Once you start serious decluttering, (see our earlier article on ‘how to declutter’), you will have a pile of stuff to recycle. In this series of articles, I am going to go through where you can take your clutter so that it is out of your house but not in landfill. This first article is about Charity shops.
First of all, make sure that anything you are going to pass on is not broken, tatty or missing pieces. Sometimes, we don’t see how old our stuff looks until we haven’t seen it for a while. I was amazed at how stained some of my son’s baby clothes were when I got them down from the loft and realised that I could not sell them through a Nearly New Sale as I had planned. So try and look at your stuff as if you were going to buy it. If you wouldn’t want it, then someone else won’t either.
Clean your stuff
You should always clean clothes and shoes before giving them away as well as any linens or rugs etc. I always wash toys as well and make sure games and jigsaws have all their pieces. You can recycle torn or tatty clothes but not usually in the places below.
Having made sure that your stuff is clean and fit to sell (and this becomes an automatic process as you declutter more), you now need to decide what to do with it all. The easiest choice is your local charity shop.
You will need to check before you go but nearly all charity shops take clothes, homewares such as china, kitchenware, ornaments, pictures, linen, curtains and bric-a-brac. Most also take books, DVDs, videos, CDs and toys as well a jewellery, bags and accessories. Check the charity’s website before you go if you are not sure what they take. The Oxfam website, for example, has a very clear list of what they do and do not take as donated goods.
Donate as you go
I usually pack up charity shop stuff in plastic bags, put the bags in the boot of my car and then drop them off as convenient. If you do this and the bags are still there after a week, make a definite day and time appointment with yourself to go to the charity shop. Your car shouldn’t become another storage space!!
These days, I always have a plastic bag set aside for collecting charity shop donations as well as one for clothes that are not good enough to be passed on (more on those later!). My daughter particularly seems to outgrow clothes at a terrifying rate so there always seem to be some item to put in there as well as discarded paperbacks and other bits and pieces.
What happens to my items?
If you want to find out what happens to donated items, there is an interesting article following goods donated to an Oxfam shop in The Guardian.
Some charity shops offer you the chance to gift aid your donations so that they can reclaim basic rate tax on the amount of money they raise from your donations. I have signed up with Barnardos and the British Heart Foundation. They usually email you at regular intervals to let you know how much your donations have raised in total which I like. The HMRC website has more information on Gift Aid.
Charity collection bags through the door
We seem to get at least one or two of these every week. They can be convenient in that your items are collected from outside your home but I always check the back of the bag to see firstly whether they are from a real charity and secondly to check whether the money raised from my donations would go directly to the charity or whether only a percentage is donated. It is amazing what the small print tells you! There are at least 2 companies collecting clothes in this way who are purely commercial organisations with no links to charities at all. Generally I only use the bags if I feel sure that the bag will be collected by the charity. The Charity Commission has some very useful information on doorstep charity collections generally.
And there is more information on the Charity Retail Association website.
Finding a charity shop
The Charity Retail Association has a very informative website that has a charity shop search. I put in my local town and all the charity shops I know of came up in the results. You can also search for shops that take specialist donations such as furniture. You can even download a charity shop locator iPhone app from the site!
I think charity shops are much the easiest option for recycling everyday items, particularly if you work and don’t have much time. However, there are other great ways to recycle your unwanted stuff and our next article will be about Freecycle.