02/11/2010 12:27 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

What To Do With Unwanted Gifts

Christmas is a time of giving... and getting a big bunch of stuff to clutter up your house. I often find myself doing a big clean-out of my house right after Christmas in order to make room for all the new stuff.

Also, along with the wonderful, thoughtful, brilliant presents received, there are always quite a few things that are simply "stuff I'm not remotely interested in". I tend to waver for a few weeks trying to work out whether or not I should keep them... then, usually about April, I get rid of them.

This year, however, I am living in a rented house that's just a little bit too small for us. I don't have room for a lot of new things, so if, like me, you have a lot of stuff to get rid of, there are several charitable things you can do with your unwanted gifts.

Here are a few suggestions of where and how you can get rid of your unwanted stuff:


Most charity shops are very happy to take clean, unbroken toys. Be aware though that many charity shops can't take any electrical goods for safety reasons, and it costs them time and money to dispose of them. So if you have anything electric, check with the charity shop first before you dump it on them.

My GP's office has a small play area for kids in which they have a few toys and books. I've donated some to them over the years. Obviously, they should be "quiet" toys: no drums, rattles or electronic toys. Things like puzzles, building blocks, Lego or books will all most likely be welcomed.

I've started donating all of my baby son's unwanted stuff – including clothes – to a FARA Kids' Charity Shop near my house. They are located in London only. Check their website for details of their specialist shops.

Other places to possibly donate your unwanted toys: hospitals, hospices, playgroups, libraries and women's shelters.

For years, I have donated my unwanted books to my local library, everything from books I've had for years on my shelf and decided I was never going to read again to the book about Princess Diana given to me by an older relative for Christmas. My local library was very pleased to receive everything I've donated to them.

I give my old magazines to my local GP's office. I figure that there must be other people like me who aren't interested in just reading Heat magazine and instead may want to read National Geographic, Wired or Utne Reader.

If you want to do something a bit more interesting with your unwanted books, take a look at BookCrossing. Basically, you sign up (for free), register the books you are planning on "releasing", label the book with the book's ID number and some information about BookCrossing, then leave your book somewhere – on a train, a bus, on a park bench, in a taxi, in a cafe, in an airport... then follow your book's journey on the site when people who find your book log-in and add some information about where *they* released the book.

The most obvious place to get rid of your old clothes is your local charity shop Sometimes, however, you have things that are just too good to give away. In that case, you may want to enter the crazy world of the online auction. The most well-known auction site is eBay. There are, however, other, less well known sites (find some here).

I've found after years of selling things on eBay that unless the item of clothing is a particular brand or has a specific function (such as breastfeeding tops), then it can be far more hassle than it's worth. If you just have unbranded clothing to get rid of, your local charity shop is always the best option.

Big stuff
If you have furniture or appliances that you no longer want, you may want to look into donating to Emmaus, a charity that helps homeless men and women get back on their feet. They accept all kinds of household goods and will collect larger items from your house for free.

Another site to look at is Freecycle. I sold my house last year and moved into rented accomodation. I decided to get rid of things instead of pay to keep them in storage. I used Freecycle to give away everything from my refrigerator, washing machine and garden furniture, to old cameras, toys and whole years' worth of magazines. I also got all my moving boxes for free via the site and gave them away again after I moved.

With just a minimum of effort you can make sure your old or unwanted stuff gets put to good use and doesn't end up in a landfill.