Saturday, May 1, 2010

Cleaning out for a cause: Finding good homes for your things

Going Green Mama believes a little extra effort can go a long way....

The old mantra goes that one man's trash is another man's treasure. Never may that saying be more important than now.

Whether it's helping our local communities facing double-digit unemployment (and fewer resources for the basics) or giving a step-up to those in the most impoverished countries, a donation of unused clothing or shoes could make a difference for those in need. And all it costs you is the time of cleaning out your closet and dropping them off to a collection site or at the post office.

The easy part...Your clothes

Clothing, as long as it's in good shape and not vying for that uber-retro look, is the simpler part of donations. But while it's easy to casually drop things off at a Goodwill or Salvation Army store, lately I have wondered whether easy means the items are truly helping those who could use them. (How often have you scoured resale shops to find things you're looking for, only to be disappointed?)

Instead, I'm challenging you to consider doing a little research. Just as you look into where you buy things, look into where you're donating them to get the most results from your efforts.

Take our kids clothing, for instance. As I don't have a natural funnel to donate outgrown items to, our first step is to resell what we can to the local shop. Whatever doesn't sell is typically stored for our church's annual clothing sale, which prices items insanely cheap (great for us to stock up on the next season!) and raises proceeds for its Haiti mission. And did I mention that whatever's not sold is donated to the homeless shelter and other organizations in town? A little redirecting of our donations goes a long way.

After our son's first year, some of his supplies were then redirected to our local hospital's infant pantry, which provided supplies for our patients who can't afford simple supplies for their newborn children. In this economy, it's more parents than you think.

Many communities also have organizations that accept gently used professional clothing to help women re-entering the work force, rebuilding their lives after domestic violence or poverty.

If donations don't do it for you, consider a swap. I recently learned about Swap for Good, a national campaign to encourage women around the country to host clothing swaps this spring, and collect donations at the door to raise critical funds for local domestic violence shelters. You sign up to host a swap and invite some friends to bring a bag of clothes (or books, gadgets, kids' clothes - anything goes!), and some money to chip in for your local shelter.

Or consider a simple act of charity. A few months back, I posted on our employee classifieds the desire to just get rid of a few bags of clothes. It was happily snatched up by a woman whose sister was about to become a foster parent. It couldn't have gone to a better cause!

Next week, I'll focus on avenues for finding a second life for your shoes.

Whether you're wanting to help others on a limited budget or simply want to start on your spring cleaning, take those few extra minutes to make sure your castoffs go to a good cause. It's more important than ever!


susanna eve said...

I work very hard to find good homes for the stuff we are getting rid of from clothes, to books to toys and household items. I recently donated a big pile of lego to the public library. I like the ideas of the swaps raising funds but I would just add that I think giving stuff to good causes has to be easy or people won't do it and organizing a swap, collecting money etc. might just bee too big an effort for many people.

Robbie said...

Susanna, I agree. For me, a swap's not the right option at this time. For someone else, perhaps!

suzanne said...

Great tips. It helps other people as well as our environment when we "recycle" clothing that we can no longer use.


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