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Shopping at thrift stores is an effective way to save some cash, get quality goods, and keep the world a greener place. Secondhand items cost buyers less money and are often much higher quality than the (basically) disposables that come from discount stores. And, ultimately, by continuing to use perfectly good items, we are keeping them out of landfills and not pulling more resources from the earth to produce new items.

The environmental impact of throwing things out is catching up with us. The fashion industry, with its high product turnover, produces some 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse emissions a year, millions of tons worth of garbage in landfills, and millions of tons of plastic microfibers in the ocean. Start adding in throwaway cutlery, cheaply made furniture, and last year’s cell phones, and the numbers are even more disturbing.

Equally as beneficial as shopping at thrift stores is donating to them. Rather than tossing goods out or storing something in the bottom of the closet to never be used again, it’s good practice to give thrift shops these items and put them back in circulation. It’ll provide someone else with all the benefits listed above, as well as earn some funds for the thrift store’s charity. And, don’t forget that it’ll clear out some of the clutter in your house as well.

What Not to Give to Thrift Stores

It’s important to remember that thrift stores are not garbage heaps, nor are they repair shops. Items that are obviously broken or unusable are not really going to do them much good, and, in fact, donating this type of stuff will cause more work for what are likely volunteers or low-paid staff. In other words, it’s best to avoid being a burden.

Otherwise, there are some items that just don’t seem to sell or are already overstocked in thrift stores. For example, clear glass stemware and fine china are regularly donated but rarely leave the shelves. Baskets come in bulk but sell primarily near holidays. Trendy books, such as Fifty Shades of Grey, often come in such abundance that there will be years of backlog.

What to Give to Thrift Stores

On the other hand, there are some items that thrift stores love to get, and that will almost be gone by the time the donor is. High-quality cookware like pots, pans, and skillets are examples of such. Jewelry is another. Many people hit the thrift shops in search of rings, brooches, and necklaces. The same goes for decent toys and children’s books. Toddlers aren’t too worried about name brands or if something is new.

Clothing, of course, is what most of us think of as the thrift store shopping experience. For donors, it’s important to only give clothes in wearable condition — no big stains, holes, or rips. It’s also good form to wash them beforehand as stores do not have the time or the funding that it’d take to launder all the clothing that is donated.

How to Give to Thrift Stores

The main idea when giving to a thrift store is to treat the donated stuff as if it’s being given to a friend or family member, someone who deserves respect. Check items for damage before they are given — plugin electronics and check clasps and zippers. Clean everything as if you’d be willing to use it — wash the dishes, cookware, and clothes. Then, as much as possible, sort things into meaningful categories so that they can be easily sorted at the shop. This saves the store time, and time is money.

In general, it’s easy to find thrift stores online. In fact, nowadays they sell much of their products online, just as the rest of the retail industry does. For donations, go online and check out the store’s preferences and hours of operation to streamline the process for them. Just like it’s important to realize that the stores aren’t retail landfills, it’s also good to keep in mind that staff are often volunteers and well-meaning people, so it’s best to Donate respectfully.

But, Do Donate to Thrift Stores

All that said, donating to these places is an amazing thing to do. It provides money for worthy causes. It provides people with repurposed goods at affordable prices. It helps you get rid of items that weigh you down. And, it keeps all those tons of garbage out of the landfill. In short, whatever small effort it takes to prep items for donation, the outcome is irrefutably valuable to other people and the planet. Don’t we all want to do that sort of thing?

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