So you’ve decluttered your entire house, and want to donate your old clothes, homewares and knick-knacks. Sounds easy, right? Turns out, it can be a little more complicated than you might expect.
There is a complex and troubling discussion that surrounds the ethics of donating used goods. Questions such as ‘Why do you think poor people/homeless people/people in developing countries would want your cast offs when you don’t want them yourself?‘ and ‘Wouldn’t it be better to buy less and save your money so that you can give financial aid – arguably a much more useful contribution – instead of your old crap?‘ can leave you wondering whether you are really intending to donate your old goods because you want to help others, or because you want a guilt-free way to offload your stuff without it going in the garbage bin.
The reality is that your donated clothing often ends up being sold to second-hand garment merchants, who then sell it to developing countries, often in sub-Saharan Africa. Many argue that this completely swamps the textile industries in the countries where it ends up, which actually hurts the local economy in the long run – if you’re interested, you can read some articles here, here and here.
Well this is just my two cents, but I believe that we have seen more than enough of the ‘Western’ world deciding what is best for Africa. The many diverse countries and people of Africa actually have voices and opinions of their own, and I believe they are capable of deciding whether or not they want to take part in the second-hand textiles industry. The Guardian has actually reported that at least 12 African countries have banned the import of second hand clothes in favour of developing their own textiles industries, so clearly they are aware of – and on top of – the problem. And let us not forget that while the second-hand textiles industry might hinder local industries, it also does create jobs and wealth itself.
But that is just one part of the problem. The other is that we in the developed world do buy too much. Clothing is becoming cheaper and cheaper, and more and more disposable. We shop to feel a rewarding sense of acquisition, we flood each other with gifts every year at Christmas and we justify splurging on new things because they are cheap, rather than because we really want them.
I do believe that when we have unwanted items, it is great if they can go to benefit someone in need who can use them more than we do. But I also believe that we should buy less. Easier said than done when you’re surrounded by specific, targeted advertising at every turn, but something to work on anyway.
As I mentioned above, this is a very complex discussion, and I don’t pretend to be an expert on it. But here are a few of the tips and suggestions that I have picked up from my reading and my own experience. Please feel free to leave a comment below with any thoughts of your own.
Donating Tips and Suggestions
★ Decide how you would like to donate your old clothing: would you like it to go directly to people in need, or are you happy to donate to a charity that will sell your clothing to raise money for its activities?
★ Make sure that the clothes you are donating are in good condition – if they are ripped, stained, stretched or otherwise not suitable to wear, make a ‘rag’ collection, and either use them around your house, or pass them on to a charity that can sell them for things like stuffing car seats!
★ Don’t pile all your donations in together – some organisations have a particular need for specific items that you can provide.
Where to Donate
Here are a few of the places that I took my items to. Don’t forget that these organisations can also use your financial donations to fund their wonderful activities.
The Australian Red Cross – The Red Cross sells your quality clothing, accessories, homewares, manchester, books, toys and small pieces of furniture to help fund its humanitarian activities in Australia and internationally.
Uniting Care – Uniting Care accepts donations of good quality clothing, books, household goods, toys, computers and games which it distributes to disadvantaged members of the community, or sells to fund its diverse community care activities.
RSPCA – The RSPCA takes donations of good quality/new clothes, homewares, furniture, etc, to sell in its Op Shops. It uses funds for its work in saving and protecting animals.
St Vincent de Paul – St Vincent de Paul accepts donations of good quality clothes, books, music and bric-a-brac to sell in its Op Shops.
Fitted for Work – Fitted for Work takes donations of clean, quality clothing that can be worn to job interviews and work. It also accepts new or near new shoes , accessories and handbags. Fitted for Work uses these items to outfit disadvantaged women for free and help them prepare for job interviews so that they can find and keep meaningful work.
St Kilda Gatehouse (or your local woman’s shelter/crisis centre)- St Kilda Gatehouse works with street sex workers – one of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in society – providing support and a place of safety and understanding. They accept donations of non perishable food, umbrellas, clothes, shopping bags and take-away containers, phone cards, shoes, clothes, cosmetics, new socks and underwear, pyjamas and shampoo and conditioner.
Uplift Bras – Uplift Bras accepts donations of good condition used bras of all shapes and sizes, swimwear and new underwear. Uplift distributes bras internationally to communities that may not have access to affordable bras. It only sends bras when they are requested by a community, and specifically aims not to compete with local businesses.
Any suggestions of your own? I would love it if you would share them below!