Day 40: Donation Guilt? Get Over It!

4,000 things gone, only 6,000 to go!

This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me but – I’m funny about certain things.

Donating used clothing (and shoes) is one of them.

I feel oddly guilty about donating my family’s used apparel.  As my friend Matthew pointed out – it can feel uncomfortable “giving” something that you no longer want or need. And that uncomfortable feeling is only heightened when the item isn’t in perfect condition. The only thing I’m more conflicted about is binning an article of clothing with a tiny stain or slight tear.

I have been known to spend 5 minutes or more debating whether or not a single item is fit for the bin or fit for donation. And, when you’re trying to toss 100 things in a day – that can really slow you down.

Thank goodness reader and fellow blogger, Erin, of dreams you dare to dream suggested donating my clothing to Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver.  Big Brothers accepts saleable or reusable items.

They sell their clothing donations through Value Village thrift stores:

Big Brothers Clothing Donation sells them to Value Village who distributes used clothing and household items for resale in various stores. Items which do not find their way to Value Village stores are sold internationally, allowing developing countries access to inexpensive product.

The Developmental Disabilities Association of BC also sells their clothing donations through Value Village:

DDA has built a valuable relationship with Value Village by acting as a supplier with the sale of the donated clothing and housewares. Value Village resells the clothes and housewares in their stores and developing countries. The Developmental Disabilities Association is keen to create marketplaces in local and international communities to allow everyone to access reusable products at a reasonably inexpensive cost.

There is a subtle but distinct difference between the saleable items (ie. no stains or tears) accepted by many thrift stores and reusable items accepted by Big Brothers, Developmental Disabilities Association and others.

Now I have two questions to ask myself when sorting clothing for donation:

Would someone buy these jeans with the tiny tear in the knee? (probably not)

Are they reusable? (probably, by someone more adept with a needle and thread than me) 

That widens my donation pool considerably. And since Value Village diverts unsaleable items to international markets, that takes the guesswork (and the guilt) out of it.

But what happens to unsaleable items donated to thrift stores that cannot accept them?

Unfortunately, they end up in the trash.

According to the Recycling Council of BC, currently there is no recycling program for non-reusable clothing:

At this time, there are no recycling options for textile rags. Unfortunately, non-reusable clothing is just considered garbage.

So check to make sure that the charity you choose has a process for dealing with non-sellable items.

And if it’s really garbage – just toss it!  You can feel good that you kept the rest of your gear out of the landfill.

If you know of any other charities that redirect non-sellable clothing, or a better alternative altogether for recycling imperfect clothing, please let me know!

What I tossed today: 40 pairs of shoes – I found more after this picture! (37 donated, 3 tossed), 1 jacket, 3 tote bags, hats, gloves, scarves, 2 DVD player cases, box of file folders (all donated), insoles, shoelaces, miscellaneous baubles (tossed)

Day 16: I Buy Stupid Stuff: How to Avoid Impulse Shopping

1,400 things gone, 8,600 to go

I like to poke fun at my husband’s squirrelish ways, but he’s not the only one contributing to the clutter in our house:

Couple of shifty characters, huh?

No –  it would be too easy to blame the kids.  I’m talking about me and the truth I’ve come to accept:

I buy stupid stuff.  

Any food product with the word “sassy” in its name is best avoided.

Same goes for anything with multi-coloured LED lights:

And this, well, there’s just no excuse for this unless you’re actually on Survivor:


Do I need to go on? because, sadly, I can.

It’s not all bad though.  Taking a closer look at these purchases has made me a really cautious shopper.  I have to ask myself – is this something I’ll have to post a picture of on my blog in a few weeks?

In fact, I made it out of Bed, Bath and Beyond today with one less item than was on my list.  And that’s a place you can really turn your brain off.

The last time Squirrel shopped there he bought two marshmallow shooters. And the time before we bought the kids those squishy micro bead pillows. They whacked each other with them until everyone, including Squirrel, lost a privilege.

So, it was no small victory today that I emerged without the Bamboo Shower Tower or the Original Magic Bullet Express.

If you want to have some fun with yourself – the next time you go into Bed Bath and Beyond (or your Mega Store of choice), tell your kids not to let you buy anything that’s not on your list. And while you’re begging them to let you buy just one more thing, ask yourself:

Can I live without this for another month?

If so, take a picture of it and post a reminder to your calendar to look at it in one month.  Do you still have to have it?

What I tossed today: 100 articles of kid’s and adult’s clothing from the guest bedroom closet (loaded into my car for drop off at the thrift store tomorrow).