Donating to thrift stores is a great way to be economical and eco-friendly. Not only do you help yourself by getting rid of unwanted items, you help your community by giving those items a second chance with someone else for a reasonable price and the proceeds from sales go on to help others through community programs! Sales from donations can go toward scholarship funds, grant funds, sponsoring community events, and much more! However, not all donations are created equal.
Before you bring a trunk full of donations to your local thrift store, ask yourself a few questions to determine whether your items are acceptable as donations.
Are any of these items unacceptable?
While this can vary from state to state, generally unaccepted items include broken items, threadbare or holey clothes, clothes with large stains, hazardous items, cosmetics, chemicals, and CRT electronics. These items should be trashed or properly recycled when possible. Check with your local thrift store for a complete list of items that are unaccepted. You can view the Fort Drum Thrift Shop’s Unaccepted Items list here.
Would you be happy to find this at a thrift store?
While you might be donating these items because you no longer need or want them, you shouldn’t donate items that you yourself would be unsatisfied with if you bought it at a thrift store tomorrow. This is common with board games and puzzles missing pieces, or damaged video game discs and cartridges that cannot be tested in the store beyond a general once over looking for obvious signs of damage. These items can be recycled or possibly given away for free to someone interested, but they do not belong in your donations pile.
MYTH #1: Thrift stores are dirty.
THE FACTS: This is a common misconception because many people walk into a thrift store and expect it to look like a boutique or even a retail chain. In reality, thrift stores operate in all kinds of places! A warehouse may not be as aesthetically pleasing to the eye as a downtown boutique, but the items available for sale should be the real stars of the show anyway! At the end of the day, thrift stores are still businesses and are run as such, which includes regular cleaning and organizing just like any other business.
MYTH #2: Thrift stores only sell items in poor condition.
THE FACTS: Thrift stores carefully vet donations as they come in and only allow items that are in good condition to be sold. For example, the Fort Drum Thrift Shop carefully views all donations at the time of dropoff and will reject items that are unacceptable. It is definitely possible that something can slip through in the vetting process—it happens at thrift stores everywhere—but these are exceptions few and far in between. In reality, you can often find brand new clothing and housewares, gently used books and sporting goods, and more! Even if something looks a little rough around the edges, a thorough cleaning at home can make your finds look brand new again!
MYTH #3: Thrift stores are unorganized or cluttered.
THE FACTS: Thrift stores are actually just as organized as department stores and major retailers; the difference is thrift store racks and shelves are filled with many similar items rather than stacks or rows of the same item. Lots of thrift stores also have signs depicting where you can find what items and, in the case of clothing, what type and sizes.
MYTH #4: Thrift stores are aimed at a specific audience.
THE FACTS: Thrift stores exist to benefit their communities, charities, organizations, etc. Many thrift stores are associated with nonprofits if they are not the nonprofit organization itself. Even if certain demographics are targeted through marketing strategies, there are no shortages of donations at thrift stores! This means that anyone can shop regardless of age, race, religion, economic status or, in the case of the Fort Drum Thrift Shop, military status without fear of taking items from those in greater need or feeling out of place while shopping.
MYTH #5: Thrifting takes too much time.
THE FACTS: Thrifting can take anywhere between a few minutes and several hours if not days depending on what you are looking for and what you are willing to put into a trip. If you are hunting for one specific item, it could take time and possibly multiple trips to find it. This is common for those hunting for vintage items or designer/brand name clothes and accessories. On the other hand, casual thrifters often spend less than an hour browsing for anything that catches their eye. If you have a specific item you are looking for that can be easily spotted, your trip may be even shorter! For example, small kitchen appliances like coffee makers or toasters can easily be spotted on a shelf without having to invest a great deal of time sifting through similar items like with clothing. When in doubt, bring a friend to help you look or ask the staff for assistance!
Sierra currently serves as the Publicity Chairman on the Fort Drum Thrift Shop's Board of Directors. She is a member of our Fort Drum community and an avid thrift shopper herself!