You’ve decided to clear out the clutter at home and, just like the experts recommend on those TV shows about hoarders, you have three bags to fill marked “keep,” “throw” and “give away.” But confusing the last two bags is costing charities millions of dollars a year, as they’re forced to throw away donations they can’t use, such as broken furniture and toys, ripped clothing, soiled sheets, and chipped dinner sets.
“The reality is, the majority of the items donated to op shops — and I’m generalizing across the board — are to be on-sold to generate funds, in our case, for The Salvation Army,” says Jeff McCartney, area manager of the Salvos Stores Eastern Sydney. So when you’re considering donating an item, try to picture it on display in the store. If you can’t, because it’s too old and tatty, then it belongs in the throwaway pile.”
Here, Jeff helps us sort through the clutter so the good stuff makes it to the right people with these eight dos and don’ts of donating.
As yourself, can this item still be used by someone else?
If the answer is yes — like a playsuit your daughter hasn’t worn since she was a baby but still-intact teddy that has been gathering dust in the nursery — put it in the giveaway pile. “The main thing is, if it functions to the purpose of what it’s meant to do, we’ll gladly take it,” Jeff says.
Don’t give away damaged clothing.
If you have a skirt you can’t wear because the zip is stuck, or a shirt that’s impossible to do up because it’s missing a button, most charity stores can’t do anything with these pieces either. “I wish we did, but we don’t have the people or the resources to repair those sorts of things,” Jeff explains.
Do sew a button on that old shirt if you can spare time.
This small gesture means that a piece of clothing won’t end up as waste — Jeff says some donors even wash and iron everything. If your garments are in a particularly good condition, you could also consider selling them online, too.
Don’t donate your old printer.
“Printers are probably the biggest electrical item we can’t accept, as it’s ‘throwaway technology’, just like TVs and speakers,” Jeff says.
Do drop off your former treasures at the donation dropoff during opening hours.
If you have bigger items, like a piece of furniture that you can’t move, contact your local charity directly as some can organize a free pick-up.
Don’t leave your donated goods next to an overflowing donation box or outside.
“Basically, anything left out after hours or next to a bin will be looked through and sifted through by some of the public, and it will end up in the waste because it’s what charities often class as ‘contaminated’,” Jeff says.
Do giveaway your old fridge.
“Charities will accept most electrical items and white goods as long as it functions and is clean. An iron that’s burnt on the hot plate area, a toaster full of crumbs, or a moldy fridge is no good to us,” Jeff says. “However, if it just needs a wipe down, then, sure, we’ll clean it up that way.”
Don’t forget about recycling.
Some of the items that end up in your throwaway pile can be recycled. If you’ve ended up with a clothing pile not suitable donation, drop it off at an H&M store. Their Garment Collecting initiative turns your old threads into new products, such as cleaning cloths or textile fibers for insulation.
“We believe fashion is far too precious to end up in landfills and this is why we want to make it as easy as possible for our customers to give their garments a new life and help us close the loop on fashion,” says Elizabeth Cave, PR manager for H&M “Any clothes or home textiles — no matter what brand or condition — can be dropped off at our collection bins at any local H&M store and given a new purpose.”
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Homes to Love