Wednesday, April 29, 2009

If you don't get a little note of thanks, let me tell you why.

I have a new motto for hand me downs, "share the wealth, not the trash." I spent the day going through 10 trash bags filled with clothes that people have given to me in recent weeks. I am saddened to say that I had nine and half bags for the curb when I was done. I love the theory behind hand me downs. The idea is for someone else to be able to reuse something that you yourself no longer have a use for. In theory it is simple, generous, and helpful.

Today I realized that there is nothing simple, generous, or helpful about the way many people pass on their used goods. My laundry room has been stuffed to bursting with bags of clothes that people have given me in recent weeks (okay, fine...months) and I finally found the courage to go through them all.

Out of 10 bags of clothes, I ended up throwing away nine full bags. It isn't that I am a total clothes snob, I'm really not. I just have no use for other people's trash or their storage dilemmas. For example, a bag full of baby clothes with trucks and planes? Yes, I do have a baby...but she isn't a boy. I wouldn't dress her in a miniature suit to save a few bucks. The clothes were cute, but, I have no use for them. Could someone have used them? Yes. I could have washed them and donated them. I do however have enough of my own laundry that I can't seem to keep up into the trash they went.

Another bag contained girl's clothing in sizes 4-6x. TLL could have used them 4-6 years. While I again appreciate the gesture, I don't have the luxury to store things in my bursting at the seams home for that long. Again, I could have washed and donated...but, could have the person who gave those things to me.

The rest of the bags contained a variety of shirts that were so faded that the original prints weren't even discernible. A plethora of jeans with ripped out knees and holes. Several pairs of pajamas that had been hemmed so that they were easily a foot too short for anything but boy capris. About 2,000 socks that weren't paired and underwear.

I think that a lot of people have trouble taking the time to launder clothes that have gotten a little musty so that they could be given to charity. I am now sure that many folks are so loathe to throw away things they have spent money on that they would rather pass them on. What makes me incredulous is that people think it is 'okay' to give me their trash...or their used underwear. How does a person make it make sense to give me clothes to help me out, when they are actually giving me hours worth of work?

I don't want to seem ungrateful. I have appreciated many things that many people have given to us over the years. I don't however have it in me to appreciate bags of stained clothes that I could spend hours scrubbing on the chance that I can get an unidentified spot out. I actually get a little uptight about the guilt I have from throwing away clothes that maybe could help someone, but that I don't choose to wash, fold, and haul to a donation center.

There is generosity which is appreciated beyond measure, and then there is generosity which assuages the conscience of the giver, but does little for the recipient. Anyone else out there with thoughts on this subject?


  1. Don't know if you have one in your area, but how about Freecycle? I've gotten lots of clothes that way (most of J's 3T clothes) and I don't expect them to be clean or always in great condition. Some I'll keep some and promptly wash or try to freecycle the others. Or if they are in really good condition and you have the time, lol, you could try to sell them at a resale shop.

  2. I love finding families to give my kids' used clothes to, but my motto is "if it's too old to be worn on my kids, it goes in the trash now."