A big part of what we do at My Divine Concierge involves helping people declutter. Whether it is helping an older couple downsize or a family dealing with a hoarding situation, decluttering consumes a lot of our time. Often times we suggest disposing of unwanted items by donating them to charity. That’s that, or so many people think. But what really happens to those donations?
Charitable donations can be anything from used clothing to unwanted knick-knacks. We have seen furniture, dishes, tools, collectibles, and just about anything else you could imagine go to charity as a result of decluttering. The interesting thing is what happens to those items after they are donated.
We are just as curious as you are, so we did some research. Unfortunately, the amount of information available is quite limited. We did find an excellent article published by ABC News way back in 2006. How true it is today we cannot say. But it at least serves as food for thought. The article focuses mainly on clothing donations.
Some of Your Donations Are Sold at Retail
The first option for your charitable donations is something we are all familiar with. Donate to an organization like the Salvation Army or Goodwill and it’s very possible that some of your items will end up for sale in one of their retail stores. These kinds of organizations are especially receptive to gently worn clothing that still holds some retail value.
The ABC story claims that less than 10% of the items received as charitable donations are sold in retail thrift stores. Again, this was in 2006 and applies mainly to clothing. We will just assume that the same also applies to other kinds of items.
Some Go to Recycling
It is obvious that charitable organizations do not sell everything they take in at their thrift stores. Why? Because a lot of people donate junk with little or no retail value. The question then becomes one of what charitable organizations do with the junk they cannot put on their shelves.
According to ABC, what can’t be sold in a retail thrift store goes to recyclers. They interviewed one industry expert back in 2006 who claimed the secondary textiles market purchases hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of donated clothing every year.
The majority of those clothes, equaling about 70% of the total donations, is transformed into other products. Think cleaning cloths, industrial towels, rags, etc. Recyclers sell the repurposed goods for a decent profit. What do they do with the remaining 20%? They send it overseas.
Clothing the Less Fortunate
Finally, the remaining clothing not used by the recyclers gets sold to organizations that buy it, pack it, and ship it overseas to be resold in developing countries. The shippers make a decent profit by marking up the clothing they purchase.
Those who buy it overseas still pay less than you and I would pay here for brand-new, but they are not getting the clothes for free. The only way to guarantee your donating clothing is given away free-of-charge is to donate specifically to a charity that takes directly from you and gives directly to the people who genuinely need the clothing.
Your Donations Equal Cash
The reality of what happens to your charitable donations might not sit well with you but take heart in the fact that even items sold by your preferred charity to recyclers still do that charity good. They still convert your donations into cash that furthers the mission. They just may raise that cash by selling to recyclers rather than in their thrift stores. In the end, it all works out the same.