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)

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4 thoughts on “Day 40: Donation Guilt? Get Over It!

  1. Another reason to buy less in the first place, eh? It all goes to the trash eventually.

    I am involved with a charity thrift shop and it is definitely a real frustration when people don’t sort out the garbage from the worthwhile donations, so thank you for being conscientious about that and talking about it on here.

    • I literally just walked in from the thrift store and I could here the ladies talking about some unusable bikes that had been donated. “More metal recycling!” one of them said. Once my 100 days are up I’m going to volunteer to see just what kind of things people donate and exactly what is considered a usable donation. Good for you for beating me to it!

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