Trash Or Treasure… something to think about before you donate!

posted by Andrea | 02/9/2018
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As many of you know, our family loves finding great deals by shopping our local thrift stores!

In fact, if you asked my kids what “special” thing they would like to do on any given day, their answers will probably be one or more of the following:

  • go to a park
  • go to Costco
  • go to a thrift store

They know that I often let them pick out something to take home… and they LOVE browsing through the shelves of toys, games, craft supplies, books, clothing, shoes, etc.

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A few weeks ago, the kids found a $10 bill in our driveway, and based on where they found it, I’m fairly confident it blew into our yard from somewhere else in the neighborhood.

When we got inside, I divided up the bill for them.

  • $1 would go to church
  • I said I would put $1 into their bank accounts
  • and they could each spend $2 (or pool their money to buy one $6 item)

Then we made plans to go out the following Wednesday (Nora is home from school that day) to look for something to buy with “all their money”.

Apparently my children are picky and persistent shoppers, because we went to FOUR different thrift stores before they all finally found something worth their $2. 🙂

Nora found a super cool Nerf rocket launcher that was still in the package.

Simon got a tiny Batman action figure and a Paw Patrol matching game.

James decided on red rain boots (something he really did need).

When we got home, we cleaned up our purchases, set up the Nerf rocket, and broke out the matching game.

Everything was good and fun until we realized the matching game was missing most of the matches! 🙁

The box was completely taped up and it sounded like there were several cards inside, so I didn’t question it when we made the purchase. However, after opening the box, I realized we only had 41 of 72 cards… so almost half were missing!

BOOO!

Simon was so disappointed… until I told him I would give him his money back and we could simply use the random, non-matching cards to make decorations for his upcoming PawPatrol birthday party.

Even though the store’s policy is “no returns”, I did call them to let them know about all the missing pieces to our game. I didn’t really care about the money — more just the fact that the thrift store was selling items they hadn’t even checked first.

However, after thinking more about the missing pieces throughout the week, I realized the real “problem” is the fact that someone would actually donate a kids’ game that was missing so many pieces the game wasn’t even playable!

Yes, maybe the person didn’t realize the game was missing so many pieces, or maybe they only had 15 minutes to do a quick purge and just wanted to get the item out of the house (believe me, I understand that feeling!)

But maybe… they simply felt better about themselves for donating an item versus throwing it in the trash!

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After many years of working with in-home organizing clients (and many years purging my own home), I know all too well how alluring it can be to “donate” something instead of dumping it in the trash.

After all, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”… right?

Yes, it’s true that I’ve found amazing deals on JUST what we were looking for. It’s exciting and rewarding for sure!

But sometimes, one man’s trash is simply another man’s trash — and one they potentially paid for at a local thrift store.

And other times, one man’s trash becomes the thrift store’s trash that THEY have to pay to dispose of! 

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So the next time you purge a space in your home and eagerly gather things up to bring to your local thrift store, stop and consider the following.

  • Does it have all the pieces/ parts/ instructions?
  • Does it actually work/ run/ turn on if the new owner puts new batteries in?
  • Do the zippers, snaps, and buttons all work?
  • Are there any stains or holes the new buyer might not instantly notice?
  • Would YOU actually buy this in a thrift store?

If you can’t answer yes to every one of those questions, my bet is that your item probably belongs in your trash versus in your donation pile.

Yes, some thrift stores bundle junky clothing and sell it for rags, but most of the thrift stores I’ve talked with simply dump junky clothing in the trash at their own expense.

Yes, sometimes the buyer might be able to fix an item of clothing or wash out a stain (believe me, I’ve tried!) but most of the time, the buyer doesn’t notice the stain, the hole, or the broken zipper until they are home and out the cash.

Yes, sometimes a puzzle or game is still enjoyable even if it’s missing a few pieces, but most of the time, it’s just frustrating for the child (and parent) who was originally excited about a new puzzle or game they now can’t use or enjoy.

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I realize there will ALWAYS be exceptions to every rule, but in my opinion, a good rule of thumb is to trash the following…

  • anything missing pieces or parts
  • anything that has holes or stains
  • anything with broken pieces or parts
  • anything you wouldn’t be excited to find at thrift store prices

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Be honest with yourself the next time you purge…

If it’s trash, just put it in your own trash bin and don’t let yourself feel guilty about it!

After all, you might just save a little boy from being super disappointed that his game was missing almost half the pieces!

In our case, that disappointed little boy might just get a brand new PawPatrol matching game for his birthday next month 🙂

Filed under: OrganizingHomePurgingMisc.

 
 

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34 comments

  1. Kristen

    02/15/2018

    If something isn’t worthy of being donated, someone could always post it in a local Freecycle group. Of course be honest about the condition, but there are a lot of people who can come up with a creative uses for free things!

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  2. Becky

    02/12/2018

    Thank you for this article! Very good points and the story about Simon and his game – drives the point home for sure 🙂

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  3. Gloria P

    02/10/2018

    Those matching cards are cute. A potential solution for the singles could be to photocopy the front, cut them out, adhere to chipboard (old cereal box) and add photocopy of the back side of the game pieces to the other side to totally cover the chipboard. Seal the edges good with some glue or modge podge. Might be a fun hands on art project.

