Many charities specialize in getting the most good out of certain kinds of clothing

After a death, especially when the person was single or widowed, there may be a house full of stuff that doesn’t have an obvious destination. Some of it will be saved and cherished by loved ones, especially family heirlooms and other items with special sentimental significance. But what can be done with all the clothing that nobody has a reason to keep?

Used clothing is often packed up in huge garbage bags and dropped off at the local thrift store, but there are other options you might want to consider in order to benefit a specific cause that’s meaningful to you or your loved one. Here are some ideas:

Professional clothing can be used by an organization that helps homeless and underprivileged people prepare for job interviews and gainful employment. Women's professional clothing, including shoes and accessories, can be donated to Dress for Success, while men's professional clothing, shoes, and accessories can be donated to Career Gear.

Shoes are much needed by many people. You can donate athletic shoes to Give Running, which cleans them up and distributes them to young people in developing countries and inner cities. Share Your Soles accepts shoes of all kinds, to be passed along to people in need. Soles 4 Souls also distributes shoes to people in poverty, and if your donation is under a certain weight, you can get a free shipping label for sending them in. Athletic shoes that are too worn to donate can be recycled through Nike's Reuse a Shoe program, where they're made into material that's used in new shoes, apparel, and playing surfaces.

Coats are an important donation item for people in need. Burlington Coat Factory collects gently used coats at their stores to distribute to those who need them, and sometimes the donation can come with a discount on a new purchase. One Warm Coat also collects gently used coats for the needy.

Wedding dresses can be a treasured, sentimental item, but sometimes there's just not space or desire to keep them after a loved one's death. You can donate a wedding dress to a beautiful cause, instead. Brides Across America accepts newer dresses as well as vintage ones, plus veils and accessories, to be donated to military and first responder brides in need of dresses. Brides for a Cause collects and resells used wedding dresses with proceeds to women-focused charities. The Angel Gown Program repurposes wedding dresses to help families who have lost babies, making them into small gowns for final photos and funeral services.

Formal dresses, such as bridesmaid or prom dresses, can be donated to organizations that distribute them to women and girls who might not be able to afford a dress for a special night like prom. Donate My Dress offers a directory of local dress donation programs. David's Bridal collects dresses specifically during prom season. The Cinderella Project is a network of local dress donation programs – search for their name plus your city or region to see if they operate near you.

Bras are a clothing item we don't always think to donate, but Free the Girls is one organization that can put them to good use. They collect new and gently used bras and distribute them to women in developing countries who have been rescued from sex trafficking. They can then build a business by reselling them in their home towns. Another option for bra donations is a local women's shelter.

Scarves can collect by the dozens in a woman's closet. But they can also be donated to a very special cause. Hope Scarves collects used scarves and passes them along to women in cancer treatment. One focus of the organization is sharing the stories of women who have undergone treatment, so this is an especially compelling donation if your loved one fought cancer, but scarves are accepted from anyone who wishes to donate.

Socks can be difficult to donate, because used socks can be a hard sell. But there are organizations that will take them, including Zkano, a sock manufacturer that will recycle your used socks.

Remember: Be sure you’re donating items that are in good or gently-used condition. Anything that’s not in decent shape should be recycled or discarded. One exception:  Planet Aid accepts all clothing and shoes and will recycle anything that can’t be reused.  


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