Donating to Charity Shops

So two weeks ago I wrote about the morning shopping with the kids to various charity shops in our local area. On that trip, one of the kids bought The Magic Toothfairy Game for €2. When we took it out to play with this week, we discovered that although it had a lot of its contents, it was missing a few essential things from it. This was a little disappointing but unfortunately that is the risk you run buying second hand from charity shops and part of the reason why people are put off from shopping there. Ok so it was only €2 but that isn’t the point.

The Magic Tooth Fairy Game

During the week The Society of St.Vincent De Paul in Ireland who run ‘Vincent’s’ charity shops all over the country, put up a good post on Instagram with three questions to ask yourself when deciding what to donate:

I think these questions are great:

1) Am I donating this stuff because I know it will help someone else? Are you getting rid of it because you no longer need it or is it rubbish? When it comes to donating items, one mans trash may not be another mans treasure if it is indeed trash! You should dispose of things responsibly and not give that job to charity shops. They have enough work to do already.

2) Does this item need repairs? Is it chipped, cracked, broken? It costs charity shops money to dispose of broken items. Do you honestly believe someone would pay money for your chipped vase? You might get away with it if is Ming Dynasty, but otherwise you should find an alternative home for it.

3) Would you be able to look someone in the eye and gift them the item you are donating? If the answer is no then you shouldn’t donate it to a charity shop. Would you be able to give a child a board game with missing pieces as a gift without being a bit embarrassed? My answer to that question would be no, especially when the pieces are essential to playing the game.

So this board game shouldn’t have been donated without all the pieces. Yet it had most of its pieces? Is it not useful to someone? I think the answer is yes, but the place for it is not in a charity shop.

Part of the problem is that people only know about these two ends of the scale when getting rid of their stuff – either donate it to a charity shop or put it in the bin. There is an alternative which I was not aware of up until about two years ago and that is communities such as the Zero Waste Ireland Freecycle community who have a group page on Facebook. This is a community of people all over Ireland who post on this group both things that they are getting rid of and things that they are searching for. There are other more local groups such as this around the country but this one and the Zero Waste Baby/Children Freecycle group are the two which I have used.

They have been extremely useful in finding a home for things that I know would not do that well in a charity shop. Things like:

Kids Clothes – I’ve read plenty of articles about the excess amount of second hand clothes and how only a small percentage of clothes donated actually make it onto the racks at the charity shop. So I prefer to offer them on Freecycle as a ‘bundle’ to someone who will use them.

Chipped/Cracked/Broken Stuff – I’ve managed to find homes for a range of things that were not in perfect condition to say the least. I’ve given furniture that is the worse for wear, chipped crocery, jigsaws that were missing pieces, games missing pieces, opened or slightly used toiletries, food that was past its best before date, rusty old biscuit tins, old tester paint pots and a broken musical jewellery box to name but a few. People in this community are very creative and they upcycle or find alternative uses for things. They are conscious of reducing waste in whatever way they can, so I have been able to find homes for most things quite easily.

Bed Sheets – Any of the bed linen that I am getting rid of has been in good condition, otherwise I would bring it to the textile recycling centre. But I’m hesitant to give them to a charity shop as they are not the sort of thing that I believe would easily sell. Maybe I’m mistaken but I figure by offering them on Freecycle then I know they are being used and not just going to textile recycling straight away.

Kids Toys – I’ve only given toys to charity shops that are complete. If they are missing anything then I find another home for them on Freecycle. I’m currently trying to find a home for The Magic Tooth Fairy Game and the ideal home would be to someone who also has an incomplete set.

I’m not at all innocent by the way. I’ve given things to charity shops in the past that in hindsight I shouldn’t have. Some accountants out there may remember the blue set of books that you used to get with all the auditing standards and accounting standards you needed to learn? Yes, not the kind of thing that would sell easily! No doubt that charity shop put them straight into recycling. Sorry about that! I know better now and if we truly wish the charity shops to make money from the stuff we no longer need, and to encourage people to shop there more often, then we need to give them decent stuff to sell and find alternative homes for the rest of our stuff.

Don’t put the burden to dispose of our stuff on charity shops or anyone else for that matter. You bought it, so you deal with it. And if you can find a home for something without it having to go into the bin then everyone wins.

For more information on what the SVP shops take:

For more information on where to donate your items in a responsible way:

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