I’m sitting down to write this post about donation guidelines with some trepidation as it’s definitely a sensitive subject. I want to handle it with care and with grace because this topic has a tendency to rile people up. And that is not at all my goal for writing this post. Instead, I’m hoping to simply raise some awareness around what should and shouldn’t be donated.
First for those that may not know why I’m so passionate about decluttering let me give you a little background. I’m what you could call a power purger. I am constantly looking around my home to evaluate and purge the things that are no longer serving me and my home. In addition, I believe wholeheartedly that purging must come before any organizing can occur in order for lasting changes to take place. I add items to my donation station on a very regular basis. Once the box is full I drop off the contents to my thrift store.
I choose to donate to my local thrift store for a variety of reasons. First, I don’t have the storage space to collect items that I want to sell myself. Nor do I really care to invest my time in to selling these items. Second, my thrift store donates all store profits from items sold to our local hospital. This benefits my entire community. I’m also a regular shopper at this thrift store and it makes me happy to purchase clothes and household items for a great price while giving back at the same time. I love that we can reuse and recycle items this way, keeping them out of the landfill. In addition, I have friends that volunteer at this thrift store and a friend that owns her own thrift store in another community.
So all that to say, I’m pretty familiar with what to donate and what NOT to donate.
And at the top of that DO NOT donate list are used s*x toys and menstrual cups. No just no. And yes my girlfriend has had to deal with both those things at her thrift store. Also on the list are stained sheets, sweat stained t-shirts, jeans ripped on the bum and items holding mouse droppings. Ugh.
She once had someone donate an entire box of left foot shoes with not a match to be found. What? So many of the things donated are ripped, stained, broken, have missing pieces, or covered in animal hair. The amounts are staggering actually.
And here’s what we should always keep in mind about these types of donations. It takes someone’s time to sort through box after box of donations to determine what can and can’t be put out on shelves. In the case of my local thrift store, where it’s all volunteer run, it bogs them down from being as effective and efficient as they could be.
And something else to consider is most thrift stores are not lacking in donations. At least that’s the case here in Canada. When I drop off donations in my town, there are literally bags upon bags stacked right to the roof and not enough volunteers or time to get through them all. How much easier would their jobs be if they weren’t digging through trash?
The idea for this post actually came about after reading a Facebook post from one of my blogging friends and then sharing it to my FB page. She had purchased a pair of waterproof winter boots for her son at the thrift store. They were actually labeled waterproof on the inside tag but they leaked for her son the first time he wore them. Now I get that perhaps the original donator had no idea that they leaked but if they did know they shouldn’t have been donated. I will say that the comments on that post surprised me. For instance, one person replied:
It is a thrift store. People donate all types of items. Good or bad. It keeps them put of landfills. Perhaps you were not happy with your 3 dollar buy but for a family that 3 dollar buy may be all they can afford. It is up to you to be aware of what you buy.
First of all, thinking the items you are donating to a thrift store will never hit the landfill is absolutely false. Especially if that particular thrift store doesn’t take things that are ripped, stained, broken, have missing pieces, or covered in animal hair for instance. I do know that many thrift stores try and recycle as much as they can with various collaborations they arrange with other organizations and that’s great. And many will take things like stained shirts and cut them into rags. But please don’t assume this is happening.
Before donating something questionable, as a courtesy, please take a minute to call the donation center first and ask them about items you might not be sure about. EVERY THRIFT STORE IS DIFFERENT. For instance, here where I live, the shirts they use for rags need to be of a certain cotton count. If the stained shirts don’t make the rag cut, they are tossed.
Note: other organizations may be able to take some of these things but you have to do your research. For example, often animal shelters are willing to take blankets and sheets including those that have stains.
Another example is this travel coffee mug of my husband’s. He got it for a gift one year and it never really kept his coffee hot.
Yes I could have donated it but I didn’t want someone else to buy it with the assumption it would keep their coffee hot. Because that is a very logical assumption one would make when buying a travel coffee mug. Out of consideration for my fellow human being I tossed it. The volunteers/employees in both these examples can’t test the items and so would naturally assume they worked as intended. They would have put them out on the shelf at the same price as other similar items. But most stores have enough donated items that work as intended, they don’t need things that don’t.
And secondly, the idea that people of lesser means should be more than happy to settle for lesser quality, just makes me sad to be honest. Because why should they have to? Everyone deserves to have dry feet and hot coffee.
Here’s what another commenter had to say.
I grew up poor and let me tell you spending your precious pennies on what appears to be a good coat or boots or toy for a birthday only to find when you get home that it doesn’t work, has a broken zipper you cannot afford to replace, or isn’t warm or waterproof is horrible!! You can’t get your money back, you can’t afford to buy something else so now what? It is NOT ok to donate items like this!! It’s not keeping anything out of the landfill because now the person who just wasted their money on it is going to throw it away angrily! Sometimes trash is just that and guess what? THAT’S OK!
Thrift stores are not just outlets for our less than good stuff. It’s also perfectly okay and encouraged to send your good stuff there. Yet the idea that someone’s good stuff is too good to donate to a thrift store is something I still hear on a regular basis.
In fact, I recently watched a Youtuber share this particular thought recently. She was purging her home and in the process would pile her more expensive items up in her office with the intention of selling them. However she never got around to selling these things and her pile just continued to grow. It was actually causing her a great deal of stress. She mentioned that she didn’t want to just donate them though because “they were too good for the thrift store”. So instead she hung onto them for well over a year allowing them to agitate her every time she saw the pile.
Now I totally get how hard it is to let the things go that we’ve paid a lot of money for. Selling them through an online community group, or through some other means is a terrific idea. However good intentions are only as good as the discipline behind them. If selling is your goal, give yourself a deadline to sell them by. We make time for the things that are important to us. Hanging onto these items long term takes up valuable storage space in your home. The clutter also causes much stress and chaos. Plus it keeps us living in the past and not in the present.
At some point we just have to cut our losses and move on. And donating them to a thrift store is a fantastic way to bless someone else.
If an item is no longer serving you, it’s not wasteful to let someone else enjoy it. Consider your donations to the thrift store a gift.
I know most people donate with the best of intentions to help others and it is so appreciated. This post is simply a friendly reminder to please be considerate when tossing things into a box to take to the thrift store. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if you would buy the item and/or gift it to a friend. If the answer is no, please reconsider. Also if you have toys or other items with multiple pieces or sets, please keep them together in a bag. Tape cords or remotes to appliances so they don’t get lost. Add instructions if you have them. Please wash clothes first if they are covered in animal hair. You get the idea. I can assure you that a little thought goes a long way when gifting your items to the thrift store.
If you’ve made it this far in my post about donation guidelines, thank you. I understand this is hot topic and would ask that you please be respectful in the comments. Thoughts?
What will you be gifting to the thrift store this week?
PS: I’m loving the suggestions in the comments of alternative places to take donations, please continue to share! It might be helpful to include the general area that you live in and/or country as well.
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