Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Sweet Charity

Chatting about this blog on Sunday evening with the family. My brother remarked that he wished I'd type "Charity Shop" in full, and not abbreviate to CS. He'd misread it and though I was involved in forensic pathology. Apologies to any other readers who've also been confused. But I do spend a lot of time in these places - and at least three family members volunteer. Lately I have been donating far more than purchasing.
It seems the Marie Kondo Effect means that others are also dropping off carrier bags. I thought I'd share my top tips for making donations.

  1. Is it clean? That may seem obvious - but the item cannot go into the shop if it's dusty or soiled. It's unfair to expect unpaid volunteers to spend time washing your wineglasses, or scrubbing a stain from your shirt.
  2. Is it intact? When I helped Jim-next-door clear his home two years ago, some of the glasses had cracks, and plates had chips which he was unaware of. You need to sort and discard, before donating.
  3. Is it empty? Check the pockets. I'll never forget Steph's delight when her outgrown winter coat was about to go into the bag and she found a forgotten ten pound note in the pocket.
    And do flick through books and shake them - I often use cards or photos as bookmarks. Years ago I bought a book in a charity shop and it contained two postcards which belonged to Sir Julian Huxley
  4. Is it saleable? Who do you imagine will want to buy the cheap plastic toy which came with your child's Happy Meal? Or the tangle of embroidery threads in a bag with a half finished cross stitch sampler? Or a kitchen gadget with a crucial part missing or snapped?
  5. Is this the right place? If you have a load of old towels then take them to an "animal rescue“ charity shop.
    Dog owners or the animal sanctuary will appreciate them. If you are donating dozens of books, go to a dedicated charity bookshop, who can sort and sell efficiently, rather than than swamp the limited shelfspace of the small shop on the corner [Oxfam have a number of bookshops. Leicester's LOROS Hospice bookshop is excellent. Other charity bookshops are available] Old magazines get dog eared and don't really raise much money for the space they take up. Donate them to a waiting room, freecycle or recycle them. Local knitting groups will often take bags of wool to knit for charity.
  6. Is it the right season? All the volunteers I know tell me the biggest problem is space. Some charity shops still operate like a Scout Jumble Sale. "Pile 'em high, sell' em cheap" Most these days have well ordered rails, books shelved alphabetically, and crockery displayed by colour.
    And space to walk round [Sue Ryder shop, Fakenham, well done] But out the back, the little elves are busily sorting and stacking and steam-cleaning. They will not thank you for bringing in a Christmas tree and 200 baubles in July, nor yet shorts and summer frocks in January. My Xmas-dex-donations are in a labelled box in my loft, and will go to the Trussell Trust in early November.
  7. Should this just go straight in the bin? Perhaps - but it is right to consider carefully how we dispose of stuff we no longer need. The landfill bin ought to be the last resort. If items are in good condition but maybe not saleable, consider other places who would like donations. Take things to bits and recycle the parts. Worn and damaged clothes and linens can go into Charity Textile Recycling Bins [such as the ones maintained by Dorset Air Ambulance]
Charity Shops do a lot of good stuff - raising funds for good causes, keeping things out of landfill, brightening up the High Street, providing purposeful employment [paid and unpaid] for hundreds of people. Thank you to all my friends who work hard in the CS and I hope this post will inspire others to visit, donate, buy and maybe even volunteer. Here's a song from the musical Sweet Charity... 


  1. Quite right! I'll always think carefully before donating and try to see if I can get it to the 'right person' first- e.g. I know X would like it and definitely use it, and be realistic over items.

  2. This made me laugh I live in brittany you should visit a French charity shop or a car boot sale , I have never seen such rubbish in my life , some of which I would be ashamed to throw away . It's all jumbled together its like mining for treasure lol . Sometimes just sometimes it's possible to come across a bargain .

    1. Whenever I have seen 'flea markets' in France, on the TV, they are always shown as beautiful displays of vintage treasures! I suppose they only film the pretty ones...

    2. So true! Our local Emmaus shops are full of the most awful rubbish, broken, chipped and dirty crockery, grubby clothes and battered saucepans. The fact that it's all thrown together, literally, doesn't help.
      The "flea markets" or brocantes, are a different matter - plenty of lovely stuff for sale there - in amongst the worn out boots and broken toys of course!

  3. We have a charity shop in our village organised by the three churches (C of E, Methodist and Baptists)and run by the community with the proceeds going back to the community. It must be about 20years old now and is such a popular shop they have a waiting list of volunteers. Other than electrical items they literally take anything and their prices are very cheap compared to a normal chain charity shop! Every evening when the shop is closed bags and items begin to mound up outside the door under the porch as people continue to drop things off after hours and nothing is stolen. They have just had to expand into the betting shop next door for a bigger sorting room. We do have a very large estate of people on benefits and low income and they wouldn't survive without our CS. They also run a benefits and debt advice office and have a visiting solicitor as well as a credit union.

  4. Those are all very good points, Angela. Thank you for reminding us to make sure to check pockets, etc., and also to ask if it is good enough to be resold.

  5. one tiny gripe be more than happy to find a half finished sampler with a tangle of threads totally skint its the only way to get stuff , that and jumble sales keep me in craft stuff

  6. My son is deputy manager at a local CS and has interesting tales to tell....of designer clothes unworn, of, sadly, shoplifters, and the 'stuff' donated!
    Re the previous comment, we found an Emmaus CS in Brittany which was beautifully arranged and clothes were colour coded!

    1. I am amazed when you find 'new-with-tags' garments from upmarket shops. "More money than sense" as my Gran would have said

  7. In one circle of my friends, CS means "Chalet School" (books) 🙂. Which we used to scour the CSs for until some good ladies began reprinting them.

  8. Where I live in Derbyshire we have lots of really good charity shops. It always amazes me that people would discard such good quality stuff that is still useful. My favourite things to look for are cook books and crockery and I've picked up loads of brand new books and really good bakeware for £1 an item. Sadly it makes me think that although people like watching cooking programmes on TV not that many actually do it any more!


Always glad to hear from you - thanks for stopping by!
I am blocking anonymous comments now, due to excessive spam!