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  4. Jas

    02/10/2018

    I usually post broken items in the free section on Craigslist before throwing them out, and just make sure to list anything that’s wrong with them. They almost always get picked up by someone who is willing to make repairs or repurpose something that is no longer useful to us.

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  5. Mandy

    02/10/2018

    I’m definitely guilty of donating instead of tossing. This is great food for thought! As an avid second hand shopper I should definitely remember these pointers. Thank you!

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  6. Tracie

    02/09/2018

    I wish people would think about this for food donations as well. I can’t believe how many times (through volunteering and such) I’ve seen severely expired food donated. I understand that canned items can go longer than the expiration date. But no one wants crackers or cake mix that is 3 years past the expiration! Please treat others as you would like to be treated. There but for the grace of God go I….

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    Andrea Reply:

    YES! my sister volunteered for a food banks once and had similar stories! I can kind of see how it happens, but it still seems somewhat odd that people think anyone would be OK eating expired food (or feeding it to their children!)

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  7. Ann

    02/09/2018

    It is a pet peeve of mine when thrift stores take the time to tape up a box without even checking inside!
    I am sure they don’t like this but if I am considering a purchase, I slit the tape, find how many pieces it should have and sit there and count. About 7 out of 10 times pieces are missing. Sometimes I even take out an ink pen and write on the box which pieces are missing to save someone else the time to count.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, I’m totally going to start opening boxes now!

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  8. Carol

    02/09/2018

    I loved all your thoughts about donating and I agree 100%.

    The one thing that talked loudly to me was the way you are teaching your children at such an early age about the value of saving money and spending wisely. Well done mom!

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    Andrea Reply:

    well we’re trying anyway. Nora is sort of catching on — Simon and James just like holding money and shaking it in jars 🙂

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  9. Kristina R

    02/09/2018

    I am upset FOR Simon! ☹️

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — he’ll be just fine 🙂 He loves playing with the non-matching pieces as toys… and he has his money back 🙂

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  10. JJ

    02/09/2018

    Yes, yes, yes!!! My father-in-law saved EVERYTHING from when his kids were little(and big ), and he likes to give us the stuff every time he visits. There are almost always missing pieces, or they are extremely dirty. I seriously cringe when he brings stuff in. And it’s a huge letdown to the kids when stuff is missing. If anything, it makes me careful as to what I save for my grandkids. And I have a loooooong time before grands! That was great you gave him $2 back! He will remember that!

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  11. Olivia

    02/09/2018

    Yes! This philosophy and list of “rules” can be expanded to any donations – the small group we lead took up donations at church for a local women’s shelter, and I’m so glad we filtered through what we received before taking the items to the shelter. I’m positive everything was donated with the best of intentions, but some items looked and smelled like they had been in an attic for the past 30 years! This is a well-timed reminder with Spring Cleaning just around the corner!

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    Andrea Reply:

    That was my hope — people would keep this in mind for spring cleaning 🙂

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  12. Erika

    02/09/2018

    I definitely understand the guilt about throwing something away vs. donating it. Where I struggle most is linens and clothes – too stained to be donated, but hate the thought of all those textiles just ending up in a landfill. There’s only so many tee-shirt rags I can make or need! We try to take our clothing through “stages” – if it can’t be worn to work anymore, it might become lounge clothes or clothes to wear on our summer camping trips – if it gets destroyed while on vacation, no big deal! Sometimes an item becomes something worn while painting or doing other messy household stuff. Or cleaning rags for indoors and outdoors. But like I said, that only goes so far.
    I recently purchased new bedding for the master bedroom. The old bedding was stained, too small and it was just time for an update. I loathed the idea of just tossing it out. We don’t have a textile recycling program anywhere close to me. So I hopped onto Facebook and posted in a trading group, asking if anyone had any thoughts on what to do. Turns out, animal shelters will often accept old linens, bedding, clothes and pillows to stuff pet beds and line animal cages. I found a woman with a small animal rescue who was THRILLED to get two big bags of duvets and pillows she could use a filler and as lining! And I was thrilled that these items would get even more use before ending up as garbage!
    If you get a bit creative, there’s likely someone who wants exactly what you have! But please, don’t use thrift stores as garbage cans.

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    Andrea Reply:

    wow — that’s a great idea. thanks for sharing!

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  13. Mary Ann

    02/09/2018

    I so agree with this! Obviously, buying something used means the item may be incomplete ir have some wear, but I agree with you that we need to think about what we are donating in the first place.

    I remember as a kid, I went to a yard sale and purchased a puzzle. The seller was an acquaintance and said all the pieces were there when I asked. I was so disappointed then when I put it together and several pieces were missing. As a child, I wondered why she would lie to me, but as an adult, I figure she probably thought it was complete.

