Surely someone can put them to good use. Why not brighten someone else's life, while clearing yours of clutter?
It's easy to rationalize off-loading your junk onto charities, especially during the holidays.
But at the risk of appearing ungrateful, Utah charities ask this season that you keep the moldy food, bullets and rock collections to yourself. They just have to pay to get rid of them, wasting precious dollars that could be used to feed, clothe and comfort the needy.
"If the produce is swimming in primordial ooze, you're not going to eat it, and nobody else is going to eat it," said Linda Hilton at Crossroads Urban Center, the state's largest food pantry.
Pantries are frequently the dumping ground for inedible - even unrecognizable - foodstuffs.
On Monday morning this week, Hilton was greeted by two bags of "moldy" canned food. It wound up in the dumpster, which Crossroads pays to have emptied.
Other Crossroads' castaways include: a near-leafless and -lifeless plant, a batch of defective ballpoint pens, games and puzzles with missing pieces and a rock collection.
Non-profits aren't predicting an especially cloudy fund-raising climate this year. Utah's economy is strong, despite instability in the stock market and the subprime lending scandal.
But "changes in personal income and the stock market are two single biggest predictors of charitable giving," said Patrick M. Rooney, director of research for the Center on Philanthropy, which in December updates its Philanthropic Giving Index, a gauge of donor confidence nationally.
Even in bad years, however, Utah charities have it pretty good. Utahns are a generous bunch, consistently leading the nation in charitable giving and volunteering; a reputation that charities would like to see upheld.
So as not to discourage donations, the Road Home homeless shelter will accept almost anything.
"We want them to feel good about supporting us," said associate director Michelle Flynn. "But you do end up with some pretty quirky stuff."
Barbells, bird cages and aquariums are among the gifts that people have seen fit to bestow upon Utah's homeless.
Homeless outreach workers at Volunteers of America cruise city streets handing out blankets, coats and hats during the winter months. But a donated lamp shade was a baffler for program manager Vard McGuire.
Because smaller non-profits have limited storage space, items that can't be put to use immediately are sent to local thrift stores, which are equipped to process people's rubbish.
The Salvation Army wants just about anything, said Capt. James Sullivan. "If we get tattered blankets, we'll turn them into rags. We're the greatest recycling program ever."
The charity even managed to sell someone's discarded hot tub. But even thrift stores have their limits.
Don't send them your used water bed, car tires, bullets, car batteries, or flammable and hazardous items like paint, oil and antifreeze, said Salvation Army's retail director Janice Thomas. "Take that stuff to the dump." email@example.com" Target="_BLANK">firstname.lastname@example.org