondhand on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or garage sales. Pricing items to move generates cash while still recycling goods.

Donate to Homeless and Women’s Shelters

Shelters often accept open packages of new underwear, toiletries, socks, blankets, and pillows. Domestic violence shelters take cell phones for safety. Call shelters directly to discuss current needs.

Use Old Linens and Towels as Rags

Stained or threadbare towels and bedding can be cut into cleaning rags. These absorbent scraps find new life tackling grease and grime in the garage and workshop.

Donate Books to Library Sales

Well-loved books with writing, highlighting or cover damage can be contributed to library Friends of the Library sales. Proceeds from these community book sales support public library programs.

Trade In Media and Electronics

Many retailers offer gift cards or discounts for trading in DVDs, CDs, video games, and older model electronics. Green disk recycling also safely destroys your data.

Evaluate each unusable item to pick the most eco-friendly way of keeping it from the landfill. With some creativity, you can find green uses for more types of possessions.

9. Why Donating to Thrift Stores Makes a Difference

Beyond cleaning out clutter, dropping off items at thrift stores directly helps support communities and environmental sustainability.

Funding Local Charities and Programs

Most thrift stores are run by non-profit organizations like Goodwill, Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul, and Habitat for Humanity. Revenues raised from selling donated merchandise go towards job training, homeless services, rehabilitation programs, food banks, domestic violence shelters, affordable housing projects, youth activities, and many other community resources.

Promoting Reuse and Reducing Waste

Americans generate over 12 million tons of textile waste annually, with 85% of disposed clothing ending up in landfills. Thrift stores recirculate clothing, furniture, housewares, books, electronics and more back to consumers rather than trashing usable goods. This recycling model conserves resources and reduces environmental pollution.

Providing Affordable Essentials

Low-income families rely on thrift stores as an accessible source of clothing, furniture, and household necessities within budget. Students furnish dorm rooms affordably thanks to thrifted decor, linens, and kitchen supplies. Frugal families save money on children’s toys, books, bikes, and electronics that are gently used.

When you donate quality used items, you help stock thrift store shelves with bargains for community members in need. Even small donations make a meaningful difference to those the organizations aim to serve.

How to Donate to Thrift Stores – Final Remarks

I hope this guide provided you with a comprehensive overview on how to smoothly donate new life to your gently used possessions. Follow these tips to ensure your local thrift stores happily accept your offerings:

  • Carefully inspect items for flaws, damage, or wear before donating.
  • Call to confirm accepted categories and drop-off policies.
  • Transport donations neatly sorted, labeled, and packed into boxes/bags.
  • Include any related parts, pieces, batteries, or instructions.
  • Wipe personal data from electronics.
  • Obtain receipts from the organization if needed for taxes or records.
  • Deliver with organization – sort, label, pack – for fastest processing.

With proper preparation, your generosity provides inventory merchandise that directly supports community members in need. Donate to thrift stores knowing your discarded goods will find renewed purpose in someone else’s home.

What tips do you have for making successful secondhand donations? Share your experiences below to help other readers!

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