Since I can't show you wonderful pictures of my garden, I thought I'd talk about something else very dear to me- charity op shops.
Op shops are wonderful places for a variety of reasons, and they are staffed primarily with people who are there out of the goodness of their hearts, wonderful volunteers.
This post comes both from my perspective as a customer of these shops, and as someone who has worked as a volunteer in one of these shops.
Most people know they should only donate usable things to their local op shop, as the volunteers do not have time to sit around fixing things. Unusable things go straight to the tip.
At the store I volunteered at, they were fortunate enough to get a lot of donations every day, and this is where the story starts.
First thing in the morning, when the early volunteers arrive, the items in and piled around the donation bin are sorted. At the store I volunteered for, things were sorted into the following categories:
- Unusable. These are the things that shouldn't have been donated. If you have something you would like to donate but think it may be "unusable" maybe fix it up before you donate it, or give it to someone you know and maybe they can use it or fix it.
- Disaster Relief. This category is essentially clothing only. Clothing that is substantially out of style (but not "costume") or that has small stains on it goes here. At the time I was working at the store, this box went to Haiti for the earthquake appeal.
- Saleable. This is the category for everything that can be sold in the store. The very carefully sorted out "good stuff". If everything that ended up in this category stayed out on display in the shop until it sold, I would not have felt moved to write this post.
The op shop symbolises the opposite of waste, doesn't it? It's a wonderful treasure trove of new and nearly-new things, nothing wrong with any of them, as the selection process assures, but so many good things, with not a thing wrong with them, end up in the tip, even after making it to the shop.
You see, so many donations make it to some shops every day that there is simply no room for all the saleable items in the store.
This is a very wonderful problem for an op shop to have, and I do strongly believe everyone should donate any good, usable items they have to their local op shop, but there's an important thing the wonderful people who donate to op shops forget to do; they forget to buy from op shops.
Non-clothing items that sit on the shelf in an op shop for more than three weeks or so are discarded. This is what made my heart ache so. These items aren't sent to the warehouse to be given to stores with less donations, they aren't donated to other charities or given out to people in desperate need, they are simply taken to the tip. Cups, plates, glasses, candle holders, vases, nearly new, collector's items and antiques. It doesn't matter. They're just dumped. I saw beautiful things being thrown into boxes to be trucked out to the tip. I grabbed a few things, but I was living in a tiny room, already very full of someone else's things, so I could really only take what I actually needed, there was no room for want.
I'm writing this today to ask you to buy from charity op shops. I know there's a lot of reasons why people don't buy from op shops, and I'm going to ramble on a little more and talk about them here.
- I don't need to buy from op shops But do you need to buy new? Isn't there enough stuff in the world without making new stuff for the sake of it? There doesn't need to be shame in buying "pre-loved", as I have well and truly covered, there is nothing wrong with this stuff. The volunteers make sure of it. I have been given beautiful gifts from the op shop and most of the time I would never have known if I wasn't told.
- Op shops are for people that don't have much money Well sure they are, but they're for everyone else, too. Use the rest of the money you would have spent to treat yourself to something else, or save it up and do something really special for yourself or someone else at the end of a year.
- Everything in op shops is old and out of date Some of it is, that's true, but certainly not everything. Some things, such as vases, mugs and glasses are much the same no matter how old they are, so why not visit the op shop for these? Sometimes, actually very often, you can even get matching sets of two, four or six cups or glasses, just like you might buy from a "regular" store. I once had a very lucky find that helped my mother piece back together a breakfast set she was given when she got married, thirty-five years ago! I've also bought some beautiful English ceramics for less than $1 per piece. While these things are older and have been used before, they're hardly dated.
- Anything I buy secondhand won't really be mine Do you realise how many dozens of people have touched that shiny new set of glasses you get from the gift shop? Of course what you bought is yours!
- New things can be just as cheap Other stores keep their prices low by buying in bulk and often from manufactures that use sweatshop labour. Where this is the case (it is not always but it is often) you are paying for this practise to continue. When you buy from the op shop, you are paying to provide food and blankets to the homeless, or crisis counselling for those in need, all the while you are defending the Earth by minimising waste.
Signed with love,
Here is a list of what is generally accepted as donations by:
St Vincent de Paul Stores (Vinnies)
Animal Welfare League (Queensland)
If you are unsure, please ask.