What do charity shops really want you to donate?

What do charity shops really want you to donate?

And what items are not so suitable to donate?

I love shopping at charity shops (we call them Op Shops in New Zealand, but I’ll use ‘charity shops’ in this article).

Shopping at charity shops ticks so many boxes for me, including:

  • Second hand items are reused, instead of ending up in landfill.
  • You can find some great bargains.
  • Sometimes you find vintage or collectible items that aren’t available in mainstream shops.
  • You can find things are aren’t the big trends right now! So you can create a fashion style that is unique to you by putting together clothes from different trends, eras or from other countries.
  • You never know what you will find in a second hand shop. People often like the thrill and rush you can get from shopping, and would miss it if they stopped shopping completely. You can replace that feeling with the thrill of the unknown.
  • There is usually no packaging to deal with (of course, you don’t know if the previous owner disposed of the packaging in a good way, but at least you are buying an item that isn’t generating more packaging waste).
  • When you shop at a charity shop, you are supporting them to raise funds for their work.
  • Charity shops create some paid jobs, and also provide volunteering opportunities for people who can donate their time to a charity.
  • Charity shops are often located near other smaller shops or local businesses, which can help keep high streets and small communities alive, if the chain retailers have moved to more expensive malls.

And donating to charity shops is also part of the cycle for me. I often donate books, clothes and household items.

I try to have a ‘one in, one out’ rule. If I buy a book, then I donate one to a charity shop, otherwise my house could easily become overrun with all the second hand bargains!

Items at a 
charity shop
Photo Credit: Hospice Waikato

What should you donate?

A friend of mine, Helen, works for Hospice Waikato, a local charity that has a number of shops in our region. I often stop in to talk to her about how her organisation is getting on with the mountain of donations they receive. I asked her what she would like to see donated, this is what she said:

Please only donate things that you would actually be prepared to buy

Helen Singers, Retail Manager at Hospice Waikato Shops

Her charity shop receives so many items that are just not fit for sale. They can’t sell damaged or stained clothing, used underwear, broken toys, books that are falling apart, or broken furniture. Seriously, who would donate some of those things? And yet, they end up donated or dumped outside their shops.

Charity shops often have to spend money on disposing of the donated items that they can’t sell. They may have to hire skip bins, and pay to send the rubbish to landfill. This cuts into the funds they have raised through running the charity shops, which is extremely frustrating for them.

Following the popular Netflix series with Marie Kondo about decluttering in early 2019, many charity shops became overwhelmed with the amount of donated items. They have to tread a line between making it clear that they are not dumping grounds for people’s unwanted rubbish, but also that they do rely on donations of quality second hand goods to raise much needed money.

These are items that charity shops do like to receive

Most charity shops are keen to take a range of clothing and household items, if they’re clean and in good condition. Charity shops usually accept some or all of the following:

  • Estate lots
  • Good quality furniture
  • Good quality, clean clothing and shoes
  • Bric-a-brac
  • Jewellery
  • Art
  • Some electrical goods (check with the charity shop you are donating to)
  • Bags and accessories
  • Books
  • Music and Movies (on CD, vinyl, or DVD)
  • Homewares: china, kitchenware, ornaments, pictures
  • Soft furnishings: small rugs, linen, curtains
  • Wedding dresses

Charity shops may not always accept these items

Although what charities are willing to take can depend on the individual shop, the items that are generally turned away are:

  • Soiled, marked or damaged clothing
  • Used underwear
  • Cracked/broken glass, china & pottery
  • Baby Capsules, Monitors and Car Seats
  • Helmets (including bike, motorbike, safety and hard hats)
  • Broken Furniture
  • Computer Monitors
  • Electric Blankets and Woolen Underlays
  • Gas Bottles
  • Hot Water Bottles
  • Modems
  • Old TV’s
  • Paint (cans or spray)
  • Office Desks & Chairs
  • Printers/Photocopiers
  • Stained Mattresses, pillows and duvet inners
  • Blow-up Mattresses
  • Slat Beds
  • TV Cabinets
  • Whiteware
  • Pianos
  • Life jackets
  • Swimming pools
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Any chemical products
  • Weapons

Thinking about donating items to a charity shop?

If you want to donate some items, but are not sure if they are suitable, it’s best to call your chosen charity shop before you visit them. Sometimes they can even pick up large items like furniture.

Charity shops rely on and appreciate the great quality goods they receive. So thank you for donating sell-able goods, and for supporting them by buying items from them too.


Photo Credit: Hospice Waikato

Links to my other articles referencing charity shops: