Thursday, September 13, 2012

Day 54: Choosing a Better Thrift Store

Not everything we're getting rid of is going to a thrift store.  Some things are passed on to friends and family, some to people we know in our community who need them, some to shelters, pregnancy crisis centers and other charities.  A few large items have been sold online (with the caveat that we must immediately give away or put the money we receive from it towards our debt!)   But many of the things we are decluttering are going to the thrift store.

In the city near our home, there are a number of thrift stores.

There is one that is situated in the fancy, shiny, commercial part of town.  It's a giant department store style thrift store that sells things for just a tiny bit less than they would be new. It's not uncommon for dollar store items to be priced at 99 cents or a pair of jeans to be seventeen bucks! 

This store is really easy to donate to.  They're located across from the mall, around the corner from our church.  They are open long hours every day of the week and they have one of those bells that rings when you pull up to the donation centre so that a store person can come out and help you unload all of your junk.

Up until recently, we didn't give it much thought. We just took stuff to the convenient donation centre at the side of the great big fancy thrift store. Our motivation was to get the things out of our home, not to see them redistributed to those who need them.

In contrast, all over the city there are small not-for-profit thrift stores that are intentionally located in the parts of town where they are needed most.  These places have a reputation for selling baby clothes for a quarter and giving deals to single moms with armloads of back to school clothes.  Many of them use the proceeds from the thrift store to fund valuable community services such as food banks and shelters.  They aren't as convenient to donate to, they have fewer hours of operation and no extra staff members to help you unload.  But for us, once we thought about it, the decision was easy.

The word redistribution has been on my mind a lot lately.  Some of us have way too much while many have too little.  We are carefully choosing to take our unneeded items to a store that was designed to redistribute these things to those who need it, and it's desire is to serve and bless the community.

So that's today's task.  To be more intentional about where our stuff goes.  And to give things away with reckless abandon knowing that it will end up in the hands of somebody who needs it far more than I do. 

By the way, this post was originally slated for yesterday. But then Luke's work crew, who was planning to be out of town on a job all week finished their work early and Luke came home unannounced 2 days early,  surprising me with a few flowers and fancy truffles from a lovely little chocolate shop on route. 

 So I ate chocolate and snuggled my man instead. 

We are doing one small thing (almost) every day for a year to create a simpler, quieter, more intentional life. Take a moment to read all About Us, check out The Rules of our year long project and sign up for our RSS feed or "like" us on facebook so that you can follow our journey to radical simplicity!


  1. Thrift stores do not exist in India, back home in Switzerland they were all belonging to NGOs such as the red cross, salvation army and such and had donation bins for clothes all around the city and donation bins for heavier items in front of their store so that people who felt uncomfy or didn't have the time to donate in person could do so still.
    Here I give everything to my maid, she has kids in there teen, but she knows who in her community need toys and clothes and I know that through her it truely reaches someone in need. She also take all my broken stuff, because tehre is a business of selling recyclables and broken item, she makes the extra money sellign my old bottles, paper and broken appliances, and I see them out of my house, the money from the sale is a tiny amount for us since we have a decent income, but for my maid it makes a big difference, win-win situation

  2. I give my items to the local MCC store. I also recently found out that if I tell them I am donating on behalf of our local women's crisis center then that home gets credit for their women to come purchase things. And any money that the thrift store makes goes to disaster relief in other parts of the world. So really it's a win-win-win all around!

  3. I donate to our local DAV (Disable Veterans of America)they money they raise goes to a good cause and their prices are lower than Goodwill so those in need have a better chance of affording the items.

  4. I have been thinking about those bif "department store" thrift shop lately. I have actually been deciding whether I even want to shop there anymore, because it seems like what their purposes is has been clouded over by what appears to be greed. We have two great thrift shops around just started by some friends, and another that is further away, and used the proceeds to help families of men in prison. The first one is almost like an antique shop, but they do have other things, and the non-antiques are fairly priced (I am sure the antiques are too, just not as familiar with that kind of stuff- usually its still over my budget). The second one is hit or miss, but usually hit. Neither are convenient for donating or shopping, but definitely worth it!! It kills me to see the dollar store stuff, or even worse- I have seen originally free items (like a women's health booklet handed out at walmart), and kid's happy meal toys selling for 1-2 dollars. It actually makes me swear in my head:o) Anyway, thanks for bringing this to the attention of others!!!

  5. I did the same thing with my thrift store a few months ago. Not only am I getting rid of clutter but I really feel like I might be making a difference in someone's life.

    One of the things I truly love about your blog is your sharing your marriage with us. What a testimony! Thanks for sharing.

  6. OK, sorry to be a little off point..but I'm in love with the box that the chocolates came in. Please tell me that you'll keep it and put some sweet mementos in it or at least find a little home for it even during this year of less. :)


  7. I have been struggling with defining those lofty words like "intentional" in my own life. This post really brings "intentional" to a clear place for me. Thanks for helping me to discover how we sometimes live our life doing things-- and not thinking about it a whole lot. Intentional living- you are making it clearer and clearer for me. Thank you so much.

  8. I wish I had read this before I dropped off two boxes for that department style thrift shop. Great points and I'm going to do some research for better stores in my neighbourhood.

  9. I read "7. An experimental mutiny against excess". This upcoming month my family and I will be ' fasting' from possessions. The author in her experiment and quest to grow closer to God gave away 10 items a day for a month. She too was intentional about her giving. This is our desire too. This was timely sharing from you to me....thank you!

