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3 Tips For Donating Household Items In Milwaukee

Jeri Kavanaugh says nonprofits around Milwaukee love the support but ask you take a few steps before bringing a carload of donations.

As spring arrives in Milwaukee and more Wisconsinites get vaccinated, a time when friends and family can be invited back in our homes is getting closer.

But coming out of winter and over a year of the COVID-19, a deep spring cleaning may be in order. For many, that means deciding whether or not to donate older or unused items.

Jeri Kavanaugh is a volunteer for Community Advocates and coordinates the Bottomless Closet, a program that provides clothes and resources to help people secure job interviews and employment.

She says nonprofits around Milwaukee love the support but ask you take a few steps before bringing a carload of donations.

1. Call Ahead To Ask For The Organization’s Wish List

“Our problem is, and I’m not speaking for all nonprofits but I’ve heard from many that, we don’t have a lot of storage, so I’m always putting out our current wish list,” says Kavanaugh.

Community Advocates publishes an updated wish list on its website, but Kavanaugh says if you can’t find a wish list for an organization — call and ask. Someone at the organization will be able to tell you what they are looking for at that time.

2. Ask Yourself, “Would I Want This?”

When she receives clothing for Bottomless Closet from clothing drives, she often gets unusable items. Whether it’s dirty underwear or shoes that are falling apart, she says to make sure you aren’t substituting the trash for the donation bin.

“If we’re talking about furniture, you’ll get a mattress that has, you know, urine stains on it. That’s not something you’d want anyone to sleep on,” she says.

If you can’t answer, “Would I want this?” with a "Yes" then Kavanaugh says it’s probably not worth donating.

3. Consider Donating Money

While it may not help get rid of the clutter, it can be the most efficient way to help out a local nonprofit.

“The thing about cash is that we can do with it what our biggest need is. So, like on our list right now, we need strollers, pack and plays, car seats. That is not something, we may get some, but we don’t get a lot, so if we get a cash donation that’s something that we can go out and get those items,” she says.

But if you have extra business casual clothes taking up space in the closet now that you work from home or pillows and blankets that you’re willing to part ways with, Kavanaugh says you can still make a huge difference.

Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.