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A Parent’s Guide to Donating Kids’ Clothes

It doesn't take long before countless boxes of outgrown children's clothes take over our best storage space at home. Spring cleaning projects are now prodding us; it's the perfect time to free up some space and donate clothes to a good cause. But how do we decide what goes where?

If you aren't ready to part with your favorite little outfits, keep the best of the best and donate the rest. There are many places in our community that will give your gently-used kids' clothes a new home. And you can feel good that they aren't going into the nearest landfill.

Yet as we know, kids are hard on their clothes. They spit up on, paint and roll around in the dirt in their duds – it's just part of life as a little one. It can be difficult to figure out what to do with clothes that aren't in their "most pristine" condition.

The ideas below will help you sort out the clothing quandary. Whether convenience or cause is your top priority, something here should work out for you.

Curbside Pick-Up

Scheduling a curbside pick-up for your goods is the most convenient of the options. The Community Services for the Blind and Northwest Center offer this service (you may already receive calls from them when they have a collection truck in your neighborhood). These nonprofits work in partnership with Value Village, and get funds based on the amount of merchandise they deliver. Value Village also provides money to their partners from the sales at their thrift stores.

The Arc of Washington State, St. Vincent de Paul and The Salvation Army also do residential pick-ups. Visit their web sites to schedule a curbside collection, and to learn more about the services they provide in the community.

Drop-Off Bins and Donation Stations

Some Value Village nonprofit partners offer attended donation stations or unattended drop-off bins at local businesses. Two such groups are Northwest Center and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound, which have stations and bins throughout King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties.

As for the other bins you see around town, do your homework before dropping in your clothes. Some collect items that go to use in our community, others go abroad. Some are run by nonprofits, others by for-profit companies. If keeping items out of landfills is your main concern, any drop-off bin is a viable and convenient option.

USAgain, which has bins all over the Puget Sound area, is a good choice for parents with clothes in a variety of conditions. They take it all – clothes in excellent shape and those that are stained and torn as well. Everything gets used again, either re-worn or recycled. They are a for-profit enterprise, and tout environmental benefits as their mission.

Thrift and Consignment Shops

Thrift shops take and sell items that are clean and gently used, often to benefit their work in the community. And they offer a one-stop-shop if you have other items you'd like to donate (check out their web sites beforehand for a full list of accepted items).

These stores don't typically sell clothing that is stained or ripped, but some recycle items that are not saleable (they are baled and sold to other vendors). A good rule of thumb is that you want to pass along items that are in good enough condition your kids, or your kids' friends, would wear them. Ultimately, you want to give these groups something to work with, so that they are able to serve their missions.

Find a thrift store in your neighborhood, or pick a location based on cause: Goodwill raises funds for free job training and education programs; Seattle Children's thrift stores benefit hospital services, St. Vincent de Paul helps needy families with aid such as food and rent assistance and new school clothes; The Salvation Army provides shelter housing, disaster relief and other social services.

Another possibility is donating to a children's consignment or resale store. What parents don't often see is the behind-the-scenes charity work done here: If clothes don't sell within a certain time period at a consignment store, or a resale store has more than they can handle in a size, they are pulled and given to local aid organizations. Check out this Seattle's Child story to learn more about children's consignment and resale stores that local moms admire.

Donate Directly to Nonprofits That Help Needy Children

While it might be more work in terms of the timing and location of your drop-off, these groups need used children's clothes for struggling families. You should reserve clothes that are in good condition for these giveaways, so you aren't adding more work for them.

The following nonprofits work with social service workers and agencies to provide essentials (clothing, shoes, diapers and equipment) to needy and homeless families: St. Joseph's Baby Corner in Seattle, the Baby Boutique in Seattle, WestSide Baby in West Seattle, Eastside Baby Corner in Issaquah, Northshore Baby Corner in Bothell and Clothes for Kids in Lynnwood.

If you have infant clothing, consider donating to one of 20 "Baby Cupboards" in Seattle, a project focused on providing nutritional support and gently-used clothing for families with infants and children ages newborn to 2 years old.

For older kids' apparel, try FamilyWorks, a food bank and family center in Wallingford; YouthCare, which provides shelter and services for homeless youth in Seattle; or Treehouse, where foster children can shop for like-new clothing, shoes, school supplies, books, toys, bikes and other essentials.

Ideas for Clothes That Don't Cut It

Some clothes are just too far gone, but instead of tossing them in the garbage, use spit-up-stained onesies and tees for housecleaning rags. Or, ask the daycare or preschool down the street if they want them for grubby clothes and messy art projects.

Do-it-yourself activities include giving stained clothes a tie-dye treatment, or just dying them darker to hide the stains. On FreeKidsCrafts.com, there are a number of unique and fun recycled clothes craft ideas, such as making a bean bag toss game, puppets and hand warmers.

Some parents have also had success giving away well-worn clothes on Freecycle.org. As they say, one person's trash is another's treasure.

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