Although we generally focus on the shopping part of the thrift chain, I want to take a moment to talk about donation. If you want to rack up some good thrift karma, learning to be a great clothing donor is a fantastic place to start. Most of these tips are pretty self-explanatory, but since thrift stores can end up as dumping grounds for closet castoffs it’s worth discussing the basics.
Don’t donate ruined stuff
A snag here or small stain there isn’t the end of the world, but clothing that is truly and completely ruined? The thrift store can’t re-sell that any more than you can wear it. Large rips or tears, obvious stains, overwhelming smells, holes, broken and hard to replace closures can be deal-breakers. If you’re donating a high-end or designer item with flaws, shoppers may be more willing to overlook them. But that sweater from H&M with the giant snag across the chest? Use it as a rag, make it into a cat bed, cut off the sleeves and use them as fake socks, or find another way to repurpose it.
Don’t donate dirty stuff
Launder before donating. Please and thank you.
Try to donate before or during the current season
If you purge your entire wardrobe all at once, you’ll have some summer sundresses to jettison alongside your cozy cardigans and old boots. If you have any storage available to you – a basement, crawlspace, or roomy closet – try to focus on giving over your seasonally appropriate stuff. Thrift stores are generally inundated with clothing donations year-round, and if you give them flip-flops in February they will have to store them until someone in your climate will want to buy them. If you’re moving, have no real storage, or really need to clear out your space you can certainly donate at will. But you’ll do your local stores a major favor if you can hang onto the stuff until the right season, or a month or two before.
Consign, too … but consider your choices
Better quality stuff can make you back a bit of money, and that can be essential if you’re strapped for cash or plagued by guilt over an item that was purchased and never worn. But you’ll never make back your full amount, and a never-worn item can be a huge boon to your local charity shop. Don’t feel guilty if you’d rather consign! They’re your clothes and your choices. But if you can afford to throw a gorgeous new goodie into the donation pile on occasion, you’ll be helping others.
Research your causes
Virtually all thrift stores support charity organizations. Do you want to help disabled people find jobs? Support veterans? Give to the church, temple, or mosque? Support research for specific health causes? Most American cities have Goodwill and the Salvation Army, but there might be other charities that can use your donations and fit with your own values and priorities.
What other tips would you share for being a helpful clothing donor?
Image courtesy William Ward