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Sharing your Pre-loved Treasure

Or how to help our fabulous charity shops at a very difficult time!

I have spent a purchase free Lockdown focussing on the lovely clothes I already own. Now though, that back to school feeling is itching away deep in my psyche. I can feel the seasons changing and my autumn clothes are looking a little tired.

This has brought into sharp focus just how much I depend on the secondhand market both personally and for my business. So it is time to check what is happening out there. I was aware just how badly the charity sector has been hit by the necessary restrictions in place during this pandemic so it makes sense to start there.

Revisiting my beloved local charity shops caused mixed feelings. I have been very cautious so it’s reassuring to see the precautions in place. To be honest it came as a surprise to find there was a queue building outside whilst I browsed the rails. I am glad to have been blissfully unaware as this many have added a layer of stress to an activity I have always taken pleasure in. This is a good sign for the recovery of this income stream for the charities, others have been missing a good rummage too!

Many of the charity outlets are looking for volunteers. This role is often filled by those who have been most vulnerable to the coronavirus. Some are cautious about returning to previous activities and some are recovering from ill health or bereavement. If you have a little extra time then now would be a good time to pop into your favourite shop and see if they could use your talents. Even though they need volunteers, getting new recruits trained is vital so patience will be required on both sides.

It isn’t just people power they are seeking. Good quality stock is vital for a continued service. I am aware of the Lockdown Declutter frenzy and this has been a wonderful liberating experience for many. However, please spend time considering what you are donating. Calling ahead first is really appreciated.

I had not realised that sorting secondhand books is a different skill to sorting through clothes. The Oxfam shop in Twickenham is having to turn away or discard books at the moment. The same is true for Mary’s Living & Giving in Teddington. Even the Fara Bookshop in Teddington has a 2 bag donation policy.

The charity shops are looking for clothing that has a resale value, they are mostly not a clearing house for huge bags of stained/damaged goods. However, Mary’s Living & Giving shops are part of the larger Save the Children fundraising effort and they do see sorting as an important part of their remit. They have a collection and redistribution service. If you are able to sort these by quality then you will be saving them time but even trash textiles will earn some cash as these are sold on for recycling.

If you don’t have access to Mary’s Living & Giving then please consider the person who may be unpacking and sorting your four huge bags of discards. If you are able to create several smaller bags that would be so much easier. Although the shops aren’t paying most of their staff they do need to turn the donations around quickly and your actions can help with this.

I have a pile of clothes to donate myself and although some are beautiful pieces they have been worn a lot. Even if there is no damage I know the shops near me and what their stock tends to look like. The lovely green Whistles dress would have been perfect for Mary’s Living & Giving 2 years ago now it looks a little tired. However, there are two shops where the ticket prices are significantly lower. A customer shopping here would be delighted with my dress for a fiver. Maybe it seems weird to you to be researching where to send your trash but this is part of the process of creating a circular economy. It takes a small effort for a huge amount of gain.

Finally, there is the trash. Yes my khaki silk blouse from All Saints is now only fit for the rag bank - I made a poor choice of deodorant and the blouse paid the price. In our borough TRAID are contracted to dispose of our rag banks and textile waste from the local dump. They may deem it fit for resale but I suspect this will go into the recycling process which is a huge business in itself. I was reassured by a council official that TRAID handles such waste ethically and I was already aware that this organisation has a great reputation for upcycling fashion.

Please remember that many municipal dumps are overwhelmed at the moment and check their hours and limitations. Our local dump has bookable time slots and will not take waste from anyone who turns up on speck.

I did think long and hard before posting this. Encouraging my clients and supporters to part with clothes that no longer bring joy is a big part of what I do. My concern was that this might then seem a daunting task. That is until I began the process myself considering the different times we are living through.

Maybe you have guessed that clothes are so much more than coverings or a uniform to me. Every piece has a story. Considering what the next chapter of the story would be has now become part of my process. Picturing the benefit that a donation brings to a small charity, a truly creative upcycled piece might mean for its creator or simply the income gained by recycling garments at the end of their life has become a pleasure, not a chore.

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