Everything You Need to Know Before Donating to Goodwill

Do good as you declutter. We're sharing our expert tips for donating your unwanted items to Goodwill.

Do you have things lying around that no longer bring you joy? Outgrown baby toys, clothes you no longer wear, a stack of dusty books—if this clutter is causing you stress, it's time to get rid of it. Instead of tossing unwanted items into the trash, pack them up and donate them to Goodwill. With locations across the country, a super simple drop-off system, and a cause you can feel good about supporting, it's no surprise Goodwill tops our list of ways to donate. Alison Cate, former Director of Marketing and Development for Goodwill of Central Iowa, shares everything you need to know about donating to Goodwill—and how those donations can make an impact in local communities.

items neatly arranged in piles for donation to Goodwill

BHG / Meg MacDonald

What is Goodwill?

Chances are you've shopped at Goodwill and found a few treasures (hello, ugly Christmas sweater). While the organization is best known for keeping clothes and castoff items out of landfills, there's so much more to the nonprofit. They also provide education, employment, and training for seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities, as well as offering childcare, transportation, and language training to individuals enrolled in programming. Goodwill operates 3,300 locations across the country and even has an online auction site where you can score rare collectibles and designer goods.

What Can I Donate?

When people think of Goodwill, they most often think of clothing, says Cate. But the organization will take fabric in any condition. "Goodwill even accepts items that are stained or ripped, as they're able to recycle the textiles and keep items out of local landfills."

Goodwill's need stretches far beyond the closet—including working and nonworking computers and equipment. "They're able to refurbish and resell computers in good shape at several stores, or if things aren't in working condition, the parts are recycled through a partnership with Dell," says Cate.

If you've ever wandered into a Goodwill store and found yourself picking up a new home accessory, you aren't alone. "Home goods are a big selling item in the stores," says Cate. "Such as dishes and glassware, lamps, and décor, and furniture in good condition, as the interest in DIY and makeover projects really draws interest from the customers."

Some locations will even accept used vehicle donations. It's best to check with your local Goodwill to see what donation services are available in your area.

How Can I Donate?

Goodwill provides detailed donation instructions on their website, but it's as easy as dropping off your unwanted items to your local store or scheduling a pickup. If you itemize deductions on your taxes, ask Goodwill for a receipt, so you can keep track of what clothing and household items you donate throughout the year.

Is There Anything I Can’t Donate?

A common misconception is that Goodwill can accept anything. "That's unfortunately not the case, due to applicable laws and restrictions, or processing costs," says Cate. Goodwill, and many similar organizations, cannot accept:

  • Items with safety recalls, such as children's car seats, high chairs, baby beds, or swings
  • Large appliances like refrigerators, stoves, microwaves, or air conditioners
  • Hazardous chemicals (paints, thinners, gas or oil-based products, and cleaning supplies)
  • Broken or heavily damaged furniture

Instead of taking items to the landfill, get creative! There are numerous ways to upcycle unwanted furniture, clothes, and toys. Getting creative can reduce stress and improve your quality of life. If you have things that just can't be donated, check out our helpful guide for getting rid of (almost!) anything.

5 Helpful Tips for Donating to Goodwill

Before you make a trip to Goodwill with all your items to donate, keep these smart tips in mind to help keep the stress out of donating.

  1. Package things that belong together in the same container. Donating a pair of shoes or a set of dishes? Keep the pairs or sets from getting separated by putting them in one container.
  2. Call ahead. Some Goodwill locations offer pick-up services for large donations, like cars or furniture, and will work with you to schedule a time.
  3. Go green. Pack up your donations in reusable containers. You can empty your items into bins at the store—no need for bags or boxes.
  4. Check your donated items! Be sure pant pockets are free of receipts and computers are wiped clean.
  5. Beat the rush. Donate during off-hours and weekdays to avoid long lines at the door.
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