How to easily donate unused items to charity, from lipsticks to dresses

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Want to make a difference? Here’s Stylist’s quick-fire guide on donating your hoarded items to charity.

We’ve all got items squirrelled away in our rooms that there’s no chance of us ever using. Admit it: if you didn’t wear that particular cold-shoulder top within the first two months of buying it, you’re hardly going to rediscover the joys of sporting it now.

The thought’s probably crossed your mind of donating it to charity. But you never quite got around to it, did you? No fear – Stylist has pulled together a list of the easiest ways you can give your surplus goods – from camera equipment to tampons – to those less fortunate. Read on for all the details…

For the bubble bath you never opened: Toiletries Amnesty 

Creative entrepreneur Karen Harvey set up Toiletries Amnesty after discovering her bathroom cupboards were filled with products she was never going to get around to using. An online directory, Toiletries Amnesty lists the details of charities, beauty banks and social organizations across the country that accept donations to tackle the rising problem of hygiene poverty in the UK. A survey this year found one in four families have gone without toiletries thanks to their financial circumstances.

“Brushing our teeth, washing our hair, wearing deodorant – all things that most of us take for granted,” Harvey tells Stylist. 

“These aren’t luxuries, but for many people, these hygiene basics are out of reach. We want to help change that. A proper pampering can have a really positive effect on wellbeing. We’ve had mental health wards contact us for support because they don’t have enough funding to supply toiletries for patients, and whilst we know it’s not going to fix all the problems, a long hot bath can be really soothing. Surely we can make a start with the little things that can add up to make a bigger difference?” 

For that top you never wear anymore: Textile Recycling Association 

There are independent clothing banks across the country – such as the Nottingham–based Sharewear – that take clothes directly from your wardrobe and put them onto the backs of those who need them. As of yet, there’s no singular directory that lists all of these around the country, so the best bet is to contact your local council for details of the organisations they work with.

For clothing banks run by private recycling companies and represented by the Textile Recycling Association – who donate £250 to various charities for each tonne of clothes recycled – enter your postcode on the site to see the depository closet to you.

Charities like the British Heart Foundation offer a similar service, while Sainsbury’s also has clothes banks at 340 of its UK stores.

Then there’s the standard charity shop donation. For information on your nearest business and whether they run collection services, check out the Charity Retail Association whose database contains details of over 8,600 shops in the UK. 

For the unused camera in your cupboard: Camera Amnesty 

London-based homelessness charity Accumulate – who offer photography workshops and tutoring – has paired up with Shutter Hub (run by Karen Harvey of Toiletries Amnesty) to provide photographic equipment to those on the streets. People can donate unused cameras, lens or any other snapping accessories to the project. The equipment then goes into a “Camera Library” where members of the homeless community can borrow what they need as and when they require it. There’s also plans to expand the project further in partnership with the British Red Cross and Suffolk organisation, STAR. 

Although Camera Amnesty is still in the process of spreading northwards, if you want to support homeless photography, social enterprise People of the Streets works in Nottingham and Manchester to give those sleeping rough a voice through visual art. Providing disposable cameras to homeless people, the organisation then develops and exhibits pictures for sale (with proceeds going to the photographer) in physical spaces and online. The charity accepts straight donations on its website as well.

For those extra packs of porridge: The Trussell Trust 

New figures reveal more than four million adults in the UK are forced to turn to food banks, after benefits have failed to rise in line with living costs. That means donations are more welcome than ever. The 20-year-old Trussell Trust is the most well-established national foodbank.

The organisation operates 400 foodbanks across the UK and provide a locator tool on their website to pinpoint your nearest one. If you’ve no spare food on hand, they also accept monetary donations. 

For non-nationwide foodbanks, the Independent Food Aid Network maps grassroots providers of food aid, such as local churches or community hubs, who would otherwise lack a centralised directory. Visit their site to find a centre in your local area that accepts donations. 

For the stacks of tampons in your purse: Bloody Good Period      

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Awareness of period poverty has skyrocketed over the last 12 months, thanks to high-profile campaigns from the likes of Amika George to former Stylist Woman of the Week, Gabby Edlin. Edlin’s project Bloody Good Period supplies 15 centres across London and Leeds with pads they purchase through donations to the site, which can be made here

But if you’ve got stockpiled pads in your bathroom cupboard, Bloody Good Period also accepts physical donations; simply post them to the address posted on their website.

And when the school term starts, The Red Box Project also accepts donations of sanitary products which can be deposited at educational institutions nationwide – simply drop at any location listed here.

And if you want to pick up your own supplies at the same time as donating, social enterprise Hey Girls – which sells environmentally-friendly, ‘leak-free’ sanitary products – gives a box away to those in need for every product it sells. 

Images: Becca Mchaffie