| Current Toronto Time: 
How to donate respectfully

I have seen so many wonderful people donating good, gently-used items to charitable organizations.

When we donate items we make sure that they are wiped clean and in decent condition so they can be offered with dignity. We make sure that the clothes we donate are always laundered, folded and neatly packed. Sometimes new clothes that have been kept too long and no longer fit are donated with tags. I recently saw a Filipino family going the extra mile. They had laundered their clothes and the laundry tags were still on each item as they lovingly took a batch at a time on hangers from their car into the donation room. However, on another weekend we saw donations that made our hearts sink. The donation room was filled to overflowing with junk. Dirty clothing strewn on the floor and in torn garbage bags. Broken bits of household items were scattered about and ridiculous items like cans of products with lids missing were lying on the floor. Our hearts went out to the volunteers and minimum-wage staff who would have to sort through the junk that ignorant people dumped in the donation room. I spoke with the manager and she too was disappointed. She said that she would put up signs about the do’s and don’ts of items left in the donation room.

These do’s and don’ts are also available on websites such as www.valuevillage.com/donate/what-we-take. There are lists of items that they cannot take like automobile parts, damaged goods, hazardous materials, large appliances, weapons and definitely no baby furniture, strollers and car seats for safety reasons. Charities ask for gently used clothing, small household items that are in good condition, books and small electronics. They ask you to first check that these items are in working condition. The clothing is sorted and those which are laundered and in very good condition can be sold in their thrift stores. Other clothes and fabrics are sold to recycling companies or rag markets to be used to make other items such as mats. A small amount of clothing in good condition is shipped to places in the world in need of used clothing. However, many countries are refusing these items because the glut affects their own manufacturing industries.

So how do we control our own accumulation of stuff in our homes? As for gadgets, so many homes are glutted with myriad electronics that become obsolete really fast. The giant corporations who manufacture them keep putting out “new and improved” versions and keep their customers hooked into buying often.

As for clothing, I think the best rule for me personally is to buy less. I have to guard against impulse purchasing and the lure of fast fashion. Better to have a few good items in the wardrobe that are classic and always elegant than having dozens of spur-of-the-moment “fashion” items that become passé and eye sores. I remember when I was still a working woman, our college ran a “dress-up-for-success room”. Here those of us who had gently used suits that we wished to donate, laundered them and hung them in this donation room. Students who needed to go on job interviews and couldn’t afford business suits were welcome to take what they needed and dress up for interviews, to wear to work or just to have for themselves. This is an idea that I hope more organizations would undertake not just for students but among all staff.

As we age we find that we have the urge to cull our over-stuffed wardrobes and household storage areas. It is tiring work to clear our closets and basements stuffed with possessions.

Our confession is that as teachers we have hoarded books. And now that we are ageing we are having to pack them into boxes and haul the boxes to donation centres. So our advice to the young and middle aged shoppers is to not overbuy but be selective in what you buy and do not shop unnecessarily. You will one day have the huge job of culling your possessions which can be heavy-duty work. These days I only buy books from charitable used-bookstores and once I read them I donate them back to the store so they can resell them.           

– Dr Vicki Bismilla


• Dr Vicki Bismilla is a retired Superintendent of Schools and retired college Vice-President, Academic, and Chief Learning Officer.

Posted: Jan 31, 2020

May 2020

Centennial College

Immigration Peel Canada

© CanadaBound Immigrant 2016