pile of tangled Christmas tree lights

Too Good to Donate?

Do you believe that nice things can’t just go to Goodwill or ARC but must go to a better home? That thrift stores should be humbly grateful for every item we graciously send their way?

On the face of it, it seems that they should. They get our donations gratis and make money off them.

Nice Work if You Can Get It

But we forget that when we donate, we get a tedious, time-consuming service for free. They take most things without question and there’s no charge for dealing with that box of tangled, half-working Christmas lights. We don’t pay for the massive dumpster they need to cart away the stacks of shabby, wobbly furniture nobody would buy but so many think are perfectly okay to donate.

They don’t harangue you for giving them puzzles that only have a couple of pieces missing, threadbare towels even the animal shelter couldn’t use, pictures that were dated when your parents stuck them up on their walls in the Seventies. They accept and deal with quite a bit of our trash.

They Save Us From Making a Decision

We don’t want to think of our stuff as unwanted, so we tell ourselves that it’s all really fine merchandise and that thrift stores should be so lucky to acquire it for free. And if the thrift stores are so fussy, well then, we’ll just hold onto it until they come to their senses.

Anything rather than put it in the trash.

How About Forgiving Yourself for Having All This Clutter?

It’s not just you. Many people struggle to deal with the sheer volume of stuff out there that has made its way into their homes. Many people have brains that don’t take easily to the organizing game. We’re all doing the best we can.

Declutter at a speed that feels manageable to you but still gets the job done and look at everything you think about buying from here on out with the most discerning of eyes.

Gratefully donate the good stuff to a thrift store and put the rest in the trash.

  • You’ll do better from here on out.
  • The thrift stores will help people right here in our community.
  • Your house won’t be full of trash anymore.


Can you practice doing that this Saturday? What do you have that simply needs to be tossed in the trash? It’s taking up space in your home, it’s not donatable, you couldn’t pay anyone to buy it at a yard sale, it’s just done. Can that be okay?

P.S. If This Stops You From Donating Anything 

Please, please, please forget you ever read this. Freeing yourself from the clutches of clutter is so much more important right now. Once you’re decluttered and you’re making thoughtful buying choices, come back to this article if you like.


  1. This is a really good point to raise Lucy! A related issue though is how difficult it can be sometimes be to assess if something is “good” or not. My mom would have found a use for an old paper towel tube, after all.

    I guess my approach has been to donate a (literal) mixed bag. Some of the items are borderline — my mom would find a use, but quite possibly the thrift shop will throw it away. And that’s ok with me, although I then try to balance the work this means for them (which you’ve quite rightly pointed out) with the inclusion of some items I know that will get them a good price.

    In the end its all clutter, and it feels so good to Send it Away!

    1. That’s very true, usefulness is definitely in the eye of the beholder.

      I’ve also been hearing from people that they’re reluctant to donate things they think will get broken in the process of donating. I guess that would mean wrapping things like that more carefully and also noticing all the fragile things that do make it to the shelves?


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