Spring cleaning

Everything has its place in your cleaned-up home. Photo: ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

Even with the chaos of busy schedules, there is still something to be said for the ritual known as spring cleaning. I am not sure if it is the extra hour of daylight or the impending arrival of summer, but there is nothing better than a good clean and purge.

Recently, a friend got a jumpstart on cleaning out (I think the rain has us all going a bit stir crazy). She found many items from her children’s younger days that had been barely used, such as stuffed animals, toys, and baby blankets. You may think the hardest part is the cleaning out, but as my friend found, sometimes it can be harder trying to find places to donate all those items. Most shelters and nonprofits aren’t able to take used toys, blankets, or stuffed animals for health reasons, but a lot of these items may still be in great condition. If you are like I am, you hate to just throw things away, so here are some of the best local places that I have found to donate:


There are two great organizations that are easy to donate to and take most children’s items. Loved Twice ( is a San Francisco-based nonprofit that distributes baby clothes in sizes up to 12 months. They also take baby blankets, hats, socks, bibs, and board books. They do ask that all donations be clean, stain-free, and folded. The donated items are free to families working with a social worker at local hospitals, family shelters, and prenatal homes. There are drop-off locations throughout the Bay Area with the closest at DayOne Baby (3548 Sacramento Street), which makes it even easier.

S.F. Smiles ( is another local nonprofit accepting a wider range of items. They will take baby and children’s clothing, strollers, car seats that aren’t expired, bouncy chairs, monitors, and breast pumps that have been cleaned and sterilized. As with any donation, they ask the items be clean, and free of pet hair and smoke odor. As a small organization, they prefer drop-off donations (visit their website) but you can also arrange for a pick-up for $20 — what a deal!


We love books, but as our children get older they are less likely to reread a book, which leaves us with a lot of excellent books in great condition, but what to do with them? The Children’s Book Project ( is the perfect place to donate new and gently used books from newborn to teen, where they will then be given to local shelters, schools, daycares, and community centers. Books can be dropped off at the organization’s home base at 1360 43rd Avenue, but they do have limited hours. Donations of less than 75 books can be dropped off at bins located at Books Inc. (3515 California Street) or Sparky’s Fun and Joy (115 Clement Street).

Another place to donate books, especially board books for babies that seem to pile up is Project Night Night

( This local organization provides tote bags that contain a blanket, a book, and a stuffed animal to homeless children 12 and under. The idea is that every child in a shelter is given a small sense of security that comes from the items in these tote bags. Donations can be dropped in the Marina at Hotel del Sol (3100 Webster Street) or in Ghirardelli Square at Peekadoodle Kids Club (900 North Point Street, Suite F100).


There are many thrift stores in our area — Goodwill and the Salvation Army, to name just two. They are well-known organizations with a long-standing reputation in the community, but the donated items are offered for sale, they are not given away. One of my favorite stores to donate to is Community Thrift ( at 623 Valencia Street, a bit farther away, but the cause is worth the drive. The nonprofit organization works with more than 200 Bay Area charities — from the SPCA to the Homeless Prenatal Program and the Bike Coalition. Donations are sold in the store and the proceeds are then given to the charity of your choice. They don’t accept children’s items, but this is the perfect place to donate other items — anything from CDs to housewares, books, and bikes. I know personally from some of the nonprofits I work with that the profits from these donations really add up and do make a difference.

There is something to be said for “one person’s junk is someone else’s treasure.” When I step back to appreciate all that I have, I also realize how much “stuff” we have. Handing things over instead of throwing them away to help others in our community who aren’t as fortunate, makes the world feel a little brighter.

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Liz Farrell is the mother of three young children. She was formerly a news producer in Washington, D.C., and in San Francisco.