Goodwill of Northern New Englandwhich has more than half of its stores in Maine, was in the news earlier this month for a not-so-good reason and it wasn’t their fault. It was ours. Last year, New Englanders “donated” more than 13 million pounds of what was ultimately trash and Goodwill NNE had to pay $1.2 million in bills to have it taken away.  

Nonprofit thrift stores, like Goodwill, Threads of Hope, Freeport Community Services Thrift Shop or The Salvation Army use purchases to fund job training or food banks within the larger organization. Most organizations that distribute or sell used goods have specific lists of what they do and do not take. Imagine how many more people could have been helped if we took the time to really assess the value of the things we no longer want, need or use. Together, we can do better. 

Maine Needs collects and distributes clothing, hygiene products, household items and other necessities across the state through a network of volunteers. They work with schools, caseworkers, shelters and more to focus on people who are “starting life over from scratch: domestic abuse survivors, asylum seekers and those facing financial hardships.” Visit to see current needs and drop-off dates on Forest Ave. in Portland. 

Furniture Friends distributes home furnishings to people in need in the greater Portland area. They served over 550 homes in 2019, partnering with over 120 local organizations to collect referrals. Furniture Friends can pick up your items, though the wait time is a little longer with COVID-19 safety protocols. Start the donation process at by making sure your items meet the criteria. 

If you have outdoor gear to get rid of, you can donate it to Brunswick-based Teens to Trailswhich connects Maine teens to nature through outing clubs. Donate gear from sleeping bags and tents to binoculars and camp stoves. Get started at by filling out the donation form. 

A common, wasteful “donation” at thrift stores is leftover, new or reclaimable construction materials. Habitat for Humanity ReStore will accept appliances (up to 10-years-old), cabinets, electrical, flooring, hardware, lumber, doors and windows and moreProfits from the store fund the work of Habitat for Humanity, which creates homeownership opportunities for families with limited incomes by building sustainable housing, and repairing, weatherizing and modifying existing homes. Maine ReStore locations are in Kennebunk, Portland, Topsham, Rockport and Bangor. 

Mutual aid groups are informal, person-to-person organizations. These days, it helps to have a Facebook or Instagram account in order to connect with them. Some, like the Maine  People’s Housing Coalition work to direct items to people experiencing homelessness or who have recently found housing. 

Other groups, often found as “buy nothing” groups on social media, are populated with people in your neighborhood who are searching for and giving away all sorts of items. In addition to creating an opportunity to declutter, they will socially connect you with community. 

Lastly, take your no-longer-useful things to the local dump then find your own trash treasures. Many transfer stations have their own volunteer Swap Shops open exclusively to town residents. 

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: