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Why yes I’m happy to donate, or HA HA, now it’s YOURS, suckers!

By Heather Oman

Almost every week we get a little envelope with a bag in our mailbox. This envelope has some kind of charity listed on the front, with a plea for donations of knick knacks, clothing, what have you to help the vets, the children, the starving of the world. This week, in true Fly Lady fashion, I am trying my best to fling, and I find myself gleefully shoving stuff in the bag that has been cluttering up my world:
A random lunchbox thingie I got at a work function years ago-
Clothes that my 5 year old has outgrown and my 4 year old nephew doesn’t want, –
Old VHS tapes of dubious viewing quality, by which I mean I’m not really sure they even CAN be viewed anymore-
Various ugly sweaters that are no longer required since I moved from New England oh, you know, 5 YEARS AGO.

I try to think that I am doing these people a service, because for the most part, the stuff I am giving them is not broken or destroyed. It’s just old, ugly, and unwanted. I try to put on my happy environmental thinking cap and dream about how my old clothes will be re-used by the poor, recycled into a new circle of life, and how joyful somebody will feel when they pick up my lunch box thingie and cry, “This is JUST what I’ve been looking for! And to think, only 99cents! What a bargain!” and they will leave filled with contentment and pride at being frugal and lucky at the same time.

I TRY to think like this, but whenever I do, I just feel like a fraud. Because mainly, I’m just relieved that somebody else is willing to come to my house and relieve me of all my crap. Seriously, when they pick it up in their prim white van, I want to giggle maniacally and say, “Suckers! It’s just junk, junk, JUNK!”

Yes, I know. I’m evil.

I also have this bizarre desire to follow some of that junk, to see just exactly where it lands. Do people buy old and tired stuff? I will admit to frequenting a thrift shop when my son was little, and I got some killer deals on the kind of clothes people give up but don’t necessarily wear out–kids shoes barely worn, dress sweaters, and lots and lots of kid’s coats (we did live in New England, after all). I do have hope that the clothes at least will find a decent home. But what about the rest of the stuff? Where do old car seats, worn out stuffed animals, and broken TVs go? Is there some mythical home in the country for all of our stuff? Or is that just another name for a landfill?

I suppose I could alleviate some of my guilt for dumping stuff on these charities by actually frequenting their thrift stores, and trying my best to find a true treasure. But chances are, I’d just pick something up that, in the end, would just find it’s way back to the dusty shelf to die a second hand death.

Anybody else have this weird donation guilt? Any thoughts of the what, where, and why of charity donation? Anybody else get so giddy with the sound of the charity bag and the thought that somebody will COME TO YOUR DOOR TO TAKE IT ALL AWAY you start tossing stuff with such fervor that your husband has to tell you to stop already because we actually DO need some of those things?

Allrighty. I guess it’s just me then.

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About Heather Oman

(Prose Board) lives in the south with her husband, her two kids, and her wiggly black lab. She is a licensed speech language pathologist, but spends most of her days trying to teach her own kids how to say please and thank you. She is a member of the Segullah Editorial Board, and is the founding member of the blog Mormon Mommy Wars.

12 thoughts on “Why yes I’m happy to donate, or HA HA, now it’s YOURS, suckers!”

  1. The only guilt I feel about dejunking is not being as ruthless as I should and not doing it nearly often enough. The only exception is when I have to donate something that's hardly been worn and I realize what a waste to have bought something no one used.

    I do, however, get grief when I try to give some of my husband's things away. I usually pile things up in the back of my car until I get a good load and I can't tell you how many times certain items mysteriously disappear. I think they've gone to DI but I often find them mysteriously reappear at his mother's house months later.

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  2. A lot of this stuff isn't intended for thrift stores. It is intended for recycling centers that pay for it by the truck load. The places that are stocking thrift stores won't take stuff that won't sell.

    Sometimes I wonder if it is always the same for profit company sending these envelopes out with different names on them. So, if they say they'll take it I give it to them, but not too often because I don't want to encourage them.

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  3. As long as everyone keeps donated their old cameras to thrift stores, I'll be happy. No matter how junky you think they are. Got an old camera? I want it.

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  4. I always have a donation pile going. I love getting rid of "clutter" (the word for junk in these parts). I love sneaking into the playroom when my kids are sleeping and emerging with a trash bag filled to the brim with old Happy Meal toys.

    Although that bag isn't even really considered "clutter"– I usually just throw it away.

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  5. I'm with Brooke. I've always got a box, tucked conveniently in a corner, that I chuck stuff into as I feel the urge. I've given things away tons of times and thought the same as you Heather — "Suckers! You're like 1-800-Got-Junk, but you're free!"

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  6. What's not to be proud of, Jonathan? Thrift stores are awesome, especially if you have kids. It just proves how intelligent we are :p Why would you pay $15 for a baby sleeper at Walmart that will wear out with the next baby who wears it when you can get 3 Carter's sleepers for $1 (yes I did!) at a thrift store that look brand new? And what about shoes? Kids can grow out of a pair of shoes in just a few months and the shoes will still look perfectly fine. Why buy new for something they will grow out of in a couple of months? Call it thrift or environmentalism or good social consciousness, it's still a wise choice.

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  7. Heather – Yes, you are evil. But it is an evilness that we have all experienced at one point or another as we leave our junk with unsuspecting suckers. There is an easy answer to your question, "Where do old car seats, worn out stuffed animals, and broken TVs go?" It's called the ISLAND OF MISFIT TOYS as explained every December by the Rudolph claymation show. I've also found that you can alleviate some of the guilt by shopping for Halloween costumes (70's disco outfits, for example) at thrift stores. Great post. We've all been there.

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  8. At church today a letter was read from the pulpit. I'm guessing it was a local thing, but the gist of it was "don't give your broken crap to DI". Did anyone else get this letter read to them today?

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  9. Jonathan and Snow White-

    I didn't mean to come across as speaking ill of thrift stores. Far from it. If you find a good one, you can get some killer deals that are great on your budget. My SIL is the queen of thrift stores, and has gotten some awesome deals, including a full set of Thomas the Train engines (I think there were 20 enginges) with miles of track for only 50 bucks. Every time I visit, we take a trip. My problem is finding one that doesn't have total junk in it.

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  10. I’m guessing it was a local thing, but the gist of it was “don’t give your broken crap to DI”.

    This has been their message for a while. I have been more careful since they started saying that, and that helps with the guilt that could come otherwise, at least for me.

    As for donating, in general, I really haven't felt bad about it because usually I'm giving it to a charity that also helps people with disabilities (DI or Friends of MS). I figure they are better at deciding what people really will want and use and what sells, and they can recycle or toss what doesn't. And, again, there is a larger picture of helping people help themselves which I also like.

    And I am always amazed at the whole 'one person's junk is another person's treasure' phenomenon. Our ward had the best activity every year called the Soup and Swap, where we would all bring soup and at the same time shop through everyone else's DI donations before they went to the truck. You wouldn't believe the junk for someone that became someone else's treasure… and the way we proudly would share that joy we found in those treasures with the givers. It is always fun to see how the reuse and give away principles CAN be beneficial…even more so when you KNOW the people who benefit from your dejunking!

    I also have to say that it is a wonderful way to help those in the ward in need in a non-threatening way. The people who financially struggled could come and get boatloads of clothes, used books, even sometimes really decent (and once in a while new) home supplies (kitchen, decor, etc.) So cool.

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