I was among those who purged possessions during the pandemic. As I waited in line at the Goodwill in Burien, Washington, I wondered which of my donations would sell and which might end up in the dump, burdening the nonprofit.
That's what I wanted to find out when I started working on this story. But Goodwill won't tell you. Donations are their lifeblood, and they are loathe to create any hesitation or uncertainty that might reduce the amount of stuff they receive.
But here are a few things I learned, along with some common misconceptions about Goodwill — and a shout-out to billionaire MacKenzie Scott.
— Don't donate crap. You know what it is — the couch the cat peed on, the busted Ikea bed frame, threadbare socks, the contents of your junk drawer. Anything you donate needs to be reusable.
— Broken furniture is particularly problematic because it costs a lot to send to the landfill. Hazardous waste — solvents, pesticides, oil-based paints — is a huge pain, too.
— One rule of thumb is to ask yourself if you'd pay for it. If not, it probably won't sell at Goodwill.
— But it's complicated. Reading Adam Minter's book "Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale" — which I highly recommend — I learned about ingenious people around the world who repurpose wealthy countries' castoffs. Entrepreneurs in Pakistan, for example, refurbish and relabel worn Levi's and sell them to dollar stores — including in Canada.
— Bottom line: Believe Goodwill when they say they are better than almost anyone at finding the optimum market for your unused stuff.
— I thought Goodwill's mission was to provide jobs at its stores for people facing barriers to employment, but that's not the case. Evergreen Goodwill provides education and job training for about 10,000 people a year, and helps find jobs for about 1,500. But only about 10% of students go to work for the nonprofit.
— Goodwill doesn't fix broken stuff. When the charity was founded, it employed people to repair furniture and remake clothing, but that hasn't made economic sense for a long time.
The billionaire author (and Jeff Bezos' ex) stunned Goodwill Industries International last year with a $20 million donation — the largest in the charity's history. She also gave whopping amounts to 45 Goodwill affiliates.
No one knows the criteria her team used, but many of the affiliates are in economically depressed areas. Evergreen — in Scott's backyard — got nothing.
Though it must have been disappointing, local staff are far too gracious to say so. As the leader of Scott's "neighborhood" Goodwill, Evergreen CEO Daryl Campbell wrote a letter on behalf of the entire network thanking her for her "extraordinary acknowledgment of the work that Goodwill is doing."
Organize your closet with these TikTok tips
1. Use the hanger method to donate unworn clothing.
If you’re nervous about the idea of a big Kondo clear out of your closet and think you might regret getting rid of something, try using the @whowhatwear hanger method instead. Each time you wear something from your closet, you turn the hanger around when you put it back. Do this for a few months to reveal the clothing that never gets worn.
2. Use extra organizers and color coordination to keep your closet tidy.
TikTok user @cassdimicco maximized her NYC closet space by adding additional organizers for jewelry, handbags, sunglasses, belts, and an extra pole for more hanging space. Keeping things color coordinated makes it easy to find the perfect outfit.
3. Organize your drawers with the file folding method.
Using the file folding or Kondo method to fold your clothing keeps everything wrinkle-free and easy to see. TikTok user @tayhage tried out the method on her cardigans and shirts and the before and after might inspire you to do some folding of your own.
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