    We had a couple fundraiser garage sales for our adoption and were blessed to receive so many donations from friends. Most items were very nice but then there were those that just needed to be trashed. There are certain things that if they don’t work right or are missing something that you can mark as such and someone may buy it cheaply to tinker with or repurpose. But then, there are obviously worn-out items that I simply could bot spend time even trying to sell. Our trash cans were full during that time!!! I was of course, very grateful for the donations to our cause but it has made me even more aware of what I donate or even just pass along to friends.

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    Andrea Reply:

    isn’t it crazy that the puzzle memory stuck with you all these years!

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  14. Connie

    02/09/2018

    Thank you so much for your post today.I volunteer at a thrift store and these are my thoughts exactly ! I can often take a “BLACK BAG” ( my most unfavorite )look inside and tell right away if it needs to be put in the “Mission Box.'( things we do not take )It is just jammed in the bag and sometimes smells..Please take some thought and care into your donations before you bring them to any of us who work in a thrift store.

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    Andrea Reply:

    oh wow — that’s nasty. Yes, I’ve heard that people hate “black bag” donations, so I always try to put my things in paper grocery bags 🙂

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  15. Lynda Kay

    02/09/2018

    Your unofficial rules for donation are a great reminder to those of us who want to purge the attic and basement. Adorable pics.

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  16. Hana

    02/09/2018

    Great post!! This is so important to talk about. I worked at a Goodwill for a year and a half, and we threw away SO much stuff that was broken, missing pieces, etc. There’s a lot of issues with donating stuff that can’t be sold, which I think you outlined really well in your post. What really bothered me about seeing people donate broken stuff though, and which you touched on, was the attitude that some people have about “people who shop at Goodwill.” Just because someone HAS to shop at a thrift store does not mean they should be happy to pay money for, use, play with, or wear items that should be thrown in the trash. It’s disturbing to me that people will donate something, take a tax deduction for it, and say that a fellow human being should be happy to get it, when they would never use or wear it themselves.

    That being said, I would suggest that anyone who is unsure about donating an item call their local thrift store. I was in charge of the clothes and linens when I worked at GW amd basically the only items my department would throw away were things that smelled like cigarettes and things that were wet (yes, that happened). Even if clothing was stained, we wouldn’t sell it to the public but we would sell it to a company that broke it down into stuffing for mattresses. So the company was still able to get some good out of it. Not all thrift stores do this, though, so it’s important to check.

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    Andrea Reply:

    good to know — thanks!

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    Rhonda Reply:

    Yes – the clothes and Goodwill stores – I used to just throw away clothes that I thought no one would use or buy, but realized they do have recycling options through GW. Also, in our county in WI some towns have these bins that I’ve put a lot of old clothes into: http://www.usagain.com/

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  17. Michelle

    02/09/2018

    Awww….this breaks my heart to think of how disappointed he must have been.

    If I lived closer I would drop off a brand new matching game from my closet for him. It’s not Paw Patrol but Disney characters. They’re fun too right?

    Bless you for buying him a new one for his birthday. He’ll be happy.

    You’re turning lemons into lemonade by incorporating the pieces into his birthday décor. Perhaps he can assemble a collage with them or something.

    I have grandsons and it hurts to see them disappointed.

    Although I am always careful to sort my junk from my usable items, from now on I will be extra careful to take the time to make sure everything is still in working order.

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    Michelle Reply:

    I look at that last picture of him and my heart melts and I just wanna give him a hug.

    He is precious.

    I must be extra emotional today but it brings tears to my eyes to imagine him looking forward to playing that game then not being able to.

    Thankfully I can just go down the street and give Simon’s hug to my 3 grandsons.

    Blessings to you and your family.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Simon is my most resilient child, so he bounced back pretty quickly! In fact, he’s super excited that I just let him play with the extra (non matching) pieces as “toys” not instead of a game!

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  18. Roxanne

    02/09/2018

    Agreed! Even though donating makes us feel good, doesn’t mean we still can’t be intentional about it. I know some would argue “those less fortunate would thrilled to have any game (even though it’s missing pieces) or any jeans (even if they’re starting to get thin and worn in the knees) or any dish (even though there’s a big chip or crack in it)” but would they really be happy? I think that’s debatable. And certainly less willing to actually pay money for items in that condition. I love your litmus test of “would I actually buy this in a thrift store” and I hope other people start practicing it too!

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    Andrea Reply:

    exactly! I don’t always donate mint-condition items, but I do always try to make sure they are good enough that I would actually want to buy them used myself!

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  19. Meghan

    02/09/2018

    I understand about feeling guilty throwing things away, but to donate things for other people to throw away is wrong! I use the guilt I have about adding to landfills to motivate me to allow less items into my home.

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  20. Kristin Troska

    02/09/2018

    I am singing in your choir on this topic and argue it constantly at home and at work. I purged client’s closet yesterday ….. three full bags to the trash and 3 items (jeans in good shape) to donate. Yep, I was alone at work and did not have to argue!

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    Andrea Reply:

    good for you! I’m glad your client was willing to trash the trash (a lot of people aren’t willing to do that!)

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