As we return to our new normal after several months locked down to fight COVID-19, thus begins the process of a belated “spring cleaning” and looking for places to donate items. With thrift stores back in business, this is the perfect opportunity to use this time to clear out our unwanted materials and have a positive impact on the environment. Rather than throwing away unwanted belongings and adding to the landfills and our carbon footprint, thrift store donations offer a way to extend the life cycle of the items we buy — from clothing to furniture and everything in-between.
According to Thredup, if every person bought just one used Item instead of new this year, we would save 5.7 billion pounds of CO2 emissions, 11 billion kWh of energy, 25 billion gallons of water, and 449 million pounds of waste. Looking at clothing specifically, it’s worth noting that the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or incinerated every second.
The secondhand apparel market is expected to double in size from 2018 to 2023.
Mike Himes, general manager of four Grace Centers of Hope thrift stores in Oakland and Macomb counties, said clothing is the “bread and butter” for thrift stores.
“Clothing for men, women and children is always welcome, as long as it’s in sellable condition. Shoes are very popular, as are purses, accessories, jewelry, jackets, and activewear such as sweatshirts and sweatpants,” Himes said.
Other items welcomed by thrift stores include:
• Household items/décor: Pots and pans and other items needed for daily life are always popular with thrift store bargain hunters. Decorations for the house, including Christmas decorations, are another popular target.
• Furniture: If you’ve upgraded your furniture, consider donating couches, tables and more to thrift stores. Donated furniture typically goes directly on the showroom floor and is almost immediately snapped up by customers.
• Electronics: Upgrades to technology (from TVs to computers to music equipment) provide another opportunity to donate. Unless it’s woefully outdated or nonfunctioning, chances are your electronics donation will be accepted.
What not to donate
There are also many items that, for various reasons, are usually not accepted by thrift stores. These include:
• Child car seats or cribs: Due to the high number of recalls on these items, they are generally not accepted.
• Chemicals: Stores can not accept items such as paint and household cleaners.
• Outdated electronics: Stores usually avoid outdated and overly heavy electronics such as pre-flat screen TVs and cumbersome computer monitors.
• Broken toys: While thrift stores welcome donations of quality toys for children, avoid donating damaged goods. If your kid’s 100-piece puzzle set is missing half its pieces, it’s probably not going to be much fun for another child to play with.
• Mattresses: For the most part, mattresses can’t be donated. However, there are exceptions. Some higher-end, newer-style mattresses (brands like Purple, Leesa, Avocado) can be donated, just check with your local thrift store on its policy.
In general, if an item can’t be sold due to its condition, it will not be accepted. If you’re not sure whether an item is unsellable, Himes said to turn the question to yourself: “If you were looking for that item, would you buy it in this condition? Follow your gut on whether to donate or trash/recycle it based on how you would answer that question.”
Himes also said that if you have larger items to donate, such as furniture, and would prefer they be picked up from your house, Grace Centers of Hope will arrange for a truck to come pick up your donations. Other charities, such as Purple Heart, which benefits veterans, Goodwill and the Salvation Army also arrange pickups.
Thrift store needs can also follow trends. Right now, for example, Himes said that nostalgia items are very popular.
“People buy their memories. We’re noticing the 1980s and 1990s are what a lot of the younger customers are buying right now,” Himes said. “Green and orange “Brady Bunch”-style sofas and chairs, ashtrays, and vintage stereo equipment are all popular.
The ability to offer unique items like this are part of the reason why thrift stores continue growing in popularity, even as chain stores are dying out.
As you get busy with your spring cleaning routine and clear out your house of unwanted goods, make sure you’re keeping in mind what can be saved and donated.
What may be trash to you may be a treasure to someone else in your community, and you’ll be helping the planet out in the process.
To learn more
• Goodwill: goodwill.org
• Grace Centers of Hope: gracecentersofhope.org
• Purple Heart: purpleheartpickup.org
• Salvation Army: satruck.org
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