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Why do we donate junk?

Donations of junk are creating even more work for tornado relief workers, according to an MSNBC article:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43039417/ns/weather/t/after-tornadoes-junk-donations-become-challenge/

From the article:

“That becomes the disaster within the disaster,” said Salvation Army spokesman Mark Jones. “When people make those mass donations … it causes the community to be overrun with them and have to deal with that in addition to the storm damage.”

The article states that relief workers are having to sort through items like broken toys and (gross!) used underwear to find items that can actually be used by those in need.

So why do people donate junk? Logic would tell you that a broken toy is not really going to be of much use. And used underwear – that’s just…well, there really are just no words.

For those who are sorting through clutter, donating items to a cause is less emotionally wrenching that just throwing it away. It separates us from the process of “getting rid of”. We just know that broken lamp is going somewhere, and we’re content with that. Because throwing it away – just tossing it aside – would mean that we are wasteful and materialistic. It may even bring up old recordings of “Don’t be wasteful”, and “Why are you throwing that out? All you need to do is (name the repair), and it’s good as new.” But you know, deep in your heart, that you aren’t going to make that repair. But you are sure someone, somewhere can. Whew! Off the hook again.

By absolving ourselves of “throw-away guilt”, we can pretend that our kids’ broken toys are going to a magical field with sunshine and butterflies where they become whole toys again. We don’t think of the consequences on the other end. And the consequence of the “junk donations” are energy and time being diverted away from relief efforts.

It is understandable why we would want to shield ourselves from making a final decision of throwing an item out, especially if we are attached to clutter. But next time, think of the recipients on the other end. Can they really use what you are donating? Or are you avoiding the realization that you are never going to get around to fixing something? Or are you avoiding a feeling of loss that might accompany throwing something away? Or is it that the old recordings of “don’t be wasteful” are stirring up feelings of guilt?

If an item is broken, do not donate it to a cause. First, ask yourself if the item really can be repaired, and if it is worth being repaired. If the answers are yes and yes, ask yourself when you are going to find time to repair it. Chances are that if an item has been sitting broken in your garage for a year or more, you probably aren’t going to get around to fixing it – or else you would have already done it. Next, if you don’t have time or skill to repair it, who do you know that does? Do you have time to contact that person to give them the item? Will you contact them in the next week to get the item fixed? If not, consider giving the item the old heave-ho into the trash.

If you do want to help relief efforts, go to an agency’s website and see what exactly they need. In the case of the tornado relief agencies mentioned in the MSNBC article, they are in need of cleaning supplies and cash donations. Make your donation a helpful one.

By | 2016-11-20T07:53:45+00:00 May 16th, 2011|Categories: ADD, ADHD, Organizing|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |Comments Off on Why do we donate junk?

About the Author:

Dr. Stephanie Sarkis is a National Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), and AMHCA Diplomate and Clinical Specialist in Child and Adolescent Counseling based in Tampa Bay, Florida, where she specializes in the treatment of ADD/ADHD. Dr. Sarkis conducts evaluations, testing, diagnosis, and counseling services. She also is a public speaker, consultant, coach, and is a facilitator in collaborative law.