5 Common Misconceptions About Thrift Stores


We’ve all been there before. Stuck with a heaping pile of last season’s trends after a closet cleaning, trapped with trash bags full of used clothing from reorganizing our attic, and a few leftover boxes from a less than successful yard sale.

The easiest way to get rid of this mess is give it to a thrift store right? You help out a charity, others can benefit from your donation, and you can finally see your bedroom floor.

You have good intentions. But before you start driving to your nearest thrift store, rethink what assumptions you have about what runs a secondhand clothing shop.

There are some great secondhand clothing shops that make great strides to giving back to the community and helping needy people. But not all shops are alike and you should be especially cautious with “charity” clothing bins.

“The majority of donated clothing is sold to second-hand clothing merchants…then bundle them in bales for resale, usually outside the country in which the clothing was originally donated.”

  1. “I want my clothing to go to someone in need in my community.”
    More often then not, your used clothing is shipped overseas. Only a small portion of donated clothing stays local, the rest is sold for pennies by the pound to oversea countries. Western countries sell and overwhelming amount of clothing. It has gotten so bad that some East African countries are attempting to ban buying used clothing from Western countries. When these countries receive readily made, used clothing for a very cheap price, it hurts their local manufacturing.
    You can read more about that here.
  2. “The proceeds help my local community”
    Thrift stores are first and foremost a business, people often forget that. According to the United Nations, buying/selling used clothing is a $1 billion dollar business and has exponentially grown over the past three decades. Actual charities are required by law to release financial statements yearly on how they manage their money. Some thrift stores masquerade themselves as charities in order to generate profit.
    If you genuinely want to donate your items to a real charity, skip the middleman and go straight to the charity. Local homeless shelters and women’s shelters often list what they’re in need of on their sites. Here are a few more tips on sifting the real charities from the scammers.
  3. “Anything of mine they can’t sell, they donate it to a charity.”
    There are some great second-hand clothing shops that do invest in local charities, but the odds of them donating your unwanted band t-shirt to a homeless youth is very, very slim. Thrift stores are a business looking to turn a profit. They will sell your clothing to an oversea country (this hurts their economy!), and may donate a small portion of that to a charity. If you’re trying to find out how much exactly is going to charity, that number is going to be hard to find.
    If you sincerely want your used clothing to help someone in your community, seek out organizations that help distribute your donations to those in need. If you need some ideas of where to go, check out our previous Androgynous Guide.
  4. “I can donate my goods at any time of the year, it doesn’t matter when. They can always use more donations”
    Thrift stores have a limited amount of storage space. Their capacity is limited around holidays when people are feeling more charitable and want to free up their space. For many charities, summer is when donations get slim. Aim to donate then as opposed to winter holidays.
  5. “It’s better for the environment if I just donate my damaged/soiled clothing than to throw it in the trash, they can handle it from there.”
    First, don’t throw your damaged clothing into the trash. It sits in a landfill for years, and takes forever to degrade while it releases chemical back into the earth.
    Second if your concerned about the environmental impact your damaged/soiled clothing, why not donate them to a textile recycling organization instead? Their sole purpose is to recycle your old clothing, towels, and discarded fabrics into rags, furniture stuffing, and more industrial purposes.
    Unfortunately, textile recycling isn’t as common place as their paper/glass/plastic recyclable counterparts. Major cities in Canada are trying to make the change, it’s important to support them!

    Is there any other common misconception that are missing here? I’d love to hear from you.


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