Some Things Should Not Be Donated

Recently I had decided to involve myself in some volunteer work. Without getting into the details, I landed myself at the Salvation Army. For anyone unaware, it is a non-profit organization that operates by selling items donated by other people, using the moneys to fund various social programs (soup kitchens, shelters, etc). These range from things people don’t want, don’t use, can’t sell, old estate clearings, etc. In two days there, I have already seen a lot of interesting and nostalgic items come through. Neat!

However, today especially, I saw a ton of junk.

For Salvation Army to operate, they have to pay for the costs of their store (lease/rent, taxes, hydro, heat, security cameras, and those giant garbage bins in the back). That stuff is not cheap. More specifically, those giant bins are very pricey to swap out, and for a place selling items at prices between $0.25-4 for most items, it gets tough to pay for sometimes. From 9am until 1pm today, we filled almost half of a bin (these are the large, 25′ long bins)

Firstly, let me just say, that nobody expects you to be the judge of what may or may not sell. That is not the point of this post. Sometimes a store will such have too much of a certain type of item, and it has to get tossed. That’s what the bins are for, after all, and I am not trying to get that into it. It is much better to donate your used clothes, toys, etc. instead of just chucking it in the garbage… give your used things a chance at a new home!

However, I have a few guidelines that should be (but are not) common sense:

1. If It’s Broken, Throw It Out

Let’s be honest here: Nobody is going to take time to try and glue together your old plates and cups, or try and find the missing ear to that ceramic bear. That stuff just gets tossed, and certainly some things break in transport. However, any Salvation Army will happily provide you with packing paper (to wrap breakable items in) at no charge (since when it comes back, it will get unwrapped and the paper re-used). That Barbie without a head? Nope, can’t sell that. Sometimes it is easier to grab a whole box and donate it without looking — we all know it happens.

2. If It Is Stained, Throw It Out

Salvation Army does not keep washing machines. If you bring in a bag of old clothes covered in stains, it goes right into the dumpster. Nobody cares if it is wrinkly, or musty smelling from sitting in your dresser. When you’re only paying $2 for a shirt, you can afford to toss it in your next load of laundry before wearing. However, one of the biggest things are children’s stuff toys — they come in stained and covered in who knows what, and we have to toss them out because they can be bacterial cesspools and it’s just not worth the risk.

3. Brand Name Stuff

Now, this one sort of struck me by surprise, and the rule scored me a Bud Light Beer Glass. Salvation Army cannot sell brand name things (ie: Bud Light Beer Glasses). I assume this has to do with the fact that they operate as a business, and there are liability issues associated with Brands (for example, if every Salvation Army carried Bud Light beer glasses, people might start to wonder A) why they should buy at full retail if they can get them so cheap anywhere else, and B) Why are all of these things ending up in thrift shops, instead of people keeping them?). Kind of a weird thing, but you’re better to yard sale that kind of thing.

4. Books Are Touch-And-Go.

As a bookworm and someone who writes a lot, it pains me to see a book meet an ill fate. However, people are getting less and less interested in books. I’m not saying don’t donate them, but rather, I suggest this: Walk into the store and look at the for sale books. If it is full to bursting, please do something else with the books — take them somewhere else, donate them to a library (if they will take them), yard sale, etc. When the book shelves are full, all the extra books that come in get thrown out. This saddens me, and while yes, as a volunteer I get free reign over anything that would be otherwise thrown out (why waste, right?), nobody can take every book. Save the books!

These aren’t hard guidelines, and I’m not suggesting you shy away from donating because you aren’t sure if they’ll take it — they will take almost everything (mattresses and car seats are always a NO — too much liability). Simply, take a couple seconds: That white golf bag that is now brown and green because it’s been so used? Maybe just toss that out. Nobody has the time to clean it, when they will get 5 more black ones in, that can go right out on the floor. The exception is clothes: If they are in decent repair, clothes are always excepted. They make up the bulk of sales.

Something for thought.