‘One person’s trash is another one’s treasure’

Donating your unwanted possessions helps repair the world

tikkunolam image

Years ago, my youth group volunteered at The Ark. While we were sorting through clothing, shoes, and blankets, our rabbi chatted with us about tikkun olam , and how donating to local organizations was making our community--and the world at large--a better place, because things weren't sitting idly in our homes or going into landfills.

That lesson on the importance of donating has stuck with me into adulthood. Because when you support organizations that help those in the community, you are doing a mitzvah and making the world a little better.

So the next time you declutter, downsize, or reorganize your home, take that extra effort to help repurpose your unwanted possessions. You will be participating in tikkun olam. 

Donating articles to worthy organizations can also help alleviate the sense that you should hang on to an item just because it has meaning to someone in your family. We all have those items sitting in our homes, but we are holding onto them out of guilt.

Those items are the ones that need a solid home. 

Instead of feeling guilty that you "spent so much money" on an item, or that "it was my grandmother's, so I can't get rid of it," start looking at items through the eyes of repairing the world.

Ask yourself these questions: How can this item help someone else? What organization would use this item to help someone in the community? How can my family legacy live on through this donation?

When we change how we view items in our home, we limit our own waste of unwanted items, we repurpose items we once loved or inherited, and--best of all--we're making the world a little bit better.  

Jessica Litman is the founder of The Organized Mama, a Chicago-based organizing and media company.   


Looking for a new home for your old items?

Here are a few ideas on where to donate…

Chicago Chesed Fund:  

Accepts clothing, footwear, accessories, toys, books, games, sports equipment, housewares, hygiene items, bedding, linens, towels, furniture, and even cars! Donations can be dropped off in the green bins at 7045 N. Ridgeway Ave., Lincolnwood; 3465 Techny Road, Northbrook; and 2548 Jasper Court, Northbrook.

For large quantities of items, or furniture or car donations, call 847-679-7799 x 110 or email office@chicagochesedfund.org to schedule a private pick-up time. 


Chicago Furniture Bank:  

Removes high quality and useful couches, armchairs, bedding, tables, art, and other essential furniture items from homes through pickups scheduled at least a week in advance.

To learn more or to schedule a pickup, visit chicagofurniturebank.org or call 312-752-0211. 


HIAS Immigration & Citizenship (a program of JCFS Chicago)

Visit the Amazon wish list of needed items for apartment setups for refugee families to make warm and welcoming homes for them. Refugees often come with just a single suitcase each, so the need is great.

View the wish list at amzn.to/3DsQorh or reach out to ElanaBoiskin@JCFS.org for more info.


Heritage Judaica:  

To donate Judaica, visit the "Heritage Judaica - Chicago" Facebook page at bit.ly/heritagejudaica . Get in touch with a coordinator through the page or simply post about your items to help them find a new home.


Mt. Sinai Resale Shop:  

Accepts gently used clothing, shoes, housewares, linens, media (records, CDs, DVDs, and select electronics), collectibles, and antiques (jewelry, crystal, and China), art, and many other items. Furniture donations need to be approved in advance, and furniture pickups are free. Donations can be dropped off during business hours, preferably up to an hour before closing time, at 2902 N Clark Street, Chicago. All proceeds benefit Mount Sinai Hospital and the Sinai Chicago network.


PCs For People:  

PCs for People offers free, secure, and sustainable e-recycling for retired computers and technology. Devices will be assessed, data-sanitized, and then refurbished and provided to families, individuals, and nonprofits in need, or recycled (zero-landfill).

To learn more or to schedule a pickup, visit pcsforpeople.org/recycle .

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