Every year I donate my used yet beautiful and wonderful high-end fashion gear to Goodwill, Salvation Army, Out of the Closet or the National Council of Jewish Women. Twice a year (winter and summer), I do two spring cleanings. The house is turned upside down, the dust bunnies come out and I attempt to create an entirely new wardrobe. I admit, I first try to give my clothes up for consignment at Crossroads , Wasteland or Jet Rag. But often I wear my clothes down so much so that they become the rejected nerdy girls of the seventh grade dance. These clothes have potential and can be wonderful if given the chance to take their braces off but they’re not “high-end vintage” consignment material. Therefore, my clothes often get the hand, even at the National Council of Jewish Women. So last year, I found myself turning to a random clothing bin at my Rite Aide parking lot.
I stuffed my bags of clothes into that yellow bin so proudly. Prior to that, I even researched the company, Planet Aid, and saw what charitable work they did for the community and families abroad. I thought I was doing a wonderful service. And then one night, while driving home after an insane night of Scrabble, Backgammon and Mad Libs, I saw a woman pilfering through that same clothing bin. I saw her reach down into it, grab my turquoise and pink bags, then sort through them and judge all my clothes just like a woman at a consignment store would do. She threw a lot of clothes onto the floor, picked up the random items she liked, put them into her car and drove off. My clothes were on the dirty peepee and dog poopie cement of the Rite Aide parking lot and I had just washed all of them in Downy fresh detergent!!!!! I was enraged!!!!!
But then I thought about it. Where do our clothes go when we donate them? We’d like to think they go to less fortunate people that can’t afford clothing, whether it’s in America, South America, Africa, India, Antarctica, or Europe. We’d like to think that after we wash our clothes and donate them, they stay clean and folded. But, when I lived in Accra, Ghana for six months in 2007, the Salvation Army took all the rejected American used clothes to the country and DUMPED them into the main seaport. Free clothes suddenly became a hot commodity. Big business owners fought over the clothes and decided that instead of taking them in as donations, they would SELL them in large bagged bundles to other small businesses. Corporations were formed. The small business store owners didn’t even get to choose the clothing they bought. Some women wanted to only sell ladies’ clothing or baby’s clothing and would get maybe ten items they could actually sell out of the forty items that they had bought. The issue goes deeper than this and in the end, the whole idea of donating clothing became less flowery than I thought it was. In the end, our clothing all ends up on the floor, gets sold and that money hopefully goes to less fortunate people, if we’re lucky. In Accra, Ghana, the donations just bred greed.
Woah. That was intense. I should probably take a nap right now. My point is, if you want to donate anything, donate your time, energy and mind. Yes, we all love used furniture and used clothes but maybe we should all start clothing and furniture swaps with friends? At least we’d know from where it was coming and to whom it was going. And after that rant, I’m probably still going thrifting this weekend.