Sunday, March 15, 2009

Why does trying to do the right thing have to be so stinkin' complicated?


I've been wanting to simplify my life for some time. I tend to hold onto possessions that I'm not using out of some perverse sense of obligation or thriftiness or insanity or something.

But I'm working on this.

I've been going through my closet, and trying to be honest about which clothes actually get worn, and which ones don't. I seem to own an awful lot of clothes from some other person's life. This person does not do manual labor for a living, like I do. This other person's torso is also a lot shorter than mine. All of her shirts ride up and expose too much skin.

Because I can't seem to get to the Goodwill drop-off during business hours, I decided to leave my clothes at one of those green Gaia boxes that sprout up around the periphery of parking lots. You may know what I'm talking about -- they say that the clothes go to needy people in the developing world, or help the great barrier reef or something.

The first problem was that, once I made up my mind, and Robb put my bags of clothes into my car, I couldn't find the danged box. I know that I drive past one of these boxes, on my way to work. But where the heck is it?

I did a Google search to see if I could locate this elusive box, and discovered that the company that owns these boxes is suspected is some really shady business practices. There are accusations of money-laundering, and of being a cult, and of not giving any clothes to anybody at all, but of selling these clothes to their parent company and pocketing the profits. The parent company owns multi-million dollar estates and a $6 million dollar ocean-going yacht. Paid for, apparently by bilking fools like me into thinking that when an oganization says that they are using assets for a good cause, that they actually are.


Now what the heck do I do with these clothes?


Pica said...

Um -- take them to the thrift store? Most of them are charities for some cause or another, pick your fave. We have one here in Davis that's SPCA, and you must have a Goodwill nearby??

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

My work schedule and the operating hours of thrift stores never seem to line up.

And I hate asking Robb to do any task that involves lifting or carrying.

Anonymous said...


Kay/The Little Foxes said...

Several of the Goodwill's in our town have drive through drop offs - drive up - beep your horn - and they unload your car. And come around to your window and give you a receipt if you are into receipts ;-)) Maybe phoning your area Goodwill's would turn up one of those, then Robb would only have to drive, and not lift.

When my schedule is crazy, I've left stuff on Goodwill's loading dock after hours (or before hours) and hoped for the best ;-)).

Anonymous said...

A lot of thrift stores will come pick up at your home or office if you call & ask. I've been meaning to drop off a load to Goodwill, but made the mistake of leaving the suitcase we want to give away in our dining room, open. Of course it's now our cats' favorite place to play.

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...


Oakland's thrift stores are not nearly as obliging as what y'all are describing.

Anonymous said...

Not rocket science. Pick up the phone. Call the actual charities not thrift stores/consignment shops.

Anonymous said...

The Salvation Army is a good choice, and I they pick up or have drop boxes. I believe one is close by.

Pockafwye said...

I can't compare what the shops in my neck of the woods (Minnesota) do to what they may do there. But I know that the United Cerebral Palsy of the Golden Gate folks do pickups if you call ahead. Or at least they say they will on their website.

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

The Oakland Department of Public Works has a list thrift shops on their website. None of them pick up.

If Robb can't call before my lunch break, I'll use that time to see who actually takes clothes.

The last time we had a major house clean-out, I was really surprised at how difficult the local thrift stores made things for would-be donors.

Anonymous said...

When I lived Detroit, the Salvation army would come by and pick up clothes if you called ahead.

Also, Calling Our Daily Bread (battered womens shelter, nationwide) will do the same thing (they really really want kitchen-related stuff primarily, so it helps if you throw in an old pot or something with the clothes as well, in order for them to justify a drive out to your place to pick it up. Both these places like to schedule weekday pick ups, so its something Robb can be in charge of, if he is interested. I ended up donating nearly a thousand dollars worth of stuff in Wyoming of my sisters stuff that didnt sell at the yard sales or auction. Wyoming has no limit on donations, by the way.

