Anatomy Of A Charity Donation

Bags. Photo Credit: antjeverena @ Flickr

So, you've got too many clothes, in fact the situation has gotten so dire you are rocking a good old fashioned floor-drobe. If Oprah has taught us anything – and she has – it's that everyone needs to take time out of their schedule to de-clutter their life.

But it's certainly the case in my own life that the fabric mountain-scape that constitutes my room is often too overwhelming to contemplate.

So how do you go about sorting your life into neat piles, ready for donation to a worthy cause? Well, I'm here to help – I've imbibed the combined wisdom of Martha Stewart, Merlin Mann and my own sainted mother to produce a guide to getting yourself organised and contributing to a worthy cause to boot.

The Three Bag Method

This is a classic decision-making method. Get into it right and you'll find yourself turning into a productivity machine, all sentimentality removed, pure business. All you need to do is set up three bag piles.

Productivity nerd and internet celebrity Merlin Mann recommends that to make this enterprise extra fun, you purchase giant, industrial strength trash bags – ones that won't split and ones you can string up and slam dunk items into, perhaps aping the balletic style of early Shaq. This is a basic extrapolation of the Mary Poppins “Snap! The job's a game” paradigm.

Now, everything in your room must go through this rigorous system and every item must go in one of the three following bags. Don't think, go with your gut reaction, the faster you throw things into he bags, the easier it will get, trust me. The concepts you need to concentrate on are:

Keep bag

Clothes that you've worn in the last three months, clothes that you love, the current workerbees of your wardrobe.

Donate bag

This is the bag that you're going to give a charity shop or thrift store. This is the bag for clothes that you haven't worn at all in the last 90 days. Clothes that you've bought and love but have never worn. Clothes that remind you of better/worse times and no longer fit you. GET OVER IT, IT IS A FLEECE. Clothes that were gifts from someone you love but who has really poorly evaluated your personal style, clothes that to be honest, have never really done anything for you.


This is the bag for items where your initial response is ambivalence. If you rediscover an old gem that you think you might wear, or a long unworn garment of such intense emotional value that you can't bear to part with it then sling it in here.

The Dunno Bag Process

Once you have emptied all of your clothes into the three bags, the time has come to assess the dunno bag. Here's how you proceed. You go through again. You question yourself with an increasing martial strictness.

The only question is: will you wear it again? If not, it goes into the Donate bag.

This might hurt you but this will free you. If you think you might wear it again, leave it in the Dunno Bag and set a date for approximately two months in the future. If you remove that item and wear it within that timeframe, then keep it by, by all means. If, however, you haven't worn it by your chosen date, then off to the charity shop it goes.

The Donate Bag Process

Now you will have what is hopefully a large bag of items that can be donated to charity. Next, you have to cull the items that charity shops won't take. Yes, there are people whose jobs involve this very filtration process but it's best to be thorough in this, and all things.

Remove and Recycle:

  • Underwear, if you've worn it. The Goodwill will survive without it.
  • Clothes that are obviously ripped beyond repair.
  • Stained items – check the armpits and crotch of everything on offer. If there are dark patches on clean clothing then this item's time is up. You are doing the work of the angels here.

Once you have completed the process, it's fairly good manners to make sure everything is washed, ready for its new owners. Then, you can sling the sack over your shoulder and head down the thrift store, ready to bask in the glow of philanthropy and newly organised space.

Rebecca Hausmann writes for Third Sector Jobs and has impeccably organised closets.

Where to Next?

You can find the best free donation sites, or learn how to donate a car to charity, or maybe read about stress relief through charity.

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