One person’s trash really is another’s treasure! Before you feed your trashcan any more of your old belongings, check out these gratifying ways to bring a smile to someone’s face with things you no longer want, and get a much deeper satisfaction than simply tossing them in the dumpster or letting them gather dust. It’s a great way for us to weed out our cluttered dorms, apartments… or those boxes we’ve been storing at our parent’s house!


Mail your old books to Books For Africa. Their goal is to end the book famine in Africa. Many African schoolchildren have never had a book of their own and you can help put one in their hands. Education is one of the only ways that Africans can pursue a more educated Sand less impoverished life than generations before them. Do you have old textbooks gathering dust under your dorm bed? Send them to help Africans get an education! Forty percent of school-age children in Africa do not attend school. By donating our educational materials, we are helping lower education costs so that more of those children can go to school. Are you home for the summer? See if you can find old high school books or books for younger children too. Plus the shipping costs are tax deductible!


Have you just bought a new pair of running shoes for the gym? Are your old pairs lying in a heap in the corner of your dorm? If they are still in decent condition, send them to Shoe4Africa! Shoes prevent hookworm and give Africans the chance for a healthier life. Your shoe donations go towards Africa’s heath and exercise programs, but they are not simply given out. Instead they are earned in races held by Shoe4Africa. Thus, their organization is not charity; it empowers!

Get Creative!

My personal favorite is Operation Christmas Child and is a wonderful project for you if you’re home from college for the summer. Since 1993, shoeboxes have brightened the faces needy children in 130 countries. This one is a little trickier because they do not accept used items. However, many of us have gifts we accepted just to be polite but didn’t really want or things that we simply just never got around to using. So if you have items that weren’t used, find an old shoebox and get creative! Go through your childhood things and see you what you can give up to a child in need. You can specify the gender and age group (ages 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14) that your box will go to. Their website contains ideas for what to include (and what not to include) in your box. Even if you’re staying on campus this summer, there are plenty of things you may have lying around that you haven’t used that another child would love to have – think clothes, jewelry, hygiene products, pens, calculators, flashlights, etc. Yours will probably be the only present they get for Christmas. If you’ve got a cluttered room and time to spare, throw together two or three boxes… the more the merrier! Get rid of those things you keep around, telling yourself you “might” use them “someday.”

Let’s keep our old stuff out of the dust and the dumpsters and get it in the mail! We’ll turn our trash into their treasure!

Katherine Mary Wilmoth is an NSCS member and business student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She’s 21 years old, married, and has a three-year-old daughter. She was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan and moved to Alaska when she was ten. In addition to classes, she waitresses and run the used book section of a second-hand store. Check out Katherine’s art blog at and follow her on Twitter @LemonTulip.