3 Donation Mistakes a Thrift Store Employee Sees All the Time

updated May 1, 2019
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I love to purge my home of junk — and if you’re moving (or got a lot of stuff over the holidays that you can’t really use), you’re probably getting rid of things left and right. But unlike other people, I approach this task with some consideration to where our donations will end up: a thrift shop.

You see, I worked at a second-hand store for a year in college. In that time, I saw countless bags, boxes, and bins of donated items be carefully sorted through the staff behind the scenes. I found out what was kept, what was recycled, what was doomed to sit on the racks and shelves for eternity, what was gone in seconds, and what couldn’t be accepted. Just because those pesky things aren’t sitting in your kitchen anymore, it doesn’t mean they’re somewhat easier for another person to have to deal with.

So knowing that staff sees more broken plates and weathered coffee makers than you’d imagine, here are the three mistakes I saw most often.

1. Not calling the shop first.

Almost every single Saturday shift I worked, we had a customer arrive with an old mattress in their truck bed, ready to finally be rid of it. Save yourself the trouble — most thrift stores don’t accept items like mattresses because of the risk of bed bugs and other sanitation concerns. You can always call your local thrift store to see what they’ll accept before you leave the house and, hopefully, even before you load up your car.

2. Donating with an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality.

You probably want to donate the broken or dirty things in your house because putting them in the garbage seems wasteful. But if it’s too nasty for you to clean, the place you donate it to won’t be able to make any miracles happen, either. Keep in mind that if the item you’re getting rid of is especially dirty, broken, or missing necessary pieces, the staff who sort through the donations won’t be able to put it on the sales floor. If the item doesn’t function anymore, you’re probably better off throwing it away or finding a way to recycle it.

3. Not double checking donations.

Always carefully check through the bags or boxes of stuff you’re giving away to make sure you’re not accidentally donating something you want to keep. People came to my job saying they’d somehow left their phones, priceless jewelry, family heirlooms, and even precious antiques in their donations to us. Once the staff receives your donation, it’s very difficult to find again — especially if its contents have already been sorted through. The longer it takes you to discover you’re missing something, the more likely it is that the staff won’t be able to find it.

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: 3 Donation Mistakes a Thrift Store Employee Saw All the Time