I vaguely remember hearing about the scandal of the "drop off clothes boxes"- I think it had something to do with a group that was doing some highly illegal stuff, (human smuggling/drugs, I think) and using the clothes donation as a tax-evasive scam/chamoflaguing their business practices behavior.

Good luck with the donation, and MAKE SURE you get a receipt for everything for a tax write off. Gary and I ended up donating a bunch of old stuff that had been in our barn, and were able to get some good tax breaks. We donated a lot of stuff to Habitat for Humanity- I love those guys.

A local church will most probably take them and help out the local homeless, of which there are quite a few today, unfortunately. It's a good thing you are doing by donating clothes, if you have any perticularly interesting things, you may do very well trying to sell them at a vintage clothing store.

It's all good karma- so keep it up. Thanks. There are a lot of people out there today who need help.

By the way, for all your interested readers, when I used to work at a local kids camp, I used to wash then donate kids clothing and towels left behind. Kids clothes are GOLD at donation centers.


Anonymous said...

I was holding onto some handmade baby blankets and quilts, sick at the thought that they might end up on a hanger being sold for $2 at a thrift store when so much love went into making them. I found one of those giant green boxes that claimed it helped women with breast cancer - and my sister had just been diagnosed. Perfect solution, I thought. Less than a week later I read an exposé on the shady side of those boxes - the owners paying illegal immigrants slave wages to sort through it all, then sending it to various places to be sold at a decent profit while only a few dollars a ton go to the charity. I still feel sad and guilty three years later.

Value Village will do a pick-up. You just have to leave it on your porch on the prearranged day.


TaylorM said...

I heard similar rumors about "Planet Aid" in Boston. I never used them, but it sounded like they used the humanitarian-sounding name, took free donations and sold them for a huge mark-up.

It definitely pays to check before making any donations. But yay for cleaning out the closet!

Anonymous said...

Freecycle! That is exactly what this yahoo usergroup is for.Divesting yourself of stuff you don't need any more w/o creating more landfill! One in almost every (green) city/area. You'd be wanting the East Bay Freecycling Network. There is a huge SF one but currently run by a maniac moderator, so I would not recommend. A Walnut Creek one as well.
Also lots of stuff you can Freecycle that Goodwill won't take- half full containers of cleaning supplies, art supplies or paint, scrap lumber and old bricks etc.
You can email me off blog (though AQ) for tips & hints, as I used to be a moderator for the SF group.

Yes I did also read about those green boxes being a scam- they pay college students a pittance to collect, wash and sort- oh that is their "jobs for youth" program- then they just sell the stuff to rag brokers. I don't think they are legitimately listed as a charity with the State.

Anonymous said...

I agree, Salvation Army was a PITA. They only pick up for furniture, though if you have furniture they will take everything else you have at teh same time. My roommate moved out and arranged a pick up, they came and decided her mattress/box spring was not good enough for them and they left EVERYTHING i na pile in front of my house as the rains came down.. saying, they will not pick and choose among the items, the pick up is all or nothing. She had to get a friend with truck do a dump run on the day she was trying to fly to NY.

We do have pickups from ARC who train the handicapped..they come to a neighborhood with flyers then retrun a week later and pick up al lteh bags tha thave a flyer taped to them. They take clothes. They are not picky. But I don't know if they are in your neck o' woods and if they would do one, not a whole neighborhood.
Is there a food bank near you? You could put the clothes in a box marked "free clothes" wherever people pick up their free food. Like the 1960's Berkeley Diggers used to do!
historic precedent..

knitica said...

Some Salvation Armys and Goodwills have outside drop-off boxes that you can use on off hours, and we know they're both above board. Given that they manage to have them in my area, despite the inhospitable weather, I would hope they operate the same way there in paradise!

Eclipse said...

I use Goodwill all the time. It's not any different than taking your clothes to the Gaia box as you were planning to do; since the car's already loaded, just find a dropoff station and pull up. It takes about 3 minutes and they'll even give you a slip for tax deduction if you want it. There's a Goodwill not far from Lake Merritt at:
1220 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612
And here's a whole list of stations in the East Bay:

Good luck!


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