I love op shops – but I usually donate to them only as a last resort.
I had a busy day preparing to go overseas. Yes, overseas. My Neil has been working in Spain. He left on 22 November and I am missing him bad. I’ll only be gone for 12 days, but I’m realising that there is a lot to do and organise.
Being a bit busy and preoccupied getting ready to go, I didn’t have any interesting giving ideas to implement. So, on the way back from dropping my boys off at school holiday care, I went past my local Vinnies and dropped off a bag of clothes.
After my recent clothes swap, I ended up with three large bags of clothes. I sorted through the bags and put aside two that were good quality (some items were high-end brands, which sadly didn’t fit me), and one that was just ‘good’. I’ve reserved the two high-quality bags for the Pre Loved Fashion Sale that my Zonta Club has planned for 13 and 14 March (Canberra ladies, save the date – it’s awesome). And the third bag was in the car ready to donate to an op shop.
This third bag still contained good quality clothes – just not high-end fashion brands. I inspected each item carefully before putting it in the bag to check for any problems. I washed a few of the outfits first. One I tried on and nearly kept as I liked the print. But it was too large for me so I decided, with love, to pass it on.
How to cut the clutter
My former neighbour, Libby, could have written a book on minimalism. Yet their home always felt warm and inviting. A large reason for this was that it wasn’t filled with unnecessary clutter. They raised four boys in their modest, four-bedroom house. Apparently, when their kids were teenagers, they thought they should move to a larger place. But the boys all decided that they didn’t want to move; they would just find a way to make it work.
Libby said her secret was to always to collect things she no longer needed and keep them in a bag by the door. When she went shopping, she would then take that bag to a small, church-run op shop. She knew they welcomed all sorts of donations. One time she dropped off random pens – turns out they had a need for that as well.
I’m not to Libby’s decluttering standards, but I DO also have the habit of keeping a bag of things to donate by the door. In this case, I’d already taken the bag down to the car.
Op shops and sorting
Like Libby, I have some smaller op shops I like to gift items to. But on this occasion, I went to Vinnies as it was the closest op shop to my house (and on the way home from school holiday care). Like most op shops, you can no longer drop things off if the store is unattended. Sorting through dumped items costs op shops millions each year.
Several years ago, I was privileged to participate in a behind the scenes tour of Vinnies’ sorting centre in Mitchell, ACT. It gave me a real understanding of how the process works – and why it is important not to give poor quality goods. The scale of donations needs to be seen to be believed. And anything that has been left of the ground is automatically disqualified – even if okay – for safety grounds. Further, dumping items is problematic for op shops to deal with. Sometimes they find unwanted things in there as well, such as hypodermic needles or human waste. Yuck!
While I love, love, love op shops, recognising the vast quantities of stuff they are dealing with, I therefore only gift to them when I can’t give away elsewhere. But I most certainly do buy things from op shops.
Every fortnight, Neil and I give each other $100 to do what we like with. I call it my ‘gold card’ money, as it currently goes on my Qantas card (I’ve got gold card status, at least for a few more months). I use that money for going out with girlfriends for chai lattes or lunches – or op shopping. Since I prefer op shopping over spending money on cafes, I usually have more than enough money. Lately, I’ve been trying to curb my expenditure. But I still can’t resist a good bargain.
For my birthday/Christmas, my Dad gave me $150. I almost spent it on a new handbag at David Jones (on sale, 50% off). I saw a lilac one for $75. I liked it, but didn’t love it. I went back and it was gone (meant to be), and then saw another I liked for $200 on sale (I also didn’t love it).
A part of my brain screamed out “treat yourself, you deserve it”. The frugalista side of me said, “nah, I can do better.”
And two weeks later, I did.
I struck gold at Vinnes Queanbeyan. I popped by after lunch with my inlaws specifically to look for handbags. I couldn’t find any at first, but there were several hidden under a rack of clothes. Among them was a BRAND NEW Calvin Klein grey handbag (on sale for the grand total of $3.50), and a The Redletter Club reversible handbag (on sale for $12.50). I lashed out on a rose gold Eternal Love watch, a book and some glasses – grand total $38. Got to love that.
I do think I am lucky with op shops, and I think part of that is the karma of knowing that I get back what I give. Or maybe op shops are just fabulous full stop. What do you think?