  10. We've given to goodwill in the past for its ease and close location...I know they provide jobs and job training for many people that need to provide for their poor family. However, recently we started driving further to a women's / childrens shelter because there they arent selling the things, they are giving it to women who have escaped abusive spouses with their children and are having to start completely over after being in hiding for months......I feel really good about that!

  11. One of our local thrift stores uses proceeds to house and feed the homeless, so they get all of our gently used items. One thing I remind my kids (whenever they want to donate a broken toy or a shirt with a hole in it) is that unless we would use it/wear it ourselves, we do not give it to another. Every person has dignity and deserves to be treated with such.

  12. Snuggling your husband and enjoying truffles - life's treasure!

    Your blog is another treasure - thank you for the reminders of living with more intention! I will enjoy your future posts when you are able (I love it that you are living your bliss one day at a time).

  13. I linked this to my Facebook to share! So well put. I live in a community that truly needs it. Today I will find a better place to donate all the things that are leaving my home as I prepare for this baby and follow your blog! Thank you!

  14. Hi there! Thanks for all the wonderful posts. I've been following this blog for several weeks now, and am inspired and encouraged. I was wondering if you could update us on what it is like living with the changes you've been making, now that it has been awhile. For example, are you happy with your simplified wardrobe, or do you miss your clothes? Did you get rid of anything kitchen-wise that you wish didn't? Just curious!


  15. That's such a nice surprise:)

  16. Good point on the topic of being intentional - even with our excess! BTW, your post on trimming your wardrobe sent me counting - 148 items on hangers in my closet! I didn't even open any dresser drawers or chests. That's too many! Recently, someone complimented me on my clothes, then said she wished hers were as nice. I was embarrassed. Maybe my choices affect many more people than I even consider?
    So, with the intention of blessing other ladies, I went back to my closet and chose 18 fashinable items to be given directly to friends that I thought might fit them. It was like being a personal shopper!
    Then, I selected 12 more items to donate. (I agree with you on the "where" to donate. It takes thought to consider what one is funding with a donation.)
    Six items were thrown away because they were in terrible shape. No one should be "blessed" with ratty, stained, tired, unwanted clothes.
    Since reading your "Year of Less", I have left several stores empty-handed by questioning "Who will this benefit?" Not radical, but thoughtful. through the pantry!

  17. So this one really made me pause, because once I started decluttering, I automatically took it to the store that you spoke of, because of it's convenience. You are absolutely right and it's an idea that never occurred to me from now on, I, too, will be taking my gently used stuff to the more out of way, but much more beneficial shop. Thank you for your are teaching this old dog new tricks!!

  18. Aww so sweet of him to bring you such a nice treat :)
    It is very important who you donate too. I found a thrift store that supports our local hospital (specifically the children's ward and maternity center) so i made sure all our stuff was dropped off there. We did have to unload it all ourselves but we felt great! We felt like we had done more good with that little extra work of unloading everything ourselves.

  19. I was wanting to donate my excess clothing (Babies, kids, adults, shoes, winter apparel etc...) locally until I found out the thrift stores make BIWEEKLY runs to the landfill.
    I recently have been blessed to catch an episode on 100 Huntley Street that featured Firm Foundations Romania. I knew then and there that is where I will be sending my items to the Brasov Childrens Hospital. There is a shipping company out of of Portland,Oregon. I live in North Eastern BC. In my heart & soul I know this is what I need to do regardless of cost of shipping.
    I have kept Everything of my 8yr DD, wonders of wonders I was blessed with twin girls like yourself, born Oct 3 :) After these babies we are done so purging the clothes, sniff, sniff

  20. Sounds like that was a day for stopping and eating the chocolates and stopping to smell the roses kind of day!

  21. Sounds like that was a day for stopping and eating the chocolates and stopping to smell the roses kind of day!

  22. Every time you use the word intentional I smile.
    That word is one that has been really inspiring to me this year. Living with intention. Parenting with intention. Eating with intention.

    This just proves you really can be intentionally in EVERYTHING you do. Even donating :)

    God bless!

    Our Front Porch View: The Story of a Young Family's Pursuit to Fulfill A Simpler Life

  23. Ok I am loving this blog it speaks to me and inspires me on so many levels! I'm constantly wondering with five kids being pregnant and now I read a husband that travels for work... How are you doing all of these projects? Do you have help of any kind? Are your kids calm quite and well behaved all of the time? I know a lot of things that you are doing actually save time in the long run but just getting them done does take time. Please let us know how you do all of this and let us know what your daily routine is!

    1. Hi Harmoni! Luke doesn't normally travel for work...just once in a while. And when he's home, he helps out a lot. Things are busy and hectic around here sometimes, but I like a challenge :)

      I do, however, expect that once baby #6 arrives in December, 4-5 posts a week won't be possible for a little while!

  24. My favourite spot is at the corner of Bridge and Coleman. They have a convenient after hours bin that I often use (because their parking lot is a little nuts during the day). I like to support them because I've picked up some pretty awesome deals there like a spring form pan for $1!

  25. I never donate to the local big chain thrift store because they are a for-profit and very little $ goes back to the charities they say they support. Better options are, as you note, the small ones that support a local charity. We have City of Hope which helps cancer survivors, some that support animal welfare, etc.

  26. My friend recommended your blog to me yesterday, and I have been gobbling up your posts ever since!
    We only donate to The Salvation Army or Bibles For Missions. When I found out that the big box second hand stores sell clothing to 3rd world countries, who then re sell them at high prices, I was done with them! I can't stand the thought of our consumer based culture being propagated in poor countries.


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