The Valley Fire is bringing out the best and the worst in people as we respond to the needs of evacuees and those who have lost their homes. A friend of mine was sorting clothing for the Red Cross mountain of donations and was appalled at both the choices and the quality of some of the items supposedly sent to help the fire victims — old party dresses and worn-out pillows? Seriously?
I have to think that people generally have good hearts, but when donating, we hate to admit our stuff is “used up.” So people think other folks “won’t mind” broken appliances (“somebody could fix this”), books with missing pages (“somebody could collage with this”), mugs with chipped rims (“they can drink off the other side”), clothing with stains (“somebody might be able to get that stain out if they tried”), etc.
Pick of the Litter Thrift store gets a lot of my donations, and they’ll told me that they take donations, cherry-pick what they want, and send the leftovers to the Salvation Army. Some of those clothes end up as “rags” that may be donated overseas. (And the Go Local concept applies to charities as well: instead of supporting the monolithic Red Cross, you can make targeted donations for Valley Fire relief at Redwood Credit Union.)
My personal rule of thumb is — if the quality of an item would embarrass me to give it to a family member or a coworker, or if it needs explanation about what’s wrong with it (buttons missing, zipper doesn’t work, electrical cord tends to short out) — don’t make a thrift store put it in their dumpster, just to keep it out of my garbage can.
I once was about to buy a pressure cooker IN THE BOX at Goodwill, but while I was shopping, the Goodwill clerk looked it over and saw that part of the rubber seal was MELTED. So somebody ruined their pressure cooker, put it back in the original box, and donated it. Maybe they were thinking, “Somebody could use this as a flower pot!” But it’s cruel to poor people and other thrifters to donate things with hidden flaws, or items that no longer work.
Let’s buck up and admit to the amount of true garbage we generate.