We’ve all been there. You’ve spent hours – possibly days, due to your habitual hoarding and inability to let go – trying to declutter your home. And now that you’ve officially Kondo’d the heck out of your abode, your old belongings have found their penultimate resting place in the hallway, because despite your best intentions, you are quite unsure what to do with them.
Thanks to the phenomenon known as the ‘Marie Kondo effect’ (in which the Japanese tidying guru helps families clear their homes of anything that doesn’t “spark joy”), the benefits of decluttering have not only been restricted to those involved in Netflix series Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.
Last month, charity shops across the country reported a significant boom in the donation of clothes and other items since the programme began streaming.
One housing and homelessness charity has even responded to the Kondo craze by taking things a step further, implementing Marie Kondo’s methods within the visual merchandising of their own stores as a means of attracting further donations. And it’s worked.
“After Marie Kondo, donations were 25 per cent up on what it would be normally in an average January,” says Leah Johnson, commercial development manager for Boutiques at Shelter.
“The quality that’s coming through has been better, too, and people are very aware of giving items to someone else. It may not spark joy to keep it but any act of giving will spark joy in somebody”.
The upturn has come at the perfect time for Shelter, which opens its flagship boutique at Coal Drops Yard in Kings Cross, London, this week. It will sell carefully curated designer vintage fashion and accessories, rare collectables, high-end high street and quality jewellery for a fraction of their retail value.
According to Johnson, who is also manager of Shelter’s Turnham Green boutique, those who have fallen under the Kondo spell aren’t hard to identify, either: “they've kind of passed on [items] in a very ‘Marie Kondo’ way, very well presented, it’s all been folded just as nicely, not just stuffed into a bin liner like it would normally be.”
The shift in the quality of items donated to Shelter – as well as those belonging to Scope and Salvation Army, who also saw an increase in donations since Kondo – will inevitably have a knock on effect in the success of these charities, but how do those shops really work? And how can we make the lives of the hard-working staff and volunteers a little easier? Here's how to go about giving the good way.
Thanks to @MarieKondo and @NetflixUK, we've been receiving more donations this month - and clothes have been folded so neatly! It certainly #SparksJoy with us.— Scope (@scope) January 21, 2019
If you're having a clear out, donate your unwanted treasures to a Scope shop near you.https://t.co/OfYPa0GAkV
Practically all types of clothing are welcomed by charity shops, and yes, that includes your holey socks and leggings. Johnson explains that, once donated, clothing items in her boutique are sorted into three piles: “keep, core, and rags”.
Items placed in the ‘keep’ pile are hung, steamed and tagged before being put out onto the charity shop floor, where they are kept on a 12-week rotation cycle, moving between Shelter’s 11 boutique charity stores as well as their core shops around the UK, until sold.
If items are placed in the ‘core’ pile, they are shipped off to one of the organisation’s core branches where rails are stocked with high-quality high street branded items.
Items that are broken or unfit for use end up in the ‘rag’ pile, along with items that have gone unsold at the end of their 12 week cycle. Once here, they await collection by rag merchants, who come to collect bags of unusable clothes and buy by the kilo. It means the charity is still able to make money off your cast-offs.
Though some of these rags may end up in places like Ghana and Central Eastern Europe to fuel the second-hand clothing industry, many go into textile recycling, and hardly any finds its way to landfill.
As welcoming as they may be to any type of your unwanted garments, however, etiquette still applies. If for example you own a moth eaten jumper, it’s worth knowing that donating such an item will probably only unfurl moths across the shop and infect stock, rendering it unsellable.
But that’s not to say that the store will not accept such donations, Johnson notes. “We can still get money for the weight of the product, but put it in a separate bag and say that bag is rags, so I can take waste products and ethically dispose them”.
Like garments, all books are accepted and follow the same cycle in stores. Provided they’re preserved in a good condition, “coffee table books, art books and fashion books sell the best, as well as women’s novels, beach literature and chick-lit,” says Johnson.
Books are also sold online on behalf of the charity, on sites such as Amazon, which list donated books in their ‘used’ sections. Books that are not sold at the end of their cycle, like clothes, will end up in rags, and as Johnson puts it, “it breaks my heart to waste a book, but the sheer volume of them means we can’t keep them”.
To avoid wasting a good book, or anything else for that matter, it is worth calling your local charity shop before donating, to ensure that they have space to house them, and if they don’t, try another until you find a store that won’t be burdened by your donations.
CDs and DVDs
As outdated as they are, CDs and DVDs are still received by charity shops. Rag merchants no longer accept them, due to our current online streaming habits, however charity shops like Shelter’s core stores will take these items on and can raise money from them through online and local pawnbrokers, such as Music Magpie and CeX.
When it comes to furniture, the key thing to remember is that charity shops will most likely accept everything aside from beds and mattresses, due to the difficulties in selling items of that nature in a second hand state. Items must also meet fire regulations, Johnson points out, since “we can’t sell old sofas without a CE label [an EU health and safety label], and it needs to be fire retardant, so we have to meet legislation and health and safety like any retailer would”.
For bedding and mattresses, the best course of action is to take them to textile recycling bins and recycling centres, where they can be disposed of sustainably. Leaving items of any kind outside of charity shops will do no good, as most donations left overnight can be stolen or damaged and soiled by foxes.
If you’re looking to donate electricals, first consider this: would you buy this item from a charity shop, and can you see anybody wanting to buy it? Often, for items that have seen better days, the chances are that nobody will want to fix it, and thus nobody will buy it. By donating items of this calibre to shops, sadly all you are doing is burdening them.
Johnson recalls how “people try and offload old televisions with enormous backs to the charity shops, which we can’t sell. It’s a little bit cheeky because we have to pay to dump them. The last thing I would want to do as a donor is to put a burden of disposing a product [on a store]. A massive television, for example, is I think about £50 to take to the dump”.
For old, large goods that may or may not work, she suggests using sites and apps such as Freecycle and Gone For Good, which operate as local waste reduction recycling services. Such apps work on a first come first serve basis, and enable you to take images of your goods and pick the charities you wish to donate to before items are collected. It is a quick and easy way to donate, ensuring the organisation you donate to can actually house and sell your goods effectively to raise money for their cause. After all, that is the main thing.
Shelter’s new flagship boutique at Coal Drops Yard in Kings Cross, London, opens on Friday