Spring and cleaning go together like peanut butter and jelly. Of course, cleaning doesn’t just involve shaking off the dust and debris of winter — it’s also a good time to rid yourself of that which no longer brings you joy.

Once you’ve decided to pass something along to a new home, you have to figure out just exactly how to do that. You could have a yard or garage sale, but you could also donate it to charity. Here are three things to consider when donating to charity.

  1. Do they need it?

While only 5% of clothing donated Goodwill ends up in landfills, that is still a pretty significant contribution to the 12 million tons of U.S. textile waste that ends up in landfills. Additionally, that percentage doesn’t account for the clothing wasted by other charities, nor does it account for all the other goods donated to charities that eventually find their way to landfills. You can significantly reduce this amount by giving items to charities with a specific need for those items rather than just dumping of loads of stuff at the Goodwill. Old sheets and towels will probably go to far better use at an animal shelter than Goodwill, and books may be far better utilized by a charity like Books For Africa.

  1. Can they use it?

Once again, it is important to match the donation to the charity. There are a wide variety of household items that pet shelters are always in need of, but there are a number of items they not only don’t need but cannot use. When you take items to a charity that they cannot use, you actually just end up creating more work for them and taking away manpower and energy from their primary mission.

  1. How do they accept donations?

Almost all charities have very specific times and locations that they accept donations. It is very important to adhere to these guidelines because if you do not, it is considered dumping, which is illegal in most states. While most charities will not actually prosecute donors for dumping, doing so generally causes more harm to the charity than good. Make sure you contact the charity in advance to determine when and where they accept donations and that they actually accept everything you want to take them.

In short, communication is key. Before you assume your unwanted goods can be used anywhere, make sure you’re donating them to the proper charity at the proper times. If you’re ever unsure, it’s fine to sell the items on your own and donate any money you receive to the charity of your choice.